To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970.

During a career that spanned the best part of fifty years, the Bee Gees released twenty-two albums and sold 220 million records worldwide. Despite that, Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb considered themselves first and foremost as songwriters. That was certainly the case between 1967 and 1970, when the great and good of music covered songs written by the Bee Gees. This includes the twenty-four artists that feature on To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970, which was recently released by Ace Records.

To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970 is the latest instalment in Ace Records’ long running Songwriter Series. It pays homage to some of greatest songwriting partnerships in the history of popular music. This time, the spotlight is shawn on the Gibb brothers during what was one of the most creative period of their long and illustrious careers. That was why some of the biggest names in music covered songs penned by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb.

This included Al Green, James Carr, Percy Sledge, Nina Simone, Bettye Swann, Sidewalk Society, Sandie Shaw, Status Quo, David Garrick, John Holt and Jose Feliciano. The Bee Gees’ songs were being covered by all types of artists, ranging from jazz, pop and psychedelia, to reggae, rock and soul. Especially soul singers; with many members of soul royalty dipping into the Gibb brothers’ songbook in search of a hit single. That was no surprise, given the 

quality of songs the Gibbs were writing. They penned several classic songs during this period, and they feature on To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970. It features a myriad of musical delights.

Opening To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970 is World, which in 1968 was covered by one of music’s rising stars Sharon Tandy. She had moved from South Africa to Britain in 1964, and within a year, had released her debut single in 1965. By 1966, Sharon Tandy was recording for Stax Records, and in 1967, signed to Atlantic Records.  In January 1967, Sharon Tandy released Fool On The Hill. On the B-Side of the American version, which was released on Atco, was  a cover of World which was produced by Richard Hill. His impressive and carefully crafted arrangement is the perfect accompaniment to Sharon Tandy’s emotive, soulful vocal. Nine months later, Sharon Tandy returned with her freakbeat classic Hold On in October 1968. It shows a very different side her soulful take on the Gibb brothers’ World.

When Al Green released his fourth album Let’s Stay Together in 1972, it proved to be his breakthrough album. It reached number eight in the US Billboard 200, number one in the US R&B charts and was certified gold. One of the highlights of Let’s Stay Together was How Can You Mend A Broken Heart, which is six minutes of heartbreak, hurt and regret.

James Carr never enjoyed the commercial success his considerable talents deserved, despite being one of the greatest Southern Soul singers. Sadly, James Carr was a trouble soul and suffered from mental health problems throughout his career. At what proved to be his final Goldwax session, James Carr wasn’t in the best of health. He was suffering baldy from depression, and cut a lonely figure as he sat in studio surrounded by some of Memphis’ top session players. Despite his failing health, James Carr managed to record one song, his soul-baring cover of To Love Somebody. When it was released as a single in 1969, it reached number forty-four in the US R&B charts. Forty-eight years later, and Jams Carr’s cover of To Love Somebody is without doubt, the definitive version of the song. Nothing Else comes close.

Bettye Swann’s career began in 1963 when she signed to Money Records. Four years later, in April 1967, Bettye released Make Me Yours as a single. When it reached number one on the US R&B charts and number twenty-one on the US Billboard 100, it gave Bettye her third and biggest hit single. A year later, and Bettye left Money Records and signed to Capitol Records, where she released two albums during 1969. This included The Soul View Now! which features Bettye’s heartfelt rendition of Words. It veers between hopeful to rueful, as Bettye breathes emotion and meaning into the lyrics. It’s one of the The Soul View Now!’s finest moments. Sadly, seven years later, in 1976, Bettye turned her back on music after the death of her husband. 

In 1970, The Staple Singers headed to Muscle Shoals to record a new album with Al Bell. This would mark the debut of Yvonne Staples, who had replaced her brother Pervis in the family group. The new lineup of The Staple Singers recorded twelve songs that became The Staple Singers. It was released in 1971 and reached 

117 in the US Billboard and nine in the US R&B charts. One of the highlights of the album was Give A Hand-Take A Hand which features The Staple Singers at their soulful best. Especially Mavis Stapes, who delivers a vocal masterclass. 

Marbles hailed from Skegness, in Lincolnshire and featured future Rainbow frontman Graham Bonnet. However, when Robert Stigwood first encountered the group, they were called Bonar Law. He suggested they change their name to Marbles, when he became their manager. Soon, Robert Stigwood sent the newly named Marbles into the studio to record a string-drenched version of the power ballad Only One Woman. When Marbles signed to Polydor, Only One Woman became their debut single. It reached number five in the UK charts in late 1968, and was perfect showcase for Graham Bonnet’s powerhouse of a vocal. 

Although Sandie Shaw had been a fixture in the British charts since 1965, her big break came when the won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1967 with Puppet On String. Two years later, Sandie Shaw returned with her seventh album for Pye Records Reviewing The Situation. It featured  a beautiful, wistful and emotive cover of With The Sun In My Eyes.

Having left Manfred Mann in 1966, Paul Jones embarked upon a solo career.  Two years later, he released the Peter Asher produced And The Sun Will Shine on Columbia. It was recorded at Abbey Road, with a supergroup accompanying Paul Jones. Jeff Beck, Nicky Hopkins, Paul Samwell-Smith and Paul McCartney all featured on And The Sun Will Shine. Despite his illustrious backing back, And The Sun Will Shine was the one that got away for Paul Jones. It’s a hidden gem, that makes a welcome appearance on To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970.

After several names changes, Status Quo was born in 1967. They released their debut single Pictures Of Matchstick Men later that year. A year later, Status Quo released their debut album Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo, on Pye Records in 1968. It showcased one of the rising stars of British psychedelia. Especially the lysergic and cinematic sounding Spicks And Specks, which is a reminder of Status Quo at the beginning of a long and successful career.

After two years as the lead singer of The Techniques, Pat Kelly embarked upon a solo career. By 1978, he had signed to the Third World label, and was about to release his fifth album Give Love A Try. It featured I Started A Joke which Pat Kelly gives a lover’s rock makeover.

When John Holt was recording his 1973 landmark album 1000 Volts Of Holt for Trojan Records, one of the songs he covered was Morning Of My Life. It’s also given a lovers rock makeover, and shows a different side to this familiar song.

Puerto Rican guitarist, singer and composer José Feliciano, closes To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970 with First Of May. It featured on José Feliciano’s album of cover versions  10 To 23, which was released by RCA Victor in 1969. First Of May was one of the highlights of the album and featured an impassioned vocal from José Feliciano. It’s a beautiful way to close the compilation that pays homage to the Gibb brothers songwriting skills.

While Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb considered themselves first and foremost as songwriters, most people regarded them as recording artists. That was no surprise, given the Bee Gees had been together nearly fifty years and released twenty-albums. These albums sold by the million. By the time, the Bee Gees’ career was over, they had sold 220 million records worldwide and enjoyed three number one singles in Britain and nine in America. Elsewhere, the Bee Gees were a hit making machine. It’s almost understandable that the Gibb brothers are perceived primarily as recording artists.  However, that may change having heard To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970 with First Of May.

The twenty-four songs on To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970 are just a small selection of the Gibb brother’s compositions covered during this period. Many other artists dipped into the Gibb brothers’ songbook, in search of a hit single. So much so, that Ace Records could potentially release a followup to To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970.

This period covers just a small period of the Gibb brothers’ career. They continued to write songs together throughout their long and illustrious career.  However, one of the most productive periods of the Gibb brothers’ career was between 1967 and 1970. It’s documented on To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970, when the Gibb brothers were enjoying a rich vein of form creatively.

To Love Somebody: The Songs Of The Bee Gees 1966-1970.

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