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Barry Gibb returns with ‘Greenfields,’ a collection of beautiful duets

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 8, 2021

It’s fitting that Barry Gibb’s “Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook Volume 1,” drops Friday. January releases sometimes are forgotten during year-end reviews even if the material is excellent.

Gibb, 74, wrote many amazing songs for his groundbreaking trio, the Bee Gees, before the release of the greatest soundtrack of all time, “Saturday Night Fever.”

For many, Gibb’s career began with songs that turned disco from a fringe movement to a worldwide sensation. Gibb, however, was a terrific tunesmith before he ever crafted songs that he delivered in his sublime, high-pitched falsetto starting in the mid-1970s.

Many of the hits, which predate “Saturday Night Fever,” grace “Greenfields,” an album of duets. Gibb, who no longer has his late twin brothers, Maurice and Robin, to harmonize with, shares vocals with a number of recording artists he admires.

Early Bee Gees staples include “I’ve Got a Message to Get to You” with Keith Urban, “Run to Me” with Brandi Carlile and “Words” with Dolly Parton, and they are a treat.

“It was truly an honor to work with one of my heroes,” “Greenfields” producer Dave Cobb said in a news release. “The Bee Gees’ first album has always been a staple for me, and it was surreal to get to witness the genius of Barry Gibb in the studio. He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

There’s not a bit of hyperbole in Cobb’s statement. Gibb, who was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1994, is at the top of his craft. As a songwriter, Gibb shared with John Lennon and Paul McCartney the record for most consecutive Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits, each having six.

In total, Gibb has written or co-written a staggering 16 Hot 100 chart-toppers. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Gibb is the second-most successful songwriter in history behind McCartney.

Gibb, who was knighted in 2018, has spent portions of his career under the radar. Aside from a spin of “Greenfields” – also check out “Rest Your Love on Me” with Olivia Newton-John and “Too Much Heaven” with Alison Krauss – there’s the illuminating documentary “The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” on HBO Max.

It’s an effective reminder of who the Bee Gees were and how the Australian band, which formed more than a half-century ago, influenced music and impacted pop culture.

It’s worth experiencing the documentary just to relive the Bees Gees’ crash after disco died in 1979. What did the Gibb brothers do? The trio focused on songwriting. It’s easy to forget that Gibb penned the hit “Woman in Love” for Barbra Streisand. It’s fascinating learning how the Gibbs wrote for female voices.

If you can’t spare two well-spent hours, CBS Sunday Morning aired an interview with Gibb last weekend, which was enlightening. Gibb is a musical treasure who fortunately continues to work just a half a decade from reaching octogenarian status.

The humility that Gibb exudes is astonishing throughout the documentary and even via a news release for “Greenfields. “From the first day we stepped into RCA Studios in Nashville, the album took on a life of its own. I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity to work with Dave and all of the artists who stopped by,” Gibb said.

“They were all incredibly generous with their time and talent. They inspired me more than words can express. I feel deep down that Maurice and Robin would have loved this album for different reasons. I wish we could have all been together to do it … but I think we were.”

Gibb and the Bee Gees crafted eclectic, moving music that ranged from melancholy to swaggering. The gamut of emotions emanate from their songs, which still hold up today.

“Greenfields” is a reason to revisit or become acquainted with Gibb, who initially formed a band the Rattlesnakes with his brothers 60 years ago. The album deserves to be supported by roadwork. Billboard recently asked Gibb if he would consider a tour after the pandemic.

“The desire is there, of course. The question is, is anyone going to be touring? If I can find an audience, I’ll tour. It’s difficult for everybody. I can’t imagine how many artists are sitting there watching Netflix and wondering what happened.

“… (Playing live) is a little nerve-wracking because you have to depend on yourself, and I’m so used to over years to the three of us depending on each other. So it’s different, but I love doing it. I miss doing it.”

Maybe Gibb will opt to embark on a jaunt and take fans through the Bee Gees’ storied songbook. It would certainly be an event to look forward to experiencing.

Also, will there be a follow-up to the “Greenfields” album? The title, Vol. 1, implies that there will be another release. Why not? There are so many other Bee Gees tunes that deserve to be dusted off for a duet.

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