BEE GEES Cucumber Castle (1970) & ROBIN GIBB Robin’s Reign (1970)


BEE GEES Cucumber Castle (1970)
ROBIN GIBB Robin’s Reign (1970)
Two Plus One Equals… Well, In This Case, Just Two Plus One.

Cucumber Castle, the Robin-less Bee Gees release from 1970 manned by Barry & Maurice Gibb, was my last teenage purchase of the group’s work. But back in the day, I had never even heard of Robin’s Reign, and for decades after its release it was equally invisible to all but the most ardent fans, since it wouldn’t received a CD release until the late 90s/early 00s (when I first heard it). Removed from its time, Robin’s Reign hasn’t wowed me. R Gibb wrote and produced the entire LP, which is filled with grand, dramatic melodies and elaborate, instrumentally lush concoctions (courtesy of a couple of different arrangers), while the production is thick and echoed, sometimes to the extreme. One odd element is the primitive drum machines heard on some tracks. But the songs, while not without their merits, fail to stick, and Robin’s paaaaaaaatented sheep warble suffers from the lack of vocal variety the original threesome had pre-perfected. Cucumber Castle is also a curious beast, and makes me wonder what the remaining two Gibbs were listening to at the time. “The Lord” is a countrified acoustic stomper Neil Diamond might dream up in a honky-tonk, while “Sweetheart” sounds like it was penned for Patsy Cline, as the brothers toe dip into country & gospel on a couple of tracks. “My Thing,” on the other hand, is an obvious re-write – an early Gibbs trait – of Paul Simon’s “Punky’s Dilemma.” It’s also easy to sense the brothers might be communicating with each other via Barry & Maurice’s “Then You Left Me” and Robin’s “Most Of My Life.” What’s missing from both competing releases, however, is the kind of hit material that fans had come to expect from the Brothers Gibb. I haven’t tried it yet, but fusing these two releases into a single LP just might bolster the material on both and make for a fine farewell to the Bee Gees of the 60s. A CD of Cucumber Castle will set you back $40 – $50 at Amazon, while old vinyl copies of Robin’s Reign are going from $100 – $199 (this German import CD on Spectrum isn’t even listed). We’ve got the outstanding Deluxe Edition of Bee Gees’ 1st in the archives.


CUCUMBER CASTLE
If I Only Had My Mind On Something Else (2:28)
I.O.I.O. (2:51)
Then You Left Me (3:05)
The Lord (2:12)
I Was The Child (3:08)
I Lay Down And Die (3:29)
Sweetheart (3:03)
Bury Me Down By The River (3:19)
My Thing (2:13)
The Chance Of Love (2:22)
Turning Tide (3:03)
Don’t Forget To Remember (3:28)

ROBIN’S REIGN
August October (2:33)
Gone Gone Gone (2:35)
The Worst Girl In This Town (4:31)
Give Me A Smile (3:08)
Down Came The Sun (2:45)
Mother And Jack (4:05)
Saved By The Bell (3:05)
Weekend (2:10)
Farmer Ferdinand Hudson (3:05)
Lord Bless All (3:15)
Most Of My Life (5:13)
One Million Years (Bonus Track) (4:07)

29 Comments

  • 1
    Willard
    September 28, 2011 - 10:13 | Permalink

    Search HERE

  • 2
    keef
    September 28, 2011 - 11:30 | Permalink

    Thank you Two very underated albums. The Bee Gees have always written very good songs but some people are put off by their disco output.
    Thanks again

  • 3
    Willard
    September 28, 2011 - 11:38 | Permalink

    Though I never cared for it personally, I always thought their disco stuff was pretty well done.

  • 4
    September 28, 2011 - 13:12 | Permalink

    Ah, CUCUMBER CASTLE…I had mistakenly brought that lp along to college & ended up using it one night as a frisbee…

    • 5
      Willard
      September 28, 2011 - 17:27 | Permalink

      Is that a comment on the music or drunken college high jinks?

  • 6
    keef
    September 28, 2011 - 17:16 | Permalink

    never a big fan of the bee gees tho’ i enjoyed occasional singles over the years-now the early releases of robin gibb, including robins reign , are in a whole different league for me: the dramatic grandeur of the arrangements, the vocals from the bottom of a well and the feeling that something important is being intoned in those murky words have always held me spellbound and there’s more on sing slowly sisters and Salvato dal Campanello-great stuff !!!

    ps-try to hear barry ryan theme to eutopia for damatic grandeur which truly reaches wonderful levels of absurdity……

    • 7
      Willard
      September 28, 2011 - 17:32 | Permalink

      I must admit, I’ve bypassed almost all of Robin’s solo work. Nothing against him, of course. Just one of those things. It’s funny though… one man’s overblown arrangement is another man’s soaring grandeur. I’ll bow to your expertise, though, as I haven’t spent the time with Robin’s work to be fair to it. AND… I came almost 30 years late to this particular party. If you have a taste for pop candy, though, try the Deluxe Bee Gees’ 1st in the archives. Thanks for commenting.

      • 8
        motts
        July 1, 2012 - 01:23 | Permalink

        “one man’s overblown arrangement is another man’s soaring grandeur. ”

        See: The Verve-era Richard Ashcroft, Janelle Monae being ambitious, mid-era Outkast being ambitious:PP

  • 9
    Mylene
    September 29, 2011 - 06:31 | Permalink

    Saved By The Bell and OIOI were huge hits in Australia. They’re still played on oldies radio to this very day :)

    • 10
      Willard
      September 29, 2011 - 08:25 | Permalink

      Yeah, I should always include a disclaimer when I mention bands not having hits. As usual, I mean the U.S.

  • 11
    September 29, 2011 - 15:13 | Permalink

    Suddenly those slow ones by Mott The Hoople don’t seem so bad. Notice I avoided the “B” word.

  • 12
    James
    September 29, 2011 - 15:23 | Permalink

    Oh….these are terrific LPs. I managed to get both of them very, very cheap in a record store (along with a couple of others…Bee Gee’s 1st was one, Odessa was another) on cassette when cassettes were dying a death. OK, they aren’t going to be in anyone’s 100 LPs you must hear before you die lists, but they’re fantastically good period pieces, and probably benefit by not being ‘Saturday Night Fever’, since they’re identifiably Bee Gees without being disco. One of the reasons I like them is because they come from the Bee Gees first ‘reinvention’. We laud some artists for doing that…Beatles, Dylan, Bowie…but staying current and having hits is always a neat trick. These albums kind of represent their first reinvention, from English whimsical pop act to ‘more adult singer-wongwriter’ sort of themes, and then they reinvented again for disco, and again for electropop (‘You win again’ era). Gonna download these two immediately, on the basis that I can’t be arsed digitising them from cassette. Thanks for these.

    • 13
      Willard
      September 29, 2011 - 18:04 | Permalink

      That’s how I first heard Robin’s Reign, too. Got it in a 50 cent cassette bin.

  • 14
    September 30, 2011 - 02:08 | Permalink

    Oh yes! It was an interesting period of hits and misses for the Gibbs. I am a fan of the heroic and grandiose side of the early Bee Gees (Odessa being my all-time fave). Truly bizarre the medieval knights’ costumes on the sleeve and the countrified sounds on the vinyl of Cucumber Castle. Barry’s unreleased 1970 solo album “The Kid’s No Good” veers even further into straight-up country sounds. Robin’s unreleased 2nd solo album “Sing Slowly Sisters” is more satisfying than Robin’s Reign – stronger material, more full-blown arrangements. (I’ve never found a hi-fi version of it, unfortunately.) I think the Trafalgar album is the best one of the singer-songwriter era of the Gibbs (and there, the Napoleonic gatefold matches Bill Shepherd’s sweeping orchestral arrangements!)

    I don’t know if there are any more expanded reissues of early Bee Gees material in the works. (The Odessa box is fantastic!). Too bad – there are some sweet outtakes in the can from this period!

    Thanks, as always!

    • 15
      Willard
      September 30, 2011 - 08:13 | Permalink

      Thanks for the insight, Tim. Any idea what influenced that country bent in the music?

  • 16
    October 1, 2011 - 09:50 | Permalink

    I think the country influence was in the water. It was everywhere. The Byrd’s flirtations on “The Notorious Byrd Brothers”, and “Sweetheart Of The Rodeo” got stuck in a lot of ears.

  • 18
    October 1, 2011 - 19:07 | Permalink

    Methinks it was a take on the college hijinks (which indeed are a totally necessary element of young american life)…truthfully, I’ve always liked the Bee Gees! They are true pop meisters!

  • 19
    Miles
    October 1, 2011 - 20:33 | Permalink

    well maybe i’m the odd man out here, but after downloading and hearing ‘robin’s retch’ for the first time — uh, i mean ‘robin’s reign,’ i just can’t believe how a ‘pop’ star could’ve dripped with any more sap. this is an embarrassment — easy listening for sheep herders.

    i know this comment won’t win me any new friends, but ‘robin’s reign’ is by far one of the most mediocre recordings i’ve ever heard. the gibb brothers had already dipped their toes into syrupy schmaltz as early as their 2nd and 3rd lp’s, but fortunately regained their chops (if only momentarily) for the epic, ‘odessa,’ particularly the original sides one and two. but have you actually listened to the lyrics for ‘down came the sun’ and ‘mother and jack?’ pure 8th grade dribble. what was he thinking here? perhaps his collar was too tight on that outfit he was wearing, or the weight of that thing on his head caused him temporary insanity.

    i didn’t find one memorable moment on this mess, except for maybe the truly bizarre and inexplicable string intro to ‘farmer ferdinand hudson.’ don’t get me wrong — i’ve always thought ‘bee gees 1st’ and ‘odessa’ were brilliant. after hearing this and reading tim’s previous comment regarding robin’s other efforts, ‘the kid’s no good’ and ‘sing slowly sisters,’ i now harbor a morbid curiosity to seek them out, hopefully if only for redemptions sake.

    • 20
      Willard
      October 2, 2011 - 04:32 | Permalink

      You’re not really the odd man out, here. I pretty much had a similar reaction (as mentioned in the text), though my initial dislike has been tempered somewhat by (a couple) repeated listens. But, I’d understand if someone couldn’t make it that far. Thanks Miles.

    • 21
      motts
      July 1, 2012 - 01:22 | Permalink

      I can see your aversion to the syrupy and drivel. Unfortunately it’s in Robin to let that melodrama out, when it came to “miserable me” time during his seclusion from his brothers, convinced that the record label boss et al were against him while crowning Barry as their favored prince. Once he addressed this heart on sleeve tendency, as something unfashionable for “boys” to do – that society rewards you with respect when writing on social issues, e.g. Kinks. But it’s just not in his nature. The man wrote “Boys do Fall in love” in the 80s, lol!
      Mother & Jack to my ears, is a kind of happy nursery rhyme soured by The Grim. Pop joys of simple worldview, suddenly get a monkey wrench of eviction. Not so bad until I later came across, that Robin tended to be the only one in the family to talk frankly about their abject poverty that pushed the kids into showbiz at an early age (9 & 12), their cars often repossessed and entire family skipping town before rent collection. This is contrary to the “image” Gibbs liked to portray in their interviews – so Robin’s being a bit of rebel.
      Farmer is the “exciting” ending of a 13-minute cut, which is like historical fantasy in lecture style (Peter Greenway goes orch/art pop?), then sing-song, then…well, Sing Slowly Sister is like the Ouija Board of Orch pop. Seriously.

      • 22
        motts
        July 1, 2012 - 01:30 | Permalink

        p.s. lest it sounds like Robin is apolitical – he’s far from it. From charity work and activism (CISAC president, Heritage Foundation stuff to build memorial to RAF bomber command) to hobnobbing with UK politicos, he just preferred to separate the intellectual side (quite) from pop-joy whachamacallit (allegedly, “timelessness” LOL.)

  • 23
    peachyg72
    October 2, 2011 - 02:27 | Permalink

    I agree with miles comments on Robin’s Reign, but Cucumber Castle is one of my favourite Bee Gees albums, I seem to listen to that one more than Odessa or First, which are probably their ,most highly regarded. I’d love to see it remastered with bonus tracks from the same era but i think i read somewhere that the rhino reissue program is now cancelled, shame.

  • 24
    Mylene
    October 2, 2011 - 18:38 | Permalink

    Even though Saved by the Bell was a mega hit in Australia I’m pretty sure the album came out only as a budget release. Every copy I’ve ever seen has a $3.99 sticker on it (albums were $5.75 – $5.99 in the sixties here except for RCAs which were $6.20)

  • 25
    Anonymous
    April 24, 2012 - 17:35 | Permalink

    I love BeeGee’s 1st so much that I’m always hopeful. Thanks for the chance to indulge my curiosity!

  • 26
    Colin H
    May 23, 2012 - 06:56 | Permalink

    I first had those great Band-ish country rock tunes from Odessa on a mixed tape of various stuff from around that 69/70 period by various bands, (circa the late 80′s), and I can recall they were ones that always made me grab the tape case to go “Who is that?” and be surprised by the answer… like it took me a while to sort out that “Long Cool Woman” was a Hollies tune and not actually CCR’s best song. Does anyone know which of the Gibbs sings the lead on numbers like “Marley Purt Drive” and “Give Your Best”?

  • 27
    flower
    May 10, 2013 - 02:21 | Permalink

    i think..robin was middle children syndrome

  • 28
    Robert
    January 17, 2014 - 23:05 | Permalink

    Any idea where we can see the “Cucumber Castle” tv special?

    • 29
      Willard
      January 17, 2014 - 23:11 | Permalink

      Great idea. This one?

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