This was a creative burst after seven years from the Bee Gees but it didn't end with 'High Civilization'. 'Size Isn't Everything' and 'Still Waters' continued that trend, but these are all Warner Brothers albums and have been in the pike for several years. Packed like the original album covers, the three studio albums are faithful in reproduction and the 'One For All' double disc is a great addition to this box set. The package comes with each CD in a cardboard folder similar to most releases using this format. Unfortunately, the liner notes that were on the other albums are not here; only the front and back covers. Personally, I love reading these notes, as there is so much great information there. You may want to hang onto your older CD's for this reason.
These albums were mixed well over 20 years ago and with the new remastering techniques, these albums are brought to life with a cleaner, crisper, fuller and warmer sound than before. There is no muddiness and it's great to actually hear hidden percussion and more clarity of the vocals. These are as good as it gets. (Note: Your system will determine how much better these discs sound. The MP3 versions are only 'slightly' better).
The 'ESP' album was the first official album to be released since, 'Living Eyes'. It is a extremely varied album with funk, pop, ballads and rock. The songs all hold well together and the extras are an oddity. No real unknown new songs and 'ESP' and 'Angela' get short-shrift as edits. The 'ESP' (demo) has been released before on 'Tales of the Brothers Gibb' and makes a nice addition here, giving clues to the song writing process. 'You Win Again' (extended) also had been released before, but it begs another reissue being such a great song. The 'ESP' extended is also a nice addition, it being a very strong hard rock song that, bewilderingly, did not chart. 'The Longest Night' was due to be the third single release, but was held back. The album hit #5 in the UK but failed to chart in the USA. The inclusion of the duplicitous single edits of 'Angela' and 'ESP' make no sense when there are such great new mixes of 'ESP' from Arthur Baker: "E*S*P "Extra Sensory House" (Vocal), "E*S*P "E.S. Piano" (Dub), "E*S*P "E.S.P.N.R.G." (Vocal) and "E*S*P "Extra Energy" (Dub). These could have been squeezed into the full CD format instead.
'One' is a superb album with a lot of attention to detail and production. Several songs have little background nuances and effects that add to the mood and atmosphere. Released after the death of Andy Gibb, many of the songs have double meanings. 'Ordinary Lives' was originally called, 'Cruel World' and 'Wish you Were Here' was about Andy, but also included on the 'Diana Princess of Wales Tribute' album. The great thing about this album's new releases (none new or unheard before) are finally having 'Shape Of Things To Come' from the '1988 Olympics' album. The 'One' (remix/edit) is one minute less than the single, but is a funkier sync-pop version worth the listen. The 'One' Dance Version is similar with a good compelling dance beat. The 'One' Club Mix at over nine minutes is the most crisp and deliberate in ultimate club mix excess. It uses the vocals and basic song structure only as an excuse to create a fun new mix for any fan.
It's hard to believe there are no demos or other songs from the, 'High Civilization' album. This CD is very different in sound and style than the others. It's all digital and was mixed by Femi Jiya using a heavier use of drum programming and electronic effects. It has a clear and crisp sound, but the bass is lacking in weight. These are all upbeat songs and good ones, but the mixing is just unusual for the Bee Gees. However, with this remaster, you hear a more balanced, richer sound that makes these great songs sound even better. I still love, 'When He's Gone' and 'Evolution'. There is a 'war version' of 'High Civilization' out there, but I suspect it must be a bootleg, having sounds of the Gulf War in the background. It charted at #24 in the UK but not in the USA. Singles released were, 'Secret Love', which charted, but not, 'The Only Love' and 'When He's Gone', despite USA promotion.
The "One For All" tour is available on DVD, but with Barry Gibb and remastering genius John Merchant remastering this live set, it sounds so much better with all the nuances you'd expect from a great live concert. I like it better than the DVD in 'sound quality'. It's also great to have that fantastic introduction; one of the best the Bee Gees have ever done. The set is varied and includes, 'You Win Again', a #1 in the UK but a disappointment in the USA, barely making to top #100 on Billboard. The USA still had some issues to get over. The 'One For All' concert is so well mixed that it makes the DVD sound muddy, muffled and second generation in sound. Vocals are pushed to the front and instrumentals are extremely well separated for a fantastic new experience in sound. Not only can you hear the instruments, but you will be aware of individuals clapping and cheering - it's that well mixed. Unfortunately, unlike the DVD, these are in stereo only. They sound much better than the DVD, but lack the wonderful 5.1 surround sound.
This 5-disc box set is the second largest the Bee Gees have released to date, other than 'The Studio Albums'. 'Mythology' and 'Tales From The Brothers Gibb' still hold at four discs each. This 5-disc set is a welcome addition and gives hope that the other albums will be given similar treatment.
NOTE: For an idea of what the box set looks like when open, check the 'customer image' I posted.