While many individuals who reach their seventh decade on this planet are tending their gardens, musicians such as Barry Gibb are proving that age is not a limiting factor in the creation of their art. While some commentators may be critical of musicians continuing past their prime, I welcome it with open arms. Yes, there are some exceptions and there will always be a selection of artists who should have stayed in retirement, but Barry Gibb is not amongst them.
In The Now is the second solo album by Barry Gibb. I had honestly thought he had released more albums, under his own name, but his last album and therefore his solo debut was released in 1984. That album was Now Voyager.
I can’t help but wonder if my confusion, relating to his solo releases, was due to the incredible Bee Gees compilation Mythology that highlights each Gibb brother in what is perceived to be their best and most notable works. With 81 songs, and a playing time exceeding 5 hours, it is one of the most representative compilations ever released.
Be that as it may, I had no idea that Gibb was writing and recording again. While record stores are still becoming a relic of the past, despite the vinyl revival, it was actually during a visit to my local store that I noticed the new CD was charting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t listed in TIDAL’s new release area, hence my surprise. While I may have an unhealthy addiction to TIDAL Hi-Fi, I’m disappointed by this omission. Yes, I know their browse areas are often skewed to specific genres and artists, that generally represent the interests of TIDAL’s celebrity owners, but for it to not be there is just bad form from TIDAL. TIDAL does, however, have the album listed in the new pop albums area. Still, I’d expect this album to be presented in the main new release area. Interestingly, I couldn’t find it listed in the new releases area of Apple Music either. In fairness to iTunes and Apple Music, both have always been tightly curated and the new release area tends to focus on only the last fortnight of releases; unless a marketing agreement has been reached as we’ve seen in the past with The Beatles and Taylor Swift for instance. Apple’s approach isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the plethora of releases, especially at this time of year, can be overwhelming. However, if you miss checking out the new releases for any given week, you will of course miss a number of exceptional albums that you could add to your collection. Thankfully, Spotify does have In The Now listed in their new release area. Thank you Spotify!
So what does all of this mean and what is the moral of my story of discovery?
I’d say it means that the traditional bricks and mortar music store isn’t necessarily a bad place to peruse if you’re looking for new music, or music you’ve missed or overlooked. You never know what you will find and crate digging is truly at the heart of every music lover; even if you have only experienced music through iTunes or streaming services.
Speaking of crate digging, I didn’t see the vinyl edition in store despite a pressing being available. Interestingly, the vinyl release of In The Now is being advertised in Australia as a Limited Edition. However, I have been unable to find any additional information relating to why this release is limited, for it appears to be a carbon copy of the standard edition CD and the version available on all streaming services.
With that in mind, I’m beginning to feel that too many vinyl releases are wrongly being classed under the Limited Edition moniker. Seriously, all vinyl releases are limited in some way as labels and pressing plants only print a limited number of copies at a time. However, since the vinyl revival has been in full swing, yearly re-issued pressings are being released to cope with demand. Sure, some completists will want to own a copy of each pressing, however I’m not one of them as I simply want to own the highest quality pressing.
The question has to be asked: How limited is limited?
The Editor of SuperDeluxeEdition, Paul Sinclair, had the following to say in his newsletter dated 17 April 2016:
"RSD is about artificially created rarities"
Let's not kid ourselves, since time immemorial, 'special' items created in limited numbers have been about selling more product and generating more income for record labels.
While Record Store Day (RSD) was the key focus of Paul’s thoughts, I feel that his opinion can be applied to all releases throughout the year. I don’t know about you but I know it is implausible for me to purchase all the releases that I’m interested in. Plus, I have picked up my fair share of Limited Edition releases, to only later have buyer’s remorse. It doesn’t happen often, but often enough that I have to remind myself that I am in control of how I spend my money.
In one way, this Limited Edition fiasco is another reason why I’m turning more and more to TIDAL Hi-Fi as my consumption platform of choice. Yes, you could argue that the streaming services are also being naughty by permitting exclusives on various platforms, but I could arguably subscribe to TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, and Spotify Premium and not spend the same per month as I would on the Limited Edition vinyl release of In The Now.
Let me give you an example: The Deluxe Edition CD of In The Now retails in Australia for AUD$19.99. The Limited Edition Vinyl release retails for AUD$64.99 at the same retailer. Now, I’m the first to admit that my mathematical talents are not the best, but if we add Tidal Hi-Fi (AUD$23.99), Apple Music (AUD$11.99), and Spotify Premium (AUD$11.99) we should be at AUD$47.97 for monthly subscriptions that include access to the majority of music available to the human race. Honestly, when I look at that, versus the price for one single record, I can understand why I’m not buying as many records as I was this time last year. Plus, the variation between the cost of the Deluxe Edition CD and the vinyl record is nothing short of ludicrous, especially when you consider that the Deluxe Edition includes three extra tracks, Grey Ghost, Daddy’s Little Girl, and Soldier’s Son, that aren’t available on the vinyl release or any of the online digital delivery systems.
The Deluxe Edition CD is readily available and at least it offers you something that you can’t get anywhere else. Ultimately, that should also be the aim of vinyl releases. Yes, the artwork is glorious by comparison and the sound quality is mostly superior, but unless there is something compelling, that makes the release unique, I wouldn’t class it as being limited. I also think that I can speak for everyone when I say that music lovers don’t want or need more limited edition coloured or splatter vinyl; especially when it doesn’t match the stylistic artwork of the album.
This has got me thinking about my Limited Edition release of Rob Zombie’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. I purchased it via Pledge Music as Zombie was signing limited quantities of the new album. I subsequently received the signed-lenticular vinyl edition and while it isn’t my favourite Zombie album, as a long-time fan I simply had to have it. My only regret is that I didn’t order the CD at the same time, but that is a discussion for another time. While one could argue that this release was also artificially limited, I feel Zombie’s involvement in the promotion provided a value added proposition that was worthy of the increased price and Limited Edition status.
Now that we are all suitably distracted, it is about time I got back to the review in question.
While the Bee Gees were one of the most successful family units in the music industry, it pleases me to see that the Gibb family remain instrumental in providing the world with a plethora of music harmonies. In The Now was written with Barry and his sons Stephen and Ashley. Such family unity reminds me of AC/DC bringing in Stevie Young, nephew of Malcolm and Angus, when Malcolm had to retire. While it is sad that AC/DC will never again feature the founders together, and the Bee Gees will never be able to record a new album, In The Now brings hope that the legacy will live on. While In The Now is uniquely independent, I also find it eerily reminiscent of the Bee Gees.
In The Now immediately shows that Gibb still has, arguably, the most identifiable vocal in the world. The composition is pop driven and predicable, but in a good way as it allows Gibb to be at the forefront of the music. It is a stellar song to commence the album on and proves that age does not limit the soul. I love it!
Grand Illusion is a little more edgy and has a rock beat that is addictive as it builds from the verse to the chorus. This song reminds me of a Bee Gees style composition with interweaving backing vocals. I absolutely love the beat and guitar riff in this song and while it may remind me of the Bee Gees, it is fresh and compelling. This song is an example of why I love music.
Star Crossed Lovers slows the album down a little with a ballad-styled tune that is a lovely easy-listening song. Although, I’m not convinced that this song was a good selection for Gibb as I much prefer his faster tempo songs. Of course, my subjective point of view doesn’t change that fact that it is a lovely song and many people will thoroughly enjoy it.
Blowin’ A Fuse picks up the pace with an erratic intro that continues throughout the entire song. Despite the unpredictable tempo, it will get you toe tapping and head bopping. Personally, I would have preferred to have had this song positioned before Star Crossed Lovers. Blowin’ A Fuse is more similar paced to Grand Illusion and given Side 1 of the vinyl release contains only three tracks, I feel this would have been more appropriate in that third track position. Additionally, the electric guitar solo, about two thirds of the way through the song, is excellent and a welcome surprise as the song pretends to end prematurely. I like music, like this, that makes you sit up and listen.
Home Truth Song is a modern country-pop styled song that works extremely well with Gibb’s vocal style. It will remind you a little of Bruce Springsteen, although, I can’t imagine anyone else singing this song.
Meaning Of The Word is beautifully mellow. Gibb’s vocals are so delicate in this song. I love the tailing off of notes as his vocal almost breaks up, but remains on key. It is simply amazing to hear such a delicate vocal delivery that is performed as masterfully as any recorded with the Bee Gees. As music fans, we are truly fortunate to have songs and artists that can paint emotions with sound.
Cross To Bear is a lovely composition. I love the acoustic guitar elements, the choral delivery, and the overall twang of the song.
Shadows has a tonality that reminds me fondly of the tone used throughout much of Julian Lennon’s Photograph Smile album. This song has some beautiful instrumental elements and while releasing tracks in their instrumental form is largely superfluous, in the modern era of the digitally streamed single, I would love to hear just the instrumental version as the eclectic Spanish-influenced tone is simply gorgeous.
Amy In Colour is a song that I adore. The verse is so reserved in comparison to the increased beat and tempo that builds with the chorus. It is an interesting dichotomy and one that works exceptionally well.
The Long Goodbye really highlights Gibb’s unique vocal style. When I hear him sing like this, yet listen to an interview he has done, I am continually amazed at how he can maintain such a varied singing voice to his own spoken voice.
Diamonds is such a dynamic song. The soundstage is so three dimension that closing your eyes will put you in the studio as the song is being recorded. The recording and mastering is absolutely perfect to my ears. In-fact, the entire mastering of the album is nothing short of perfection. Interestingly, HDTracks has the album in Audiophile 44.1kHz/24bit. I mention this because of the ongoing argument relating to the importance of high-fidelity music. I’m not sure if In The Now was recorded and mastered at 44.1kHz/24bit, but generally HDTracks gets the highest bit-rate version available. That said, it is important to acknowledge that higher bit-rates mean nothing if the mastering is not done well. As I listen to TIDAL Hi-Fi’s FLAC stream, running at 44.1kHz/16bit, I can honestly say that there is nothing that would make me long for the 24bit edition. My Oppo HA-2, with the ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M DAC, reproduces TIDAL’s edition so well that there is no need to look for more. Similarly, my Oppo BDP-103 with the Cirrus Logic CS4382A DAC, reproduces the album immaculately. I truly wish all modern albums could be mastered this well. That said, I have been surprised by some of the more recent releases and I pray that we are seeing the back end of the loudness wars.
End Of The Rainbow is a perfect song to conclude the album on. It encourages me to play the album on repeat, and I have certainly done that many times, but more importantly if this is the last song Gibb ever performs, then it is a fitting end to a glorious career that has impacted so many people. That said, I truly hope Gibb records a follow-up to In The Now as he is still an amazing performer. With his sons now by his side, I can only imagine the glorious wonders that are still to come from one of the most talented families in the music industry.
As long time readers would know, lyrics and subsequent song meanings are often lost on me. I review from the standpoint of an emotional perspective regarding how the music makes me feel and the memories it raises in my mind. Thankfully, Gibb has recorded a short video in which he discusses the song meanings much more concisely than any reviewer could hope to achieve.
While I have embedded the official VEVO YouTube video, for compatibility reasons, please remember that if you have a TIDAL subscription, you can also play this video via the following link: tidal.com/video/65653213.
You may recall earlier that I indicated the Deluxe Edition CD would be the best value for money when purchasing In The Now. However, End Of The Rainbow is such a fitting end, that I don’t know if I want to hear the additional tracks. I know that sounds fickle, but there have been many times when I have listened to Deluxe Editions, only to be disappointed because it changed my own subjective relationship with the album. That said, In The Now is truly worthy of owning on vinyl, but the CD is still the best dollar for dollar value. However, for the immediate future, I will be content with the standard edition that is available on TIDAL Hi-Fi.
Regardless of how you intend to listen to this album, you will be blown away by not only the production, but the musicality. It is reminiscent of the Bee Gees, and fans of the band will love it, but it is also uniquely a Barry Gibb album and should be listened to with reflection, but not comparison.