Since I was a child, I have been a fan of the Bee Gees. I recall listening to the Bee Gees Greatest and Best Of Bee Gees for countless hours on cassette, pondering why their sound was so unique. I think it’s fair to say that Barry Gibb’s often lead vocals, mixed with Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb’s vocal harmonies was a match made in heaven.
I often wonder how many people purchased a vinyl recording of the Bee Gees and wondered if they had flipped the 45rpm switch on a 33.3rpm record as Barry’s falsetto vocals were incredibly unique, especially on songs like Stayin’ Alive, as the band headed into their newfound 70s sound. Interestingly, I would find when listening to the Bee Gees on cassette, that the natural wow and flutter of tape, along with tape stretching, would seriously compromise the Bee Gees sounds and Barry’s falsetto vocals, more so than other artists.
While their music expanded into genres such as rock, pop, R&B, and associated ballads, the Bee Gees will always be known for their fast paced disco sound that arguably marked the most successful years of their career. Certainly the predominantly Bee Gees recorded 1977 soundtrack, Saturday Night Fever, is a testament to this with songs like Stayin’ Alive, Night Fever, More Than A Woman, and You Should Be Dancing.
Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to receive a re-press of the Saturday Night Fever record as gift, but coincidentally when Record Store Day 2015 (RSD15) came around, the Bee Gees released the Extended EP. This unique release included all the before mentioned tracks from Saturday Night Fever, but they were the extended editions of the songs that we all know and love.
The EP is presented in a die-cut sleeve with foil stamping that simply looks exquisite. Presented on black vinyl, the 45rpm pressing has a lovey multi-coloured label that is amazingly hypnotic when in motion. Although, as I use the Audio Technica - AT-618 LP Stabiliser, I rarely see the effect in action.
Now this is one collection of songs that you will not be able to get via digital delivery methods, such as TIDAL Hi-Fi, Apple Music, or iTunes. These songs, and the Extended EP, are exclusive to this limited edition RSD15 vinyl release, so even a CD release is out of the question. You can of course get the original mixes, on all popular services and formats, but subjectively which ones do I prefer?
Stayin’ Alive is expanded by additional horn licks and chorus repeats that add to the vibe of the original song. In this case I prefer the extended mix as the additional, although repeated, aspects only improve an already iconic song.
By comparison, I feel that Night Fever is too repetitive and I am always looking for a new sonic element to amplify the song when listening. In this case, the extended edition is great, but I feel it is on par with the original and therefore doesn’t surpass it.
More Than A Woman is similarly extended by chorus repetition and isn’t drastically different to the original either.
You Should Be Dancing has an additional, and slightly longer, instrumental aspect towards the end of the song that I prefer over the original. It simply makes you want to keep dancing, and when it comes to the Bee Gees, this is a good thing.
The most interesting aspect of this comparison was how sonically superior the 45rpm Extended EP was to the digital copies, of the original mixes, on TIDAL Hi-Fi and Apple Music. Now, 45rpm pressed vinyl generally has a sonic improvement over 33.3rpm, and I feel 33.3rpm vinyl is generally smoother and more appealing than the digital counterpart when played on an audiophile-grade turntable. That said, the difference was significant enough for me to be disappointed in the lossless TIDAL Hi-Fi editions. However, they are from different masters and that likely has played a significant role in the tonal differences. Although, my vinyl copy of Saturday Night Fever also sounds much better than the digital counterpart. Yes, these songs were mastered originally for vinyl, but the differences shouldn’t be this significant.
This difference is why I truly believe that music lovers should not limit themselves to a single music format, or service, as music rarely sounds the same across all possible formats, despite logic suggesting it should. One of my key goals as a music collector is to source the mastering edition that I subjectively feel delivers the best sound quality. In this case, it is the Extended EP on vinyl, but I concede that a true comparison is difficult as the extended versions are not available on competing platforms.
Now let’s put on our boogie shoes, because we should be dancing!