Bill Shepherd (l) and the Bee Gees (r)
Well, here’s a wild one.
A while back, I saw the album you see before you today posted a few different times, and even absent a sound clip, I was suitably intrigued, and went out in search of a copy.
It didn’t take too much time (or money) to track one down, and when I did, I was utterly baffled.
I have gone off into “easy” territory in this space many a time, but usually the records involved were adult types (i.e. no rockers of a certain age) attempting to glom onto the youth sound and market.
‘The Bill Shepherd Singers Sing the Bee Gees Hits’ is a straight up easy listening (like Montovani/Ray Conniff level) joint, with the only hip connection being that all of the songs were previously done by the Bee Gees.
Or so I thought…
As it turns out, Bill Shepherd is a very interesting cat, who I should have known of before I went out looking for this record.
Shepherd was a UK-based songwriter/arranger who – interestingly enough – is the co-writer of ‘Zou Bissou’, which became something of a sensation when it appeared in an episode of ‘Mad Men’ with Jessica Pare miming to the 1961 Gillian Hills recording of the song.
He was also, and this is the most important factoid, the man who did the arranging on all of the early Bee Gees popsike-era albums!
Having been listening to these albums for decades (I even own the boxed set with all the alternate versions etc), how I missed his name is a testament to the solidity of blind spots.
That said, the album is weird, not because of the juxtaposition of material and presentation, since the Bee Gee’s songs lend themselves quite nicely to an ‘easy’ vibe.
What’s weird is that things never cross over into any of the usual electric sitar, phasing/echo, heavy drums-au-go-go that you tend to find on albums like this. The whole thing is played straight, start to finish, in a way that would have passed muster on WPAT (THE big easy listening station in the New York area when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s) back in the day.
I picked ‘Turn of the Century’, mainly because it lends itself so easily to the style, and ‘Red Chair Fadeaway’ because it is one of the more psychedelic offerings on the ‘Bee Gee’s 1st’ LP and just strikes me as novel in this delivery.
It is certainly a wonderfully calm (perhaps bland?) album, and recommended highly to collectors and aficionados of stuff like this.
I shall be digging into it further as time allows.
I hope you dig it, and I’ll see you all next week.