Living Eyes - Bee Gees

Date: 1981
Click here for full track listing

Where to Buy

Buy reissued CD version import (released 2005)
Buy rare original CD version (released 1981)

Nicholas James

This album must have come as a big shock to the Bee Gees and their record company when it was released in 1981. Following the massive success of the Spirits Having Flown album, the Bee Gees had taken a break to write and produce, amongst other things, the new Barbra Streisand album, Guilty, in 1980. When they returned as the Bee Gees, music had moved on. But the Bee Gees were clearly aware of that, which is why this album showcases a dramatic change in style, exploring different sounds, both vocally and musically, and tentatively (perhaps too tentatively) stepping into the 1980s. What perhaps the Bee Gees didn't realise was how much of a backlash there would be to their music. It was this backlash - a (false) association of the group with disco, which was now seen as dated - that killed Living Eyes. It was certainly not the quality of the album.

It is for this reason that it is a shame that the album has been largely overlooked over the years. The Bee Gees themselves often dismiss it as an album produced at a time they were having record company and marital relationship problems, as if they have to justify its commercial failure. They should not feel the need to dismiss it, as it is one of their finest works. In fact, it is one of the best albums ever produced by any artist.

On listening to the album, the first thing that jumps out and grabs you is the lack of falsetto vocals. Whereas the previous album was almost entirely made up of Barry's iconic high-pitched vocals, this album shuns the falsetto sound, in favour of going back to using natural voices and harmonies. Only 'Soldiers', a well-written, almost poetic pop track follows the falsetto road of Spirits, but the folk-pop sound achieved is very different.

The first single released from the album, the dark and hard-edged 1980s synth-pop track, 'He's A Liar', flopped, as did the album itself. But don't let that put you off. The title track, 'Living Eyes', is an alluring, graceful and very philosophical song, as is the classy 'Paradise', the best natural harmony song they had produced for years. Robin has some strong leads, with the captivating 'Don't Fall In Love With Me' and the contemporary synthesiser-led 'Cryin' Everyday' being stand-out moments on the album. It was nice to have him back! Maurice contributes his first 'token' track since the To Whom It May Concern album, and the result is the heavenly 'Wildflower', clearly Beach Boys influenced, with a story about a man falling in love with a younger girl.

This is a satisfying album, showing the Bee Gees song writing skills perhaps better than any other album of this period. The closing track, a Barry Gibb tour de force called 'Be Who You Are', finishes it all off nicely. It really is a crying shame that this album did not get the critical or commercial recognition it deserved. But it is rightly revered by fans.

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Where to Buy
Buy reissued CD version import (released 2005)
Buy rare original CD version (released 1981)