Robin's third solo album, the
follow-up to the artistically (if
not commercially) successful
Are You, is a very different beast
to its predecessors. Like How Old
Are You, the Secret Agent album is
heavily electronic, but that is
where the similarities really end.
This album eschews How Old Are You's
soft sentimentality for up-tempo
synthesizer-based dance tracks.
Robin's falsetto vocals used in How
Old Are You are also replaced with a
much deeper, harder, and more varied
sound. And the songs move away from
extended love stories to tales of
spies, androids, Amazonian temples
and high technology. This album was
Again the album is a Robin and
Maurice project (although on this
album older brother Barry co-writes
a couple of tracks), and this shows
that the brothers have really
grasped the sound and style of the
period and done something different.
Maurice, in particular, clearly had
a lot of fun playing with different
types of keyboard effects and
lifting the songs from the slightly
monotonous backing track of the
previous album to a series of
unique, and at times genuinely fresh
(even now!) instrumental breaks. If
there is a criticism of this album,
it is the incessant attempt to sound
high-tech, with not a single 'real'
instrument (like a guitar or piano)
to be heard anywhere. It does give
the album a cold and clinical
sound on first listen, but once
you 'get into the groove' (to use
another 1980-s expression!), this
becomes less of an issue as it is
this sound that takes the album into
this new direction which it
otherwise would not have achieved.
However, a couple of slower tracks
might have been a good idea.
And the album almost saw Robin's
solo career take off commercially.
How Old Are You spawned a
major European hit with 'Juliet',
the album didn't make much of an
impact in the USA. The first
single from Secret Agent - 'Boys Do
Fall In Love' - actually cracked the
US Top 40, the first time a single
from a Robin Gibb solo album had
charted on that side of the
Atlantic. However, it wasn't to
last, as the album failed to set the
world alight commercially.
But for those who did search it out,
it was well worth a listen. 'Boys Do
Fall In Love' was an unbelievably
catchy piece of 1980s pop, which
really should have made an impact.
Previously described as a male
answer to Cyndy Lauper's 'Girls Just
Want To Have Fun', it appeared in
several extended dance versions and
is one of Robin and Maurice's best
compositions. But there is much else
on the album to enjoy: 'In Your
Diary', co-written with Barry, is
another infectious track with a
leaden back beat and genuinely
touching lyrics; 'Secret Agent' is a
great example of how Maurice Gibb
was master of the synthesizer, with
lyrics about jet planes, female
spies and the CIA (this track even
features a fight scene!); and
'Diamonds' takes you out into the
Amazon in a song that brings to mind
an Indiana Jones movie. 'Rebecca'
and 'King Of Fools' are also
outstanding tracks with very strong
melodies (although, if Robin thought
'Rebecca' was this album's answer to
Juliet, he was wrong!).
On repeated listens, here is an
album that will grow on you. It is
an example of how, yet again, the
Gibb brothers were capable of not
only moving with the times, but also
grabbing something new with both (or
in this case four!) hands and doing
something really innovative. Buy it!
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Where to Buy
Buy CD (released 1984)