"Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook, Vol. 1"

Barry Gibb & Friends

"Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers’ Songbook, Vol. 1"

(Capitol, ** 1/2)

As late 1960s hit-makers, the Bee Gees specialized in heartbreaking harmony singing. As 1970s disco superstars, they soared heavenward on Barry Gibb’s falsetto. The recent "The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" documentary on HBO is a stunning reminder of the British-Australian sibling trio’s excellence.

So if 74-year-old Gibb, whose brothers Maurice and Robin died in 2003 and 2012, wants to head to Nashville, Tennessee, to revisit earworms such as “I’ve Gotta Get a Message To You” with Keith Urban and “Too Much Heaven” with Alison Krauss, why shouldn’t he?

Absolutely he should. And there’s a welcoming warmth to these sessions produced by Dave Cobb, also featuring Dolly Parton, fellow Aussie Olivia Newton-John, Jason Isbell and Brandi Carlile, among others.

Naturally, Gibb can’t reach the vocal heights he once scaled. But he’s a strong, seasoned singer, and the project is smart to resist wholesale reinvention of beloved hits like “To Love Somebody” — sung here with Jay Buchanan of Rival Sons. (For the definitive take, seek out soul great James Carr’s version.)

For all its comforts, though, "Greenfields" is inevitably dissatisfying. Sure, it’s a nice touch to include Australian finger-picking guitarist Tommy Emmanuel on “How Deep Is Your Love,” along with pop country quartet Little Big Town.

But revisiting hits can’t help but send fans back to cherished, superior originals. "Greenfields" does end with a special treat, however: “Butterfly” pairs Gibb off with Gillian Welch and David Rawlings on a rare, tender love song the brothers released as a studio outtake in 1970.

— Dan DeLuca

The Avalanches


The Avalanches' "We Will Always Love You"

"We Will Always Love You"

(Astralwerks, *** 1/2 stars)

The Avalanches’ classic debut "Since I Left You," released in 2000, stitched together thousands of brief, mostly unrecognizable samples into a glorious celebration, including the novelty hit “Frontier Psychologist.” Sixteen years then passed before the Australian group, now a duo of Robbie Chater and Tony DiBlasi, followed it up with the solid "Wildflower." Now, comparatively quickly, comes another master class in blissful sample-based pop.

"We Will Always Love You" plays like a seamless mixtape, flowing from song to song with brief interstitial bridges, although it’s loaded with guest vocalists including Philly’s Kurt Vile, who talk-sings on “Gold Sky.”

He’s in good company. Also here are soul singers Leon Bridges and Sananda Maitreya, trip-hoppers Tricky and Neneh Cherry, rock stars including the Smiths’ Johnny Marr, the Clash’s Mick Jones and Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo, and rappers like Sampa the Great and Denzel Curry.

The few prominent, recognizable samples draw on female vocalists: the Carpenters, the Roches, Vashti Bunyan.

The songs often explore cosmic themes — the Avalanches became fascinated with the possibilities of interstellar communications and of voices and sounds transmitted across distances of time and space. The tone is often dreamy and, well, spacey, with hints of disco, trip hop, nu soul and old-school house music, although it never settles in one place for long.

"We Will Always Love You" is not as giddy and up-tempo as "Since I Left You," but it’s equally satisfying and impressive.

— Steve Klinge


Zephaniah Ohora's "Listening to the Music"

Zephaniah Ohora

"Listening to the Music"

(Last Roundup, *** 1/2)

When Zephaniah Ohora sings about “riding that train to the city,” over a spry, Western swing-influenced arrangement, he’s not referring to the kind of smoke-belching behemoth traversing wide-open spaces that you might associate with country music. Rather, he’s on the subway.

Ohora may be Brooklyn-based, but "Listening to the Music" shows the New Hampshire native has a masterful grasp of country. And he uses his urban condition to bring his own perspective while highlighting universal themes.

Numbers such as “Heaven’s on the Way” and “You Make It Easy to Love Again” echo the Flying Burrito Brothers with their steel-kissed flow. Merle Haggard comes to the fore with the honky-tonk of “Living Too Late,” while “All American Singer” borrows from Haggard’s social commentary side and touches on one of the album’s main themes: “We all find solace in a song.”

Ohora imbues the strings-accented ballads “It’s Not So Easy Today” and “Emily” with aching elegance.

To close, he goes all the way back to Jimmie Rodgers for inspiration. “Time Won’t Take Its Time With Me” is a blue-yodel-styled lament with Norm Hamlet of Haggard’s Strangers on dobro. Unlike Rodgers, aka the Singing Brakeman, Ohora is taking the A train in this song. But when it comes to updating country tradition while staying true to it, he’s on the right track.

— Nick Cristiano

___ (c)2021 The Philadelphia Inquirer Visit The Philadelphia Inquirer at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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