Mr. Natural (Bee Gees album)

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Mr. Natural
Studio album by the Bee Gees
Released June 1974
Recorded 14 November 1973 – 28 January 1974
IBC Studios and Command Studios, London, UK
Atlantic Studios, New York City
Genre Pop rock, glam rock, soft rock, hard rock, rhythm and blues, soul
Length 45:26
Label RSO
Producer Arif Mardin
the Bee Gees chronology
A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants
(1973)
Mr. Natural
(1974)
Main Course
(1975)
Singles from Mr. Natural
  1. "Mr. Natural"
    Released: March 1974
  2. "Throw a Penny"
    Released: June 1974 (US)
  3. "Charade"
    Released: August 1974

Mr. Natural is the Bee Gees' twelfth album (tenth worldwide), released in July 1974. It was the first Bee Gees release to be produced by Arif Mardin, who was partially responsible for launching the group's later major success with the follow-up album Main Course. The album reached No. 178 on the Billboard 200. Mr. Natural was also the first album to feature drummer Dennis Bryon.

History and recording[edit]

The decision to work with Mardin came after the RSO label rejected the brothers' post-Life in a Tin Can album, which had been provisionally entitled A Kick in the Head Is Worth Eight in the Pants. Stigwood was not ready to give up on the Bee Gees, but he did not believe in the musical direction they were taking. At the suggestion of Jerry Wexler and Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic, Robert Stigwood sent them to work with Atlantic producer and arranger Arif Mardin, who began to draw out their love of rhythm and blues music. Mardin brought the band's attention to the dance scene unfolding at the time, and the brothers Gibb in turn adapted their songwriting and arrangements to a more upbeat style. Recording began in November 1973, and although they were self-conscious about doing a really black sound, their first goal was to record songs in a way that they could reproduce on stage. They made more use of Alan Kendall's electric lead guitar and added a keyboard player, which resulted in less recording for Maurice, who had long overdubbed many instrumental and backing vocal parts. The new sound was more electric than much of what they had done since regrouping in 1970. With Mardin at the helm, the Bee Gees returned at the IBC Studios, London where they had recorded much of their pre-Life in a Tin Can output. The first two songs recorded were harder rock ("Heavy Breathing" and "I Can't Let You Go") both written in Los Angeles. This was a deliberate attempt to record a new sound, compared to the acoustic sounds found on Life in a Tin Can. There were also two new backing musicians, Dennis Bryon on drums and Geoff Westley on keyboards, who were in the tour band, now made their debut with the Bee Gees on disk. Dennis was a friend of Alan Kendall, and would be the Bee Gees' drummer until 1980. The big change here was having Geoff, or anyone, play most of the piano and keyboard parts that had been Maurice's domain for years.[1] Around this time, Maurice's problems with alcohol began to surface. Though he wrote few songs in 1974, he never missed a show or a recording session, but on this album, most of the new songs were written by Barry and Robin only.[2] Three songs were written by all three brothers, one, Lost in Your Love was a solo Barry composition while Give A Hand, Take A Hand was a Barry/Maurice composition (see Notes). The songs "Mr. Natural" and "Had a Lot of Love Last Night" were recorded and completed at the Command Studios in London. The songs "Give a Hand, Take a Hand" and "Lost in Your Love" were recorded at Atlantic Studios in 1974. The Bee Gees are not pictured anywhere in the exterior album package. The front and back are an art concept of a man in a bar, looking blissfully out the window on the front and being ejected smiling on the back. There is a small monochrome photo on the inner sleeve, which some have said Atlantic had the idea of hiding the fact that they were white Englishmen.

Reception[edit]

Mr. Natural generated no global hits, but represented an important step in The Bee Gees' evolution into something more than simple pop balladeers. The album shows a strong Philadelphia soul influence in tracks like "Throw a Penny". Other highlights include "Mr. Natural", the infectious hard rock tunes "Down the Road" and "Heavy Breathing", and the power ballad "Charade". Despite the fact that the Bee Gees and Mardin point to the background vocal session for "Nights on Broadway" as the genesis of the trademark Bee Gee falsetto, those with keen ears can hear a distinctive (albeit subtle in comparison to later recordings) Barry Gibb falsetto in the backing vocals of "Dogs".

The gospel-tinged song "Give a Hand, Take a Hand" was written in 1969 (hence Robin's lack of writing credit, he wasn't working with his brothers at the time) and originally recorded for their 1970 album Cucumber Castle but was not released and was used by P.P. Arnold, and her version was released as a single in September 1969 which was produced by Barry Gibb.[3] The Staple Singers also covered Give a Hand, Take a Hand and their version was released on their 1971 album The Staple Swingers.

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4/5 stars link
Rolling Stone (not rated) link

Track listing[edit]

All tracks written by Barry and Robin Gibb, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Lead vocal(s) Length
1. "Charade"   Barry and Robin 4:13
2. "Throw a Penny"   Barry and Robin 4:49
3. "Down the Road"   Barry 3:35
4. "Voices" (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb) Robin and Barry 4:50
5. "Give a Hand, Take a Hand" (Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb) Barry 4:44
Side two
No. Title Lead vocal(s) Length
1. "Dogs"   Barry 3:43
2. "Mr. Natural"   Robin and Barry 3:46
3. "Lost in Your Love" (Barry Gibb) Barry 4:36
4. "I Can't Let You Go" (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb) Barry 3:45
5. "Heavy Breathing"   Barry 3:26
6. "Had a Lot of Love Last Night" (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb) Barry 4:07

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Peak
position
US Billboard 200 178
Australia Kent Music Report Albums Chart 20

Personnel[edit]

Bee Gees
Guest musicians
Production
  • Damon Lyon-Shaw— engineer
  • Andy Knight – engineer
  • Alan Lucas – engineer
  • Gene Paul – engineer
  • Arif Mardin – producer

References[edit]

  1. ^ Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1973". 
  2. ^ Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1974". 
  3. ^ Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1969".