Mr. Natural (Bee Gees album)

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Mr. Natural
Album Mr Natural.jpg
Studio album by Bee Gees
Released 15 June 1974
Recorded 14 November 1973 – 28 January 1974
IBC Studios and Command Studios, London, UK
Atlantic Studios, New York City
Genre Pop rock, soft rock, funk rock, R&B, soul
Length 45:26
Label RSO
Producer Arif Mardin
Bee Gees chronology
Life in a Tin Can
(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's music incorporates more rhythm and blues, soul and funk and hard rock than their previous albums.

The album reached No. 178 on the Billboard 200. Mr. Natural was also the first album to feature drummer Dennis Bryon. Although the album contains R&B and soul numbers, Barry said that the album was "whiter" than their next album Main Course (on which he said that they started to turn black on their songs).[1]

Background[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.[2] Robert 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, 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.[3]

Recording[edit]

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 lead guitar and added a keyboardist, which resulted in less recording for Maurice, who had long overdubbed many instrumental and backing vocal parts; he would now focus almost exclusively on bass during the trio's R&B/disco era. 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 to 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 disc. Bryon was a friend of Kendall, and would be the Bee Gees' drummer until 1980. The big change here was having Westley, or in fact anyone, play most of the piano and keyboard parts that had been Maurice's domain for years.[4] Westley would soon be replaced as keyboardist by ex-Strawbs keyboardist Derek "Blue" Weaver, whom Bryon had played with in Amen Corner. Around this time, Maurice's problems with alcohol began to surface; although 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.[5] 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.[4] Maurice said in an interview with Lynn Redgrave that his alcoholism didn't affect his recording sessions and concerts until around the time of Spirits Having Flown.[6]

The sessions of Mr. Natural features Barry doing his impression for Maurice. "When we did Mr. Natural we didn't have a positive direction", Maurice said, "We were trashing about".[1] In an interview with the Bee Gees for Billboard on 24 March 2001, Maurice recalls about producer Arif Mardin, "Arif was brilliant, full of ideas. That's why we did the Mr. Natural album with him, which was like a rehearsal".[7]

Reception[edit]

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

Mr. Natural generated no global hits, but represented an important step in The Bee Gees' evolution. 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". Despite sincere attempts to create a new sound, Mr. Natural was not commercially successful; Maurice said: "When we did Mr. Natural we didn't have a positive direction. We were trashing about".[1]

The gospel-tinged song "Give a Hand, Take a Hand" was written in 1969 (hence Robin's lack of writing credit, since 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; her version was released in September 1969 as a single, which was produced by Barry Gibb.[8] The Staple Singers also covered Give a Hand, Take a Hand; their version was released on their 1971 album The Staple Swingers.

On the album cover, 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, and on the paper, it says "Every SUNDAY brunch". There is a small monochrome photo on the inner sleeve, which some have said means Atlantic had the idea of hiding the fact that they were white Englishmen.[4][9]

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 and Robin 3:26
6. "Had a Lot of Love Last Night" (Barry Gibb, Robin Gibb, Maurice Gibb) Barry 4:07

Personnel[edit]

Guest musicians
Production

Chart positions[edit]

Chart Year Peak
position
Australian Albums Chart[10] 1974 20
US Billboard 200[11] 113

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c David N. Meyer. The Bee Gees: The Biography. Retrieved 5 December 2014. 
  2. ^ "The Bee Gees: 35 Years of Music". Billboard: 28. March 24, 2001. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  3. ^ Crouse, Richard. Who Wrote the Book of Love?. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  4. ^ a b c Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1973". 
  5. ^ Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1974". 
  6. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hbz-CzJBjXc
  7. ^ "The Bee Gees: 35 Years of Music". Billboard: 22. March 24, 2001. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Joseph Brennan. "Gibb Songs: 1969". 
  9. ^ "The Bee Gees' Mr. Natural provides a special glow". Billboard: 7. 15 June 1974. Retrieved 8 February 2015. 
  10. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (doc). Australian Chart Book, St Ives, N.S.W. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  11. ^ "US Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-11-09.