Children of the World mimics Main Course while pushing further into funky disco and falsetto-tinged R&B
The Gibb brothers’ trek to Miami’s Criteria Studios with legendary producer Arif Mardin gave birth to Main Course, a defining moment in the pop group’s transition from. The marriage didn’t last long. With only two albums produced by Mardin, the Gibb trio decided they could pull off the next set without the famed producer on their next set. They meticulously studied his studio tricks and quickly discovered the magic behind Criteria’s acoustics. Children of the World isn’t technically a major improvement over Main Course, nor is it a total knockoff. But the boys are surprisingly comfortable with their mirage of soulful EW&F funk and blue-eyed soul that they try to scoot away from their Beatles-ish songbook as best as they can.
Of course, “Love So Right” is the album’s finest ballad and still proves they are a Hallmark card away from being professional poets. Newly christened lead singer Barry Gibb squeals with his nasally falsetto with the confidence of Phillip Bailey, as he charges forward with his dynamic outbursts of conviction. Finishing in second place is “Love Me,” which swoons with Quiet Storm warmth and melodic prominence. But it is the album’s disco-friendly grooves that carry the weight of the album’s eminence. “You Should Be Dancing,” boasting a heavy, irresistible concoction of Stephen Stills’s calypso beats, Barry’s sexy lead vocals, delicious bass lines, guitar whirls and Sunshine Band-esque horns, opens the set so mightily that it’s almost impossible for the Bee Gees to top it. They try to keep the night fever spreading on the lite-funk of “You Stepped Into My Life” (which Melba Moore later covered and owns), and even spreading it out on “Can’t Keep a Good Man Down,” but the funk seems a bit safe, even generic at times. Only “Boogie Child” harnesses a feisty, in-your-face groove that rivals “You Should Be Dancing.” The grit found in the Gibbs’ harmonies on their “boogie-child” chants and their Doobie-meets-Funkadelic jam session is just enough to keep their boogie shoes on.
Just a few second-rate album fillers - only centimeters shy from being memorable – are hidden in the mix, particularly the EW&F experimentalism of “Lovers” and the Elton John-sounding “The Way It Was.” But Children of the World, now with the Bee Gees in the production chamber and with co-producers Albhy Galuten and engineer Karl Richardson on board, are on their quest for creative control and rediscovery. Mardin may have started them on their way with Main Course, but the Bee Gees are in total control of Children of the World. It’s a good effort, but the boys still had a few kinks they needed to iron out.
LABEL: RSO // PRODUCER: Bee Gees, Albhy Galuten, Karl Richardson
GENRE: Disco, pop, R&B // RELEASE DATE: 1976