Reprise/Rhino went all-out for their deluxe edition treatment of the Bee Gees' 1969 Odessa album. Disc one of the three-CD set has the album (originally a double LP) in its original mono mix; disc two presents it in its original stereo mix; and disc three, most excitingly for Bee Gees fans and collectors, offers 22 previously unreleased tracks (and one promotional radio spot). It goes without saying, perhaps, that this is a pretty specialized affair even by the standards of deluxe editions, especially as Odessa is not exactly considered a core classic late-'60s rock album by mainstream audiences. It has its merits, however, and even though ownership of both the stereo and mono CDs might not be considered essential by the average Bee Gees fan, fanatics will appreciate having both of them side by side (especially as the mono mixes were made available in the U.S. for the first time here).
The real interest, of course, lies in the abundant previously unreleased material. Most of this, it should be cautioned, consists of alternate versions/mixes and demos of songs that made it onto the album -- in fact, there demos or alternate takes for every song from Odessa besides "The British Opera" -- although there are two previously unissued tunes, "Pity" and "Nobody's Someone," that didn't make it onto the album in any form. As is the case with alternates on many expanded/deluxe CDs, you'd never put these recordings on par with the officially released versions. Mostly they tend to confirm the Bee Gees' judgment as to what takes and arrangements were used on the final LP, with some obviously hesitant performances and a few songs lacking final lyrical polish. But there are some notable interesting differences in the batch, like the "You'll Never See My Face Again" minus orchestration; an early version of "Edison" with different lyrics, at that point titled "Barbara Came to Stay"; a much sparser, fairly rudimentary demo of "Melody Fair," one of the best and most famous songs on the album; "Never Say Never Again" with an up front heavy fuzz guitar that was erased from the finished master; a demo of "First of May" with nothing more than piano backing; and, perhaps most unexpectedly of all, a version of "With All Nations (International Anthem)" with lyrics, although the one on the official LP ended up being instrumental. As for the two songs with no counterparts on the actual Odessa album, "Nobody's Someone" is a characteristically pleasantly sad, rather sorrowful (if rather lightweight) Bee Gees original that was covered almost 30 years later by a virtually unknown artist named Andrew (no last name); "Pity" is a more upbeat midtempo piano-dominated number, but with a skeletal arrangement obviously in need of completion.
Thorough liner notes explain the origination of the tracks and the differences between the official and previously unreleased versions. Thus overall, this, like Reprise/Rhino's box set The Studio Albums 1967-1968 (which gives a similar expanded treatment to the three previous Bee Gees albums), is a valuable supplement to the group's standard '60s discography. It is a release, however, that will be somewhat limited in appeal to the general pop and rock audience, who might not have the patience to sort through all the multiple versions.