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    The Bees

    sunshine hit me free the bees octopus

    Sunshine Hit Me 9 ( 2002 )
    Punchbag / Angryman / No Trophy / Binnel Bay / Sunshine / Minha Menina / This Town / Sweet Like A Champion / Lying In The Snow / Zia / Sky Holds The Sun

    Paul Butler and Aaron Fletcher are The Bees, hailing from the Isle of Wight. 'Sunshine Hit Me' was recorded in Paul's parents shed. True. Both key Bees members are multi-instrumentalists and both share a huge array of diverse influences. For instance, the songs on this debut album range from comedown chill-out through to reggae mixed with Beach Boys, through to 'Minha Menina', a Brazillian/Portugese folk song. Uh, shall I wind back up a little? Reggae mixed with Beach Boys? Well, yes sir! 'No Trophy' is my pick of the pops, the song from this set that most consistently sends chills up and down my spine. Firstly, it's such a happy tune. The reggae rhythm combines well with the vocals, which also have true reggae inflections. Ah, the harmonies. During the first part of the song, a fairly simple song it is too, the harmonies consist of reggae style humming. Very beautiful this humming is too. However, right at the end of the song, we get something absolutely lovely. "We will defend your bed, tonight" they sing, as the song fades. I can't exactly describe the sound or effect of this, but it's a perfect way to close the song. Oh, anybody a fan of The Kinks album, 'Muswell Hillbillies'? Well, 'Binnel Bay' captures something of the mood of that record, without sounding like an obvious homage. Again, this is a song with fantastic vocal harmonies. We then lead into some kind of psychedelic instrumental, 'Sunshine'. This album has it all, it really does. The even more impressive thing for an album such as this, with a variety of styles, is how seamlessly all the songs flow into each other.

    Other moments of loveliness? Well, there's still quite a few of them, actually. The sweet mellow and delicious groove of 'This Town', the kind of tune perfect for listening to on the train after a difficult day at work. Or in your car, the sunshine flowing through your hair. It's a perfect day and 'This Town' makes you feel all lovely inside. We've got the sad sounding 'Lying In The Snow', another song of breath-taking beauty. True, there are a couple of less essential tunes on the album, the closing 'Sky Holds The Sun', the instrumental 'Zia'. Still, that's just two songs on an album of eleven songs. The other nine are nearly all brilliant. We'll forgive them. I mean, 'Angryman' is some weird kind of funk song, complete with falsetto soul vocals. What more do you need? Well, whatever you need, if you're a music fan of any kind at all, you need 'Sunshine Hit Me' by The Bees. Simple as that.

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    Free The Bees 9 ( 2004, UK pos 26 )
    These Are The Ghosts / Wash In The Rain / No Atmosphere / Horsemen / Chicken Payback / The Russian / I Love You / The Start / Hourglass / Go Karts / One Glass Of Water / This Is The Land.

    Well, I loved 'Sunshine Hit Me'. Loved it, and was reluctant that these guys change anything at all for their follow-up set. The changes consist of adding a couple of members, so now The Bees are a band 'Proper'. The home-studio in which they got such a good sound out of for 'Sunshine Hit Me' has been abandoned for now, in preference for recording 'Free The Bees' at Abbey Road. Um, the sound of this album overall? Well, this is an album with such an authentic 60s sound you could be forgiven for thinking it was recorded in the 60s. Now, we've had attempts at this kind of thing numerous times before, of course. XTC posing as Dukes Of Straosphear, for example. The thing with that project was you could still tell it was actually recorded in the 80s. Certain aspects of the sound betrayed the intentions. Not so, with the majority of 'Free The Bees'. It sounds so authentic, it beggars belief. Seems too good to be true, a lot of time. 'Free The Bees' contains a similarly diverse mix of songs as before, some serious, some silly, others a combination of both. A variety of styles are covered, although the emphasis here is more akin to 60s psychedelia. It sounds as if 'Free The Bees' was recorded in 1968 post 'Summer Of Love', with all that implies. I'll follow a similar path for this review as I did 'Sunshine Hit Me'. So, my favourites here? Well, 'I Love You' is a stunning soul ballad with an absolutely incredible vocal. 'These Are The Ghosts' take a little while to seep its way into your mind. When it does, chances are you won't be able to, or want to, get rid of it. The 'catchiness' of this song is somewhat clever. It's not an obvious chorus, but there is one. The vocals are back in the mix, the instrumentation is that of a full garage band performance, perhaps in laid-back mode. Still, we've got clashing cymbals, lots of guitar, you can hear the bass line which pins the song together melodically. As you can tell, it's sometimes difficult to describe the exact effect the music of The Bees actually has.

    'Chicken Payback' is something to behold. It's an absolute joy to listen to, incredibly moronic in a good way. It's as if The Bees have rediscovered a musical innocence that years of past rock music has generally taken away from the majority of modern musicians. In this vein we have 'No Atmosphere', another piece of fun and silly brilliance. The short and sweet 'The Start' contains wonderful background harmonies, a very bouncy melody and another great, genuine sounding lead vocal performance. 'Hourglass' is the longest song here, at four minutes fourty six seconds and sounds like The Beta Band hoped they would sound like some day. Going back a year from 1968, 'This Is The Land' lands right in the middle of a 'Nuggets' compilation, or so it would seem. 'Go Karts' is another highlight. Yes, yet another highlight. Another song so simple and fun, yet actually, you can tell an enormous amount of effort must have gone into making the song sound the way it does. At the end of the day, I don't quite know what to say. Another fantastic album. It could be said the song-writing should be slightly stronger in places. But, this is a minor quibble that prevents the album from getting a '10' or thereabouts. If they do it, next time out? Well, they could have an absolute masterpiece on their hands. As it is for now, 'Free The Bees' and the similar yet dissimilar 'Sunshine Hit Me' should provide us all with many happy hours of listening.

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    Readers Comments

    carlos carlos1970@hotmail.co.uk
    I bought this album on the strength of a session I heard them doing on the radio whilst I was driving to work.For me it captures effortlessly the beauty of the late sixties.Musically it`s as good as most Byrds or Grateful Dead albums.I think the The Bees have and will be criminally overlooked as they don`t have the sound of today ,but who cares?This is an astounding listen.My musical tastes vary,starting around around fifties RnR and finishing around the time the Smiths split up,so this captures it bang in the middle of a golden period .The Horseman sticks out like a sore thumb though. 9.5

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    Octopus 8 ( 2007 )
    Who Cares What The Question Is? / Love In The Harbour / Left Foot Stepdown / Got To Let Go / Listening Man / Stand / Better Days / The Ocularist / Hot One / End Of The Street

    Fine pop melodies abound and The Bees return with their world view that anything that sounds like it was recorded after 1969 isn't worth listening to. Whereas 'Sunshine Hit Me' and 'Free The Bees' were radically different to each other, 'Octopus' is the same 'Free The Bees' nostalgic mix whilst not being quite as strong. Still, as I said, fine pop melodies abound and i'm not about to call this rubbish because it's not quite as good as a pretty excellent actually one-two opening punch ( 'Sunshine Hit Me' / 'Free The Bees' ). Not that anybody was listening, The Bees have sold relatively few records. I doubt anybody will be listening now. Arctic Monkeys get the praise, Kayne West gets the money and The Bees sit in Abbey Road studios wondering what microphone Paul McCartney used to record 'Rocky Raccoon'. I do miss the beauty of 'Sunshine Hit Me' in particular and 'Free The Bees' was just a delight. Delights here? Opener 'Who Cares What The Question Is?' sounds like The Animals crossed with marzipan and an orangutan. 'Love In The Harbour' is the most delicious thing here. A strong, catchy and repeated pop chorus is fine enough but the verse sections sound like Chris Hillman era Byrds circa 1967, believe you me, a very good thing for them to sound like indeed. 'Leftfoot Stepdown' is a reggae tinged tune and a semi-delight but it's also this albums 'Chicken Payback'. The closing 'End Of The Street' is also this albums 'Chicken Payback' and so the problem becomes apparent. Next time guys, just record something that may surprise a listener even slightly. As nice as all this stuff generally is, you'll fall fowl to the law of diminishing returns as sure as Robbie Williams falls foul every time he opens his mouth of being crap.

    The apparently mysterious 'The Ocularist' is a decent tune. Very Gorky's Zygotic Mynci semi-mystical fun. I've name dropped a lot of bands here haven't I? No matter, it wasn't an issue before but it's more of one now because the stand-out cuts on 'Octopus' aren't as plentiful as they were on previous albums, simple as that. Oh, 'Listening Man' is wonderful! It's a slow Bob Marley type tune, quite remarkable for a bunch of white guys from the UK. It could benefit from more rich production, the 1968 production sound just doesn't suit this as well as it might. I hate you to feel as if i'm down on this album though, because i'm not. It's better than a heck of a lot of music out in the marketplace and The Bees are still 100% a fun band to listen to. I was hoping they'd be more than that and who knows, they still might. Until then however, do the left-foot stepdown and embrace your partner with a knowing smile.

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    Readers Comments

    James Wood woodjame@scs.vuw.ac.nz
    When I dug this album out of my father's sixties record collection I assumed it would be mediocre - given the cliched "fishbowl" cover; and a name that I assumed was a rip off of "Sgt Pepper." I now think this one is my favourite of all time - yes Trout Mask Replica may be the Captain's most important album; but he never made a more pleasurable one. Wonderfully bent pop/blues filled with a childlike sensibility. I can't say I have noticed anything wrong with the production - the remastered CD I have sounds great!! Take out "I'm Glad" and it is a clear ten.

    John john.j.doyle@nuim.ie
    A very charming and endearing band. They haven't really hit the "big time" yet, which is probably in their favour as much as anything else. Very nice piece of work from them.

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    Every Step's A Yes 6 ( 2011 )
    I Really Need Love / Winter Rose / Silver Line / No More Excuses / Tired Of Loving / Change Can Happen / Island Lover Letter / Skill Of The Man / Pressure Makes Me Lazy / Gaia

    The mostly forgotten Bees return with another album that isn't as good as their first two. They seem mired now in a particular sound and style. Their debut was fresh and sounded special and luxuriously intimate. Their 2nd was a highly enjoyable Sixties throwback complete with Sixties sounding instruments and songs. Since then, they've mined that same seam with ever diminishing results it seems to me. The Pink Floyd style vocals echo over acoustic folky guitar and that's the five minute 'Skill Of The Man' to a tee. It's a "Saucerful Of Secrets" without the surprise, melody or discography behind it. Well, i'm being harsh because The Bees do still have the capability to pull off a simple sounding shuffle that echoes festivals and the first summer of love. The opening 'I Really Need Love' is perfect dancing semi-naked in a field hippy-fodder. It's a shuffling guitar, a couple of sitar type sounds pop up, the lyrics are suitably vague and happy and the songs goes round in circles, 'really need love, really need love' they chant. 'Silver Line' stands out because it's those Bees campfire vocal harmonies, although such a sound has now arguably been done far better by Fleet Foxes, that marriage of folk, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beach Boys.

    Speaking of Pink Floyd as I was earlier 'No More Excuses' does Floyd circa 1970 fairly well, the smooth, airy double-tracked / duel lead vocals complete with air of mystical mystery courtesy of a string section and floaty futuristic retro space keyboards here and there. The drums are particularly Procol Harum, think 'Whiter Shade Of Pale' falling and echoing. The only other song here that doesn't just lazily float by without really registering is 'Tired Of Loving' which has acoustic guitars and lovely harmony vocals throughout the verses - when The Bees capture that feeling of colours and sunshine, eg, 'Sunshine Hit Me', they are usually far better than just running through various Sixties stylistic motions for the heck of it.

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    this page last updated 01/9/11

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