The Bee Gees had their first record deal with Festival Records, and beginning in 1962 they released several singles and an album on that label in Australia before leaving for England and a deal with Polydor Records in 1966. Ultimate Collection combines the trio's one official Festival album, 1966's Monday's Rain, with a second album, Spicks & Specks, also released in 1966, which Festival cobbled together when the Bee Gees left for Polydor. Most of the songs that are collected here were written by the then-teenaged Barry Gibb, and they exhibit a strong Beatles influence, almost working tangibly as parodies of the Fab Four. Except they weren't parodies, and this is the dilemma the Bee Gees struggled with all through their long career: a tendency to undercut brilliance with blandness, to hamstring innovation with cliché. Robin Gibb's truly odd "I Am the World" from this period is a case in point. Bold and unique, "I Am the World" sinks almost immediately under the weight of its own melodrama, and it borders on pathos. In a lot of ways, it is the precursor to "I Started a Joke," which works from the same overblown corner, although a bit more successfully. But there are solid songs here, too, including "Monday's Rain," "How Many Birds," "Spicks & Specks," and "Second Hand People," among others, and the wonderful "In the Morning" is a great song by anyone's standards. These recordings were just the opening act, however, and the Bee Gees went on to bigger and better things.