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Extended Analysis

Bobby Darin: Aces Back to Back!

By Published: September 28, 2004
Bobby Darin
Aces Back to Back!
Hyena Records

Joel Dorn and his Hyena Records have done it again: another binless wonder. ("Binless" is my term for music that defies categorization, specifically at the few brick-and-mortar record outlets that remain, where employees would struggle to find the right file for it, assuming that they cared.)

The Frank and Joe Show was a triumph, and it continues to be so on CD and Sundays at Sweet Rhythm. Now comes Hyena's tribute to Bobby Darin, the singer/songwriter/pianist/guitarist/drummer/vibraphonist/actor/comedian/im- pressionist/finger-poppin' cool guy who vaulted over genre hurdles all of his short life.

Darin died at 37 (in 1973), from the heart problems that first hit him at age 8; felled by rheumatic fever at 13, he overheard a doctor saying that he wouldn't make it to his 16th birthday. His subsequent phenomenal drive and fierce ambition were matched only by his talent.

That uniquely powerful talent is all over Aces Back to Back! , a CD and DVD set compiled in conjunction with the Bobby Darin estate. Two of Darin's most famous hits are here ("Mack the Knife" and "Beyond the Sea"), along with samples from his jazz, pop, rock and folk repertoire. The immersion includes long-lost concert footage, previously unreleased radio broadcasts, out-of-print studio sessions and vintage film and TV footage, and George Burns telling stories.

Darin appears in many of his incarnations—playing very credible classical guitar while on the road, finishing a blazing drum solo, singing part of a new song he'd written. It becomes obvious how he could be elected to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, yet also wow jazz audiences at the Coconut Grove.

Darin swings like Sinatra on "This Could Be the Start of Something Great" and "Quarter to Nine," though he's less languid and more frontal than The Boss. On "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and "If I Were a Carpenter," both cradled with infinite tenderness, he shows that he could've been a great country singer as well. At home everywhere, that man was pure music.

This meticulous combination of audio and visual, 18 months in the making, brings the scope of Darin's special gifts to life. For example, the "Dream" duet with Petula Clark is pleasant to hear, but watching it is a whole other experience, full of seductive sizzle (note to bald men: Minoxidil is not the key!). Darin can even swing an inane pop tune like "Song Sung Blue"—give him "All the Way," and prepare for heartmelt. The CD tracks that appear on the DVD are greatly enhanced by his patented body language—that James Brown slide, the little snaps of the mic or head for accent, that poise and charming smile.

Always a fan (is it obvious?), I got a new appreciation of Darin's impeccable timing and stage presence, as well as his vocal and stylistic range. For those who dismiss Darin as a night-club singer with a few pop hits, this package will be an eye-opener. There's nothing in here about his Oscar-nominated performance in Captain Newman, M.D. , but his Renaissance range is clearly evident. Fans will keep these discs on repeat play. Aces Back to Back! is fabulous, and also sadly ironic—since it demonstrates that Darin had so much heart to give.

Track listing:

CD: This Could be the Start of Something Big, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Song Sung Blue, All I Have to Do is Dream (with Petula Clark), A Quarter to Nine, Alone Again Naturally, Beyond the Sea, I'll Be Your Baby Tonight, If I Were a Carpenter, Simple Song of Freedom, Up a Lazy River, Jive, Rainin', Long Time Movin', Dream Lover, Blue Skies, Moon River, All the Way, Mack the Knife, The Curtain Falls

DVD: This Could Be the Start of Something Big, Can't Take My Eyes Off of You, Song Sung Blue, All I Have to Do is Dream (with Petula Clark), A Quarter to Nine, Alone Again Naturally, Beyond the Sea, Mack the Knife. Lost documentary footage: Weeping Willow, One of those Songs, You're Nobody til Somebody Loves You.

Personnel: Bobby Darin (vocals, piano, drums, guitar) and many various others.

Visit Hyena Records on the web.

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