Big Band singers are somewhat of a vanishing breed. Many vocalists today feel uncomfortable with 16 musicians blasting away behind them. But James Darren, who has emerged as one of the better singers of his generation, isn’t among that crew who feel a pitti-pat of the heart when the band stretches out behind him.
Darren’s latest CD from Concord Records displays a singer in full control of his instrument and very much at home with the talented musicians who back him. The result in Because of You turns into one of the most entertaining recordings of the year, packed with superb arrangements of songs which have proved their depth by virtue of long standing popularity.
Darren, who had careers in films and television before concentrating on music, sings with a relaxed air that will remind listeners of such delights as Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. This is no project in which Darren walked in with stacks of charts, passed them out, and stomped off the first tempo. Darren says he thought about each of the songs he personally chose, and he had ideas for the music before he met with the arrangers.
The resulting 14 songs seldom have been done better. Darren combines his ultra-smooth style with a nod here and there to the rhythms and especially to the lyrics of these wonderful old tunes. The album begins with “Just One of Those Things” then slows down a bit for a fine rendition of “My Kind of Girl.” Two songs which are recorded often but never too often are “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” To say that Darren does them justice is far too faint praise. He simply makes each song his own.
Anyone old enough to remember the music of the ‘60s should find Darren’s brilliant version of “Our Day Will Come” worth the price of admission. Anyone around for the original version by a Cleveland group called Ruby and the Romantics could never forget it. Darren brings it back and makes the song sound brand new.
There are 14 songs on “Because of You.” Most listeners will have trouble in identifying their favorite. That’s OK. Enjoy them all.