Best known for his English language take on Charles Trenet’s ‘La mer’, re-titled, ‘Beyond the sea’, as well as a storming version of ‘Mack the knife’, Bobby Darin
occupied a unique position among singers ranging from late 1950s pop idol until recognition as an interpreter of adult compositions that betrayed a strong jazz influence. The four albums contained within span the early period with a mini ‘Best of’ to the later collaborative work with lyricist Johnny Mercer and arranger/conductor Billy May. Darin has sometimes been likened to Frank Sinatra, but it is arguable that the former’s own distinctive style was forged from a variety of other singers including Sinatra and was harder swinging in a more rock and roll style which he subsequently made into his own voice. The early material is condensed into ‘The Bobby Darin story’, that neatly highlights his pop hits such as ‘Splish splash and ‘Queen of the hop’. These include the best selling 45 of 1959 in a rocking take on ‘Mack the knife’ and this already hinted at a more sophisticated audience that Darin had in mind, and this reading compares favourably with the Ella Fitzgerald version that is the other principal jazz take on Kurt Weill’s number. In 1961 Darin and Johnny Mercer paired up for ‘Two of a kind’ with the Billy May orchestra that had backed both Nat ‘King’ Cole and Frank Sinatra in evidence and the jazzy intent is obvious from the outset. in spite of a difference of twenty-seven years between the co-leaders (Mercer was already in his early fifties), the duo worked well together and co-wrote the title track which is a highlight along with a reworking of Mercer’s ‘Bob White’. In the same year ‘Love swings’ was also released and this continues with a primarily standard-based repertoire with Kern and Gershwin, Schwartz and Dietz and Hoagy Carmichael all being given the Darin treatment. A year later in 1962 Darin released, ‘Oh look at me now’, which was largely self-narrated. Of the premier songs darin recorded in general, only ‘Swingin’ lover’s and ‘I’ve got you under my skin’ are missing here, but can be easily located elsewhere.
Bobby Darin left the Atlantic label to move to Capitol, but in truth never really felt at home there and returned to Atco/Atlantic in the mid-1960s, this time re-interpreting pop favourites. His last hit single came in 1966 with a re-working of Tim Hardin’s, ‘If i were a carpenter’. This collection captures him at his peak and is a worthy companion to the Rhino double CD.