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Bobby Darin The Very Best Of... Review

Compilation. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Darin was above all a protean singer, moving through genres and styles throughout his...

Jack Smith 2004

Posterity has not been kind to Bobby Darin. In the league tables of popular male singers, Elvis was sexier, Sinatra glossier, Buddy Holly more precociously doomed. But Darin's easy charm, relaxed singing style and broad range made him one of the popular Americansingers of the 1950s and 60s. This 40-track double-disc compilation helps restore some of his faded lustre.

Darin was above all a protean singer, moving through genres and styles throughout his 17-year career. He began as an exuberant young pup setting teen hearts aflutter with his homely good looks. "Splish Splash," his first hit, features gurgling plugholes, rock 'n' roll yelps and plenty of Miss Molly. "Dream Lover", his other early success, was a yearning standard for bedroom-bound adolescents 30 years before Morrissey.

Darin moved on to lounge and swing standards, sharing a repertoire with the Rat Pack. He even expanded it. Darin was the first to take Kurt Weill's thug satire "Mack the Knife" and make him sound like the kind of guy youd want to knock back cocktails with. From Sinatra to Robbie Williams, the song hasn't been out of service since.

Sassy and stylish, Darin moved like a showman through the Great American Songbook: "It Had To Be You", "Irresistible You", "Clementine". He even manages to make "You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby" sound half-way decent, whooping it up with a gravelly voice and twisting sax.

Darin's handling of narrative was superb. It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at "Artificial Flowers", the tale of an orphan child scraping a living selling paper blooms. In Darin's hands, though, it becomes a jaunty social satire on the ladies of society who wear the flowers while little Annie waters them with her tears. It's a glimpse into Darin's politics. An idealist who worshipped Robert Kennedy, Darin adopted yet another genre in the early 1970s. He was covering Dylan songs ("I'll Be Your Baby Tonight") and writing his own folksy ballads, such as "If I Were A Carpenter" before dying aged 37 from a weak heart.

Politics and an unpredictable style are perhaps the reasons Darin's star does not burn brighter today. As this selection confirms, Bobby Darin was definitely Premiership material.

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