Friday, October 26, 2007

That ol' sweet roll


I'm not engaging in hyperbole when I tell you that it's a true travesty that Bobby Darin is now considered an underrated performer.

I mean, really. This cat could do it all. Pop standards, rock and roll, folk music, Beatles classics, Vegas swing -- you name it, Bobby did it. Don't tell me you only knew him through "Splish Splash"!

OK, I'll be honest. I didn't know all that much about the guy myself ("Mack the Knife" and the other hits excepted) until Kevin Spacey's fine 2004 biopic "Beyond the Sea" piqued the curiosity.

I knew Darin had romanced and married the beautiful Sandra Dee. And I knew he made a few movies.

But the music. Ahh, that's where it's at.

Yeah, the hits are good. "Mack the Knife" is still a near perfect pop record. Hum a few bars of that one and you'll sing it the rest of the day. But that's OK, cause it's such a damn fine piece of music.

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear...

But dig up a live Darin record. Then put it on and drown in the talent.

Start with "Live! at the Desert Inn." My god. Words can't describe how good this album is.

What surprised me right off the bat was Darin's sweet cover of Blood, Sweat and Tears' "Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll)." Combine his phrasing with that Vegas brass and you'll forget all about BS&T.

I said, thank you very kindly, but I'm in too big a need of my mind...

Then comes that Beatles medley.

"Hey Jude" becomes a soulful lament. "Something" and "A Day in the Life" and "Eleanor Rigby" are all here too. But for my money, it's his 20 seconds of "Blackbird" that puts the icing on this cake.

All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arrive...

The tempo flies into the ether on a cover of Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher" and darned if I didn't forget about the original. Darin, like Elvis, had a way of taking a song and making it his own.

So keep it up, quench my desire...

Forty years removed from the 60s, Tim Hardin's "If I Were A Carpenter" seems a relic of the turbulent past, but in Darin's hands it haunts you, shows up in your dreams, bounces around in the corners of your soul. Call me crazy, but I still love that one honest, pleading question:

If I worked my hands in wood, would you still love me?

Go surf through YouTube and watch that magnificent clip of BD on "The Midnight Special," rocking his ass off, throwing Elvis and the Stones and pretty much everybody else to the corner of the room. There's a nice live clip of the big hit "Artificial Flowers" too, as well as a rockin' version of "Higher and Higher" during what's billed as "Bobby Darin's Last Show."

I'd give a year's salary to journey back 35 years and see this cat do his thing. Tell you one thing, though. Spend a few minutes with Bobby Darin, and it's hard to listen to anything else.

And it's even more difficult to believe that something happened along the way for this shining star to be dubbed underrated.

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