James Darren

Album No. 1/Love Among the Young

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This is one of two double-play CDs from Collectors' Choice Music that effectively reissue the four long-players that James Darren recorded during the late '50s and early '60s for the Colpix Records subsidiary of Columbia Pictures -- with whom Darren was also a silver screen teen idol. His appropriately titled debut, Album No. 1 (1959), as well as final effort, Love Among the Young (1962), are paired together here, while Gidget Goes Hawaiian/Sings for All Sizes (2004) can be found on a subsequent two-fer compact disc. Chronologically the combinations might seem incongruous; however, stylistically both Album No. 1 and Love Among the Young are decidedly more adult MOR-oriented affairs, placing Darren in a setting that would have been as accessible to crooners such as Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett. Likewise, the song selection consists of Americana pop standards that suggest the artist was being groomed for a wholesome and clean-cut image that would detach him from the burgeoning rock & roll scene. Darren was linked up with a notable coterie of talented arrangers such as Billy May, whose upfront horn section and boppin' rhythms drive the tunes "Gidget" and "There's No Such Thing" -- both of which were taken from the soundtrack of the romantic comedy Gidget (1959), in which Darren co-starred as "Moondoggie" to Sandra Dee's lead. Other cuts of interesting are Bob Florence's charts on the breezy "Walkin' My Baby Back Home," as well as the John Williams -- credited as "Johnny" -- scores for "Let's Fall in Love" and "The One I Love Belongs to Somebody Else." Love Among the Young (1962) ties together a dozen romantic tunes of amorous youth behind updated renderings by arranger/producer Stu Phillips. Again, while Darren's vocals are superb throughout, his image as a hip late-'50s Adonis is not musically supported by the inclusion of any substantial early rock covers -- unlike his contemporaries Pat Boone, for instance, who at least attempted tracks such as "Tutti Frutti" and "Blueberry Hill." Phillips does attempt "Hello Young Lovers" with an upbeat and jazzy air. He retools the Ricky Nelson hit "Young World" as a moody and tempered ballad. The second of two interpretations of the song "Love Among the Young" exemplifies not only the difference in approach between Phillips and May, but the strength of Darren's chops as well.

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