Bobby Darin

Earthy!/Golden Folk Hits

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In 1963, Darin released two albums comprised of folk material, Earthy! and Golden Folk Hits, which are combined onto one CD for this release. Earthy! is a solid folk-pop effort, though the arrangements and singing can get a little hokey at times. While this is not folk-rock, the settings are fuller and more flexible than they were on the average early-'60s folk LP, using some light drums, bass, and backup vocals (the latter element is the most dated aspect). The better songs include the lively, playful biblical retelling of "The Sermon of Samson," one of several cuts on the album that Darin co-wrote with arranger Walter Raim. "Work Song," the classic Nat Adderley-Oscar Brown, Jr. collaboration, gets a pretty gutsy, jazz-accented interpretation, and "When Their Mama Is Gone" has an effectively moody and subdued feel, complete with campfire harmonica and gloomy cowboy choral backup singers. There's also an obscure early Tom Paxton composition, "Strange Rain," one of several songs of the period to allude to nuclear danger with rain imagery. Less impressive are "Why Don't You Swing Down" and "The ER-I-EE Was Rising," which have the gospel revival-cum-music revue tempo and delivery common to numerous of the more commercial folk recordings of the era. Golden Folk Hits, which despite its name is not a compilation, has more basic accompaniment, entirely lacking drums. Partially for that reason, it's a tamer recording than Earthy!, and because it's also heavier on more familiar material, it's less interesting. Those songs include the Bob Dylan covers "Blowin' in the Wind" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" (though Dylan was a far less-covered artist in 1963 than he would be in subsequent years), and the Pete Seeger tunes "If I Had a Hammer" and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone." "Michael Row the Boat Ashore," "Greenback Dollar," "Abilene," "Green, Green," and "Mary Don't You Weep" were also pretty well-traveled songs, and Darin's readings don't count among the most exciting interpretations. The closer, the fairly dynamic gospel/folk-blues "Train to the Sky," is the most satisfying performance to be heard on Golden Folk Hits. Both Earthy! and Golden Folk Hits, incidentally, include instrumental contributions by the young, pre-Byrds Roger McGuinn.

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