Bobby Darin

Splish Splash [Atco]

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Considering that this is only the first of two volumes devoted to Bobby Darin's Atlantic hits -- between them representing 42 songs, a significant chunk of his released output for the label -- the range on this CD is amazing. Of course, one is aware of the sheer number -- as a number -- of hits that Darin had in a career that lasted scarcely 15 years. But this collection, produced by Gregg Geller as part of the Atlantic Masters line (the point where Atlantic's vintage stuff started to sound really good on CD), is almost dizzying in its breadth of material, when it gets spread out, all in one place. Rock & roll ("Queen of the Hop"), novelty tunes ("Splish Splash," "She's Tanfastic"), soul ("Early in the Morning"), gospel ("Moment of Love"), rockabilly ("Somebody to Love"), Elvis-style pop/rock ("Mighty Mighty Man"), Brill Building pop ("Dream Lover"), vocal pop ("I'll Be There"), even an instrumental ("Beachcomber" -- arranged by Shorty Rogers, no less) on which he played keyboards. As becomes clear about halfway through this CD, there was little in popular music that Darin couldn't do well, and much of it exceedingly well. Context is sometimes everything -- most of the material here is known as free-standing songs to much of the listening public, but on a number like "Dream Lover," heard in this setting, Darin suddenly comes off as powerful, vulnerable, and moving when heard in this context. And while some of the later material veers toward the pop side of crazes such as the twist ("Baby Face," etc.), there reside some powerful performances ("Irresistible You," "What'd I Say") on this end of the disc. And the range across this side of his career, from the early '60s through to 1971, is just as impressive, encompassing teen pop ("Multiplication," "Things"), a bluesy rendition of John Sebastian's "Lovin' You," and his comeback hit with the folk-rock style "If I Were a Carpenter," closing out with his folk-style "Simple Song of Freedom," from his Las Vegas live album. This isn't all the best stuff that Darin did by a long shot, but it's a good overview on half of most of the best that he left with the label he was with longer than any other -- and with its companion volume, Mack the Knife, it may be the easiest way into the whole picture of his talent and legacy.

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