Even after having parted ways with the Atlantic Records subsidiary Atco some two years earlier, Bobby Darin's continued successes encouraged the label to issue any and all usable recordings that the artist had cut during his four-year tenure (circa 1958-1962). However, unlike some of the less focused entries to have come from their previous vault excavations, Winners (1964) hails from a two-day session circa February 1960. Ironically, this would also be the final title from their cache of stashed masters. Another possible motivating factor was the achievement of the lead track "Milord," an Edith Piaf cornerstone that Darin turned into a surprising chart hit Stateside -- even though he performed it entirely in French. "Golden Earrings," which was the B-side of the single, is also featured on this dozen-song collection. Those cuts are decidedly off-model from the remainder of the effort, which is somewhat of a departure for the vocalist. Instrumentally, the small jazz combo perfectly suits the material, primarily consisting of pop music standards and jazz classics. In typical Darin style, he turns in thoroughly captivating readings. Granted, there are few (if any) plateaus, among the highlights are the Latin take on "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" or the laid-back "Hard Hearted Hannah," which is perfectly augmented by Larry Bunker's tasty, if not slightly restrained vibraphone licks. The finger-poppin' "I've Found a New Baby" is tasty with some refined backing and a suave vocal that is almost tailor-made for the likes of Frank Sinatra. This rendition of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" rates as one of the more interesting offerings, with its solid and purposeful syncopated rhythms. That said, "Easy Living" is perhaps the most emotive and exquisite cut on Winners. It is unfathomable to consider that it was initially deemed not worthy of release, as it remained unissued for over two years. The remarkable breadth of Darin's interpretation has rarely been equalled and likewise serves as a personal best.
by Lindsay Planer