This CD combines two 1963 Darin albums onto one disc, with You're the Reason I'm Living the earlier of the pair. The title track of You're the Reason I'm Living was a number three hit single, generating an album that, like that hit, mined the soul-tinged country-pop that Ray Charles had plumbed successfully on his massive 1962 album Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music. Indeed, for some of the tracks Darin even used arranger Gerald Wilson, who had also arranged some of the songs on that Charles album. Darin was not as good at the approach as Charles was, though, and the result is a merely fair album that reflected a trend of the day. As on numerous Ray Charles country-pop cuts, the orchestration and backup vocals got a little overbearingly sappy sometimes. Swing jazz-like arrangements were applied to country material sometimes as well, as on the cover of Don Gibson's classic "Oh, Lonesome Me." It's not all country-pop; some numbers get much closer to swing jazz, like "Sally Was a Good Old Girl" and "Under Your Spell Again," even if the songs had country origins. Aside from "You're the Reason I'm Living," there was just one Darin original, "Now You're Gone" ("You're the Reason I'm Living"'s B-side), which was the highlight with its unusual moody melody and heartfelt pained vocal. The title track of 18 Yellow Roses was a Top Ten hit and a most worthy Darin foray into country-pop, bearing a slight similarity to Roy Orbison's early-'60s work. Both it and its lost gem of a B-side, "Not for Me" (which sounds rather like the Drifters' more dramatic early-'60s hits with an overlay of Phil Spector-ish production), were written by Darin and arranged by Jack Nitzsche. The good news is that both of those songs were on 18 Yellow Roses. The bad news is that the rest of the album was filled out by covers of then-contemporary rock, pop, folk, and country hits, none of them arranged by Nitzsche, and none of which rate among Darin's greatest interpretations. These range from decent (a jazzy "On Broadway," "The End of the World," "Our Day Will Come") to perfunctory ("Walk Right In," "Can't Get Used to Losing You," Dion's "Ruby Baby") to substandard ("I Will Follow Her," a gender-rearranged cover of Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him" that sounds more like a run-through than a finished track). One is left to lament that Darin did not do an album of his own material produced by Nitzsche (who, in fact, never worked with Darin except for the two aforementioned tracks), as otherwise 18 Yellow Roses sounds like a bit of a rush job rather than an artistic statement.
AllMusic Review by Richie Unterberger