Reviewed by Greg Beets, Fri., Dec. 17, 2004
Bobby DarinAces Back to Back! (Hyena)
'Tis the season for Bobby Darin. One of several products concurrent with Kevin Spacey's new biopic of the crooner, Aces Back to Back isn't the place for Darin neophytes to start. That said, this piecemeal CD/DVD is a fascinating and sometimes dazzling souvenir of Darin's final years. The majority of Aces is comprised of performances from Darin's NBC variety show, which premiered in 1972 as a summer replacement for The Dean Martin Show. Despite the antiseptic television mix of these recordings, Darin and his band squeeze more energy than you'd imagine out of contemporary hits like Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off You," Neil Diamond's "Song Sung Blue," and even Gilbert O'Sullivan's bathetic "Alone Again (Naturally)." Petula Clark also drops by for a duet of "All I Have to Do Is Dream." It's a testament to Darin's vocal versatility that none of these gaudy, showroom-styled covers fall flat. Darin's own classic "Beyond the Sea" gets the full-on ham treatment here, diverging into a silly but fun medley at the end. Different versions of "If I Were a Carpenter" and the antiwar "Sing a Song of Freedom" are culled from a deleted 1969 live recording. The latter represented a somewhat bold assertion for Darin, who relied on well-starched high-rollers not left-leaning youth to pay his bills. The lazy country grooves of "Jive" and "Long Time Movin'" offer a rare and compelling glimpse at Darin's so-called "lost" years, while the demo version of "Dream Lover" recasts the hit in a more heartfelt, vulnerable light. The accompanying DVD features variety show footage along with raw film from an unfinished documentary about Darin's 1966 return to the stage after a three-year sabbatical. Sure, it's ego-laden schmaltz, but in the hands of an expert with more than enough weapons to back it up, you won't mind a bit.