Bobby Darin: Darin at the Copa “Milestone” review (CDNow)

Bobby Darin
Darin At The Copa
(Atlantic)

Bobby Darin would struggle with his stylistic identity throughout his career, toying with jazz, folk, shiny pop and of course the hits that made him a household name like “Splish Splash” and “Dream Lover.” Nonetheless, it was his voice that put him head and shoulders above the “contemporaries” with whom he’s often grouped (Dion, Fabian and other flash-in-the-pan teen idols). And it was his voice that was most likely at the root of his chameleon-like career.

Yet, for someone who just two years earlier had made his name with songs like “Splish Splash,” “Dream Lover” and “Queen Of The Hop,” it was nonetheless surprising to see Darin’s insistence on recreating himself as a vocalist rather than as a singer. Although that desire first manifested itself on albums like That’s All (1959) and This Is Darin (1960), it was this live album that made abundantly clear that Darin was intent on moving himself – if not his audience – forward. Recorded during Darin’s New York nightclub debut at the swish Copacabana, this set features only one of his signature hits (“Dream Lover,” during which you can hear the audience go noticeably ballistic with excitement) and instead focuses on the sort of standard-based fare that is thought to separate the men from the boys. Songs like “Mack The Knife,” “Bill Bailey” (!) and “Clementine” (!!!) get treated to Darin’s rich, expressive voice. And though his performance is larded with some truly atrocious (and atrociously corny) stage patter, it’s abundantly clear that he could have been singing Amish worksongs and his voice would have been just as stunning. Yet it clearly mattered to Darin what he was singing and, in fact, when one lady shouts a request for “Splish Splash,” Darin pauses before this admonition: “You’re going back further than I care to remember … little tired of living on the laurels.” And though those laurels were only two years old, Darin was adamant about not revisiting his “teen” fame.

First appeared December 2000 at CDNow.com.

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