Saturday, March 17, 2012

March 17: Bobby Darin, "That's All"

Artist: Bobby Darin
Album: That's All
Year: 1959
Label: EPM

Though many consider the idea to be a more modern development in music, the fact of the matter is, an emphasis on image and good looks has always been a factor within the genre of pop music.  Along with this factor, perhaps the "key" to being a successful pop star is an ability to move with trends and keep ones' music an accurate reflection of these changes within the musical taste of the masses.  Though he was unquestionably a pop star, there are few of that genre who have made as much of a point of being so unique within this role as the one and only Bobby Darin.  Throughout the 1950's and 1960's, Darin was one of the most successful singers on the planet, and though he was often grouped in with "the rat pack" singers, the fact of the matter was, Darin in many ways made his career on refusing to be pigeon-holed into any single style.  Within Darin's extensive recorded catalog, one can find everything from folk to early rock and roll to the more "standard" singer-songwriter fare, and it is this diversity that sets him far apart from nearly ever other performer of his era.  Furthermore, Bobby Darin was different from his peers in the fact that he wrote a number of his own songs, and this almost constant striving for change and "something new" is one of the many aspects that makes Bobby Darin a talent like no other.  From his early, almost novelty hits like "Splish Splash" to big band singles such as the iconic "Beyond The Sea," Darin is responsible for some of the most well known songs in history, yet few can compare the absolute sonic perfection found throughout his 1959 album, That's All.

Truth be told, That's All is in fact Darin's second full-length release; though by the time the album hit shelves, he had already established himself as one of the biggest "teen idols" on the planet.  However, unlike his earlier singles, the album is almost entirely comprised of covers, led off by his definitive take on the classic, "Mack The Knife."  This track also highlights the overall mood and sound of the album, as it is the way Darin is able to control the full band or smaller instrumentation behind him that is the key to the appeal of his songs.  Throughout the album, Bobby Darin touches on every element of his talent, as one can hear everything from swing to more jazz-based numbers to outright pop-style songs; and this is one of the main factors that set Darin so far beyond his peers.  Along with this diversity in sound, there is an energy that runs all across That's All that is second to none, and the record represents one of the finest examples of how one can capture the "live" presence of a performer within a studio environment.  There is also an ideal level of balance between the vocals and the various instrumental configurations, and it is this combined sonic force that quickly pulls the listener in and asserts the unrivaled talents of Bobby Darin in every aspect of musical creation.

Along with his superb work in keeping the band tight and powerful, few will argue that there has been another voice quite like that of Bobby Darin.  Having already proved his unique place with his previous singles, there is no question that throughout the album, he gives his all to every performance, yet even when his emotions are a bit more restrained, the listener is left with his unparalleled vocal dexterity.  It is the way that throughout That's All, Darin effortlessly uses the entire vocal range, as everything from the mid-range verses to the lower bridge sections to the soaring choruses are absolutely perfect, and the songs remain truly unrivaled more than five decades after the album was first released.  One can quickly hear how, even beyond that of his contemporaries, Darin commits completely to each of songs, and one can easily feel the emotions behind his words, yet these are also songs that every person can take as their own.  It is the balance between the powerful, almost entrancing voice of Bobby Darin, and the perhaps universal lyrics which he sings that enabled the record to quickly rise on the charts, and if there had been any question as to the "staying power" of Darin, That's All silenced any and all critics with the dazzling vocal performance he brings to every track.

Though he is unquestionably best known for his singing, the fact of the matter is, his ability to compose and write his own songs remains one of the key factors in Bobby Darin being in a class all his own when it comes to the great voices of the 1950's and 1960's.  It was this talent that quickly set him apart form his peers, and yet on That's All, Darin proved that he was just as able to make the songs of others his own.  In fact, the single of "Mack The Knife" would spend more than two months at the top of the charts, and the record would go on to garner the Grammy Awards for both "Record Of The Year," as well as that of "Best New Singer."  It is the fact that throughout this record, one can experience a more confident, perhaps more musically mature Bobby Darin that sets the record above the rest of his catalog, and even all these years after its initial release, every moment of the album holds up perfectly.  There is a spirit that can be felt on every that of That's All which has rarely been equaled at any other point in music history, and one can argue that while his early singles made him a star, it was this album which cemented his place as a legend.  Whether it is the booming brass or the more restrained sonic arrangements, there are few records from any period that can compare to the sound and power of Bobby Darin's phenomenal 1959 album, That's All.


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for a wonderful, thoughtful piece on Darin. You are right on the money with this and we who admire the richness of this monumental talent are grateful.

Anonymous said...

You have touched all the bases of Darin's greatness as a singer, recording artist, master performer and stylist. He is/was/forever incomparable.

Thank you!