Bobby Darin – The Motown Years (review)

Bobby Darin – Another Song On My Mind – The Motown Years (Real Gone) review

Bobby Darin recorded for Motown?  Yes!

Early rock n’ roller, cool swinger, protest singer – Bobby Darin was all those things in his all-too-brief career.  Often overlooked is his final chapter, recording for Motown Records in the early Seventies, before his untimely passing in 1973.  Real Gone has issued Another Song on My Mind, collecting his two proper albums he recorded for the legendary label, plus several bonus tracks.

Darin had went through an image transformation in the late Sixties: growing a mustache, dumping his toupee and referring to himself as “Bob Darin.”   Yet, although personally satisfying (he wrote almost everything during this era), the singer failed to score any hit singles.  At the same time, Motown Records was doing their own transforming, having recently relocated from Detroit to Hollywood, the legendary soul record company was looking to expand into other styles of music.

Disc one contains Bobby Darin, his only studio album produced for Motown during his lifetime.  Opening with Randy Newman’s “Sail Away” certainly sent a message that Darin had his finger on the pulse of the current crop of gifted songwriters.  The next track, “I’ve Already Stayed Too Long,” ironically fades out too early.  The accompaniment is sympathetic throughout, usually beginning with acoustic guitars, then building with strings and horns.  An excellent example of this is “Something in Her Love,” which Darin co-wrote.  The singer sounds in fine voice with his sweeping rendition of the Everly Brothers’ “Let It Be Me.”  Darin did not write the confessional “I Used to Think it Was Easy,” but it certainly echoes his late-career struggles.

The additional tracks on disc one are where things get interesting.  Darin gets a chance to actually sing soul music on his cover of the Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together,” and its A-side, “Melodie.”  It’s too bad the label didn’t give him a chance to do an entire album of this type of music – these tracks are some of the best on the collection.  There’s also both sides of a single – “Simple Song of Freedom” / “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” which came from an aborted live album – both tracks show an intimacy in Darin’s singing which he seldom exhibited in the studio.

Disc two brings us 1936-1973, an album cobbled together following Darin’s shocking death in 1973 at the age of 37.  Honestly, there are times here where Darin sounds tired (as in the Carpenters’ cover “I Won’t Last a Day Without You”).  Other times though, he sounds great, like “Another Song On My Mind,” which features some fine, Beach Boys-like harmonies, and probably could’ve been a hit if it had been issued as a single.

“Happy (Love Theme From Lady Sings the Blues)” was Darin’s last entry on the singles charts (it was also one of Michael Jackson’s favorite songs to sing). There are also so-so covers of “The Letter” and “Blue Monday,” and a live version of “Mack the Knife.”  The remaining tracks on disc two are alternate versions, and are often better than those originally released – “Blue Monday” has much more punch with added accompaniment.

Another Song On My Mind showcases an artist still in top form – there’s a warmth and depth to his singing that had come with age.  Although not successful, his tenure on Motown should’ve signaled a new chapter in Darin’s career.  Unfortunately, it was his last.  —Tony Peters