THE AUSTIN GIFT GUIDE DECEMBER 15, 2004
'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.
EKC online (Explore Kansas City) DECEMBER, 2004
It’s a good bet few people under 35 know who Bobby Darin is much less know about his talent. Outside of some “oldies” station occasionally putting “Mack the Knife” in rotation, Darin’s musical legacy is largely unknown. His death in 1973 at 37 of heart failure cut short the life of artist who the could have easily bridged music-lovng generations for decades. Though a step younger than Frank, Dino and Tony, Darin was every bit a crooner on par with Sinatra, Martin and Bennett — in flair and class. Every cut on Aces Back To Back demonstrates this. Put a full orchestra behind Darin, and his presence holds center stage — particularly in songs like “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You,” “A Quarter To Nine” and “Up A Lazy River” — as the power in his voice stays confident but flexible and his phrasing impeccable. The singing is pure Vegas but far from tacky or cheap. Call it entertainment with a singer very sure with what he could do with a song. Darin could take bubble-gum love tunes like “Dream Lover” and “All I Have To Do Is Dream” — in a duet with Petula Clark — and wipe the triteness off of them. As this CD shows, Darin’s range and adaptability to cultural shifts seemed to come easy. In the late ‘60s, Darin had his Big Sur sessions on his own short-lived Direction record label. The cuts “Jive” and “Long Time Movin’” highlight this period. Darin even recorded so-called protest music including Tim Hardin’s “If I Were A Carpenter” and his own anti-war song “Simple Song of Freedom.” The people at Hyena should be congratulated for releasing Aces Back To Back. The bonus DVD is nice touch also, with archive footing of Darin in the studio and commentary from the likes of George Burns. —Bruce Rodgers
The Boston Phoenix DECEMBER 24, 2004
This 20-song-CD-plus-DVD package isn’t all aces, unless Vegas versions of early Dylan and Neil Diamond tunes are your idea of a winning hand. But pop singer Darin, who died in 1973 at age 37 after heart surgery, gets a fairer shake here than in Kevin Spacey’s self-obsessed whimsical Darin bio-pic, Beyond the Sea. Live tracks and studio rarities share space on the audio disc, including concert takes of Darin’s signature "Mack the Knife" and his post-political awakening, "Simple Song of Freedom." What’s obvious, even when he’s pumping withered chestnuts like "Moon River" dry, is that Darin had "it" — a mix of charisma and energy powering a big, clear voice with enough flexibility to make every turn of his phrasing smooth as cream. Some of that translates to the DVD. He’s in great form in the stylish performances from his 1972-’73 NBC television variety show, which include a rave-up "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" and a reprise of his romantic fantasy "Beyond the Sea." But the "lost" documentary footage that catches him doing three songs in the years before he got a grip on his musical persona is predictably awkward. By Ted Drozdowski
Northwest Herald DECEMBER 29, 2004
3 Stars Among all the Bobby Darin hype comes "Aces Back to Back" a CD-DVD combination that fills in some gaps in Darin's recording history, a good supplement for those who already have Darin's hits. The CD features songs from Darin's short-lived TV series. Highlights include "Alone Again Naturally" and "Dream." Also included are live versions of Bob Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight," and "Simple Song of Freedom" from a 1971 live Darin album that is out of print. The accompanying DVD shows more performances from "The Bobby Darin Show" and a short documentary narrated by comedian George Burns. The documentary shows Darin writing on the road, and recording in the studio among other things. Unfortunately, it's too brief to be great. Darin's live performances were his strength, so these songs are as solid as some studio recordings. But you can't beat history, so a greatest hits CD should be purchased before this supplemental package. – Jon Singer
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