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September 2005

Bobby Darin
Live! At the Desert Inn
Neon Tonic Records

If you’ve seen Beyond the Sea, Kevin Spacey’s ambitiously flawed Darin biopic, you know that the chameleon-like crooner successfully resurrected his career in the early ’70s by serving up the folk tunes and soft-rock ballads he’d grown to love in slick Vegas packaging. This 1971 concert is a fine example of that closing chapter in Darin’s multifarious, if far too brief, showbiz legacy.

Gone are the signature pop hits (save, of course, the requisite “Mack the Knife”). Instead, Darin proves equally compelling traversing the more intelligent likes of such contemporary material as Laura Nyro’s gently politicized “Save the Country,” James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” Tim Hardin’s “If I Were a Carpenter” (Darin’s ’66 comeback hit) and, sweetest of all, a soaring rendition, complete with a phalanx of backup singers, of his own, beloved “Simple Song of Freedom.” Two previously unreleased bonus tracks add top-drawer interpretations of Nat Adderley and Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Work Song” and a “Beyond the Sea” several degrees cooler than the 1960 original.

Originally published in September 2005
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