BOBBY DARIN - BORN WALDEN ROBERT CASSOTTO [PUBLIC DOMAIN]

June 4, 2019 – 5:06 am

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BOBBY DARIN
Born Walden Robert Cassotto [Public Domain, 1CD]

Very good stereo soundboard. Out of print.

Bobby Darin’s birth name was Walden Robert Cassotto. The album did not chart, although “Long Line Rider”, which was about the corruption in Arkansas prison farms uncovered by Tom Murton, reached No. 79 on the singles charts. It was released by Darin’s own Direction label.

Music critic JT Griffith wrote in his Allmusic review: “The least-essential record to casual fans. But possibly the most important Darin record for those who wish to better understand the man’s love for music and his quest for artistic truth… An overlooked masterpiece painted in bold, personal strokes.”

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Shane Brown, silentmovieblog, 2015:

It’s probably true to say that nothing could have prepared Bobby Darin fans in 1968 for the music he recorded on his Direction label and released over a couple of albums and a handful of singles. While he’d had dalliances with folk-rock with the albums If I Were a Carpenter and Inside Out, and folk itself with the Earthy and Golden Folk Hits releases, there were really no clues that the singer would move into protest music other than his song We Didn’t Ask to Be Brought Here and the message behind the story of Dr Dolittle, the music of which he built an album around directly prior to starting his own Direction label. His music for the label remains the least known of his career (with the possible exception of the first Motown album) and yet stands out as some of his best work.

Recorded over a number of sessions in 1968, the nine songs that make up Darin’s first Direction album, Bobby Darin Born Walden Robert Cassotto, are a mixed bunch, both in message and quality. One of the most surprising things when looking at the sheet music (yes a book of sheet music from the album was released at the time - I doubt it was a big seller!) is the simplicity, even naivety, of the musical elements of these songs. Darin was a sophisticated musician and an intellectual to boot, and yet here everything is taken back to basics. Virtually none of the songs have what might be called a “chorus,” and most don’t have a bridge section either – just a series of verses, in some cases nearly a dozen.

Questions opens the album, and is a song about environmental damage. These songs were written during Darin’s sojourn in Big Sur, and that may well have inspired him on this song. There is also inspiration here from groups such as The Beatles and The Loving Spoonful in the production of these songs, which ranges from the basic to the complex including the use of sounds which appear to be tapes played backwards. Darin certainly isn’t shy about what he has to say, with some of the lyrics almost visceral:

How do you kill the ocean?
How do you make it dry?
Well, you first dilute,
Then pollute,
Cut the fruit,
At the root.
And the ocean’s floor
Will be like a whore
Who will lie no more
‘Cause she’s dead;
Use your head.

Jingle Jangle Jungle follows, with Darin this time turning his attention to money and finances, and the power that goes with them. This is one of the more Beatlesque sounding numbers, and the sound is harsher and more rock-oriented than some of the other tracks. Anyone used to hearing the showman-like sound of Darin’s swing material wouldn’t recognise the singer here. There is no razzamatazz, often not even as much as a vibrato.

The album is cleverly sequenced. The final verse of Jingle Jangle Jungle refers to the Vietnam war, which is the subject of The Proper Gander, an allegorical tale about a group of mice encouraged by their leaders to go to war to fight a Siamese Cat that doesn’t actually exist, with the leader being found out as the song comes to the end of its seven verses. Once again, everything here is tied up in the lyrics. Out of each verse’s 28 bars, 22 of them are simply just the chord of G. The lyrics more than make up for it, however, with Darin writing them in such a way that they can not only relate to the Vietnam war but any bulls*it spoken by a government in order to win votes and confidence.

Bullfrog is an 11-verse opus in which Darin doesn’t sing a note. The whole thing is spoken with a rhythm background, and finds Bobby telling a frog about how the history of money. It’s all rather strange, something which is reflected in the lyrics themselves: “Now, I thought I was stoned, so I started walkin’/I mean, whoever heard of a bullfrog talkin’?”

Long Line Rider became the single taken from the album, but made no impression in the charts. It’s certainly the most commercial number of the nine songs here, not least because it does actually have a chorus. It tells the true story of some killings (by those in charge) on an Arkansas prison farm.

Darin went on TV and promoted the single, dressed in denim and without his toupee. On one occasion he was told he would have to censor the line “this kind of thing can’t happen here, especially not in an election year,” and Darin refused to perform. Once again, it is musically simplistic, built around the basic I, IV, V chord progressions (with the exception of one bar), but the lyrics are so well-written, the production so good, and Darin’s performance so committed that no-one notices.

The second side of the album is decidedly more relaxed and laid-back. Change sounds like it could have been written by Dylan for Nashville Skyline. This time the musical element is somewhat more sophisticated (the song even has a bridge!), but the lyrics are less biting than on the first side of the LP. This is simply a call to people not to resist change. Nothing more, nothing less.

I Can See the Wind is something of a mystery and, ultimately, the low point of the album, although not unpleasant. Presumably this is a song about the benefits of smoking hash (although there’s no suggestion that Darin did), but your guess is as good as mine.

Sunday, on the other hand, is a dark, cutting, attack on organised religion, the death and misery it has caused through the years, and the hypocrisy that Darin saw in the church itself. “Sunday,” Darin sings, “bow down to the blood you’ve shed/Sunday, Bodies piled so steep/You say keep the faith, but there’s no faith to keep.”

This is one of the tracks that utilises recordings played backwards (in the organ introduction to the song), and the song is well-constructed. It lures you in with relatively bland verses, with each one getting more and more hard-hitting in its lyrical content, until a world-weary Darin sighs in the final verse “Sunday, let the people sleep.” This is a brilliantly executed little song.

The final song on the album strips everything back to just Darin and an acoustic guitar. Darin was a big supporter of Robert Kennedy, and he fell apart when he was assassinated. This final, subdued, song, entitled simply In Memoriam, never sung above a whisper, sees Darin confronting his pain at the events, and the funeral that followed. Each verse ends simply with the words “they never understood him, so they put him in the ground.”

This nine-track album was Darin’s opening statement in his new role as protest singer and, while the album is uneven, it’s still mightily impressive. And yet, despite good reviews, very few people bought it. Some have said that it would have sold much better without Darin’s name on it, and that might be true.

The idea of one of the best entertainers in the business singing protest songs sounded phoney, and he was once again accused of simply jumping on a bandwagon. That wasn’t the case though, for this LP made no effort whatsoever in being commercial. Despite it being a financial flop, Bobby Darin wasn’t deterred, and he returned in 1969 under the name “Bob Darin” with a new album that was a mix of protest album and a reflection on the counter-culture, with its discussion of everything from Ronald Reagan’s move into politics, the Vietnam war, drugs and sexuality.

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Updated: June 15, 2019

These tracks are no longer available for sharing.

Track 01. Questions 4:25
Track 02. Jingle Jangle Jungle 2:57
Track 03. The Proper Gander 3:57
Track 04. Bullfrog 4:04
Track 05. Long Line Rider 2:55
Track 06. Change 2:25
Track 07. I Can See The Wind 3:15
Track 08. Sunday 3:29
Track 09. In Memorium 3:58
32 mins
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JINGLE JANGLE JUNGLE: DEMON COLLECTS BOBBY DARIN’S “THE DIRECTION ALBUMS” ONLY ON VINYL IN JULY 2019

Joe Marchese, theseconddisc.com:

The opening song of Bobby Darin’s 1967 album Sings Doctor Dolittle was entitled “At the Crossroads.” The Leslie Bricusse song, introduced by Samantha Eggar (dubbed by Diana Lee) in the big-screen musical, expressed the viewpoint of a young woman constrained by the time in which she lived, wanting more. The tune was quickly adopted and refashioned by singers from Petula Clark in a slow-burning, stoic and determined version, to Sammy Davis, Jr in exuberantly hyper-charged “Yes I Can!” mode.

But Darin interpreted the anthem quietly, reflectively, and wistfully – even adding a subtle folk-rock edge with the use of guitars. Within a year of the release of the album, the entertainer would truly find himself at the crossroads. Devastated by the assassination of his friend Robert F Kennedy, shaken by family revelations, and affected by the turmoil of the day, Bobby sought to shed the showbiz trappings to which he’d become accustomed and discover his true self.

He grew a moustache, tossed out his toupee, and moved from Beverly Hills to Big Sur. Out was his tuxedo; in was simple denim. But the changes weren’t merely superficial.  He wasn’t interested in crooning “Mack the Knife” any longer, and instead put pen to paper for a remarkable series of folk-rock songs inspired by current events and injustices. With his Atlantic Records contract concluded, he formed the independent Direction Records and released two extraordinary, socially-conscious LPs in this vein.

Demon Music Group’s Edsel imprint had previously issued Darin’s Direction material on compact disc, but now Demon is returning Born Walden Robert Cassotto (1968) and Commitment (1969, credited to “Bob Darin”) to vinyl in a brand-new box set also containing the vinyl debut of Rare Darin, the collection rounding up his Direction odds and ends. The Direction Albums, due on July 12, is a lavish celebration of Bobby Darin’s most personal and original music, presented on three 180-gram LPs and housed in a sturdy, rigid slipcase. This set marks the first time the seminal Direction albums have ever been reissued on vinyl in their original gatefold sleeves.

The warm, world-weary voice on Born Walden Robert Cassotto was familiar, but the subject matter certainly wasn’t. The opening track posed a number of pointed questions, including “How do you kill the ocean? How do you make it dry?” to “How do you kill the country? How does she disappear?” and “How do you kill an idea?”

In one succinct track, the prescient artist touched on everything from saving the environment to distrust of the law to the importance of free thinking.  Elsewhere on the LP, he took on capitalism (“Jingle Jangle Jungle”), explored a ripped-from-the-headlines story about three skeletons found on an Arkansas prison farm (“Long Line Rider”), delved into his own emotional and musical shift (“Change”), and examined loss of faith (“Sunday”). The settings weren’t brassy pop, but rather influenced by folk, country, soul, and rock. Studio experimentation was in effect, such as a backward piano on “Sunday.” Heady, unflinching, and cathartic, Darin had stripped his own music and sound of any perceived artifice, and rebirthed himself.

Commitment continued on the same, sure path, even going one step further with its credit to Bob Darin – just two letters away from a certain, Minnesota-born troubadour whose work the artist had long championed. “Me and Mr Hohner” might have shocked with its drug references and countercultural bent, going as far as to ironically reference “The Star-Spangled Banner” in its arrangement.

While Darin wasn’t clear about the identity of the “Sugar Man,” one wouldn’t be surprised if he was peddling illicit substances. (The upbeat music, oddly, hints at Fontella Bass’ R&B hit “Rescue Me.”) Musically, Commitment was more expansive than its predecessor, and lyrically, Darin name-dropped Papa John Phillips and Tiny Tim in another batch of timely compositions.

“Distractions (Part I)” laconically depicted a day in the life (“Now I’m relaxing in a trailer in between shows/I’d like to know what the late news knows/But they’re running the same war they had on last evening…”) with a heavy dose of irony. There were flashes of beauty in the easily loping “Sausalito” (Darin even whistles on the track!) but the worldview was clear. As the closing track “Light Blue” opined over a taut, funky rhythm track, “Light blue/Getting darker everyday/Light blue/Adding deeper tones of gray.” Bobby Darin couldn’t see the world in black-and-white anymore, and he would have to do a great deal of soul-searching before he returned to the familiar showbiz tropes.

The third LP of The Direction Albums, Rare Darin boasts ten tracks from the Direction period including a quartet of non-LP singles (“Baby May,” “Sweet Reasons,” “Maybe We Can Get It Together,” and “Rx-Pyro (Prescription: Fire”), two outtakes (“City Life,” “Route 58”), and four tracks from Darin’s May 13-18, 1969 stand at Los Angeles’ famed Troubadour including his future standard “Simple Song of Freedom.” The latter is the most enduring composition from his Direction period and one of the all-time great “protest” songs. These remain the only tracks commercially released from the Troubadour engagement.

Following the period chronicled on Demon’s box, Darin took another unexpected turn.  Just days after his May 12, 1970 appearance at an anti-war rally at Los Angeles’ City Hall, Darin was onstage at Las Vegas’ new Landmark Hotel and Casino, singing with renewed vigor of that shark with the pearly white teeth. His convictions and social conscience remained strong, but to the public, the “old” Bobby Darin was back.  Reconciling these aspects of his life and work, he signed with Motown Records to start the final chapter of his musical career - a period of continued creativity and inspiration chronicled on Second Disc Records and Real Gone Music’s releases Another Song on My Mind: The Motown Years and Go Ahead and Back Up: The Lost Motown Masters.  He even returned to the realm of social commentary on songs like “Average People” and “We’re Getting There.”

The Direction Albums features sleevenotes by Alan Robinson and faithful, lavish packaging for each one of its three albums. A fascinating snapshot of one of music’s great artists in intensely personal singer-songwriter mode and a must-have for Darin collector, this box is due from Demon on July 12.

Click here to order Bobby Darin’s The Direction Albums.

  1. 10 Responses to “BOBBY DARIN - BORN WALDEN ROBERT CASSOTTO [PUBLIC DOMAIN]”

  2. From what I’ve read Mr Darin was very talented. My parents and grams loved him . Is it really true that he also had a very big penis ? That definitely makes him more appealing. If I had been around back then I would have definitely jumped his bones .

    By Katie Kessler on Jun 4, 2019

  3. Katie “ never heard that about Bobby “ but if you’re a true size queen get into Frank Sinatra. Doubt Darin could measure up to him and if you like comedy dig on some Milty ( Uncle ) two giants of show biz ( Literally)

    By C Tony on Jun 4, 2019

  4. All of us females are size queens . The ones that say size dosent matter are lying.

    By Jennifer A on Jun 4, 2019

  5. Thanks for this rare record. It’s a side of Darin most people aren’t aware of.

    By billy on Jun 4, 2019

  6. Love Bobby Darin . Long Line Rider is a great song . Remember that it came out in 69 . Remember Bobby performing it on several varietiy shows that year . By 69 Bobby was trying to change his image somewhat. He grew a mustache, had bangs and was wearing t shirts plads and jeans . Hippies were the rage then and Bobby was trying without much success to blend in with the times .

    By Bill on Jun 4, 2019

  7. Like Frank Sinatra Bobby was also an excellent actor . He did several films in the sixties. One of his best performances was in a movie called Pressure Point. In it Bobby plays an imprisoned deranged Neo nazi who matches wits with a prison phyciatrist played by Sidney Portier . Very good film . Bobby is excellent in the role .

    By Bill on Jun 4, 2019

  8. I’ve never heard of Bobby Darin .

    By Jaycee on Jun 5, 2019

  9. Sounds like a karaoke clown

    By Jaycee on Jun 5, 2019

  10. This is an interesting curio - I like it but I’m not sure Bobby D wasn’t doling a spot of bandwagon jumping here.

    Thanks for the info about the film, Bill. God knows where I’ll find a copy but I’ll keep an eye on the channels that show old movies, anyhow.

    By Brian Griffin on Jun 6, 2019

  11. Thank you for Bobby!!!!
    I specially love his Vegas Years.
    By the way…..”Beyond the Sea” is a great movie based on his life.
    Kevin Spacey as Bobby Darin in the movie.

    By Frank on Jun 18, 2019

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