Audio Remasterer: Kevin Reeves.
Liner Note Author: Joe Marchese.
Bobby Darin signed to Motown in 1971, just after his attempt to refashion himself as a folk-rocker at Direction Records. Darin didn't abandon this newfound social consciousness during his two years at Motown -- a stint that lasted until his death in December 1973 -- but he also took several other stabs at cultural relevance, singing selections from emerging singer/songwriters Randy Newman and Cat Stevens, dabbling in cabaret and country-rock, sliding into the soft recesses of MOR, flirting with the rock & roll revival, and, yes, taking a run at the soul that was Motown's stock in trade. All this can be heard on Real Gone Music's 2016 compilation Another Song on My Mind: The Motown Years, a double-disc set that's the first-ever serious excavation of his final recordings. Darin didn't have a hit at Motown -- "Happy," the love theme from Lady Sings the Blues, barely scraped the charts after his death -- but it wasn't for lack for trying. "Melodie," a spirited rendition of an ornate soul song recorded the same year by the Supremes and the Four Tops, found the singer adapting himself to his new home and its successor, "Simple Song of Freedom" (a tune that provided a pivotal plot point in Kevin Spacey's 2004 biopic Beyond the Sea), was a bit of hippie hangover protest, both effective on their own terms but neither found an audience. Soon, a syrupy rendition of Newman's "Sail Away" and the sticky suburban lament "Average People" followed, the former also appearing on an eponymous 1972 LP that's included here in its entirety, along with the posthumous Darin: 1936-1973. Both of these records, along with the single versions and alternate mixes that push this compilation to 38 tracks, never manage to achieve a stylistic coherence, and while Darin's range is impressive, it's also mildly maddening partially due to his inexorable pull toward the mawkish. His ambitions were grand but his taste tacky, a dichotomy that becomes pronounced and compelling when heard as a sprawling whole, as it is here. Cut by cut, Another Song on My Mind can seem simple and sweet, but as a whole the shifts in mood and style are admirably baffling because the only thing that ties it all together is Darin's snazzy lounge delivery. His intentions very well may have been sincere but the end product feels glib, particularly as he hops from sound to sound. This may not make for great art but it does make for a fascinating cultural artifact: Darin seems like a man out of time scrambling to find his way back. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine