Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer — Two of a Kind
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Release Date: March 24, 2017
There’s an old saying about vaudeville that went something like, “When vaudeville died, television was the box they put it in.” What was live theater’s loss at the time became the artistic foundation for the television’s early years, giving the fledgling entertainment medium an abundance of polished, top-drawer talent, leading to a “Golden Age.” In the musically gifted hands of Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer, some of that audience-eager, vaudeville spirit survived and found its way to the recording studio as well.
On two days in August 1960, along with the swingin’, struttin’ band arrangements of Billy May and the flawless taste of producer Ahmet Ertegun, lyricist/composer/singer (and co-founder of Capitol Records) Johnny Mercer and showman Bobby (“there-wasn’t-nothin’-he-couldn’t-do”) Darin created one of the greatest duet albums of all time. They set out to have a supremely good time, bouncing fun and notes off each other like the pros they were, and they ended up making an album that turned out to be a long-cherished tribute to the bygone era of twenties and thirties American pop music. Luckily, for those of us who like good music, that recording, Two of a Kind, is being reissued by Omnivore Recordings on March 24th—along with seven previously unissued tracks (five alternate takes, and two songs recorded for, but omitted from the original album).
51-year-old Johnny Mercer and 24-year-old Bobby Darin were at very different stages in their careers when they headed into the Atlantic Recording Studios in New York City to cut the album. For years, Johnny had been established as one of the wittiest lyricists around, and Bobby, who started as a rock ‘n’ roll singer with hits like “Splish Splash,” was becoming a regular crooner at nightclubs like the Copa, with the recent success of his version of “Mack the Knife.” It was the perfect moment for collaboration; the era of the Great American Songbook was approaching its end, but the project gave the two men a chance to contribute their own final chapter. The project was Bobby Darin’s idea, but Johnny Mercer was clearly enthusiastic. They knew just how to treat the slightly unfamiliar Tin Pan Alley tunes; they delivered each song with a casualness that is simply irresistible. They truly enjoy themselves in the studio, and we’re allowed to listen in on the fun and witness the joy they shared during the one of a kind rendez-vous. Darin even teamed up with Mercer in the writing of the title track, “Two of a Kind.” It’s a laid back tale of camaraderie, complete with a good helping of the timeless tradition of vaudeville’s ad-libbed asides. It’s a study in impeccable timing while having the time of your life.
That rapport, that unpredictable chemistry, is really what makes this album so special. We’re lucky to have it still around at all, much less dusted off with the care shown in the fine presentation by Omnivore Recordings (complete with Stanley Green’s original liner notes). There can be no better tribute to the spirit of the original project than the inclusion of the additional tracks, newly-remastered by Grammy® Award-winning engineer Michael Graves. They guarantee that Two of a Kind has never sounded better.
- Two of a Kind
- Bob White
- Ace in the Hole
- East of the Rockies
- If I Had My Druthers
- I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jellyroll
- Lonesome Polecat
- My Cutey’s Due at Two-To-Two Today
- Medley: A) Paddlin’ Madelin’ Home B) Row Row Row
- Who Takes Care of the Caretaker’s Daughter
- Mississippi Mud
- Two of a Kind
Previously Unissued Bonus Tracks:
- Cecilia (Take 4)
- Lily of Laguna (Take 7)
- Bob White (Take 17)
- East of the Rockies (Take 6)
- I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jellyroll (Take 5a)
- My Cutey’s Due at Two-To-Two Today (Take 10)
- Mississippi Mud (Alternate Take)
To preorder this album, click here.