Bobby Darin & Johnny Mercer “Two of a Kind” Expanded Edition www.OmnivoreRecordings.com
This latest edition of “Two of a Kind” includes the thirteen original tracks with seven previously unissued titles; five of these additional bonus tracks are alternate takes, two songs were recorded for the original “Two of a Kind” but weren’t used – until now.
Omnivore’s reissue was guided by the label’s Cheryl Pawelski with Darin’s longtime friend and manager Steve Blauner who unfortunately passed in 2015. By the way: Blauner had originally conceived “Two of a Kind” back in 1960 (nearly sixty years ago.) “Two of a Kind” is also recently remastered from the original session tapes by Michael Graves, adds the session outtakes “Cecilia” and “Lily of Laguna” as well as alternate versions of “Bob White,” “East of the Rockies,” “I Ain’t Gonna Give Nobody None of My Jellyroll,” “My Cutey’s Due at Two-to-Two Today,” and “Mississippi Mud.”
On the original “Two of a Kind” notes for the 1961 LP, Stanley Green wrote: “Unquestionably, these “Two of a Kind” performers were having a ball when they cut this one. I think you will too when you listen to it.” Interestingly: Blauner discovered Darin and continued to oversee his estate for the remainder of Mr. Blauner’s life.
It’s significant to note that Bobby Darin was just twenty-four and Johnny Mercer was more-than twice Darin’s age at fifty-one when “Two of a Kind” was conceptualized and recorded, they were backed by the formidable big-band charts of Billy May’s orchestra, making for a superb trifecta. Even though these two singer/songwriters were a generation apart, they easily meshed their talents towards making “Two of a Kind” a unique and special recording for the ages, and Billy May was the logical choice considering his ongoing big-band support for Sinatra’s recordings. Needless to say there’s a lot of ad-libbed joking between Mercer and Darin, where it’s impressive to note how sophisticated Darin was working alongside the veteran Mercer.
(*) I owe my twenty-first century reconfirmation of Darin’s talents to Joel Dorn when he issued Darin’s “Ace’s Back to Back” for his Hyena Record label. Evident, especially when Dorn brought Blauner to the station I was working at in New Jersey to speak about the multifaceted talents of the sorely missed Bobby Darin. Talk about a special moment!
In summary “Two of a Kind” is an early sixties flashback of big-band shucking and jiving sounds by two artists that were cut from the same mold like brothers from different mothers. Mercer was already immensely popular; the younger Darin had already catapulted onto the top the charts. Leaving us with just one thought: Who was the genius who comprehended the concept of pairing these two giants together? Kudos to all involved. I’ve always adored this recording and now having it with bonus tracks from the shrewd Omnivore record label shines additional light onto this already reputable and fabulous album. If for no other reason, just sit-back and enjoy the fun and jive on the (Darin/Mercer) authored title track that smartly segues into the well-known classic “Indiana.” Need I say more? Nah! Just go back to the good old days of the very early sixties back from a time when life now feels far less complicated as today.
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For 18 years Bob Putignano has been pivotal with his Sounds of Blue radio shows.
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Previously a contributing editor at Blues Revue, Blueswax, and Goldmine magazines, currently the Yonkers Tribune Music Editor.
Bob was also the 2003 recipient of the “Keeping the Blues Alive” award (given by the Blues Foundation in Memphis) for his achievements in radio broadcasting.
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