At the conclusion of his second Atlantic Records tenure in 1967 - a period which yielded the hit "If I Were a Carpenter" and vivid journeys through contemporary folk, Broadway, and Hollywood songbooks - Bobby Darin struck out on his own to form the Direction Records label. Devastated by the assassination of his close friend Robert F. Kennedy, shaken by revelations about his family, and stricken by the ongoing turmoil of the day, Bobby sought to shed the showbiz style to which he'd become accustomed and look inward. He grew a moustache, tossed out his toupee, and moved from Beverly Hills to Big Sur. Out was his tuxedo; in was basic 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. He released two extraordinary, socially-conscious LPs in this vein on Direction - Born Walden Robert Cassotto (1968) and Commitment (1969, credited to "Bob Darin") - before moving to Motown for another dramatic reinvention. (His Motown years have been chronicled on two releases from Real Gone Music and Second Disc Records, Another Song on My Mind: The Motown Years and Go Ahead and Back Up: The Lost Motown Masters).
Now, The Bobby Darin Estate has announced the relaunch of Direction Records, and the label is indeed going ahead to back up. Rather than kick off with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee's two Direction LPs, the reactivated label (in association with Secretly Distribution) will debut on July 14 with digital reissues of five Atlantic albums which reverted to the Estate:
- Bobby Darin Sings The Shadow Of Your Smile (1966);
- In A Broadway Bag (1966);
- If I Were A Carpenter (1966);
- Inside Out (1967); and
- Bobby Darin Sings Doctor Doolittle (1967).
All five albums have been previously available on CD; Edsel most recently reissued The Shadow of Your Smile and In a Broadway Bag for their 50th anniversaries in 2016. (The 1967 Atlantic U.K. album Something Special, recorded at the London Palladium in 1966, remains unavailable in any format.) These digital editions will mark the albums' first appearance on download/streaming services.
Direction promises deluxe editions of Born Walden Robert Cassotto and Commitment (both also recently available from Edsel) will arrive in the coming months as well as a digital premiere of the 2004 collection Songs from Big Sur, originally issued on the Varese Sarabande label. Previously unreleased music from the late superstar is also part of the label's long-term plan.
"Direction Records will expand to include previously released albums as well as newly found recordings," comments Amy Abrams of 7S Management in the press release. "It's fifty years since Bobby Darin passed this coming December, and taking a good look at the legacy of a performer who passed so young, we want to make sure that legacy is well preserved and available for the fans to share. We've spent some time in the archives and believe we have some gems. It takes time to go from discovery to release, but we're excited for releases this year and in the years to come."
Darin's son Dodd remarks, "It feels good to know the Bobby Darin ship is being well captained going forward. Thank you to all of those who enjoy my Dad's work and have been so supportive over the years. He put everything he had into every musical genre he explored and he deserves to be remembered as the special talent and human being that he was." He continues, "It's hard to believe that in December of this year my Dad will have been gone fifty years. The process of revisiting his work to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of his passing has been wonderful for me. Over the past few months I have been immersed in his recordings from his later career. This period of his life was one of great angst and introspection on both a personal and professional level. The brashness and bravado that was so evident in his youth had been mellowed. The changing music scene, combined with a serious medical condition, will humble a man. One of the most poignant things about the recordings from this era is that you can hear for yourself how at the end of his life he blended together all the musical genres he explored, and delivered them in his live performances. I guess what I'm trying to say is that he was finally comfortable in his own skin and for 90 minutes on stage he was genuinely happy and at the peak of his powers. This is how I hope he will be remembered."
The Direction Records relaunch commences on July 14. Watch this space for any news of future Direction and Bobby Darin releases!