James William Ercolani, more commonly known by his stage name James Darren is an actor and musician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He is noted for his starring and supporting roles in films such as Gidget, The Gene Krupa Story, All the Young Men, The Guns of Navarone and Diamond Head. He’s also had many roles in television, including the lead role of Tony Newman, an impulsive scientist and adventurer on the science fiction series, The Time Tunnel. He also had guest star roles on shows such as Charlie’s Angels, Police Story, Hawaii Five-O, Vegas and The Love Boat.
I however know Darren most for his recurring role as Vic Fontaine, a sentient hologram, on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It was actually this role, which had him playing a holographic lounge singer which prompted his return to singing. Which leads us to why we are here today, this album ‘This One’s From the Heart’ which was released on August 24th 1999 is composed of songs he performed while on the show. I fell in love with the music, and his singing through these episodes and so I’m finally able to review them and share my thoughts with you all.
‘The Best Is Yet to Come’ opens with a big band swing, plenty of horns, and a light percussion that flows into a soft bass that supports Darren’s crooning, and you just get caught up in the energy of the song. He knows just how to hit the notes to create something that’s smooth and easy going and just superb. I’ve always had an appreciation of music like this, I guess it’s why I liked the ‘Ol Yellow Eyes’ album by fellow Star Trek alum, Brent Spiner, it just captures the feel of a whole different era of music and transcends time, to create something pure and simple and good.
‘Come Fly with Me’ is a classic, it’s just one of those songs that is so iconic and memorable that I would fully believe it endured through to the 24th century. Like a lot of these songs, he sings in a style that evokes Sinatra’s style but is still distinct. I like Darren’s voice, he’s deep and controlled and just sings from a place of charm and energy. I loved the fanfare in this one, it adds a sense of gravity and weight to the track.
‘That Old Black Magic’ was actually performed a few times in Star Trek, I won’t waste time listing them, but man I can see why. Darren really does something with this song, he layers in a depth to it, a heaviness to his vocals that really add something to the performance. I liked that instrumental backing, the subtle piano infused almost randomly against the horns and percussion and bass which really flesh out the track.
‘All the Way’ opens with a beautiful instrumental backing, it’s so big and yet some simple, delicate beauty, as the strings support his voice. I’ve commented on his slightly deeper vocal quality in this track, but he slows things down, and lightens things up just a touch, really reaching an expressive note for this slower melody.
‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’ has a nice swinging melody, the horns fill us in, and blend with delicate piano that enrich the whole thing, and Darren is a top form. I’ll admit that since I first heard it I’ve listened to his cover dozens of times. It’s one of those songs that just fill you up. What I think I like most about it is that it has a really nice momentum, it’s not overtly catchy like a pop song where it uses insidious beats or repetition to stick in your head, instead it just presents a simple and well composed number that instead sticks with you just because it really works.
‘I’ve Got the World on a String’ kicks things off nicely, much higher energy off the bat than the last song, blending in some gorgeous saxophone, and percussion to create the perfect backdrop for Darren’s voice. And man he really hits these old standards with poise and skill, and he really makes them his own. I’ll admit as a twentysomething, I am perhaps out of the catchment for these songs, sadly Sinatra passed away a few years after I was born and my parents were more a fan of Elvis Presley, Chris Isaak and Daniel O’Donnell than Sinatra so I couldn’t even have picked them up because of my parents but they have such a rich, timeless quality that I believe you could sit down at any age, or from any walk of life and they would still have merit.
‘You’d Better Love Me’ also starts off with a high energy, it’s got a nice kick to it, and one that really does stick in your head, usually I get lyrics stuck in my head but occasionally like with this track, the melody is just sticking with me. You really get to hear more of Darren’s range with this song, it doesn’t stray too far to the style he’s set thus far, but it does have a distinct quality which works really well.
‘Sophisticated Lady’ opens with soft piano and a vibrant horn that has an almost mournful quality, which is backed up by Darren’s delivery. He manages to blend melody and melancholy into this powerful number. I have stuck this one when I’ve been feeling low, and somehow things haven’t seemed as bad.
‘Just in Time’ shakes things up, higher energy after the slower track previously, and this just has a nice little beat to it, like a lot of these they really evoke the swing energy indicative of the music of the period. I really liked the percussion in this, a little heavier, and syncopated, creating something that really works throughout.
‘I’ve Got You Under My Skin’ is another old familiar classic, and yet Darren breathes new life into it, which is impressive because other than ‘My Way’, this is the song I most associate with Sinatra, and yet he captures the flow and vibe of the track while not trying to replicate it.
‘The Way You Look Tonight’ is just beautiful, the instrumental swoon at the beginning is just sensational, and Darren lingers on the lines just perfectly, creating something sweet and memorable. I like songs like this which just kind of fill the room, completely stopping you for a moment.
‘Here’s to the Losers’ was completely new to me, I hadn’t heard it before but I really enjoyed it. Darren has a slightly breathy quality to his delivery which works for the track. It has a nice energy to it and if it’s not clear already I’m always a fan of horns in a track.
‘You’re Nobody till Somebody Loves You’ is another one of my personal favourites, it’s sweet and romantic and just captures the feel of those old lounge room classics. It’s so powerful and much like I said of ‘Come Fly with Me’ I can totally believe this song would survive and thrive well into the future.
‘Dancing in the Dark’ has a jazzier intro, a nice beat upfront and some amazing horn work that just improves each of these tracks. I was thinking this earlier, but percussion plays a critical part of these songs, but is surprisingly understated compared to more modern music and I was curious why that was. Either way, the backing expertly supports the richly textured voice and performance of Darren throughout.
‘Night and Day’ really keeps the momentum going, a heavy swinging vibe, bass and trilling horns, and a quick paced percussive undercurrent that really just carry you along. I knew going in that I liked James Darren’s voice, and he had a lot of good will built up from DS9 but honestly his performance in tracks like this is just sublime.
‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ is the song I am perhaps most excited about on this entire album, it has enormous emotional resonance in the Deep Space Nine episodes ‘The Siege of AR-558’ and in particular ‘It’s Only a Paper Moon’. The song and particularly Darren, or as he’s known in universe, Vic Fontaine’s rendition of the song provides emotional support to a character during two particularly difficult periods of his life. It’s so pure and sweet, and Darren really sells it. This is easily one of my favourite tracks, and I regularly listen to it when I need a little emotional support of my own.
‘Satin Doll’ closes things out, and we open with bass, gently plucked and built upon, but that core bass melody makes up the centrepiece of what is yet another spectacular performance. I tend to listen to a song two or three times at least prior to reviewing, then I’ll have it on while I’m writing as well. After finishing this one up it was late so I went to sleep afterwards and even though I prefer sleeping in silence, I decided to put this track on repeat to soothe me off to sleep.
So that’s what I thought of James Darren’s album ‘This One’s from the Heart’ and if you want to check that out for yourself then head on over to Spotify. While you’re at it, make sure and support the artist by checking out their website and by following them on Facebook and Twitter.
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