Of the dozen or so top-twenty hits that Bobby Darin enjoyed in his career, perhaps none is more durable than his silky smooth 'Dream Lover'. Indeed, the song has been covered countless times - at least ninety-three by my count - with versions ranging from Dion's straight-up rendition in 1961 to more out-there interpretations like Horace Andy's cool-as-candy recording in 1973 and the Plasmatics' ripped-up take on it a half-dozen years later.
Darin taped it in the spring of 1959. His 'Splish, Splash' had nearly topped the charts the previous summer, but by March his name was conspicuously absent from the Billboard lists. And so Darin entered the studio, with Neil Sedaka on piano and Ahmet Ertegun and Jerry Wexler manning the controls, and recorded what would become his first bona fide classic.
"'Dream Lover' was built on a Latin dance rhythm, a shuffle beat called cha-lypso," wrote Darin's biographer Jeff Bleiel. "The song was a subtle move from simplistic rock and roll structure to songs designed to appeal to an older audience. Of all the songs Darin ever wrote, 'Dream Lover' is the one that has stood the test of time and become a true pop standard."
What followed was a mile-long litany of covers, starting with Duffy Power's puffed-up crooning a mere month after the song's initial release and continuing on to versions by Tony Orlando, Johnny Burnette, Ben E. King, Billy 'Crash' Cradock, Johnny Nash, Rick Nelson, Tanya Tucker and Glen Campbell, Marc Almond, and even the Misfits. We were well represented up here in Canuckistan with Anne Murray's lacklustre 1974 remake as well as Ronnie Hawkins' funkier one that same year.
But even better is the little-known deep soul rundown by Toronto's Eddie Spencer (which in fact is so obscure that it is not even included on Second Hand Songs' seemingly exhaustive list). Spencer, for those keeping track, is the Jamaican-born singer best known these days in northern soul circles for his cracking version of the Precisions' 'If This Is Love (I'd Rather Be Lonely)', which came out in the early part of 1968. By the fall of that year, though, Spencer had hooked up with producer Tony DiMaria and issued a couple of singles for the Arc subsidiary, Goodgroove, the second of which was this fine redo of 'Dream Lover'.
It's hard to pinpoint the exact release date of Dream Lover' given the paucity of info available. But the February 26, 1969 issue of RPM does note at least that songwriter Brian Russell (formerly of the Raja) "has been concentrating on material in the contemporary rock vein for a completely new album featuring young Toronto singer Eddie Spencer. DiMaria, who discovered Spencer and signed him to a Goodgroove recording contract, will produce." Though that album never saw the light of day, it's worth noting that Russell at the time was working with the popular soul outfit, the Majestics, who may very well be the backing band here.
(The last documented sale of Spencer's 'Dream Lover' was for a VG+ copy back in 2010, which for all the disc's rarity sold for a measly $US29. Go figure.)
Recorded at Bay Studios, Toronto, Ontario