As soon as anyone mentions a 'concept album', you'd be forgiven for not taking it seriously. Well brace yourselves; 'Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee' is a concept album, and unashamedly so. But stick with it; after a bit of research into this second album from Benjy Ferree, a tribute to child actor Bobby Driscoll, it's difficult not to be sucked into the surrounding story and support Ferree's passion for the subject.
In short, Driscoll was a Disney child star who portrayed Peter Pan in the 1953 feature. Unlike that character, he grew up and was fired from Disney. He struggled to find work and developed a life-long battle with drugs until his lonely death at the age of 31.
Ferree was apparently 'obsessed' with Peter Pan as a child, so that goes some way in explaining an album that's seemingly a tribute to the man who initially portrayed him.
In opening track 'Tired of Being Good', Ferree declares it's "in the name of lost boys everywhere." so there's no danger of him being subtle with his influences for this album. Combining the sound of blues guitars and synths, it's a track awash with melancholia.
'Fear' is more harmonious, with a greater emphasis on Ferree's vocals, whilst 'When You're 16' manages, inexplicably, to combine country sounds with ballad tendencies.
The life of Bobby Driscoll is everywhere on this album; Ferree name checks a number of Driscoll's characters, including cowboy Pecos Bill in 'What Would Pecos Do?' if you were a fan of the show, there are bound to be memories within the track. For those who didn't follow such adventurous tales, it's difficult to get anywhere near excited by it. But Ferree's passion for the subject matter and the intricate ways in which he makes references to Driscoll's life and work is cleverly done.
Ferree's musical ability is enough to make this album a rich listen for the most part. However, it does falter in delivering its message fully and it's really only knowing the inspiration behind the album that makes it worthy of that initial listen.
Ferree's own website states that the album sets out to give Bobby Driscoll 'a recognition that is long overdue: a musical eulogy to a forgotten child star who was chewed up and spit out by the unforgiving Hollywood meat market.' That is what makes this album interesting; not the quality of the tracks or Ferree's ability to combine musical genres in one track.
Ferree is surely proud of this piece of work; he wanted to pay tribute to someone he felt was harshly treated, he does so with passion. This should be applauded.