The words “concept album” conjure up a wide variety of images for music fans. For every classic like The Wall and Ziggy Stardust, there is an unfortunate prog-rock exploration of The Lord of the Rings or Kilroy Was Here. At its best, the concept album is a long form for artists to explore themes usually too complex for the format of the individual pop song. On the other end of the spectrum, a great majority of them end up as navel-gazing exercises that highlight the limits of a musician’s more than its chosen theme. Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee, the second album by Washington, D.C., singer-songwriter Benjy Ferree, falls somewhere in the middle of this continuum. Ferree is able to relate the story of the tragic fall of Disney icon Bobby Driscoll but fails to create any single statement that transcends his chosen genre.
In addition to being the voice of the animated Peter Pan, Driscoll was handed the plum role in Song of the South, Disney’s first live action movie. The ride ended when Driscoll turned 16, developed severe acne and was handed his walking papers by the mouse house. Driscoll went on to have few bit parts on television, hooked up with Andy Warhol’s factory for a time, and then died at thirty-one after a long battle with heroin. Ferree chronicles Driscoll’s slide with caustic wit and an eye for detail that belie his deep involvement with the story. Careful listeners will find bits of Disney lore woven in with Ferree’s lyrics, and the songs will no doubt rekindle interest in the forgotten star.
The only major drawback with Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee Bobby Dee is that Ferree throws so much of his energy into writing about Driscoll that the songs don’t work nearly as well outside of the collection. The whole point of a concept album is to tell a story, but even Styx was able to throw in a single for the radio. Ferree’s songs work well within the structure of the narrative, but don’t have the strength to stand on their own. Come Back to the Five and Dime, Bobby Dee is a fitting elegy for a forgotten star and a wonderful showcase for the talents of Benjy Ferree. All that it fails to do is make an artistic statement outside of its main story.