Is Your Collection Ready For a Dean Martin Record?
Whatever it was, Dean Martin (born Dino Paul Crocetti, June 7, 1917) was not taken as seriously as a singer by segments of the public as he should have been. Elvis Presley certainly took him very seriously. If you listen to Elvis you can hear Dean. It was not the other way around.
The guys like Dean, Perry Como and of course the originator of the style, Bing Crosby, all of whom made it look easy to appear relaxed and self-assured on stage, were all working very hard, you can be sure. Martin was a boxer with the scars and broken nose to prove it. He eventually moved to a less violent form of show business, becoming a moderately successful crooner in the Bing Crosby mold.
In the late '40s he ran into Jerry Lewis at a New York night club where the two were performing. Their team debut was a disaster. So for the night's second set they threw away their act and ad-libbed their way through a vaudeville-like review filled with slapstick and shtick with Lewis pestering and interrupting Martin while he attempted to sing "straight". That drove the audience wild and they were on their way.
Anyone old enough to remember their 1950's television specials knows that, as with Milton Berle, life stopped and everyone tuned in to watch. They were a phenomenon, making movies, records, and nightclub and radio appearances. After a decade of it, Martin had had enough of the goofy comedy movies and the act acrimoniously broke up.
The two didn't speak for decades, finally re-uniting in 1976 when Frank Sinatra brought Dean on stage during that year's Muscular Dystrophy telethon. It was a memorable show biz moment, that for those who grew up with the duo, felt as if a festering wound had finally healed.
He was cast with Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift in the memorable 1958 war drama "The Young Lions", which concerned itself less with combat and more with the war's effect on individuals on both sides of the conflict. The movie was shown at my summer camp that year in Cinemascope and as an eleven year old, it had a powerful impression on me, especially seeing Dean Martin in such an intensely dramatic role (the summer camp I attended was owned by the people who owned the Brandt theater chain that, back then, included just about every Times Square theater. They also owned The Sagamore Hotel on Lake George and after a movie was screened at the hotel, it was sent up route 9N to the camp. We got a first rate film every week [lucky us!]).
For those used to seeing Dean hamming it up with Jerry, seeing him play it straight as an entertainer who befriends a Jewish inductee played by Montgomery Clift, was a shock (especially if you were a kid at the time). Martin's dramatic film career alone was impressive, but when he later teamed up with what would become "The Rat Pack" his popularity soared.
When his pal Frank Sinatra started the Reprise label, Dean moved from Capitol where he'd had great success. Martin released a series of themed albums covering country (which was a favorite for him), latin (a la Peggy Lee) and even one French-themed album.
In 1964 the song that would become his signature tune, "Everybody Loves Somebody" pushed from the #1 spot The Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night." A less "pop-ified version of that song is included in this intimately recorded and performed collection originally released in 1964.
Here Dean is accompanied by a quartet of west coast performing and studio veterans: Barney Kessel (guitar), Red Mitchell (bass), his long time accompanist Ken Lane (piano) and Irv Cottler (drums). Martin sounds as if he's within inches of the microphone with the backing players mixed to keep the vocals way upfront. On the opener that's not a "tic", it's Martin's lips smacking.
That's a gutsy move for any vocalist but Martin adds to the daring by laying almost completely off the reverb send. He's in your room. The recording is simply astonishing. It's a show-stopper at every audio show I've played it transferred to 96/24 digital.
Martin covers a series of well-worn standards including "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You), "Fools Rush In", Charlie Chaplin's "Smile", "I Don't Know Why (I Just Do)" and a few familiar others—a dozen in all and all aimed at the heart. The liner notes by the late Stan Cornyn are right on the money: "...the twelve most aphrodisiac songs yet devised by man."
If you turn up the volume too high you'll ruin the intent and the sonics so play it at moderate levels to keep Dean's voice from going all gritty and it's not your system's fault if you can't track a monster sibilant on "Blue Moon". Otherwise, it's smooth sailing on an album that may be uncharted musical territory for many of you (and me!) but one on which you'll enjoy the smooth sailing and calm waters. Really. Take a chance. You'll be glad you did!
The Analogue Productions first class gatefold packaging includes laminated "Tip-On" jacket and two wonderful studio shots, beautifully reproduced in black and white showing a relaxed and happy Dean Martin in what looks like Gold Star Studios.
In 1987 his son Dean Paul Martin, who years earlier was in the teen band Dino, Desi and Billy, and went on to become a jet pilot in the California Air National Guard, died when his F-4 Phantom jet fighter crashed in a snowstorm.
It killed the remarkably handsome kid, but it also probably helped killed Dean Martin, who was never the same after the tragedy. A life-long heavy smoker, he died of lung cancer in 1995 after what was a remarkable career on stage, radio, television, movies and of course on record. If you're going to have one Dean Martin record, this one would be it.
Your reward for reading this review in its entirety: I don't remember where I got this, but someone gave it to me years ago. It's a recording of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis laying down lines for radio commercials promoting their 1953 movie "The Caddy". Don't listen if cursing offends you! Otherwise, click here