Is Your Collection Ready For a Dean Martin Record?

Perhaps it's because "Dino" cultivated a less than serious image as a friendly drunk or perhaps it's because of his long running role as Jerry Lewis's "straight man" in the most successful duo in comedy history, or maybe it was his long running "Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" television show.

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

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azmoon's picture

After picking up a somewhat scratchy original last year I was shocked how good it was. I ordered this 45 RPM version by AP as soon as it came out. This is an amazing recording - it rivals the recent Cat Stevens Tillerman on 45. In my opinion, it is also Dean's best performance on LP (and I have many). This is a must have for audiophiles.

OldschoolE's picture

I have a Dean Martin LP in my library, but I forget which one at the moment. (It isn't this one).
I don't know, but for me there is a certain appeal to have at least one Dean Martin LP.
I've seen and enjoyed a few of his films as well. Along with Oceans 11 (I don't like the remakes, I'm partial to the original), let's not forget another classic in my opinion, Rio Bravo from 1959. I wasn't born yet, but I seen that one at least 3 times through the magic of TV.
Then there was the Dean Martin show, he was hip.
And then there were the roasts, some of the best comedy ever! I have a few of them recorded.
I'm not sure if I would like this particular LP, but I might pick me up another one sometime.
By the way, that whole drunk thing was a gag, a put-on, if you will. He certainly fooled a lot of us.

Ortofan's picture

auto-tuned, level-compressed crud cranked out today.
"Smile" gets my vote for best track on the album.
Incidentally, how any (other) lyricists would have thought of using auto-gyro to rhyme with Cairo?

Superfuzz's picture

"and it's not your system's fault if you can't track a monster sibilant on "Blue Moon"."

Good to know... because I certainly did notice those distorted sibilance moments on that track (and maybe 1 or 2 others)... it makes me feel a little bit better to know your monster rig also had troubles with it... so I guess it's a mastering fault?

Michael Fremer's picture
I've only heard one on "Blue Moon". It's not a smear, but more of an exaggeration. I suppose I could have increased the tracking force to try to get rid of it, but why bother? I'm curious if anyone's cartridge gets through it (probably a Shure V15 would!)
Ortofan's picture

...Audio Technica AT150ANV cartridge on hand from the large comparison test? If so, that might be the one to use to check if the sibilants can be tracked cleanly. You can run it at up to 1.8g down force, if necessary.

Superfuzz's picture

I have that cartridge. It's an excellent tracker, although slightly tipped up on the top end, which might exaggerate the sibilance even more... I don't have it mounted though, so can't try it.

Maximus0ne's picture

I'm using a Airtight PC-7 and got through it with only a quick pulse of distortion on the first passage of the song. Just confirm that it wasn't in the recording or record, I slowed it down to 33 rpm and didn't get the distortion pulse. Confirmed.

revolverlp's picture

I do not post to comments usually, but this album demands I make an exception. I have been a Dean Martin fan for many years. I watched him on TV, listened to his music and saw him in his movies (at the theater). But I only recently discovered this album. Wow, this is a level of Dean that I had never heard before! I cannot listen to this album enough! This is the smoothest highest quality singing I have ever heard. Wish he had made more like this. To steal a line from the Red Dwarf TV show "What a Guy" This is on par with the quality of singing that is on Linda Ronstadt's "For Sentimental Reasons"

Jack Gilvey's picture

for any more 45 RPM. Am I alone in preferring 33 1/3 so I can relax for an album side? I don't think it's accurate to call a 45 RPM record an "LP". :) Anyway, this review makes me want this one.

Rudy's picture

Superior sonics aside, I no longer buy any 45RPM LPs. It really disrupts the listening experience to be jumping up every 10-12 minutes to flip a record, especially since LPs were programmed as "sides" originally. So no, it's not just you. I'd rather live with slightly less sonic quality than deal with flipping the damned records so often. And it's hardly laziness...but after a biking more in a day than some people do in a month (or a year), I just want to unwind and enjoy music, not fiddle with it constantly.

Muso's picture

I do like 45s though, but something like this, you wanna have on with a lady over - and getting up off the couch twice as often could be a bit of a drag ;-)

I might get it anyway tho... But I'm curious: Has anyone listened to the 33RPM version by Legacy Records? Does this 45RPM version have compellingly better sound?

ravenacustic's picture

of mine owned a boarding house in Thompsonville, NY. It's a town smaller than your thumbnail in the Catskills. My parents hauled me up there for a week or two every summer. I can remember a few lodgers saying they had tickets for the evening to see Martin and Lewis at Browns which was another big lodge nearby. I think Lewis was related to the brown family. Distant memories huh? I never thought much of Martin's singing but he was one funny guy which I'm sure didn't please Lewis in those days. I heard this recording at Newport this year and I was bowled over by the superlative sound and the intimacy of Martin's singing. It is on my short list of records to buy even though I'm out of shelf space.

Michael Fremer's picture
Well familiar. A fraternity brother of mine was related to that family and another one's family owned the Nevele.
readargos's picture

Dean Martin LPs and a number of CDs. "Dino: The Essential Dean Martin" is a good (and well-mastered) CD sampler of his music, featuring songs from his Italian, French, Latin, and country albums.

I've yet to pick up this one, or MoFi's recent Dino release. They are among many on my "to buy" list.

ravenacustic's picture

My gosh! I completely forgot that hotel. My Great Aunt's boarding house was a far cry from Borwn's or the Nevele. A dirty little place consisting of the main house and a couple of cottages. We only went there because my paternal grandmother and grandfather went there for 30 odd years without fail and it was an opportunity to see them outside of the Bronx. Best thing about it was The Corner Store just up the street owned by this little man named Izzy. He made the best chocolate egg creams on the planet!

Jack Gilvey's picture

after adding it to Tidal and the vocal is eerily present even streamed at "CD quality". The nakedness of it adds to the effect (as well as having the band mixed as if offstage), but it's the most "in the room" vocal I've heard in my system. Very relaxing too! Thanks again, Michael, another one I'd have never considered (being born in Hoboken, I'm more of a Frank guy). And my Squeezebox Touch tracks that sibilant just fine. ;)
Do you happen to know the province of the 33 1\3 version I see on AS?

Mikeymort's picture

He was the "Man of the Year" for the Country Music Association in 1966. I once read where Shirley MacLaine (who worked more than once with Martin and Lewis) said that off-camera, Jerry Lewis was the serious one and Dean was the funny one. I'm of The Beatles generation, but I loved his television show and my parents had several of his albums which I listened to and liked. Someone asked me once if I could be somebody other than myself who would that be...I didn't hesitate...I replied Dean Martin!

rakalm's picture

I got the RSD version of this but have yet to clean and play it. Can't wait to hear it, I am sure not as good as this pressing but hey I was glad to get it, brings back some great memories.

Michael Fremer's picture
It's from 96/24 files. It would make for an interesting comparison...
Ajcrock's picture

I have quite a bit of Dean. As an artist he was highly underrated. This is good a album. Look for Dino, Hey Brtoher Pass The Wine, and Welcome To My World. I think his early stuff is the best. Even better is the marketing text on the back. Phrases like Hell of an man, crack me up.

dolsey01's picture

This album will make any non analog believers crap their pants...The first cut, especially with something akin to a Grado flavored cartridge and some tube gear for good measure will forever change the minds of what people think records sound like. One of my favorite AP pressings.

simply me's picture

I must admit, I have the mono of The Dean Martin Christmas Album, produced and engineered by the same people, it's my favorite Christmas album because he just sounds so smashed. Of course, if you listen closely, he's in perfect control.

sharris55's picture

I had put this title on my Christmas wish list but no one picked it up on my behalf. Then today I was looking through several of dozens of boxes of records my father had picked up at yard sales in the years before his passing (5 years ago); and there, still in the shrink wrap (but opened), is a copy on Reprise "Dream With Dean". And then right beside it was a sealed copy of Dean's "Welcome to My World" mentioned in a comment above. Soon as I get them through the record cleaner they are getting played. Guess I am going to have to take a closer look in those boxes before donating!