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Excellent four-disc anthology of Dean Martin's career

Music Review: Dean Martin – Collected Cool Box Set

“Live, direct from the bar – Dean Martin,” went the introduction for the King of Cool. Really, was there a cooler guy out there than Dean? Sinatra maybe, but there was always an element of volatility with him. In contrast, we never saw Dean lose it. The drinking thing simply would not fly in today’s world, but it was all an act anyway. It didn’t matter, we loved him no matter what. The new, four-disc Collected Cool box-set celebrates Dean Martin’s career with three-CDs and a DVD of a rare concert performance in London. It is hard to believe that it has taken this long for a career-spanning collection of his to appear, but the good news is that it has finally arrived.

The first CD is subtitled “Memories Are Made of This: 1949-1961,” and contains 19 songs. One of the difficulties in presenting an all-inclusive Dean Martin set has been the fact that he recorded for different labels over the years. The first disc is culled from his work with Capitol Records. The songs included feature classics such as “That’s Amore,” “Volare,” and his duet with Nat “King” Cole, “Long, Long Ago.”

The second CD is “Everybody Loves Somebody: 1962-1985,” and contains 18 tracks. These were recorded for Sinatra’s Reprise Records. This second disc includes his biggest hit, “Everybody Loves Somebody,” as well as a number of other greats. Just as an aside, “Everybody Loves Somebody” replaced The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” at the number one spot upon release. This is the original, stripped-down jazz quartet version of the song, which initially appeared on the Dream With Dean album. Another definite highlight here is his duet with Sinatra on “Guys and Dolls.” Some of the other brilliant performances include his version of “Welcome To My World,” and another of his signature tunes, “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.”

The third CD of the set is pretty self-explanatory, “Live In Lake Tahoe.” This fifty-minute, 24-track disc was recorded July 27, 1962 at the Cal-Neva Lodge. The concert contains plenty of “Show Banter” (seven tracks) of which Dean was a master at. He opens with “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes,” and proceeds through fine versions of “Almost Like Being In Love,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” and “You Made Me Love You,” among quite a few others. It was a great night to see a show for those folks who were lucky enough to be at the Cal-Neva that evening.

The final disc is a DVD of Dean “Live In London.” This concert was filmed at the London Apollo Victoria Theatre in 1983. It was shown on cable a couple of times, then disappeared into the vaults, where it has remained until now. The former Dino Paul Crocetti still had it in 1983, and was cool as could be in front of this most appreciative London audience.

Although the Rat Pack were the epitome of hip in 1960, by the end of the decade, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin were seen as terminally unhip. It’s a shame, because even though they were considered “your parent’s music,” all three were still in their prime. I think their ill-advised rejection of rock and roll (both Dean and Frank in particular) really worked against them. It took a long time for the Boomer generation to come around to the Rat Pack. I belong to what has been termed “Generation X,” and never had that generation gap thing against them, but unfortunately was too young to ever get the chance to see the guys (or Dean in particular) perform live.

So the Live In London DVD holds a little extra special attraction for me. I have seen some old black and white footage of the Rat Pack live in Vegas previously, but never a full Dean Martin concert. And as previously mentioned, he was still “Mr. Cool” in 1983. The concert is a veritable greatest hits, and includes songs such as “That’s Amore,” “Everybody Loves Somebody,” and “Welcome To My World.” Dean’s version of the Ray Price hit “For The Good Times” is quite nice, and a bit of a surprise comes with his rendering of Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown.”

The box-set itself is so well-done, one wishes other labels would look to it for inspiration when it comes to items like these. They certainly got it right with Collected Cool. The package is an 8” x 8” book, with the discs inside. It features 62-pages of rare full-color pictures and text detailing the life, songs, and career of Dean Martin. I found the discussions of the individual tunes to be the most informative aspect of it. The notes were written by James Ritz, who was clearly allowed full access by the Dean Martin Family Trust to tell the various stories behind the recordings.

Collected Cool is by far the finest anthology of Dean Martin’s music to ever see the light of day. This one is a keeper, no question about it.

About Greg Barbrick

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