Review by Frankie Hagan
More than the handsome half of one of the greatest comedy teams of all time, more than a Rat Packer, and more than the host of a highly rated variety show, the man who made a tuxedo look as comfortable as a t-shirt, Dean Martin was the embodiment of cool. And so is The Essential Dean Martin (Capitol), a stand-out among other greatest hits collections in that it combines the Capitol and Reprise hit singles into one stunning package of memorable excellence.
The liner notes and accompanying booklet studied alone are a treasure, with words from Stevie Van Zandt and Dean’s children Deanna and Gail, the release dates for each song and its peak chart position, and the obligatory black & white photos of the master song stylist himself. But, the music is what makes this release most memorable.
It’s all here, from recognizable standards to sought after ballads. From the beautiful and hard-to-find waltz “Under the Bridges of Paris” to the quintessential rumba “Sway,” listening to Dean’s velvety, smooth vocals is pure joy. At a time when rock ‘n’ roll ruled the charts, Dean was slipping through gems, like “That’s Amore,” and attaching his name forever to Italian-themed hits, like “Volare” and “Inamorata.” Dean was charming and swinging with “Ain’t That a Kick in the Head” and “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You.” He knocked the Beatles off the #1 spot with “Everybody Loves Somebody” and swept the girls away with love songs, like “Return to Me” and “I’ll Always Love You.” Western-styled selections from the ’60s are here as well, including “Houston,” and “Gentle on My Mind.”
Truly, from “Powder Your Face with Sunshine” to “Just In Time,” this is a wonderful starting place for a new fan of Dean, or a great summation of his career for a loyal follower. There’s a comforting spirit of truth and optimism in the relaxed styling of a man who was the world’s coolest crooner. This is the Dean Martin collection to own, for its diversity, its history, and its warm and tipsy dedication to the handsome tan man in the tuxedo.