Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Classic Album Review-The Country Side Of Dean Martin

Hey pallies, his name is Mr. Mike Reece and he holds forth at his outstandin' country music blog pad, "The World-Famous Ultimate Twang Blog." Mr. Reece writes 'bout his early intro to the world of music by sayin', "Myself, my first exposure to music, came barely as a toddler, to the sounds of “Dean Martin’s Greatest Hits."

So likes today's Dino-commentator Mike first got turned on to our beloved Dino as a wee one, and his classic al-b-um review of "The Country Side Of Dean Martin,' proves that he has simply grown in his Dino-devotion over the years.

Reece does a simply stellar job of sharin' some of the great country tunes that our Dino recorded on a variety of his chart-toppin' al-b-ums. Likes I knew that our great man loved him some country music, but our Dino was such an outstandin' force in the field, that as Mike states..."So much did he (Dino) help promote the genre, that the CMA named him “Man Of The Year” in 1966. Likes how how cool is it that our Dino was honored by the Country Music Association as their man of the year!

I invites all you pallies to spend the time to enjoy each and every Dino-observation that Mr. Reece makes of our Dino's singin' of the "twang" sound. Each and every day, I gets more and more thrilled by the many and varied ways the delight of Dino is bein' shared all over the world wide web...and today's Dino-reflections my Mr. Mike Reece is truly truly a grand example of Dino-devotional literature.

ilovedinomartin sez our thanks to Mr. Mike Reece for exhibitin' his deep, pure, and true passion for our Dino by sharin' such an extensive and intensive Dino-review puttin' the accent on the ol' country Dino-sound. To view this in it's original format, just clicks on the tag of this Dino-message. Dino-loved, DMP

Classic Album Review-The Country Side Of Dean Martin

Greetings from Asheville, The Land Of The Sky. Here there’s always good music on the turntable, in the CD, or on the MP3. We’re going in a bit of a different direction, today, to look back at some of the legendary Dean Martin’s work, specifically with Country songs. Of course, when you think of Dino, you think of Martin And Lewis, The Rat Pack, hits like “Memories Are Made Of This” and “Everybody Loves Somebody”, not to mention his television show. But when you take a look at his 1960′s and early 1970′s albums on Reprise, one thing you’ll notice on many of them, is that there will be several Country songs included. While Dean, of course, was first and foremost, a Pop singer, he was a fan of Country music. In addition to the many songs he recorded, Country music stars such as Roger Miller, Eddy Arnold, Loretta Lynn, Lynn Anderson, and Tom T. Hall made appearances on his show. So much did he help promote the genre, that the CMA named him “Man Of The Year” in 1966.

For this review, we’ll look at some selected cuts from a few of his albums of that period, including both “Greatest Hits” packages from 1968, “Gentle On My Mind” (1968), “Hits Again” (1966), “Somewhere There’s A Someone” (1966), “Houston” (1965), and “Happiness Is” (1967).

Starting with what is likely the first of his albums I ever heard (and we’re talking toddler-age), his “Greatest Hits, Volume 1”, which features two Country songs, “Remember Me (I’m The One Who Loves You)” the Stuart Hamblen hit, and Jimmy Dean’s first hit, “Bumming Around”. Both also appeared on his “Remember Me” album. Bright and brassy is an apt description of Dean’s version of “Remember Me”. Bouncier than the original, with full orchestration that was typical on his recordings. I actually like his version a bit better than the original, perhaps because it’s the first one I heard, but it’s always ranked high on my list of Martin faves. By comparison, “Bumming Around” is stripped down, arrangement-wise, but still with the full orchestra and chorus. It’s also done a bit slower and more relaxed than Jimmy Dean’s version, which I think, mixed with Dean’s smooth, easy vocal style, makes for a very effective track.

“Dean Martin Hits Again” includes Dean’s version of Hank Locklin’s “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On”. An intro that could be called stately or dramatic, with it’s brass section, it morphs into a nice, mid tempo ballad that I think is one of my favorite Dean Martin performances.

Dean covers Eddy Arnold’s classic “I’ll Hold You In My Heart”, starting it with a rather interesting string intro that immediately catches your attention. One great thing about most of Dean’s music of that era, is that despite full orchestration and backing vocals, they rarely, if ever, overpower his vocals; they rather provide a nice complement, such as on this track. It may not be Eddy Arnold, but it’s a darn good substitute for his version.

Perhaps the most interesting of all of Dean’s Country covers, is his take on Hank Williams’ “Wedding Bells”. Falling somewhere between mid and up tempo, it’s got a touch of drama in the arrangement, and it’s a track that actually, kind of leaps from the speakers at you. I’m liking this version very much.

Other than the title cut and and “That Old Clock On The Wall”, the “Somewhere There’s A Someone” album was made up from cuts that had appeared on his “Dean Tex Martin” and Dean Tex Martin Rides Again” albums of 1963. Included on this album is Dean’s take on yet another Eddy Arnold classic, “Anytime”. Dean’s style is similar to Eddy’s later stereo version, except for an echo that one wonders why they used it; the track really doesn’t need it. Nice beat on this version.

I think my favorite track on this disc is the Don Gibson classic “Blue Blue Day”. Dean’s version sounds relatively faithful to the original, just slightly less rocking. Great track, here.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the greatest Country song ever written is “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. The epitome of a powerful emotion being emitted by such simplicity. And it doesn’t matter who’s singing, Hank, Dean, B. J. Thomas, even Terry Bradshaw. As for Dean’s version, a beautiful rendition.

Dean also covers Hank’s “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)”. No one can touch the original; Hank Williams’ version is nothing short of amazing, the kind of record that chills the spine. That said, Dean gives a nice take on it.

There’s also George Morgan’s “Candy Kisses”. A track that is okay, but nothing special.

On side two, Dean covers two more of Eddy Arnold’s hits. “Bouquet Of Roses” is a solid version that has an arrangement (as do many of these tracks) that is not at all unlike The Nashville Sound of the day.

Pretty much all of the Eddy Arnold covers Dean does are at worst, decent, and I think that’s because they were similarly-styled vocalists, both had that smooth, easy style and to watch either one, they made it look so easy. It’s the same with “Just A Little Lovin’”, though I like Eddy’s version a little bit better.

When I bought this album, the track I was most interested to hear was “I Walk The Line”. No, it’s not Johnny Cash, but Dean’s version is still catchy. A bit surprising is how well the song melds with Dean’s vocal style. He pulled this one off much better than I thought he might.

For many of us, “Room Full Of Roses” is associated with Mickey Gilley, due to his big 1974 hit. However, in 1949, it was charting for both George Morgan and The Sons Of The Pioneers (with Ken Curtis of “Festus” fame, singing lead). Dean speeds the tempo over those two versions, slightly, and gives us a really great version of this classic.

Last on this album is a take on the Roy Drusky hit “Second Hand Rose”. Nothing fancy, here. Nice vocals, pleasant track.

“Happiness Is” is less on Country songs, but does include the Leon Payne written “You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart”, which later would hit for both Con Hunley and George Jones. I love Dean’s version; it’s Country, it’s Pop, it’s Blues; a great mixture, and the organ makes the track, in my opinion.

I’m not as high on his version of “He’s (She’s) Got You”. It’s okay, but Patsy Cline’s version is so much better. Not even close.

My first taste of “Gentle On My Mind” (that I remember) wasn’t that of Glen Campbell, but rather Dean Martin. Ironically, because Capitol wouldn’t release Glen’s version in Great Britain, Dean’s version became a big hit, over there, while going largely unnoticed, here. Too bad, because it’s great. Perfect for his easy vocal style; this is one of those rare songs where I really can’t pick a favorite version; I love both versions; outstanding tracks.

The “Gentle On My Mind” album also includes decent versions of Bobby Goldsboro’s “Honey”, and another Glen Campbell hit, “By The Time I Get To Phoenix”. Nothing to complain about, here.

Dean even covers Slim Whitman on this disc, singing his 1968 hit “Rainbows Are Back In Style”. Good music. Trailing only the title cut, though, has to be his version of Jim Reeves’ “That’s When I See The Blues (In Your Pretty Brown Eyes)”. Great version.

In addition to the previously discussed recordings of “Send Me The Pillow You Dream On” and “You’ve Still Got A Place In My Heart”, “Greatest Hits, Volume 2” also includes Dean’s take on the Robert Mitchum hit “Little Ole Wine Drinker, Me”. While Mitchum’s version was top ten in Country Music, Dean’s version cracked the Pop top forty and was a top five Adult Contemporary hit. I like both versions, though Dean’s obviously the better singer, and his version is just a bit more easy flowing, so to speak. This album also contains Dean’s version of the Roger Miller classic “King Of The Road”. First appearing on Dean’s “Remember Me” album, it’s a good thing that they didn’t key it any higher, he’d have been in trouble; in fact, in a spot or two, it sounds like he struggles a bit to hit the highest notes. Not a bad version, but Miller’s version is far superior. An interesting side note, they performed this song, together, on Martin’s TV show. The video has been, and may still be on Youtube.

The last album we’ll look at, today, is “Houston”. The title cut has never been a top forty Country hit for anyone, but it’s a strong Country-flavored song. And it’s one of my favorite Dean Martin songs. It just missed the Top twenty on the Pop side. Just simply a great, great record!

Dean’s version of the Jimmy Dean hit “The First Thing Every Morning” sounds not much different than Dean’s single. Okay, maybe Jimmy wasn’t as good of a pure vocalist as Dean, but when you listen to his later 1960′s recordings, he was able to hold his own, when it came to smooth, easy vocalizing.

Despite being written by Alex Zanetis, a man who penned many a Country hit, in 1965, most would have not considered “Snap Your Fingers” a Country song. In fact, the only hit version to that point, had been a Pop/R & B hit by Joe Henderson in 1962. It wouldn’t see the Country top forty until Dick Curless’ version in 1971, then later, Don Gibson and Ronnie Milsap. Dean’s version is that big, brassy, Vegas-styled number. Not bad, but not my favorite of Dean’s.

In 1962, Ernie Ashworth scored a top five Country hit with “Everybody But Me”, and Dean covers it, here. Again, more Vegas-styled, but it’s a great performance; one can almost picture Dean just easily snapping fingers, swaying along, as he sings the tune.

“Detour” is an interesting, yet fun track to listen to. Very 1960′s-sounding, lots of brass, but again, fun to listen to. In addition to Patti Page’s Pop version, Spade Cooley, Elton Britt, Wesley Tuttle, and Foy Willing all charted “Detour” on the Country charts in 1946.

The album’s final track and the last one we’ll cover in this writing is “You’re The Reason I’m In Love”. This song has an interesting history. Under it’s original title, it was the B-side of Sonny James’ “Young Love”, yet still became a top ten Country hit. Then, in 1972, under the title “That’s Why I Love You Like I Do”, it became James’ final number one hit for Capitol, before leaving for Columbia. Dean’s version is a swinging version that’s fun to listen to and a good way to end things, here.

Availability? All of these albums, except for “Greatest Hits, Volume 2”, are currently on the market as MP3 downloads (finally!). And all but both “Greatest Hits” albums are also available on CD as a double package with another Dean Martin album. As for used copies, they are pretty common, with prices anywhere from $1 to $25. I even saw one reel-to-reel copy of “Houston”.

Overall, Dean was a great vocal talent, and a fine showman, successful in almost all forms of entertainment. No question that his inclusion of so many Country songs on his albums, as well as having so many Country artists appear on his television show, helped increase the exposure and ultimately, the genre’s popularity to many more listeners around the world. No, he wasn’t a Country singer, but I think Country singers of the past forty years all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping increase this music’s reach and influence. Until our next review, we will continue our never-ending quest to save vinyl, one record at a time.


Always On Watch said...

Our Dino loved country music!

His versions of Eddy Arnold's songs are wonderful. The songs really suited our Dino, though, of course, Dino's versions were pitched in a lower key.

This review states:

I’m not as high on his version of “He’s (She’s) Got You”. It’s okay, but Patsy Cline’s version is so much better. Not even close.

Interesting statement. I heard Dino's version before I heard Cline's version, and have always preferred Dino's version.

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, well Miss AOW, I am with you...obviously Mr. Mike is not quite the devoted Dino-holics that you and I are...thanks for patterin'...keeps lovin' our Dino!

Always On Watch said...

Yeah, I'm devoted to our Dino.

I have a little Dean Martin display in my piano room. The display always draws comments from visitors as I have an autographed picture in the display. One of my treasures!

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, might I say Miss AOW, one of the most truly devoted to our beloved Dino....I am always so grateful for your Dino-reflections in the midst of your very busy life...teachin' and carin' for Mr. AOW...I only do this blog to lift up the name of our Dino and work to bring others to know, love, and honor our great man. Your support in this Dino-effort is always, always much appreciated! And, likes what else can I say...keeps lovin' our Dino!