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Martin's Christmas music is satisfying in ways that his arguably more talented
peers (including Frank Sinatra, Nat "King" Cole,
and Johnny Mathis) did not manage to achieve. Why? Unlike
those legendary crooners - who grew generally stuffy on their respective holiday
platters - Dino got loose (pun intended). On Making
Spirits Bright (1998) or the subsequent upgrade, Christmas
With Dino (2004), Martin sounds like he's having fun - more full of horny
vigor (or spiked punch) than pious reflection on the season. Consequently, he captures the same
sexy, silly, lubricious vibe that made him such a loveable cad onscreen.
Spirits Bright and Christmas
With Dino compile seasonal recordings from 1953 to 1966, including rare singles and selections from two Christmas albums for two different labels: A
Winter Romance (Capitol, 1959) and The
Dean Martin Christmas Album (Reprise, 1966). A
Winter Romance (repackaged in 1965 as Holiday
Cheer) is far the better of the two - a typically suave, sexy Martin LP - though
it's as much a concept album about winter as a traditional Christmas album. Rather
than blathering on about Santa and Frosty, most of the songs revolve, literally,
around romance in winter - c.f. "Baby It's Cold Outside" and "I've
Got My Love To Keep Me Warm." Rudolph, however, eventually pokes his red nose in....
Winter Romance has been reissued on CD twice (more counting imported versions).
version - a 1994 reissue by Capitol - contains one bonus track, Martin's smokey
chestnut "The Christmas Blues" (1953). The second
version - part of a restoration of Martin's catalog by Collector's
Choice - is superior in most ways, including the comparatively hefty four bonus
tracks. But, none of those tracks are Christmas songs - meaning, obviously, that
none of them are "The Christmas Blues." Too bad.
Dean Martin Christmas Album was recorded after Dino switched to Reprise, a
label founded by his Rat Pack peers. But, by the mid-60's Martin was moving rapidly
towards the middle of the road like most old school vocalists. So, unlike A
Winter Romance, Christmas
Album is a traditional holiday offering - that is, it's a deadly dull affair
with little to recommend it beyond Dino's customary croon. Though never reissued
verbatim on CD, most of the contents are found on Making
Spirits Bright and Christmas
is to say, A
Winter Romance is the jewel here - in no small part because it contains Martin's
most celebrated holiday song, his ribald rendition of "Let It Snow! Let It
Snow! Let It Snow!" Pay close attention: nowhere in the lyrics of that celebrated
Christmas standard is Christmas ever mentioned. Hence, it was a natural for inclusion
Winter Romance. Without breaking a sweat, Dino lays down the definitive version
of "Let It Snow," knowingly leering his way through lines like "I've
brought me some corn for popping." Ahem...
Happily, "Let It Snow" is included twice on Making
Spirits Bright - in both the irresistible, original 1959 version and a rare,
rockin' 1966 reprise. But sadly, Making
Spirits Bright has been deleted, though it's widely available on the second-hand
market. No matter, since Christmas
With Dino was issued in 2004 (with yet another variation popping up in 2006), expanding the former album's track count by two tippling songs. Throw in some remastering, and it's inarguably the superior purchase. A later compilation, My Kind Of Christmas (2009), uses the same approach, but with few tracks.
In any configuration, though, Dean
Martin's Christmas music is required listening for all hipster geeks - so bottoms
up! [top of page]
- Baby It's Cold Outside (1959)
The Christmas Blues (1953)
I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm (1959)
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (1959)
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