It's really fair to say that we're rolling back the years for this week's bunch of Christmas festivities, featuring the legendary Dean Martin and his 1966 long-player, The Dean Martin Christmas Album.
Now, whilst everyone's a great lover of Frank Sinatra and that side of the Rat Pack, I feel that both Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. get only a little bit of a look-in by comparison. There's just a certain something about Dean Martin compared with Sinatra that makes him stand out for me. Indeed, with any legendary crooners such as these, the music is timeless and their voices are too.
Being released in 1966 means that this is a much more traditional Christmas record and there's nothing wrong with that. For all of your Mariah Carey's, there's got to be something a lot more traditional to balance it out and there's no finer example than this. White Christmas gets us started with something slow and relaxing, perhaps something to unwind to following the arduous task of cooking a Christmas lunch for all the family. Martin makes fantastic work of the Christmas classic, as he often does, with that silky smooth vocal only making this album a standout already. Moreover, those subtle strings in the background fit perfectly. Jingle Bells speeds things up a tad, but not too much, opting for a minimalistic backing to allow Martin to do what he does best and let that wonderful vocal drive the song perfectly. The little bells in the background add to the festivities, especially given the feel-good nature of the song.
I'll Be Home For Christmas utilises some rather rhythmic strings and a nice little acoustic guitar to really get you into the festive spirit. Once again, Martin's smooth vocal captures the Christmas spirit perfectly and makes this one of the album's standout songs. Blue Christmas is yet another timeless classic, although compared to others, isn't heard all that often. It's got the same treatment as its predecessors, complete with some fantastic backing vocals that does bring out the best of this particular song.
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! is undoubtedly the Christmas song that Martin is best known for, although this particular recording does differ from the one that's most known, from 1959's A Winter Romance. Instead, this 1966 version opts for a different backing that builds throughout the song, allowing the string sections to flourish behind Martin's silky vocal, alongside the tinges of acoustic guitar that help to put this version ahead of its predecessor. A Marshmallow World is one of those Christmas songs that's been recorded by everybody and anybody, from Bing Crosby to Johnny Mathis and even Garth Brooks. Let it be said though that Martin's version is one of the best covers of this Christmas classic, using all of the song's resources perfectly, especially the choral backing vocals to give the song a lot of substance.
Silver Bells slows things down a lot which allows for Martin to exhibit crooning at its finest, with a deep and velvety vocal gracing this particular Christmas song. With the help of some great backing vocals, it's a song that works brilliantly and offers something different to the faster original. Winter Wonderland keeps up the festivities and also keeps the strings, acting as a great follow-on from Silver Bells. There's a great swagger that comes through on this song in particular, which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face, especially given how light it sounds and easy it is to listen to.
The Things We Did Last Summer follows on nicely, keeping things slowed down. This is a different version to the original, much like Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!, from that same 1959 album. It's a lovely little song from 1946 that's all about reminiscing and Martin does it justice perfectly to make this what I think is the best song on the album. Silent Night finishes us off nicely, and in-keeping with previous songs, offers something relaxing and minimalistic. There's nothing to detract from the beauty of Martin's vocal, with the strings and backing vocals only improving the overall sound on one of Christmas' best loved songs.
The Dean Martin Christmas Album is a fantastic exhibition of the abilities of one of music's all-time greats. There's no doubt that this is a truly perfect collection of traditional Christmas songs, and sometimes there's no harm in rolling back the years. This album just goes to prove that.
If you want to pick up a copy, I’ll leave an Amazon link here: https://amzn.to/2DclBmg
Or, if you’d prefer, here’s a Spotify link:
More merry musical magnificence to come next week!
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