Dean’s daughter proves Martin is ‘Forever Cool’
Best-selling album features posthumous collaborations with a new generation of admirers
The relaxed nature of Dean Martin’s voice and style gave him accessibility to idioms that included country, swing and pop. But even Dean might find a strange brew in the new “Dean Martin: Forever Cool” album, where he posthumously collaborates with smooth jazzmeister Dave Koz, American Idol finalist Paris Bennett and country star Martina McBride. Ain’t that a kick in the head? Whoa, Dean covers that signature tune with actor/Bobby Darin wannabe Kevin Spacey.
I would have picked Bobby “Blue” Bland. Or where’s the Friends of Dean Martinez?
The best-selling project was sparked in part by Dean’s daughter, Gail Martin, who lives in Chicago.
“Capitol came up with the duet idea, but they didn’t want to do them like Uncle Frank’s [Sinatra] duets,” Martin said in a recent interview. “It’s more like he is really there within the performance.”
The early 1990s Sinatra duets projects were done with a live Frank in the twilight of his career. Martin’s vocals are culled from his prime. Martin explained, “Musicans went right in the Capitol studio [Studio A, where her father recorded] in Hollywood. I was there when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy recorded. They came in, played, worked on harmonies and they played Dad.”
Big Bad Voodoo Daddy leads off the project by jumping into “Who’s Got the Action” with a fluid, swinging rhythm true to the original Don Costa arrangement. They also collaborate with Dean and countrysoul singer Shelby Lynne on “You’re Nobody ’Til Somebody Loves You.” The smooth Nelson Riddle-inspired arrangement makes for one of the strongest tracks on the record. The most underrated cut is trumpeter Chris Botti laying back in deference to Dean on “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face.”
Martin was not afraid to step out and cite Paris Bennett’s hipster “Baby-O” duet with Dean as her favorite track. “I don’t know this girl at all,” Martin said. “She can sing. I also like ‘ Kick in the Head’ with Kevin [Spacey also butchers Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”]. And one of my favorite entertainers from when I was a teenager was Charles Aznavour [who tackles “Everybody Loves Somebody” with Dean and a twilight time tempo].”
Besides country-pop star McBride , who covers the non-country “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” the record is missing the smoky country element that was close to Dino’s heart. Willie Nelson is always up for a duet with anyone, dead or alive.
“Dad thought he was the ‘Marlboro Man,’ ” Martin said. “He loved country. I remember trying to sing ‘Houston’ [written by the late Lee Hazlewood], and I couldn’t get that sound. We were having dinner between shows at the Riviera. He asked the waiter to bring him a Coke in a bottle. The waiter brought it out and Dad poured out the Coke. My father got a spoon and hit it against the bottle. He said, ‘That’s what they used in the studio.’ We went back on stage and I said to my conductor, ‘I finally got it.’ And that’s what our percussionist used, a spoon against a Coke bottle.”
In a special edition “The Making of Forever Cool” DVD package with home movies, Lynne says, “I’m not gonna lie — I’d love to be Dean Martin.” And Spacey remarks that “introducing Dean to a young generation is the task of any estate or family.” Just like Elvis Presley’s Graceland, the Martin family is on top of this effort. Last year they hooked up with EMI to license the Dean Martin name and image. “Forever Cool” is a result of that effort.
“Even this record is multi-generational,” Martin said. “And Dad had a multi-generational fan base. We’ve told EMI what we remember, like the Lacoste [French polo] shirts. Tuxedos. It’s smart to come up with that kind of stuff. He was brought back in ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ and when they advertised the Dean Martin roasts on television. You hear his voice on [the soundtracks] of ‘Moonstruck’ and ‘The ‘Sopranos.’ He is and was cool. By the time he was in his 40s and 50s he knew what he did and he knew he did it well. And he picked the right stuff. Like my husband says, it is a good thing everybody liked him.”
Martin, 62, worked a lot with her father. During the early 1970s she opened for Dean at the Sands and Riviera hotels in Las Vegas, covering show tunes and Ella Fitzgerald. She made several guest appearances on “The Dean Martin Show” as well as “The Hollywood Palace” and “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“He was a star from when I was very young and it never changed,” Martin recalled. “He used to say he was the only one in the house who was a straight man. And there wasn’t crazy paparazzi like there is now. Our family was never hounded.”
Martin divides her time between Chicago and Palm Springs, Calif. One of her best Chitown friends is Dutchie Caray, the widow of Hall of Fame announcer Harry Caray. “She cracks me up and she has a home in Palm Springs, too,” Martin said. Somewhere there must be a track of Dean Martin singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
“He was a star from when I was very young and it never changed,” says Gail Martin about her famous father Dean Martin.
“Forever Cool” is an album of duets featuring some of Dean Martin’s biggest hits paired with contemporary artists.