Coming your way from Capital Records, legendary crooner Dean Martin lives again in Forever Cool, an album of mostly familiar songs. But this time around the king of cool is matched up with some of today’s stars, proving once again that the technology exists to magically create unlikely duets.
This isn’t my first time at the digital dance. In the past I’ve reviewed several albums that have been produced by merging recordings of deceased legends with performances by modern stars. But as I said in those earlier reviews, my job is to review the music itself, not the process, so I’ll leave judgments about that to others.
I was eager to review this album because I’ve always been a fan of Dino, and have even written about him before, in The Quintessential Italian Crooner. But when I picked up the album and looked over the list of tunes, my first instinct was to notice what was missing.
Where are “In The Misty Moonlight,” “Memories Are Made Of This,” and “In The Chapel By The Moonlight,” all chart-toppers for Dino? And only one Italian love song? What about “Innamorata,” “Return To Me (Ritorna-Me),” or “On An Evening In Roma”?
Of course, you can’t include every hit on an album and many of Dean’s others have been included, but there were also some songs that made me scratch my head. I’m guessing they were chosen for the guest stars — either for their benefit or at their request.
Which brings us to the duets. While Dino is presented in full, glorious voice (mostly – but more later about that) and his modern partners are talented artists too (again, mostly) the two things do not necessarily result in a successful blend. And the inclusion of some verbal interplay doesn’t really help because you are just reminded that it’s not for real.
However, there are some successes here. Not surprisingly, the best match-ups are those where Dino’s baritone is accompanied by instrumentalists, as with the smooth sax of Dave Koz on “Just In Time,” or the modern swing music group Big Bad Voodoo Daddy on “Who’s Got The Action.” Also enjoyable was jazz trumpeter Chris Botti’s contribution on “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Smile.”
Some of the vocal duets are less successful. Modern singers Paris Bennett and Joss Stone seem adrift in their performances, especially Stone, who has plenty of fans for her unusual style but I doubt that they’ll find much to like here. And although Dino sounds fine on one of his lesser-known tunes, “Baby-O,” Bennett’s singing is uninspiring.
Sometimes the vocal duets work out OK but still don’t satisfy. Country star Martina McBride does a good job on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but I thought Dean’s voice sounded too soft and almost strained. I suppose the engineers were trying for subtlety, or maybe they wanted to emphasize Martina’s contribution, but it lessened the impact of what could have been one of the album’s better tracks.
Other vocal duets were — interesting. Kevin Spacey isn’t a bad singer – for an actor – but is out of his depth teaming up with Dino on “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head,” and “King Of The Road.” And why is the latter tune even on this album? I know that Dean sold a few records with his version of Roger Miller’s masterpiece, but if they wanted to show his Pop/Country side, why not “Houston,” a song that was one of his best?
A mixed verdict on this album. Dino’s celebrated voice still shines through on a number of tracks and some of the guest stars provide added value, but I was left thinking that the album falls short of celebrating Dino’s legacy.