I’ll be honest: I never got Frank Sinatra. I just don’t understand his appeal. He was never much of a singer, the only time he gave an impressive film performance was the time he had Montgomery Clift as an unpaid acting teacher, and overall he just comes across as a power-mad jerkoff.
For the essence of Rat Pack Italian-style cool, Dean Martin is your go-to guy. While Sinatra was running around bossing everybody this way and that, Dino was back there with a drink in his hand and playing it just too cool for school. And when it comes to singing, man oh man, does pally have Sinatra beat six ways to Sunday.
Yeah, I know Dino isn’t the first guy to come to mind when thinking of this song, and admittedly his isn’t the best version, but that’s what I like. It’s a more laidback interpretation and, besides, any song that features Dean Martin singing in Italian ain’t bad. I especially like the part where the song seems to stop in its tracks, Dino sing/speaks in Italian and waits for the music to start up again.
9. Let It Snow
Dean Martin comes that bygone era when singers didn’t just put out a Christmas album, they put out two or three. It’s not really Christmas without listening to this definitive version of the Christmas classic about letting it snow. I have no doubt that Dean Martin did more than his fair share of long goodbye-ing.
8. Standing on a Corner
A fun song (that gets made even funner by my wife when she replaces “all the girls go by” with “Dick Van Dyke go by”) that really gets juiced by the sexy, smoky horns in the production. It’s easy to picture Dino standing on a corner watching girls go by.
7. Everybody Loves Somebody
The first of Dino’s signature songs on the list. Not quite as good as the other one-you know what I’m talking about-but still good. One of those last-gasp 1960s crooning songs that actually seems better today than some of its hipper contemporaries.
6. Memories Are Made of This
I love the structure of this song. Those Lettermen-type backup singers and their repetitive vocal backbeat as Dino takes the song to a place where it really shouldn’t be able to get. This should never have worked, never. And in the hands of a less capable singer, I think it would be at least irritating if not laughable. But Dino pulls it off!
This is a hypnotic little number that instantly transports you to some cocktail club in South America while a hundred little transactions are taking place to which you will remain ignorant but that will no doubt affect you. It’s got some great strings when Dino’s not singing and when he is it’s fabulous.
4. Just in Time
What is about Dean Martin’s voice that can turn the lamest lyrics into the essence of cool? There is absolutely nothing memorable about this song except for the way Dino turns a phrase. Anybody who doubts that Dean Martin wasn’t a great singer need only listen to this song.
3. That’s Amore
I used this song to do my Martin/Lewis imitation. You see, what you do is sing the when the moon parts in Dino’s buttery smooth voice, but when you get to the that’s amore part you turn into Jerry Lewis as the nutty professor (or Professor Frink for those of you who think Eddie Murphy when you think nutty professor.) This is Dino’s signature song, but it’s not quite my choice for number.
2. Mambo Italiano
Long before it was used to sell pizzas, Dino was selling the whole idea of Italy with this terrific-sounding song. Wouldn’t it be great if every singer seemed to be having as much fun when singing as Dino does on this? I don’t get Michael Bolton, either: The guy seems determined to make us think that singing is the hardest thing in the world. Maybe it is for him; I know it’s hard to listen to him. Dino makes it look easy when it’s not. Bolton make it look impossible when it’s not.
1. Ain’t That a Kick in the Head
You just can’t listen to this song without feeling good about something. This guy singing has it all-or at least believes he does. Dino sings it with abandon and it just makes you want to take another look at your life and reconstitute your priorities. Those horns, man, they are crazy! This guy is convinced he is the luckiest guy on earth simply because she hugs him back. Ain’t that great! This is a great song, but Dean Martin’s delivery of “be-you-ta-ful!” sells it.