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Dean MartinDean 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.

Making 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....

Dean MartinA Winter Romance has been reissued on CD twice (more counting imported versions). The first 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.

The 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 fairly dull affair with little to recommend it beyond Dino's customary croon. While most of its contents are found on Making Spirits Bright and Christmas With Dino, after a long wait it was reissued verbatim in 2013 as an MP3 download and in 2017 on compact disc.

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Dean MartinWhich 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 on A 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. 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]

Albums Albums

SongsSongs

  • 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)

Further ListeningFurther Listening

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