Dean Martin – This Time I’m Swingin’! – Capitol (1960)/ Mobile Fidelity UD SACD 2135 stereo and mono, 34:10 ****:
(Dean Martin – vocals; featuring arrangements and orchestra conducted by Nelson Riddle)
Although his career was iconic, Dean Martin will not be remembered as an iconic singer. In the 1940s the crooner teamed with comedian Jerry Lewis to form the greatest entertainment duo of all time. At their zenith, Martin & Lewis was the biggest act in show business, appearing in countless movies, nightclubs and television shows. After they split, Martin became a film star and hosted a successful television show. But, Martin was in his element as a singer. His low-key, self-effacing technique followed in the footsteps of singers like Bing Crosby and Perry Como. However, he had something unique, coolness. His charisma was significant and followed him in every endeavor. He eschewed the concentrated interpretation of Sinatra and Tony Bennett to create a sophisticated, amenable vibe.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs has re-mastered the vintage Martin album, This Time I’m Swingin’. Recorded in three 1960 sessions, these are precise songs with a distinctive feel. The opening track, “I Can’t Believe You’re In Love With Me’ contains the essence of Martin’s relaxed style and Riddle’s muscular arrangements. Strings, horn charts and a well-timed tenor saxophone produce a full sound. Taking on “True Love” (performed by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly in High Society), Martin adopts a medium swing groove to separate from the “other” crooner’s signature take. Martin’s future TV theme (You’re Nobody “Till Somebody Loves You”) has a finger-snapping elegance with impressive string and horn/reed interludes. Martin (not unlike Crosby) does not possess a vocal prominence like Sinatra and uses his restrained delivery to create his own approach. The orchestra gets to stretch with punctuated flourishes. The music is accessible and mellow.
As with many singers in this era, Broadway songs are commonplace. “On The Street Where You Live” (My Fair Lady) is less a ballad, but more swaying cool. Martin’s vocal licks are subtle and never attempt to outshine the instrumentals. Occasionally there is a slower tempo (“I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face”, also from My Fair Lady) but any overt sentimentalism is avoided. The album is content with its formulaic method. This is unabashed pop music. Martin is effective on covers like “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone” and “Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You)”. Perhaps the greatest alchemy of Dean Martin and Nelson Riddle is the saucy “Just In Time”. Martin unleashes some of his crooning licks against the big band structures. And there is a terrific bonus track (recorded in mono, all of the other cuts are in stereo). “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” might be the quintessential Dean Martin performance. His vocal phrasing and hipness made this a hit. It was the musical highlight of the 1960 Rat Pack film, Oceans 11.
The re-mastering of This Time I’m Swinging to SACD is flawless. The stereo separation is excellent and captures the pristine tonality of the instruments. Right channel piano is distinct in the mix. Martin’s soft voice is prevalent and not overpowered by the orchestra. While it does not equal the artistry of Riddle’s collaborations with Frank Sinatra or Linda Ronstadt, the production is superior and reflects the high level studio aesthetics at Capitol Records in its heyday.
TrackList: I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me; True Love; You’re Nobody ‘Till Somebody Loves You; On The Street Where You Live; Imagination; (It Will Have To Do) Until The Real Thing Comes Along; Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone; I’ve Grown Accustomed To Her Face; Someday (You’ll Want Me To Want You); Mean To Me; Heaven Can Wait; Just In Time; Ain’t That A Kick In The Head