Could there be a more aptly named book about Dean Martin?

“DEAN MARTIN cool then, cool now” is a fun photo essay of how cool Dean Martin’s life was during the best of times. This is a combo photo album and dual CD musical tribute … let’s hit on the book first.

The Book…

It’s important to note that “cool then, cool now” is not a biography or expose; there are several books that fit that bill (try Shawn Levy’s Rat Pack Confidential), but this Dean Martin Family Trust effort is essentially a photo album. With the exception of a forward from Kevin Spacey and brief intros from at the beginning of each major section, the only words in the book are captions under the photos. That said, the writing that does appear is nicely done — just enough to lend some context, humor and poignancy to the great pictures.

Speaking of the pics, the quality of the photography and the book overall is excellent. The photos are beautiful — looking and feeling like actual photographs — you try really hard not to touch them when turning the pages! The book is laid out in life-sections following a one page introduction from Kevin Spacey.

Kevin Spacey’s forward is a well written tribute to Dean, the actor, performer and of course the king of cool. Spacey does a nice job of showing how Dean — a generation away — made such a difference in Kevin’s approach to acting and performing. It’s a surprisingly personal and sentimental slice of Spacey and a great leadoff for the book.

The Entertainer…

The first section is briefly introduced by Robbie Williams, who also sings a remastered  Please Don’t Talk About Me duet with Dean on the CD. This section is a mix of studio shots of a completely “at ease” Martin while he’s recording the classic songs we all remember, along with some great stage shots of Dean with the Rat Pack regulars.

The stage shots are great but very familiar. My favorite material in this section are the studio shots. For some reason Dean’s coolness resonates best with me when I see him genuinely relaxed and delivering “the smooth” during these recording sessions.

The Family Man…

Gail Martin Downey leads us into the typical family photo section with a loving daughter’s perspective on growing up with “the charming guy everybody watched on Thursday nights”. The photos cover candid and composed family shots with all the kids and wives.

As I mentioned before, this is not a comprehensive collection — none of the sad moments that befell Dean late in life and that’s just fine. This book is all about the cool happy times and this section is just a big slice of the good life at the Martin family house.

The Man About Town…

With a funny intro by Shirley MacLaine this section of the book delivers exactly what you expect — Dean out on the town with scores of stars from stage, screen and politics. Great shots of Dean carousing with the biggest stars … and all the while you know he’d rather get home early so he could make his tee time in the morning! Which leads us to…

The Sportsman…

Given Dean’s passion for golf this section is appropriately intro’d with a brief anecdote from Arnold Palmer. Only 5 pages of golf and a couple of Dodger’s photos, this is the shortest section of the 60 page book.

The Movie Star…

A fun photo review of Martin’s prime movie appearances from 1953 to 1970 with a poignant introduction from Jerry Lewis. These are great pics from a score of movies with my favorite being the classic photo of Dean, Frank, Sam and Peter around a pool table in “Oceans 11” — gorgeous period shot … everybody in their prime.

Dual CD Remix Album…

The back cover contains a dual CD remaster of 26 classic Martin favorites, plus synthetic duets with Kevin Spacey (Ain’t That A Kick In The Head) and Robbie Williams (Please Don’t Talk About Me).

The 26 classic Dean Martin songs are nicely remastered but not really meaningfully different from their counterpart versions available on any number of Martin Albums. It’s a nice compilation but not worth rehashing here. If you’re looking for something new or rare, you won’t find it here.

With regard to the duets… sigh. OK, I have a problem with synthetic duets in general (expect to see a soapbox post on this topic soon … “duets with the dead” really bug me for some reason), but my weird moral issues aside both the Spacey and Williams duets are well produced, sound great and come off natural. They are both enjoyable tracks — not worth buying this book/album to get them, but nice additions if you’ve already plopped your money down. Which brings me to…

The Conclusion…

Though this is a combo photo album and dual CD compilation, “DEAN MARTIN cool then, cool now” is worth picking up only if you’re into the photo essay side of the equation. The music is a nice addition but the photo collection is where the value lies.

And at $40 that value probably will only hit home with avowed Dean Martin hyper-fans or collectors (where I reside to be sure). Hey, when you gotta have it, you gotta have it. If that’s you, then go get it!

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  • kentsmokerguy

    Hey pallie, likes what a wonderfully written Dino-reflection on this stunnin’ly stellar new piece of Dino-treasure…simply a must for all the truly Dino-devoted. Never was, never will be anyone as cool as the King of Cool…oh, to return to the days when Dino walked the earth. Know that your Dino-prose will be shared this very day at ilovedinomartin. Cool to meet ‘nother “avowed Dean Martin hyper-fan.”

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for stoping by for a visit! Dean was the very best man — nobody cooler … nobody smoother. Hey, and thanks for the repost on … I’ll wander over for a look!

  • kentsmokerguy

    Hey pallie, thanks so much sir…just a note it is at…the site you mention is ‘nother site devoted to our Dino.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry about the misdirection … thanks for setting me straight!