I missed a chance…

…to glad-hand with Deana Martin at Robert Davi’s awesome Vegas debut last month.

I had no idea she was in the audience until RD introduced her and her husband John Griffeth about halfway through the gig.

I love Dean Martin, and if you’ve wandered by Vocalstandards before, you know I’ve been looking forward to catching up with Deana to let her know how important her dad was to me and mine.

I always figured it would entail taking in one of her shows (something I’m definitely planning for 2012) but with Deana Martin standing six feet away during the RD “after-show”, I figured I’d catch her for a quick “great to meet you … your dad hung the moon” — something she never hears I’m sure — but alas, the best laid plans.

Some guy from Iceland “button-holed” Deana and John and was pressing them about doing a tour date in Reykjavik … not wanting to interfere with real business I refrained from sticking my head in and interrupting. The next thing I know, I’m shaking Robert Davi’s hand and chatting for a bit … when I looked up, Deana and John were gone.

Hey, no worries. I was there that night to see RD and I will use the missed opportunity to prioritize getting a Deana tour date on my schedule. She can run… 😉

In the mean time…

Since well before my Dean and Deana Holiday article last December, I’ve been planning an excursion across Deana’s two “Dean Martin” tribute albums — Memories Are Made of This and Volare. The near-encounter with Deana in Vegas was fortuitous from the standpoint that it set the inspirational hook for me to tuck in and critically listen to Deana’s LPs. It was a blast … or more aptly a “kick in the head”!

Deana does a great job of honoring the material that made her dad a mega-star. In a classy, non-exploitative manner, Deana takes the songs on in her own right … rendering them in HER style — a warmer, but still very cool style … if that makes any sense —  and in the offing extends the singular legacy Dean Martin forged over his long and amazing career.

Michael Feinstein & Deana Martin

Deana’s vocal style is well suited to the song selections on her “tribute to dad” LPs. She brings a crisp, bell ringing clarity and vocal control that allows her to beautifully deliver these 30 songs … sort of like Eydie Gormé with a little less of Eydie’s power and freakish range … but warmed and rounded off by the addition of an obvious joyful expression.

You can hear the joy Deana gets from singing these songs. It comes through so plainly. Even without seeing her perform the numbers you can “see” the smile on her face … sense the joy she derives from exercising this — her dad’s best material.

Similar to how Michael Feinstein’s singing expresses his clear respect and love for the American Songbook … but with Deana there’s the added sense of a daughter’s adoration for her father that get’s me all misty if I think about it too much. Good stuff.

 It’s hard to pick favorites…

…off these two albums, but I guess it’s got to be done! I’m slightly more partial to the Memories Are Made of This LP … it seems more oriented to the sweet spot of Dean’s catalog with classic numbers like “Everybody Loves Somebody”, “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head” (“like my daddy once said”… too cool!), “That’s Amore” and “On An Evening In Roma”.

Some of my absolute favorite songs get excellent “Deana treatment” here too … a sassy cool and very nicely arranged “Sway”, classically arranged versions of “Memories Are Made Of This” and “You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You” … and Rose Clooney tinted version of my mom’s favorite — “Mambo Italiano”.

The gem from Memories though is not a classic Dean song … it has to be the beautiful duet version of Sammy Cahn’s “Time After Time” that Deana sings with Dean’s partner of many years — Jerry Lewis. Jerry sounds really great and he compliments Deana’s vocals well but it’s the history and emotion of the Martin/Lewis union — good and bad — that renders something special here. A cross generation closure of sorts.

Volare is a wonderful LP…

…and it does have it’s share of “center-cut” Dean Martin numbers. In fact the album opens with a superb jazzy rendition of “Please Don’t Talk About Me” with a wicked cool lyric trailer from the Rodgers and Hart classic “I Wish I Were in Love Again” (“the faint aroma of performing seals” … oh my), “Arrivederci Roma” and of course the title track — a beautifully arranged “Volare” that delivers in full measure the sense of tribute to Dean.

Volare also trips across numbers made popular by Nat Cole, Sammy Davis Jr, Frank, Bobby Darin and other carve outs of the American Songbook … “L.O.V.E.”, “Smile”, “That Old Black Magic”, “Mack The Knife” and even “Love Me Tender”. The arrangements mix between classic stylings and jazzier editions … but all are pleasing and fun.

Speaking of fun…

Though I’m a well documented synthetic duet hater, the exception that proves the rule is “parent/child” exploits of the Nat/Natalie Cole ilk. I think it would be fun to hear Deana and Dean do a number or two on a future release … besides I need some really well produced cool Dean/Deana stuff to overcome the damage Joss Stone did to “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me”.

Kevin Spacey and Robbie Williams done good by Dean and have helped the healing, but I’ll need much more help to recover from Joss’s “handiwork”. So come on Deana … jump into the studio with your dad and help me out here!

Track Lists from Memories Are Made Of This and Volare

(VS_Guy ratings: “+++” pluses are good; “~” for meh to middling;  “- – -” minuses are not good)

Memories Are Made of This – Deana Marin (2006 Big Fish Records)

1 Everybody Loves Somebody 3:09 +++ Dean’s signature in Deana’s handwriting
2 Ain’t That a Kick in the Head 2:34 +++
3 Birth of the Blues 4:52 +++ A Sammy Davis staple wonderfully rendered
4 The Trolley Song 2:44 +++ Great job with Judy G’s Meet Me In St. Louis number
5 Mambo Italiano 2:35 ++++ My mom and Rose Clooney are smiling…
6 Sway 3:10 ++++ I’m smiling!
7 For Your Love 3:09 ++
8 On an Evening in Roma 2:45 ++++ Deana can bring the Italian damn near as good as her dad
9 What If I Loved You 2:18 ++
10 Bummin’ Around 2:27 +++ Rap Pack summit goodness
11 That’s Amore 3:10 +++
12 The Lady Is a Tramp 2:56 ++++ Traditional arrangement … Deana nails the vocals
13 Memories Are Made of This 2:27 +++ Ah… one of my favorite Dean songs
14 You’re Nobody ‘Til Somebody Loves You 2:25 +++ Another Dean signature … cool sax
15 Time After Time (with Jerry Lewis) 2:16 ++++ beautiful and poignant

Volare – Deana Martin (2009 Big Fish records)

1. Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone 3:31 ++++ More signature Dean with some lyric mashing fun
2. L.O.V.E. 3:02 +++ Beautifully arranged fun with a Nat Cole signature number
3. Mack The Knife 3:16 ++++ Swinging goodness… Bobby’s smiling
4. Volare 4:07 +++ Beautiful arranged … swing’n
5. Return To Me 3:36 ++
6. A Kiss To Build A Dream On 3:34 +++
7. What A Difference A Day Makes 3:33 +++ Smooth jazz charts and sweet vocals
8. I’ve Got You Under My Skin 3:06 + More smooth jazz charts … nice arrangements but the song loses some of it soul
9. Arrivederci Roma 3:28 ++ Probably my fav Dean Italian love song; Deana can sing Italian to me any time!
10. Just The Way You Are 4:10 +++
11. Love Me Tender 2:50 ++
12. I Will 3:07 +++ Back in classic Dean realm
13. Non Dimenticar 2:57 +++ classic Nat and Dean fare…
14. That Old Black Magic 3:01 +++ Louis Prima and Sammy are smiling!
15. Smile 4:20 ++++ cool and elegant blend over with “When You’re Smiling”