Tuesday, December 09, 2014

My Musical Advent Calendar

"Baby It's Cold Outside" /
Dean Martin

Instead of a glitter-spangled scene with doors for every day of December, how about a daily treat from my iTunes holiday playlist?

So what are the holidays without some vintage cheese? 

I'm talking Rat Pack cheese here, of the most oleaginous kind, courtesy of Mr. Dino Paul Crocetti, a.k.a The King Of Cool, Dean Martin.  I used to love watching his 1960s variety show, where, cigarette always in hand, he boozed around with a bevy of creamy showgirls for the American viewing public. (Honestly, if you've never seen those shows, dig up an episode or two -- they were a fascinating weekly ritual of show biz tropes.)  With his crinkly blue eyes and corkscrew black forelock, he eventually broke out of the 1950s pack of male Italian crooners, yet he was always overshadowed by his movie partner Jerry Lewis, then by his Ocean's 11 pal Frank Sinatra. Dean never quite got enough credit for the burnished beauty of his crooning tenor, not to mention his considerable acting chops.

Dean recorded two full Christmas albums, but for sheer pop perfection, this track from his 1959 A Winter Romance LP will forever be my favorite.

Frank Loesser wrote this standard in 1944; it appeared in the 1949 MGM film Neptune's Daughter, an Esther Williams movie. Written as a duet, it's a teasing conversation between an innocent and a sly seducer. (In the movie it's sung twice -- once with Ricardo Montalban seducing Esther Williams, and then a more comic version with Betty Garrett seducing a rube played by Red Skelton.)  But Deano wasn't content to sing it with just one woman -- no, he's got a whole female chorus on that other part, as he exerts his laid-back charm to convince them to stay over in his bachelor pad.

But methinks the ladies doth protest too much.  As Dean rebuts their every argument, his supple voice practically caresses them. "I'll hold your hands -- they're cold as ice", "Put some records on while I pour," "I'll take your hat, your hair looks swell" -- now who resist blandishments like that?

And it really is getting awfully cold outside . . .

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