If Dean Martin had been alive to celebrate his 89th birthday this year, he might have dropped his Titleist on the green in the hazy morning, then slipped into the dimmest booth of some Hollywood time-capsule steakhouse for dinner. He might have watched TV all day, hour after hour of contemptible programming crawling by without a single reference to the man born Dino Crocetti.
One thing this seemingly garrulous yet unreachable star would not have done, though, was listen to the twelve CDs compiling his Capitol Records boom of the 1950s and early '60s. Plenty of the material on the albums can be dismissed, despite the charming Brylcreem ooze of Martin's modest, imperturbable baritone. For every triumph of irresistible silliness that is, "That's Amore" (included not on Cha Cha De Amor or Dino: Italian Love Songs but on Dean Martin Sings) these reissues offer two shaggy-dog shrug-alongs. Blame the troughs in listenability on the trend (pioneered for the same label by Martin's pal Frank Sinatra) of bundling songs by theme rather than by quality.
Here, then, is a guide to the highlights of three solid Martin concept records and five he should have made.
Album: This Time I'm Swingin'!
Concept: Martin borrows Sinatra's hat and his best arranger, Nelson Riddle.
Highs: A woozy "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face"; a devilish "Heaven Can Wait"
Low: Bonus track "Choo'n Gum"
Album: Swingin' Down Yonder
Concept: Look at the cover.
High: All involved must have been very high. Still, only Martin could have sold "When It's Sleepy Time Down South."
Lows: Actually, none.
Album: Hey, Brother, Pour the Wine
Concept: Capitol leftovers capitalizing the resurgent Martin, who pushed the Beatles out of the No. 1 spot on the singles chart in 1964 (with his "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime") for Sinatra's new label, Reprise.
High: The absurd title track
Low: The more absurd "Peddler Man (Ten I Loved)"
Album: Sings Favorite Italian Recipes
Concept: While on Capitol, Martin invested in a chain of Italian restaurants called "Dino's." Really.
Highs: "Gnocchi to My Heart," "Risotto Voce"
Low: "Meatball Grinder"
Album: When I Go a-Fishin'
Concept: The riverboat gambler of Down Yonder hits the sandbar.
Highs "My Tackle, Your Box"
Low: "That's My Line"
Album: Dean Martin's Craps!
Concept: The man whose death Las Vegas observed by dimming its lights rolls straight sevens with a tribute to his favorite town.
High: "Fuzzy Dice"
Low: "Poker? I Hardly Know Her"
Album: Dean Martin's Block Party
Concept: Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. shared many stages over the years, but before the wham of Sam came the shocks of Foxx. Dino works blue with black old-schoolers Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, etc.
High: Martin's musical version of the Foxx routine "Mother Frockers and Cork Suckers"
Low: The all-cast Beatles medley "The Slappy White Album"
Album: Laundry Day
Concept: Inspired by Sinatra's devastating "Guess I'll Hang Out My Tears Out to Dry," Martin recorded this bittersweet, fabric-soft set.
Highs: "Drip Dry," "Love on the Line"
Low: "Dye, Jerry, Dye" Scott Wilson
Heavy Metal Med Tent
Rock Medicine has been tending to rock & roll's side effects for 31 years. The all-volunteer outfit, an arm of the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco, initially formed to minister to acid casualties at Dead shows, and today includes several hundred Bay Area volunteers, including ophthalmologists, RNs, pediatric surgeons, EMTs and psychotherapists. Its mission statement promises health care that is "free.... comprehensive, unfragmented, non-judgmental, demystified and humane."
The services Rock Medicine offers are basically some kind of Scandinavian fantasy come to life. At the Bay Area Ozzfest date (which took place at the Shoreline Amphitheatre on Saturday, July 1), in the time it took Ozzy to ramble and kick through his Second Stage set, a person could conceivably sustain a serious mosh-wound, get sutured up for free (typically a $1,000 procedure at hospitals) and be back in the pit before the Prince's last geriatric bellow died on the warm summer air.
But gruesome thousand-dollar procedures and PCP freak-outs are the exception, even at Ozzfest. The day's maladies were mostly of the dehydration, scraped-knee and sunburn variety, with a few bloody noses thrown in for old time's sake. To wit: an account of one hour in a heavy metal "hospital."
6:01 p.m. Patient: Older male staff member. Complaint: Thumb smashed by fans pushing metal fence. Diagnosis: Fracture. Treatment: Ace bandage, cardboard splint.
6:10 p.m. Patient: Middle-aged drunk guy. Complaint: Wants sunscreen. Treatment: Given sunscreen.
6:14 p.m. Patient: Fratboy. Complaint: Thinks he has a fever. Treatment: Taken into back room for check-up.
6:15 p.m. Patient: Crying older woman in wheelchair previously treated for sprained ankle. Complaint: Needs to pee. Treatment: Granted access to a bathroom.
6:19 p.m. Patient: Rock Medicine volunteers discuss state of contemporary jam bands. Complaint: Phish is missed; Widespread Panic is okay. Diagnosis: Pearl Jam is the superior modern jam band.
6:22 p.m. Patient: Young female staff member. Complaint: Burned arm on stove. Treatment: Burn Jel, bandage.
6:25 p.m. Patient: Young woman in wheelchair. Complaint: Asthma acting up. Treatment: Inhaler provided.
6:30 p.m. Patient: Older male. Complaint: Sinus pain; "sore nerves" in eyes. Treatment: Eye drops, which man refuses to administer himself. Several Rock Med volunteers spend next half hour struggling with man in bathroom.
6:37 p.m. Patient: B-Sides writer. Complaint: Dr. Mike notices I contracted sunburn while watching the DragonForce set earlier in the day. Treatment: Aloe vera gel. Diagnosis: DragonForce is awesome.
6:40 p.m. Patient: All Rock Medicine walkie-talkies crackle with colleagues' ominous pleas for "help in the pit." Med team dispatched.
6:43 p.m. Patient: Fratboy. Complaint: "Drinking in the sun all day" has led to a headache. Treatment: Advil, Gatorade.
6:54 p.m. Patient: Teenaged boy rushed in on gurney, accompanied by very concerned older woman. Diagnosis: "Crowd injury." Treatment: Whisked into back room, no further info granted.
6:57 p.m. Patient: Shirtless metal dude accompanied by crying girlfriend. Complaint: Gnarly head laceration (large chunk of flesh gouged out of face). Treatment: Bandaged and encouraged to visit an ER for sutures ASAP.
11 a.m. Saturday, July 15. UMB Bank Pavilion, 14141 Riverport Drive, Maryland Heights. $39.50 to $75. 314-421-4400.
We weren't surprised to hear that DJ Shadow was going crunk. He is from the Bay Area, which is home to the booming Hyphy sound, but his atmospheric brand of turntablism never crossed paths with the rappers in his backyard until now. "3 Freaks," the first single from Shadow's upcoming album, The Outsider, features rappers Keak Da Sneak and Turf Talk. (You might recognize Turf from his post-trial argument on TV's Judge Joe Brown. He lost.) The album isn't due out until September 12, but you can see for yourself at Mp3fusion.net (search: DJ Shadow) how Shadow is reinventing the San Francisco Bay sound. While you're there, help yourself to the remix of the track and a few other rarities. Andy Vihstadt