Molten Wax

Martin's lackadaisical TV shows and concerts, where he'd rarely finish a song without clowning, gave rise to the false notion that he didn't put any more into his music than he did a Cannonball Run cameo. But check out his 1968 reading of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix." On the Jimmy Webb-penned number, Martin's vibrato could give Tiny Tim a run through the tulips. And Martin holds the last note for an impressive 11 seconds without reaching for a drink.

The only time Hurtin' Country Songs gets saddle sore is when the subject matter conflicts with that "king of cool" image. Who but a rummy like Foster Brooks could believe that Dean ever worked the Ford Motor assembly line in "Detroit City" -- the way he says "Deee-troit" makes it sound like a place he wouldn't even fly over.

Dot Allison: Dusty Springfield on acid.
Dot Allison: Dusty Springfield on acid.
Spaghetti Western: Dino says, "How-dee pal-ee."
Spaghetti Western: Dino says, "How-dee pal-ee."

While he would eventually knock the Beatles' "A Hard Day's Night" out of the No. 1 slot and score nearly a dozen more Top 40 hits, he'd influence no more up-and-coming singers the way he'd influenced Elvis. Nobody sings like Dean Martin anymore, unless you count Cher's Quickdraw McGraw warble as the last bastardization of the Bing Crosby school of croon. If living the lush life has left you short of liquid assets, spring for the Late at Night CD where Dean's baritone is in top form and the arrangements don't sound as if an eight-track player should be clicking between selections. Either way, his sometime is now. -- Serene Dominic

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