From the vantage point of this side of the pond, Scottish outfit One Dove's early-'90s brief arc, yielding but one album (1993's Morning Dove White), may have seemed a mere blip emanating from the UK rave/house scene of the time. Same old story, y'know: DJs and diva form band, rave 'til dawn (the record title itself was a cheeky reference to a popular strain of Ecstacy), break up amid the hangover of record-company wrangling, chanteuse subsequently gets laid up indefinitely because of car accident and disappears from public radar, etc.
Yet those of us who still cling to that lone album, and, in particular, to Dot Allison's breathy Dusty Springfield-on-acid warbling -- here was a singer who could coo seductively from high atop a misty glacier one minute, then belt out a dance-floor-filling cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene" the next -- never forgot. Making, of course, Allison's solo debut as welcome as its title is apropos.
Many of the One Dove signatures, such as sparsely neoclassical piano motifs, pulsing rhythms not quite housey but clearly bursting with remix potential and lush stacks of multitracked Ms. A, are intact on Afterglow, suggesting that Allison was not a microphone marionette but a full-fledged musical partner. The new album, then, showcases Allison's personality while also displaying the fruits of a number of songwriting and/or sampling hookups.
The waltzing ballad "In Winter Still" (co-written by Allison and producer Magnus Fiennes) moves with an unselfconscious grace, the Dusty Springfield comparison again an unavoidable one, while the shimmering vibe of "Message Personnel," with its swirly keys and massed choir vocal arrangement, is equal parts classic '60s psych and contemporary Ibiza chill-out. The surreal kaleidoscopic "Morning Sun" finds a sitar melting like a Dali clock face across the grand piano's lid even as Allison's distant echo beckons from down a hallway; the tune features a recurring sample from indie-pop upstarts Flowchart and was penned jointly by Allison and Death in Vegas auteur Richard Fearless (who, it's worth noting, previously tagged Allison for vocal honors on the latest DIV album). And the astounding "I Wanna Feel the Chill" is a study in disheveled elegance, as much for its spooky opening jazz guitar sample (lifted from a Tim Buckley record, no less) as for its closing Bacharachesque piano coda -- the ethereal Allison slips away somewhere between these bookends like a midsummer night's memory.
Hold that next-to-last thought: One song, the Saint Etienne-with-strings tear-jerker "Did I Imagine You?", boasts lyrics written by none other than Burt B's old chum Hal David! Allison, in addition to this and the other mentioned collaborations, is smart enough to share the weight, bringing in assorted guests like ace pedal-steel player B.J. Cole, Happy Mondays bassist Mani, and My Bloody Valentine guitarist Kevin Shields. The material itself further suggests a wealth of ripe remix possibilities for the DJ world. ("Message Personnel" actually appears here twice, one version being an Arab Strap remix; somebody call up diva-friendly remixers Paul Oakenfold or Matt Darey and the match-ups should prove heavenly.) But what ultimately comes across is a full-bodied, assertive and mature solo effort from an estimable "new" -- to these shores, at least -- female talent. -- Fred Mills
Hurtin' Country Songs
Late at Night With Dean Martin
Anyone buying a Dean Martin CD in 1999 has more than a passing interest in pop culture history. So why is it that neither of these two compilations, which liberally mix '50s-era Capitol recordings and '60s-era Reprise recordings, includes any original release dates or recording information?
It's as if the minutia of pinning a song to a year or a vinyl album might somehow blow Capitol's whole "King of Cool" campaign out of the cognac sifter. Myself, I like knowing that the newest tracks on Late at Night are from 1964's Dream Along With Dean album while the oldest track ("I'm Yours") stretches back to his very first album in 1952, Dean Martin Sings. That long-player collected songs from Martin and Jerry Lewis' seventh flick, The Stooge, but soon Dean's albums would be stand-alone affairs with no jokey Jerry songs like "Who's Your Little Who Zis" to cut the mood.
After the acrimonious Martin-and-Lewis split in 1956, Jerry wasted no time in trouncing Dean's post-breakup chart performances by scoring a Top 10 hit with "Rock-a-Bye-Your-Baby With a Dixie Melody" and a Top 3 album, Jerry Lewis Just Sings. Top 3! Dean wouldn't even have a Top 40 album until Everybody Loves Somebody in 1964. Maybe if he'd issued an album called Dean Martin Just Mugs.
But no, Dean remained true to himself, whether he was leering at a female passerby on the cover of Pretty Baby (1957) or pouring himself a tall one while escorting you safely to slumberland with Sleep Warm (1958). Late at Night offers choice nocturnal morsels from the latter lullaby album that are among the best cuts here: "Dream," "Imagination" and a version of "Dream a Little Dream of Me," recorded when (Mama) Cass was a sophomore.
Martin's first albums for his buddy Frank's Reprise label were another matter. Dean Martin: French Style and Dino Latino were two international incidents that found the Steubenville swinger donning a beret and bullfighter duds. With that preamble, there was every reason to believe his next two albums, Dean "Tex" Martin -- Country Style and Dean "Tex" Martin Rides Again (the two 1963 albums that make up the bulk of Hurtin' Country Songs), would be another load of Rat Pack droppings -- like Joey Bishop's later attempt at the Hank Williams songbook. But these country outings were no Dean-Just-Mugs-with-a-six-shooter. Martin shared more with Hank Williams than a love of the grape. He grew up listening to country music. Using Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music (and Brother Ray's string arranger Marty Paich) as the template for the rest of his career, Martin became a credible country vocalist, investing real emotion in "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" that even the most ghastly white chorale vocals this side of Lawrence Welk can't dampen.
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.
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