Dino: The Essential Dean Martin is an attempt by Capitol Records to fill up a single CD to the brim (30 tracks in nearly 78 minutes) with Dean Martin hits in the manner of the Beatles' 1. It's a welcome development from a label that was previously content to survey the same territory on the 1998 collection Greatest Hits: King of Cool, which contained only 16 tracks and ran less than 50 minutes. Martin put 36 recordings in the pop singles charts between 1949 and 1969, and 23 of them are found here. Of the four Top 40 hits not included, the most notable is the 1964 version of "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You." The collection does include the 1960 non-hit version of that song instead, a decision that probably was made to reduce the number of essentially similar arrangements heard on Martin's '60s singles for Reprise Records. After he hit number one with "Everybody Loves Somebody" in 1964 using a '50s rock & roll-style triplet rhythm he repeated the same approach several more times ("The Door Is Still Open to My Heart," "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On") before moving on to a pop-country style in such hits as "Houston." The compilers have broken up the same-sounding tracks with inventive sequencing, but reducing the repetition by one must have seemed like a good idea. Before the listener gets to this final phase in Martin's hit-making career, however, there is the long stretch of '50s hits, many of them with an Italianate tone (and not a few Italian lyrics). The disc's long running time allows space for quite a lot of this material; it takes up two-thirds of the album. The compilers have included a few tracks that were hits only in the U.K., plus a couple of Martin classics that were not actually chart items: his renditions of "Just in Time" from the film version of Bells Are Ringing and "Ain't That a Kick in the Head," a song he sang in Ocean's 11. By sticking to a core of major U.S. hits and adding some key elements, the collection makes for an outstanding single-disc treatment of Martin's best-known recordings.
Review by William Ruhlmann