“Christmas With the Rat Pack”

I admit it: I’m a Rat Pack freak. ¬†After all, the Rat Pack is one of the reasons I got into this type of music in the first place, starting with Frank, then with Dean. It all unraveled from there.

But the Rat Pack apparently isn’t for everybody. My grandma (Great Great Grandma Cyd), for example, was disappointed to find the 15-year-old me watching an old tape of their classic Vegas show in her living room. “All they were into was women and booze!” she said as she waved her hand and walked to the other room.

Okay, I’ll give her that. But in this album, the Rat Pack is nothing but wholesome. Dino takes his creative liberties with some of the songs (referring to our favorite red-nosed reindeer as “Rudy” and giving Santa Claus a not-quite-German accent), and that gets annoying. But then, there are more redeeming qualities. If you’re not sold on the whole album, here are some recommended tracks:

2. “Mistletoe and Holly” by Frank Sinatra.
Oh by gosh, by golly! This is by far the warmest, cuddliest song on the album. Sinatra’s velvet voice is backed up by a small chorus, pizzicato strings, and the lyrics will take you back to family holidays past (minus the arguments and food fights).

3. “Christmas Time All Over the World” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
Here’s an upbeat number for the globally-minded. With the help of Sammy and a small group of children, learn to say “Merry Christmas” in, at last count, nine different languages!

6. “I Believe” by Frank Sinatra.
You’d expect to see this song included on the Nice ‘n’ Easy album, or something similar. It’s classic Sinatra and could be enjoyed any time of year. By the end, you’ll be singing along. For real.

8. “The Christmas Song” by Sammy Davis, Jr.
Sammy Davis, Jr. helps us settle in with this down-tempo tune. His rendition knocks “Mr. Bojangles” out of the ballpark of contemplative tenderness. Don’t discount it simply because it’s not sung by Nat King Cole.

14. “Peace On Earth/Silent Night” by Dean Martin.
In this solemn hymn-like rendition of “Silent Night”, we get a touch of Dean Martin’s softer side. I’ve heard people discount Dean Martin as “not a singer.” My measure of a singer’s worth is taken when that person attempts to sing a slow songs and ballads… because ballads are hard to do well. Dino can do it, and he does it here.

19. “A Marshmallow World [Live]” by Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
Recorded from a live broadcast of “The Dean Martin Show,” Frank and Dino give us a toe-tappin’, finger-snappin’ version of “A Marshmallow World.” They nail the melody, and the occasional harmonies are solid. We don’t know what the live audience is laughing at. We can only imagine…

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