Pink Martini — A Proof that Mixing Booze with Music Still Works

Pink Martini — Dream a Little Dream album front sleeve
Pink Martini — Dream a Little Dream album front sleeve

I like Martini. It’s by far my favourite drink. It has a certain class, associated cinematic history, and to all my Untappd followers’ surprise, a tad more alcohol than any of the hundreds of beers I ever had the pleasure of trying. Having said that, I almost never have Martini neat. It’s always on the rocks and it never comes unaccompanied, which brings me to what this long-winded introduction into my alcoholic beverage consumption habits aims to preamble— Pink Martini, the band, the music, I grew up with.

Finding a Pink Martini LP in sealed mint condition in a shop is getting increasingly difficult. To find it at a bargain price of 9.99 that’s nearly unheard of, so naturally, I had to get it. “Dream a little Dream” while an unlikely contender for the best ever album they ever produced — in my soul that spot is already taken by “Splendour in the Grass” — it still very much fits the Pink Martini recipe: a sweet, soothing cacophony of emotions, cultures, decades and music styles.

There is an indubitable value in any musical composition that is led by vocals such as China Forbes or Storm Large, both leading ladies at various stages in the band’s history, so to see this album collaborate with The von Trapps instead, definitely raised an eyebrow. But soon, into the third title “Dream a Little Dream”, homonymous with the album, that first eyebrow was followed by the second. Pink Martini was definitely onto something, and while the song itself is far from being an original, the lightweight and soothing interpretation of it by The von Trapps sisters, put it very close between Ozzie Nelson’s 1931 original and Max Raabe’s spin on it. I mean we all get it, it’s a legendary song, and there’s hardly a band or an artist who hasn’t attempted a cover by now, but pulling off one the way Pink Martini and The von Trapps did, is no small feat and I’m not one to withhold credit where credit is due.

Twelve of the fifteen tracks on the two-sided standard vinyl are either covers or Thomas Laudredale’s spins on traditional songs, which — just to play the devil’s advocate here — can fool those unfamiliar with the Pink Martini and The von Trapps legacy (especially the latter) into thinking they’re dealing with an album produced for no other reason than to launch another album as a last ditch attempt to avoid irreversible obscurity. I however believe that while an easy mistake to make, it would be a hugely regrettable one. Hearing ABBA’s “Fernando” in latin-jazz, “The Sound of Music” classics “Edelweiss” and “The Lonely Goatherd”, still capturing those original emotions decades later is a proof of musical mastery.

For an album twelve minutes shy of an hour (48 minutes, for those struggling with the math), “Dream a Little Dream” delivers a lot, and if I may say so, with a very fitting title. The arrangement and succession of the songs itself makes the record feel like a beautiful but occasionally bizarre little dream in its own right. The unpredictability of styles between Yiddish, Germanic folk, classic, lounge-jazz and the August von Trapp originals, ranging in languages between English, German, Chinese and a couple others while linguistically disconnected, thematically speaking fall well into the standard Pink Martini framework. One also cannot gloss over the linguistic accuracy that The von Trapps sisters deliver. While Pink Martini vocalists were always generally successful at this, one simply cannot forgive and forget the unfortunate linguistic butchering of the Romanian “Pana Cand Nu Te Iubeam”.

Having been a Dubliner for five years, I was pleasantly surprised by the last track on Side B — Thunder, featuring local Dublin legends, The Chieftains.

All of this of course is not necessarily meant to be taken as an album review, but rather an introduction into the Pink Martini universe through the “Dream a Little Dream” album. Having been a fan for nearly two decades now, I can honestly say there’s few albums out there that meet music at the exact intersection between fun and sincere, sweet and serious, upbeat and melancholic. An album and a band equally suited for the casual and serious music listener.

Pink Martini — Dream a Little Dream album back sleeve
Pink Martini — Dream a Little Dream album back sleeve

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