March 1999

Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr. - The Summit
DCC/Artanis Entertainment Group ARZ-102-2
Released: 1999

by Marc Mickelson

Musical Performance ***1/2
Recording Quality ***
Overall Enjoyment ****

[Reviewed on CD]A respite from current-day political correctness and a journey to the hip side of 1962, The Summit is part musical cavalcade and part bawdy review, the cornerstones of the Rat Pack boozing, singing, joking, singing, boozing, joking and singing. It’s a gas, a happening, a 78-minute party on wheels led by the godfathers of show-biz cool.

The Summit was recorded at the 800-seat Villa Venice night club on the outskirts of Chicago in late 1962. The show captured was one of 16 that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. performed at the club, which burned down five years later. It was hot the night of the recording too. Martin leads off the festivities with a medley -- one of the show’s four -- of "When You’re Smiling" / "The Lady is a Tramp," which quickly become "When You’re Drinking" and "The Gentleman is a Tramp," replete with made-up lyrics.

Sinatra then takes the stage, beginning his brief solo set with "Goody Goody," which he performed often when touring on his own, and following with "Chicago," one of the musical highlights of the show. Naturally, Sinatra brings a level of musical interpretation that Martin can’t muster, but he also adds a dash of attitude that will carry over into the nearly free-form comedy routines that follow.

Davis finally comes on for "Out of This World" and "What Kind of Fool Am I," after which the energy increases for the better as the three principals trade shots, jokes and turns in song. All of the booze and cockiness kick into high gear on a pair of medleys (She’s Funny That Way" / "Hey There" and "I Can’t Give You Anything But Love" / "Too Marvelous for Words" / et. al). Sandwiched between these is a flourish of musical impressions by Davis -- including takes on Sinatra and Martin. Throughout the disc Davis plays the straight man, acting as the target of many jabs and laughing wildly. The three work the audience with a coarse charm; they have those in attendance in the palms of their hands, and they know it.

Sinatra brought along the engineers who recorded The Summit, but he never got around to releasing an album of the material. DCC has done an admirable remastering job from the nearly 37-year-old on-location source. Still, the recording sounds a bit distant and doesn’t have the deepest bass (perhaps the band didn’t either). What it does have is good resolution and soundstage spread, and these impart a you-are-there impression well. The Summit is not the kind of disc you listen to in spurts. It’s cinematic and kept my attention from beginning to end. Some of the jokes are corny, while others poke fun at race, religion, sex, sexual preference, bodily functions -- you name it. It’s the kind of stuff we wouldn’t hear of today, and it has its moments -- good and bad.

I was born in 1962 a few hours from Chicago, and it’s fun for me to imagine my parents driving down to see Frank, Sammy and Dean at the height of their coolness and charisma. I would have gladly suffered through a night of my older sisters’ care just to hear years later what that night was like in person. It would be a captured moment for me -- my parents, younger than I am now, out on the town in the big town. The Summit is a captured moment too, one that I've been playing over and over.