Sound Check

Wild, Cool and Swingin', disc five, highlights the crooners. This collection of vintage vocals includes Dean Martin (with "Volare"), Vic Damone and Sammy Davis Jr., among others. Because this music is what most people associate with "lounge music," Wild, Cool and Swingin' is one of the more mainstream of the Ultra Lounge series. Most of its 18 tracks are pop standards, which makes the CD no less entertaining, but a lot more predictable. (***)

Cocktail Capers, disc eight, stirs up a light, whimsical concoction. The music here is packaged for the happy-hour spy -- the gun holstered and replaced by the cummerbund and bow tie. Here, Capitol was reaching to find a theme to tie together a bunch of disparate tunes. Most of the music appears to be extra tracks deemed inappropriate for other volumes. Even so, there's no denying the greatness of David Rose's xylophone mastery in "Like Young" or the New Classic Singers toe-tapping rendition of "Call Me." (***)

Volume nine, the double-disc set Cha-Cha de Amor, is a return to familiar territory. While more subdued than Mambo Fever, the replay of the Havana sound makes one wonder just how much Latin-laced lounge pop Capitol has sitting in the can. A bit bulky, Cha-Cha de Amor is worth a listen mainly because it is less blaring than its sister disc. (** 1/2)

Ultra Lounge's final two CDs, Organs in Orbit and Saxophobia, show how far Capitol had to stretch to make this collection an even dozen. Organs is fun enough, but can anyone explain how a swinging electro-organic rendition of "The Girl from Ipanema" fits into the cosmic scheme of things? And while much of the sax playing on Saxophobia is notable, it's obvious Capitol was tying these vastly different tracks together loosely. As a result, Ultra Lounge goes out with a hangover instead of a cool buzz. (**, both CDs)

Still, despite the downer at the end, this is a dandy series. The packaging comes complete with cocktail recipes, directions on how to set up your hi-fi for maximum fidelity and extensive liner notes. All of this makes the Ultra Lounge discs the best of the recent onslaught of bachelor pad reissues. Granted, 12 CDs is a heavy load; try wading through all of this heavily cologned music in one sitting, and you may be ready for a few double martinis. But isn't that the point?

-- Sam Weller

***** Shaken, not stirred
**** A whisper of vermouth
*** Was this chilled?
** A Shirley Temple
* Rotten olive

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