Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Review: Engelbert Humperdinck Live DVD/CD

Growing up, and before I developed my own musical tastes, which are more rock-oriented, I derived much listening pleasure from artists like Engelbert Humperdinck, seen as one of India's own, because of his birth there. The sizeable Anglo-Indian community, and general Anglo-philia meant that English songs such as his, Tony Bennett, et al were staples at weddings, on the radio, and school concerts.

I have retained an admiration for his honeyed voice, emotive lyrics and stage presence. His varied life has been an illustration of the highs and lows in 'la condition humaine'. The collection "Engelbert Live" is a good starting point for an introduction to the ouevre of this music legend.

It is packaged as a DVD/CD combination, at a low low price, (rereleased recently with the bonus CD) recorded from a 1998 show at the Forum Theater in Los Angeles. The DVD comes with Dolby Digital as well as DTS sound, and features him doing a few of his own songs, as well as some interesting cover versions. A couple of guest stars appear, including Michelina. His trademark, self-deprecating humor and easy airs are much in evidence.

The selection includes, "Portofino", "Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing", "Release Me" and "Quando Quando Quando". Cover versions of "Sittin' On The Dock Of The Bay", "When I Fall In Love" and "Unchained Melody" are well done, and personalized to the typical Engelbert style. I particularly liked the rock'n'roll "Nothin' A Little Love Won't Cure", his interpretation of "Sittin' On..." and "Such A Night". His love for Spanish songs comes out in "Yours" and "Per El Amor De Uma Mujer"(also in English)

Engelbert's sensuality and charisma have ensured him both chart-topping success as well as a legion of ardent admirers, not all of them lounge lizards and cruiseship divas. His early single "Release Me" put pause to the Beatles "Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields", and more recent hits like "After The Lovin'" (also on this collection) have given him brand-name recognition with at least two generations, across five decades. He has even stepped away from his traditional ouevre to provide naughty songs like "Lesbian Seagull" for "Beavis and Butthead Do America"

The orchestral arrangements of the Love Unchained Orchestra are superlative, occasionally even overshadowing the master performer. Michelina provides excellent counterpoint on songs like "Malaguena" and "When I Fall In Love". Schubert's "Ave Maria" is rendered well by Engelbert and Michelina, with admirable range, to close out the set.

His autobiography was released recently - and I look forward to a tale of a life richly lived.

The video is limited in camera angles, but the acoustic timbre is very good, especially on the DTS track. The sound literally comes from all directions, and creates an immersive effect.The CD features almost all the songs on the DVD, except "Malaguena","When I Fall In Love" and "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes", possibly due to length constraints. Good audio quality on the CD too. The DVD has a personal Engelbert-led discussion in his home, covering much ground, from his wife's garden to his charitable interests and musical influences.

Slide the CD in, dim the lights, snuggle up with a loved one, and ease your troubles away.

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader