The legendary multi-instrumentalist, bandleader, producer, and composer Bert Kaempfert, writer of such classics such as “Strangers In The Night” or “Spanish Eyes”, is celebrated by Universal Music with “Today & Yesterday – The Bert Kaempfert Anthology”, a double-CD and double-vinyl collection of his original material plus cover versions of his signature songs by artists such as Gregory Porter, Diana Krall, or Caro Emerald. There is also a 5-CD Deluxe Earbook with a 50-page booklet.
Hamburg-born Kaempfert, who died 40 years ago in Switzerland, has charted 20 albums in the Billboard Top Pop Albums chart, with the 1960 LP “Wonderland By Night” staying on top for five weeks in a row. He was also the producer of the first Beatles session by the way (1961) and was exceptionally honored when Nat “King” Cole covered his own “L-O-V-E” and turned it into a hit. That particular song is featured on the 2nd CD of this anthology, the one with the cover versions, with interpretations by Gregory Porter and Diana Krall. And while it is indeed important and more than deserved that big-name artists grace the album’s track list, there are a few wonderful surprises here, too. German singer Pe Werner contributes a heartfelt, wonderfully tender and lush version of “Lonely Is The Name”, which opened the 1968 LP of the same name by Sammy Davis, Jr. There is an amazingly melancholy “The World We Knew” (originally recorded in 1967) by Paul Kuhn with mesmerizing vocals courtesy of the Ute Mann Singers. And the easy listening, jazz-induced sounds of De-Phazz just fit perfectly to the easing and smoothing Kaempfert touch – just listen to “Malaysian Melody” and you’ll get the drift (the De-Phazz tracks are from the 2018 album “Strangers In Dub – Bert Kaempfert meets De-Phazz”).
Among the 400 compositions and 700 arrangements which Kaempfert wrote, we can only get a glimpse here of course but his signature sounds and styles are pretty well represented on the first disc I think. I don’t get used to some of the new vocal versions of his classics, like the incredibly lifeless Tom Gaebel on “Why Can’t You And I Add Up” which he sings in duet with a pretty lackluster Natalia Avelon, or the too schmaltzy Marc Secara on “Gray Eyes Make Me Blue” (he also doesn’t really nail it on “I’m Gonna Walk Out”). But the golden moments make up for those few irritations. Sandie Wollasch of De-Phazz comes up with a hauntingly sophisticated spin on “Don’t Talk To Me” (originally on 1963’s “Living It Up!”). There is a very Sinatra-esque Peter Douglas covering “It Makes No Difference” with Paul Kuhn. The ever so reliable Pat Appleton of De-Phazz conjures up a cool and sexy “Lady”. Caro Emerald does her James Bond-style “I Belong To You” (released on her 2013 album). A well-deserved collection with the vinyl version to be released today!