More Bert Kaempfert on Decca, Pt. 1: Traces Of Love (1969)

The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection brings together 23 of the German bandleader’s albums issued in America between 1958 and 1970 plus Pete Fountain Plays Bert Kaempfert (recorded in Germany with Kaempfert’s orchestra). But while the box set adds a whopping 45 “bonus” tracks, it omits six of Kaempfert’s Decca records issued between 1969 and 1972.

The first of these, Traces Of Love, was released in August 1969, after Kaempfert’s Warm And Wonderful (1969) and ahead of The Kaempfert Touch (1970) – both of which are included in The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection. It’s likely they skipped Traces Of Love due to its rather lackluster program. Even the Kaempfert originals here are surprisingly unmemorable.

The 1969 American LP release

Like the previous Warm And Wonderful, Kaempfert covers not the big-band swingers or chestnuts of yore as he did so often before but rather, like so many bandleaders of the day, the familiar radio hits of the moment. Here, Kaempfert covers then-recent hits by the Classics IV (“Traces”), Engelbert Humperdinck (“The Way It Used to Be”), Sammy Davis, Jr. (“I’ve Gotta Be Me”) and Bobby Vinton (“I Love How You Love Me”).

Perhaps the album’s most notable moment, though, is Kaempfert’s swinging take on Joe South’s Grammy Award-winning “Games People Play.” Kaempfert ramps up the original to a positively anthemic level, deftly delivering the memorable melody with the paired trumpets that recall those classic Herb Alpert instrumentals. Kaempfert swaps out the original’s electric sitar for his classic Knackbass and replaces South’s cunning string swirls with his own Olympian swells.

“Games People Play,” this album’s sole single release, hit an impressive number 30 on the Easy Listening chart in September 1969.

Traces Of Love also features seven Bert Kaempfert-Herbert Rehbein originals and each credit lyricists, despite no lyrics being heard here: Richard Ahlert (“Only A Fool”), Larry Kusik and Eddie Snyder (“Are We Becoming Strangers,” “Send Me Home,” “Love Me Happy”), Charles Singleton (“Here’s My Life,” “You’re Worth It All,” also with Snyder) and producer Milt Gabler (“Time”).

This suggests that, like the previous few Kaempfert releases, Traces Of Love served as a fishing expedition for singers. No one, seemingly, took the bait. It’s possible that this is due to the “also ran” quality of the tunes. The otherwise pretty “Here’s My Life (Here’s My Love)” riffs so obviously on “Spanish Eyes” it could be called “Italian Eyes.”

Likewise, the mournful “Only A Fool (Would Lose You)” seems to mix a bit of Kaempfert-Rehbein’s “The World We Knew (Over and Over)” with Michel Legrand’s “The Windmills of Your Mind” (which Kaempfert never seems to have covered).

Whereas “Love Me Happy” and “Time” strike these ears as Kaempfert melodies or ideas, “Only A Fool (Would Lose You)” is very likely a Rehbein melody.

Not to be confused with the 1967 song “Only A Fool Like Me,” written by Kaempfert for Freddy Quinn (and seemingly never covered by Kaempfert himself), “Only A Fool (Would Lose You)” is an instrumental here. Lyrics for the song were written by Richard Ahlert – interestingly using the line “only a fool like me” – and there was probably an attempt to get Frank Sinatra (or possibly another one of the Rat Pack) to cover it. Well, it never happened.

In 1972, though, Kaempfert re-recorded a more orchestral version of “Only A Fool (Would Lose You)” – with a vocal group that sounded very much like the Anita Kerr Singers. Kaempfert’s vocal version of “Only A Fool” – never featured on a Kaempfert album – was included on the compilation The Polydor Singles Collection 1958/1972 (2000) and as a bonus track on The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection (2024).

The 1992 European CD release

“Kaempfert packs a lot of musical power in these dozen modern songs,” wrote Billboard at the time. “Seven, including “Send Me Home” and “You’re Worth it All,” spring from his own pen in collaboration with others. The rhythm section and those strings couldn’t be better in making this a hot selling item.”

Traces Of Love fared well, reaching number 153 on the Billboard 200, but was hardly a “hot selling item.” But that balance of the “rhythm section and those strings” really could not be bettered. The album was issued on CD by Polydor in 1992 (with different cover art) and 2010 and by Taragon in 2001 (as a twofer with The Kaempfert Touch).

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