More Bert Kaempfert on Decca, Pt. 3: Orange Colored Sky (1970)

In this world of changing musical fashions, sweeping popular styles, and shifting song patterns, there is one thing you can depend on – Bert Kaempfert makes great music.

The Kaempfert magic has been working for a great many years and a great many hits. He has sustained, even prevailed, while all others have shifted and changed and gone with whatever wind happened to be blowing.

The times were changing and, like so many other light-music maestros of the day, Bert Kaempfert struggled to stay relevant. But it didn’t seem as though he was trying nearly as hard as all the others. Sample any record of this period by Percy Faith, Ray Conniff, Paul Mauriat or – and most especially – fellow German bandleader James Last: all are overflowing with the day’s AM radio hits.

Kaempfert may have offered up a few of those numbers. But Bert’s bag was in the moody originals, jazz-tinged dance tunes and big-band covers that constituted the bulk of his many records. These were never meant to be “of the moment” and more than any of those records churned out by others, maintain a striking timelessness to this day. Somehow, Bert Kaempfert was able to stay true to himself.

While Orange Colored Sky feels – and looks – of its time (it was released in December 1970), it holds up pretty well, even though its title track seems anachronistic for the age. “Orange Colored Sky” is a cover of the 1950 Nat King Cole hit – “Flash! Bam! Alakazam!” – and seems more novelty than novel. I can’t imagine many wanting to hear this in the early seventies. But Kaempfert’s vaguely Vegas-y touch would likely have appealed to persons of a certain age looking for a bit of happy nostalgia.

That longing for easier sounds and happier times can also be heard on the pretty “In Apple Blossom Time” – the album’s single release – and the standard “Bye Bye Blackbird.” 

Kaempfert was always careful with the contemporary covers he chose and Orange Colored Sky is no exception.

Here, Kaempfert reflects on Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” (not as cracklin’ as the previous album’s cover of Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”), Canadian singer Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” (in a breezy and compelling arrangement) and Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Hi-De-Ho (That Old Sweet Roll),” – beautifully mixing New Orleans and Las Vegas in to Carole King’s exceptional melody (King’s own version later in the decade brought out more of the gospel flavor of the tune).

As ever, the appeal of a Kaempfert record is in its originals.

On that note, “Tea and Trumpets” is a superb and signature Kaempfert swinger while “Friends” has that “friendly” days-gone-by West Coast flavor of Stan Kenton – who, it’s worth remembering, accompanied Nat King Cole on “Orange Colored Sky.” 

The 1996 CD release.

Ballads such as “My Love” (not the Paul and Linda McCartney song, released two years later), “Don’t Go” and “Wake Up and Live” seem, however, to these ears, more fascinating as titles than tunes. And to that end, “While the Children Sleep” is certainly a provocative title for other reasons.

“Kaempfert once again adds his own special and delightful flavor to some of today’s top pop hits,” wrote Billboard at the time, and the result is a super package for programming. Included are Neil Diamond’s ‘Cracklin’ Rosie,’ Anne Murray’s ‘Snowbird,” and Bllood, Sweat and Tears’ ‘Hi-De-Ho.’”  For extras he has added freshness to evergreens, – ‘Orange Colored Sky,’ ‘In Apple Blossom Time’ and ‘Bye Bye Blackbird.’ Fine LP.”

Orange Colored Sky reached number 140 on the Billboard 200 in 1971. The album was also issued on CD by Polydor in 1996 (with different cover art) and 2011.

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