Out Now: The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection

I’m excited to launch my all-new blog by announcing the release of The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection, a massive 24-disc box set, featuring tons of music the German bandleader issued on the legendary Decca Records label between 1958 and 1970.

Bert Kaempfert, who was only 56 when he died in 1980, became an international sensation when “Wonderland by Night” became a hit; first, in America and then worldwide in 1960. He barnstormed through the sixties with dozens of popular records, many like “Afrikaan Beat,” of which were smashes in their day.

Today, Kaempfert is probably best known for the hits he wrote for others, including Danke Shoen for Wayne Newton, Spanish Eyes for Al Martino, L.O.V.E. for Nat King Cole and, most famously of all, Strangers in the Night for Frank Sinatra. Each is now considered a pop standard or “evergreen,” and continue to be covered and performed today.

In addition to the complete albums, The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection contains an amazing 45 non-album bonus tracks plus the CD premiere of Pete Fountain Plays Bert Kaempfert, which the New Orleans clarinetist recorded in 1967 in Hamburg, Germany, with members of the Kaempfert Orchestra.

All of the albums in the box set feature the original Decca artwork – which, during this period, differed significantly from the European counterparts (track lists often differed, too). Also included is a lavishly illustrated booklet, containing historic photos, documentary print advertising and the extraordinary story of the German composer, bandleader and hitmaker.

My father (who also died at age 56) was a great fan of “easy listening,” so I grew up hearing – and loving – the beautiful music of such bandleaders as Paul Mauriat and Percy Faith. It wasn’t until the “space age pop” or “bachelor pad music” craze of the nineties when the CD age helped me discover the joys of Les Baxter, Henry Mancini and, of course, Bert Kaempfert. 

Whereas Faith’s appeal to me was always the lush and lively strings, Kaempfert’s appeal was his great sense of melody, attention to human emotion and atmosphere, a deep love of jazz (and respect for improvisation and swinging players), and dance charts – slow or fast – designed to make you move. He got rhythm. (Mancini’s appeal, of course, was everything.)

Bert Kaempfert was, to these ears, a musical magician. He crafted any number of songs that continue to sing to and resonate with me.

These recordings – most all of which were recorded in Hamburg – are among the German bandleader’s most important, most notable and, frankly, most enjoyable. Even though the Taragon label issued a good portion of this music on multiple CDs issued between 1995 and 2001 – this is the way to hear it all. It’s curated crate-digging at its best.

I am proud to have contributed the liner notes to The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection. In these notes, I tell the fascinating story of Bert Kaempfert’s life in music and his incredible rise to prominence in American music during the sixties. Indeed, Kaempfert became the first German artist to score a number one hit in the United States and sold well over 40 million records.

My original hope was to provide commentary for each of the albums in the box as well as the origin stories behind some of the hits. Of course, that wasn’t possible for a 36-page booklet. But it is doable here, where you can read about each and every one of the 24 albums and the bonus tracks included in the box set.

While not all of Bert Kaempfert’s Decca records could be included in this magnificent collection, I intend on posting write-ups in the coming days on the five records left off this set. These include Traces of Love (1969), Free and Easy (1970), Orange Colored Sky (!970), Bert Kaempfert Now! (1971) and 6 Plus 6 (1972). There are plenty of musical gifts here, too.

Discover the wonderland of Bert Kaempfert’s magic music in The Bert Kaempfert Decca Collection.

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