1 Photo gallery - 20 publicty photographs and family snapshots from the Humperdinck archives.
1 Animated menus
1 Interviews - Interview with Humperdinck. 30 minute featurette, consisting of discussions with the entertainer and a guided tour of his Leicester estate.
Engelbert Humperdinck - Live
Warner Vision/Warner Vision .
R4 . COLOR . 102 mins .
E . PAL
Note:According to the information on the back of the cover slick and the Warner Vision website, the running length of Engelbert Humperdinck: Live is approximately 120 minutes. Unfortunately, this is incorrect. The actual length of the concert feature is 102 minutes – not taking into account, of course, the supplementary materials.
“In the field of popular music (or, for that matter, the rock & roll game, one of the most notoriously fickle and contentious industries in the corporate world), what are the personal characteristics that determine whether or not a particular artist warrants the distinction of being hailed a musical legend?” Undoubtedly, this pertinent pop trivia question is one whose answer, rather infuriatingly, defies any real clarification. Does one measure artistic - not to mention, commercial - success upon creative output, and the number of units shipped per capita? Is it measured against something far less tangible, like longevity or charismatic charm? Or, to borrow a euphemism from Icelandic songstress Bjork, is the determining factor itself largely dependent upon “big time sensuality?” If this is indeed the case, and the reputation of a musical legend is forged from all of these attributes, then Engelbert Humperdinck would unequivocally meet the criteria. Selling over an estimated 130 million records in a career that has now spanned across five decades, Humperdinck continues to reign as one of show-business’ most enduring cultural icons – a sensitive interpreter of lyrics, gifted with a superlative singing technique and three-octave range, his name (as well as his uncontested epithet, “The King of Romance”) has become synonymous with ritualistic candlelight dinners, romantic walks on the beach, and love-making in front of an open fireplace.
Forgotten the lyrics? Just write them on the inside of your hand.
Born Arnold George Dorsey on May 3, 1936, in Madras, India (where his father was employed in the services of the British Army as an engineer), Humperdinck, at the age of seven, returned to Leicester, England, with the rest of his family. Surprisingly, considering his future ambitions, he had refrained from ever embarking upon a singing career, concentrating instead on learning the saxophone from age eleven, until 1953, when fate intervened in the form of some persistent close friends, who eventually persuaded the seventeen-year-old Dorsey into entering a local singing competition. In a moment that has since become permanently enshrined into modern musical folklore, he received a rapturous standing ovation from not only the contest judges, but also from an audience suitably enamoured with the budding entertainer’s natural comedic abilities and his uncannily accurate impressions of several iconic personalities – especially Jerry Lewis. (Indeed, these impersonations, which would later include the reverent lampooning of Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, and Julio Iglesias, proved so popular that, throughout the 1970s, they remained an integral constituent of his Las Vegas shows). Furthermore, it would be a gross understatement to suggest that Lewis himself had made an indelible impact on the aspiring star; in fact, Gerry Dorsey, Humperdinck’s first stage name, was derived from the famous comedian.
His burgeoning singing career placed on temporary hiatus as he enlisted to serve in the British military throughout 1956, Dorsey ultimately returned to civilian life two years later, in 1958, where he got the golden opportunity to record for Decca his debut single, I’ll Never Fall In Love. The single floundered, but Dorsey’s constant appearances on British television – most significantly, ITV’s Top 40 style program, Oh, Boy! – and rigorous touring with pioneering rock legend, Marty Wilde (sultry starlet Kim Wilde’s father, songwriter, and manager), made him a legitimate concert attraction, despite not having achieved any chart success of his own. However, Dorsey’s career (and, conceivably, his very life) came dangerously to being terminated when, in 1961, he contracted tuberculosis, which put him out of action for approximately six months; upon recovery, he found himself within a musical vacuum, as the embryonic British rock & roll movement, spearheaded by the likes of the clean-cut Beatles and their grungy antitheses, The Rolling Stones, started to inexorably supersede traditionalist lightweight pop/rock as the new medium.
The world is but a stage. But where does the audience sit?
Struggling for several years to find himself a comfortable niche, Dorsey contacted friend and former roommate, Gordon Mills (the former lead vocalist of the defunct skiffle outfit, The Viscounts), who had since moved into the other end of the musical spectrum, and was now enjoying phenomenal success as the manager for the self-proclaimed “King of Cool,” Welshman Tom Jones. Ever so imaginative, Mills began to mould his newest protégé with melodramatic flair. Encouraging Dorsey to formally assume the sublime and nigh-unforgettable moniker, Engelbert Humperdinck (‘inspired,’ of course, by the name of the 19th century Austrian composer who had adapted Hansel & Gretel into an operatic masterpiece), Mills was insistent that, in an effort to create a mystical allure around the artist, Humperdinck should not fraternise with fans after the end of his concerts – even if it required exiting swiftly through windows, as he had done so on innumerable occasions. These slick, Machiavellian-style publicity stunts, juvenile as they might appear to contemporary eyes, were outrageously effective in arousing the public’s interest, and proved instrumental (no pun intended) in the re-christened Humperdinck’s acquisition of yet another recording contract with Decca.
His first two singles, Dommage Dommage and Stay, released in rapid succession in 1966, failed to make an impression. According the law of percentages, he should have sank quietly into the depths of obscurity, never to be heard from again; fortunately, however, Humperdinck’s next recording would not just resuscitate his flagging career, but actually catapult it into the stratospheric heights of international superstardom. Receiving invaluable promotion, courtesy of Humperdinck’s last-minute addition to a concert bill at the London Palladium, Release Me - previously a major hit for country artist Ray Price and R&B chanteuse Esther Phillips - was unleashed upon an unsuspecting global audience in 1967, rocketing to the top of the UK pop charts, where it eventually sold over a million copies. Startlingly, the song achieved the unthinkable, preventing The Beatles’ seminal double-sided classic, Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever, from ever reaching the number one position; on the other side of the Atlantic, in the United States, Release Me secured the fourth spot on the Billboard charts, while the accompanying album of the same title penetrated the US Top Ten.
The 'puffy shirt' from Seinfeld makes its concert debut.
Continuing over a twenty-four month period, right until 1969, the astronomical success instigated by Release Me spawned another seven consecutive Top Five singles within Humperdinck’s native England: There Goes My Everything, the million-selling The Last Waltz, Am I That Easy To Forget, A Man Without Love, Les Bicyclettes de Belsize, and The Way It Used To Be. Similarly, the original five studio albums distributed within this extraordinarily productive timeframe - Release Me (1966), The Last Waltz (1967), A Man Without Love (1968), Engelbert Humperdinck (1969), and Engelbert (1969) – dominated the UK Top Twenty charts with such regularity that, to a conscientious observer, it seemed to infringe on near impunity. But, however impressive these accomplishments seemed, they were merely the precursor for even greater glories. Progressively consolidating the entertainer’s mainstream popularity (in effect, cementing his cultural status as a genuine pop icon), the deluge of romantic chart-topping singles proved unremittent throughout 1970-71, with the release of Winter World Of Love, Sweetheart, My Marie, Another Time, Another Place, and the sweet, melancholic When There’s No You.
A semi-permanent attraction on the cabaret and nightclub circuit (sharing the limelight on the renowned Las Vegas ‘Strip’ with the crème de la crème of the entertainment industry, i.e. Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, and Dean Martin), Humperdinck’s concerts were so lucrative that the vocalist’s management was inclined to de-emphasise his studio output, focusing instead on the financial returns generated by his constant touring. Predictably, the result of this unorthodox stratagem meant that, in addition to becoming steadily less frequent, the new studio recordings released throughout the mid-Seventies were battling to make a discernable impact on the charts. But, it was within the midst of this drought that Humperdinck, after negotiating a recording contract with Epic, claimed his second US Top Ten hit with the adult contemporary ballad, After The Lovin’ (a surprise crossover, the single had also managed to sneak into the lower rungs of the country & western charts). Despite achieving his last major chart success with Til You and Your Lover Are Lovers Again (1983), Humperdinck’s career was sustained by punishing touring schedules, an abundance of female adoration, and American television, where seemingly interminable compilations of his work were advertised via saturation direct-marketing campaigns; his profile across Europe was also elevated, due to the re-recording of his much-loved standards into several different languages. In 1987, Remember I Love You, an album commonly regarded as his comeback and featuring a duet (Love Is the Reason) with evergreen disco diva, Gloria Gaynor, earned Humperdinck the coveted “Golden Globe Entertainer of the Year” award.
"More parents conceived their children while listening to Johnny Mathis? Yeah, I'd like to see that..."
The cultural resurgence of the 1990s ‘lounge revival’ – an avant-garde movement whose agenda was to acquaint modern audiences (more accustomed to the pre-millennium nihilism of Nirvana, Soundgarden or Pearl Jam) with the ultra-smooth, traditionalist jazz/swing/pop of Eartha Kitt, Billie Holiday, Martin Denny, Juan Garcia Esquival, Yma Sumac, Perez Prado, and Xavier Cugat – brought Humperdinck to the realisation that the musical pendulum had swung again, bringing back with it a return to the sophisticated elegance and unashamed romanticism which had defined the great artists of his generation. Seizing advantage of the renewed interest in this reinvigorated niche market, he took the courageous step to record the ribald, delightfully uproarious Lesbian Seagull for the Beavis and Butthead Do America motion picture soundtrack (1996). Two years later, The Dance Album (1998), an unanticipated experimental deviation into hardcore techno/electronica, was released; amidst the reconstructed classics featured on the latter LP (i.e. Spanish Eyes, When Love Finds Your Heart, and A Man Without Love), an energetic house remix of Release Me became a minor cult favourite in nightclubs throughout Europe and Australia, guaranteeing moderate success. In the new millennium, Definition Of Love - a miscellaneous collection of golden oldies, interspersed with up-to-the minute FM radio staples (just imagine Robbie Williams’ Angels or Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing getting the unmistakably distinctive Humperdinck treatment!) - was distributed by the independent Hip-O label in 2003, demonstrating that there are no imminent plans for voluntary retirement.
Recorded during his scintillating 1995 performance at the Forum, Los Angeles, Engelbert Humperdinck: Live is (in terms of the disc’s content, not necessarily its video or audio transfer) immeasurably superior to any other Humperdinck release currently available in Region 4, including Engelbert Humperdinck: Live at the Royal Albert Hall, and is destined to remain so – until, of course, the very instant when the inevitable local edition of the Big E’s magnificent 2000 London Palladium concert (Engelbert Humperdinck: Live at the London Palladium) arrives on Australasian shores. Revealing the inimitable style, grace and consummate showmanship that can only be obtained from having survived over forty years in the volatile music industry, Humperdinck proves that although anyone can sing romantic ballads, only a few possess the courage, bravado, or the transcendent vocals to elevate them to another plateau. Yet, to imply that the entertainer is the exclusive attraction here, would be committing a great disservice to the sterling contribution made by his orchestral arranger/director Bebu Silvetti (celebrated for his periodic collaborations with premier Latin superstars Luis Miguel and Rocio Durcal). If Humperdinck personifies the soul of this live event, then Silvetti, with his penchant for exquisite, serpentine arrangements, must surely represent its majestic, beating heart; indeed, the poignant moment where Humperdinck, accompanied by Silvetti on piano, performs a sensitive rendition of The Shadow Of Your Smile, the visible camaraderie and mutual admiration exchanged between these two gentlemen is worth the price of admission alone.
Track Listing: (1 hour 42 minutes)
Love Is A Many Splendored Thing
Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You
Stranger In Paradise
Per El Amor De Una Mujer (I Knew That We Have Loved Before)
Nothin’ A Little Love Won’t Cure
(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay
The Shadow Of Your Smile
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes (Underscore)
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes
The Man & The Songs (Interviews)
No Other Love
When I Fall In Love
Quando Quando Quando
After The Lovin’
Such A Night
Unchained Melody (Instrumental)
Welcome to my world. The man, the manor, the vintage cars.
Shot on video, and featured in the non-anamorphic 1.33:1 screen aspect ratio, Engelbert Humperdinck: Live’s visual presentation is somewhat problematic. Admittedly, some of these troubles can be attributed to the filming conditions inside the concert venue itself (the foundation for this hypothesis rests upon the fact that particular camera angles look slightly better than others), while the rest could be symptomatic of the properties inherent within the original source material. Whatever the reason, the outcome is a lacklustre transfer that cannot even attempt to measure up to the heightened expectations created by the outstanding visual qualities of either The Eagles: Hell Freezes Over, or the gloriously eye-popping Elvis: Aloha from Hawaii two-disc set. Boasting an average bit-rate of 6.5mbps, foreground images tend to be reasonably sharp, yet seem somehow lacking in regards to any significant definition. Unfortunately, this quirk becomes increasingly conspicuous in those moments where the facial features of the backing vocalists, sharing framed shots with Humperdinck, are only marginally distinguishable; admittedly, they are in the background, but, on a large screen rear projection TV, this reviewer should be able to pinpoint eyes, nose, and mouth, without having to resort to squinting. Further compounding the transfer is the (in)consistency of the black levels – depending on lighting, or the angle and location of the perspective camera, their solidness oscillates with great regularity, strong and unwavering one minute, soft and dangerously transparent the next. When accounting for the occasionally vivid lighting, flesh tone/skin pigmentation remains naturalistic, and, while there are instances of over-saturation and bleeding present, it cannot be deemed a major detriment to the overall viewing experience.
According to the end credits sequence of the concert, Engelbert Humperdinck: Live was originally recorded using an unspecified digital sound process, while the orchestral string section had its instruments fitted with the stereophonic microphone system for optimal playback fidelity – which would probably account for the superb audio quality and multi-directionality exhibited throughout the entirety of the presentation. From the stately, quasi-operatic grandeur of Love Is A Many Splendored Thing, to the heart-wrenching sentimentality of J.S. Bach’s Ave Maria, the rear surrounds provide exceptional accompaniment (the reviewer resists the temptation to term it ‘reinforcement’) to the front soundstage, ensuring that the viewer is comfortably encapsulated in an immersive wall of sound. The subwoofer, too, is also a major contributor to the experience, yet not in the manner that most people would anticipate from a typical 5.1 audio mix. Because the focus here is upon the establishment of a soothing, romantic atmosphere, and not the adrenaline-charged, hyper-kinetic vibe usually associated with a traditional rock concert (i.e. Agnostic Front, whose angry militarism would make your cranium implode), the bass seems as though it has been engineered with this principle in mind. Resonant without ever being overbearing, the subwoofer output achieves the perfect balance. With the exhaustive direct comparisons conducted between the twin 5.1 soundtracks included on this disc, the dts can incontrovertibly be designated the victor, exhibiting superior dynamism, volume, and acoustic punch (vividly demonstrated with the Love Unchained Orchestra’s sweeping arrangements, or whenever Humperdinck hits notes within the higher register). Those without the advantage of a six-channel surround system, however, are not completely neglected either, for the Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack option seems more than satisfactory.
Solid gold. A testament to a brilliant career.
In addition to the main concert program, there is a pair of supplementary features, Interview with Engelbert and the obligatory Photo Gallery, both of which lend sufficient credence to the well-worn adage of “quality over quantity.” Ignoring its somewhat erroneous title, Interview with Engelbert consists of more than simply an intimate, unceasingly fascinating discussion with Humperdinck, conducted from inside the luxurious private study of his manor in Leicester, England – it also incorporates a rare, personalised guided tour through selected rooms and exterior locations on his 25-acre property. Allowing cameras unprecedented access into his personal world, the legendary entertainer continues the tour, taking them into the 15-acres of labyrinthine English and Oriental gardens (the latter complete with Buddhist figurines), which were conceptualised and are maintained by his wife, Patricia. (With his trademark witticism, Humperdinck remarks, “We have gardeners, by the way, but she likes to do things herself,” as we witness her tearing past him, astride a ride-on mower). Unaffected by the substantial affluence and influence that often compliments celebrity, Humperdinck remains refreshingly modest whilst talking candidly about his brilliant career, or about the humanitarian contribution he makes to several international charities with whom his name is affiliated – significantly, Intercare Group Inc. who, in conjunction with the global distribution of generic and brand-name pharmaceuticals to impoverished Third World countries, also specialise in the invention and manufacture of wheelchair/mobility devices for incapacitated people. A supplement featuring an impressive wealth of information, Interview with Engelbert is indispensable. Conversely, the Photo Gallery, an amalgamation of B&W/colour photographs obtained from various media campaign sources and the Humperdinck archives, is something of a mild disappointment: here, the only true interest can be found within the family snapshots.
Some of the members upon our own staff may scoff, and are even now calling into question this reviewer’s eclectic musical tastes (believe me, as someone with an Industrial fetish, my preferences can get frighteningly extreme at times... Rammstein, KMFDM, Skinny Puppy, Front Line Assembly, etc.), but I must declare, with the utmost honesty, that I enjoyed Engelbert Humperdinck: Live immensely. Conceivably, this concert may not appeal to everyone clamouring for another mind-numbing assault of Nine Inch Nails: All That Could Have Been, or Marilyn Manson: Guns, God and Government, but it will be embraced by the discerning music connoisseur with a predilection for sophisticated entertainment, or by those whose doggedly cleave to Cyrano de Bergerac’s philosophy that ‘moonlight serenades’ cultivate the mood for nocturnal gymnastics. Or mattress dancing. Or swinging from the chandeliers, until half-dazed and sated. Highly recommended for the true romantics.
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