Bert Kaempfert

Strangers in the Night [Longines]

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This massive slipcased edition -- with 50 songs spread across five LPs -- keys in on Bert Kaempfert's best-known tune, "Strangers in the Night," and a few other hits. However, most of the time it rummages around the filler tracks of the German arranger/conductor's vast catalog of Polydor/Decca albums, avoiding any coherent concept. By the time many of these tunes were cut, Kaempfert was beginning to run out of steam; quite often, the signature Kaempfert sound is either routinely trotted out or buried under charts that dangerously approach the dreaded category "elevator music" -- and Kaempfert and company aren't too good at converting Latin tunes into their own idiom. But there are times when Kaempfert can surprise you with sleepers like the insistent "Steady Does It" or the sassy, swaggering treatment of Duke Ellington's "I'm Beginning to See the Light." This once-coveted mail-order coffee-table collection now turns up frequently at thrift shops and flea markets for as little as a dollar; even so, those who want a basic Kaempfert hoard would be much better off hunting down Greatest Hits or The Best of Bert Kaempfert.