Bert Kaempfert & His Orchestra

Wonderland by Night

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Wonderland by Night was Bert Kaempfert's first big international success -- propelled by the presence of the number one charting title track, a moody, wistful instrumental authored by Klaus Gunter-Neumann that recalled the late big band era, it also reached the top spot on the American charts and became a favorite of middle-brow listeners just getting into the new innovations of hi-fi and stereo. Today it all seems tame, mostly because it was safe retro-pop-instrumental music executed with a great deal of elegance, which overcomes the sappiness of material such as "Tammy." The title track is the most recognizable piece here, but all of the album will sound familiar, pieces like "The Aim of My Desires" and "This Song Is Your Alone" having become the stuff of "respectable" pop-instrumental music -- the American big band sound recycled by its German admirers -- until the mid-'60s. It all sounds like stuff that you've heard, probably because, if you were born before 1956, you likely did, in those moments when your parents settled down after dinner (assuming that you lived in someplace like the Cleaver household on Leave It to Beaver). But seriously, this is nicely executed, safe, uncompelling but appealing pop music wallpaper from that period when the 1950s were ending but the 1960s hadn't really begun.

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