Bert Kaempfert

The Best of Bert Kaempfert [Decca]

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Bert Kaempfert may only be known to modern audiences, if at all, as the fellow who first recorded the Beatles in Hamburg, but he ought to be recognized for far more than just that inadvertent milestone. A winning tunesmith and clever arranger/conductor, Kaempfert also came up with an original, infectious, durable, contemporary extension of the swing era in his easy listening albums of the 1960s. He struck gold when he harnessed the appeal of a lead trumpet melody line in "Wonderland By Night" (a number one hit in America), then discovered what a thumping Fender bass allied with swinging brushed drums and rhythm guitar could do to give an infectious lift to layers of voices, flutes, brass, and strings. This double-LP set gives you a good deal of the story in one deluxe package, complete with outrageously hyped-up liner notes and evocative photos of the recording sessions. Along the way, you'll hear the superb original versions of several Kaempfert-penned hits made ubiquitous by other artists, such as "L-O-V-E" (Nat "King" Cole), "Strangers in the Night" and "The World We Knew" (Frank Sinatra), "Danke Schoen" (Wayne Newton), and "Spanish Eyes" (Al Martino). Then there are the catchy Kaempfert recordings that you might recognize from '60s television shows. "A Swingin' Safari," a hit for Billy Vaughn in a copycat arrangement, served as the opening music for The Match Game, and "That Happy Feeling" was the theme song for Sandy Becker, the star of a popular New York City children's show. Circulating throughout several of the tracks is the pithy, jazzy trumpet of Fred Moch, and the photo of the unidentified session drummer suggests that he might have been as hip a character as his playing sounds.