Music icon Engelbert Humperdinck has struck a major “cord” with his latest CD -- one that has provided him with a strong connection to other legendary singers to excite listening audiences all over the world.
The buzz is all about Engelbert Calling, the first-ever duets album from the international superstar, released on September 30, 2014 in the U.S. and Canada. Twenty-two major artists on his wish list answered his phone call and accepted his invitation to join him on the CD, which proved to be a long-distance affair – the two-year labor of love boasting universal, international appeal was recorded in London, New York, Los Angeles, Nashville, Canada, France, and South America. Even before its official release, it was listed at Number One on the Barnes and Noble Chart, which just goes to show that his efforts to reach out and touch lots of someones, no matter how near or far, are ringing true.
Renowned for his powerful and versatile vocal ability and possessing a reputation for never resting on his laurels or “phoning in” a performance, Engelbert has garnered respect from his peers, as reflected in the list of famed names on the CD. The artists cross every musical genre from pop to country, rock, soul, classics, and Latin and include Sir Elton John, Gene Simmons, Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Neil Sedaka, Wynonna Judd, Johnny Mathis, Dionne Warwick, Luis Fonsi, Johnny Reid, Charles Aznavour, Il Divo and more. The album’s success in England, where it was first released, even spawned a hit single, “Since I Lost My Baby” with Sir Cliff Richard, which charted at Number 3 and stayed there for several weeks.
“The idea for this album came about when I was listening to a CD of Elton John’s live performance,” explains Engelbert, who is listed as the fifth top recording artist in the world with sales in excess of 150 million albums. “During that show, Elton introduced a song by saying, ‘I wrote this song many years ago when I was a struggling artist living in a flat in London, hoping that an Engelbert Humperdinck would call and take this song and make it a hit.’ Elton was the first person I called about doing a duet and he said yes. Having Elton John is like having the honeycomb – his name attracts other artists. Getting the others wasn’t easy but it was easier.
“Elton actually recorded in the studio with me; we did his song ‘Something About The Way You Look Tonight,’” he continues. “He is an absolute gentleman and an amazing performer. Although I had met him before, we sat and talked for about an hour before we went into the studio and got to know each other better. I learned a lot from watching him. Gene Simmons also recorded live in the studio with me. Besides being a rock god, he is very charismatic, intelligent and has a wonderful personality. We recorded ‘Spinning Wheel’ and he changed gears on me on everything. He’s a great singer. This was the first time I had ever met him and after we recorded, he came to see my show.”
Conflicting schedules caused most of the other duets to be recorded separately. Engelbert would sing his part of a song and it would then be sent to the other artist to record his or her part. Johnny Reid is a massive star in Canada; Charles Aznavuor hails from France, Luis Fonsi and Armando Manzanero are from South America, and Lulu, Cliff Richard, Beverely Knight and Ron Sexsmith are from England. Engelbert’s vocals were recorded in London and L.A, with the producer of the CD, British award-winning producer Martin Terefe, overseeing all of the duet recordings at his studio in London.
“Choosing the songs was a bit of a problem to start with,” Engelbert admits. “But I chose people who had their own songs and I let them suggest what they wanted to do. Kenny Rogers wanted to do ‘She Believes In Me’ because that’s his favorite song that he’s ever recorded. With Johnny Mathis, who has an inimitable style, I sing his song, ‘A Certain Smile.’ With the legendary singer/songwriter Charles Aznavour, I sing his song ‘She,’ which he wrote. I do Neil Sedaka’s beautiful song ‘The Hungry Years’ with him, which he composed. With Armando Manzanero, who wrote ‘It’s Impossible,’ I sing ‘It’s Impossible/Somos Novios.’ I also duet with Luis Fonsi, who is the Elvis Presley of South America, on his song ‘Quien Te Dijo Eso.’ I sing these artists’ songs my way.
“Three of the artists did a duet with me on my songs,” he adds. “Il Divo does ‘Spanish Eyes,’ soul singer Beverley Knight does ‘After The Lovin,’ and Wynonna sings ‘Release Me.’ I needed someone with a strong voice to duet with me on ‘Release Me’ and Wynonna was absolutely amazing and the right choice. In fact, the record turned out so well that she is thinking of releasing it as a single.”
There are a few instances in which the songs recorded belong to neither Engelbert nor the artist he is dueting with, as is the case with Willie Nelson, with whom he sings the Bob Dylan song, “Make You Feel My Love,” and Lulu, with whom he sings the Lady Antebellum song, “Need You Now.” Engelbert chose Lulu to be on the album because, as a judge on the British TV competition, Jukebox Jury, years ago, she was very instrumental at the beginning of his career, having been the only one on the panel to vote that his first single would become a hit.
Shelby Lynn, Andrea Corr and a new singer named Tini are also on the CD and there is even a beautiful Christmas song called “Something To Hold On To” with Ron Sexsmith, which Engelbert sees as a song that can be played during the holiday season every year. He is also thrilled and very proud to have his youngest son, Bradley, singing with him on the Cat Stevens’ song “Father and Son” and his daughter, Louise, joining him on the Tom Paxton song, “Better.”
It may be hard to believe that after 47 years in the business and all his hits, honors, awards and accolades, Engelbert would have anything left to learn. Yet, he surprisingly acknowledges that this experience has given him new insights into himself.
“In the past, I wouldn’t listen to the songs I recorded,” the down-to-earth singer candidly reveals. “I was afraid to listen. Now I listen to my music a lot, criticize myself a lot, and correct myself a lot, particularly when I feel that I could have phrased something better. No one who is a true artist is ever satisfied. You just do the best you can and hope that you get it right.
“This album means working with legends, which I never did before, and letting people hear me sing with other people, which I never did before,” he adds, talking about what Engelbert Calling means to him. “I feel that it’s one of the best albums I’ve ever done in my life. I am thrilled with all the performances. I called everyone up and congratulated them. I’m very excited about this album and the fact that it charted before it was officially released makes me so thankful. I’m so happy to be in an industry where people love my music.”
While Engelbert got a few “busy” signals in trying to complete his wish list of artists to duet with on Engelbert Calling, he’s hoping that their schedules and his will coincide for his next duets album, Engelbert Redialed.
Once again, he’ll be ready to put his latest project on the “line.”
Engelbert will be performing in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas on February 15, 2015.