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Engelbert Humperdinck: The Man I Want to Be

review humperdink x1 cong

The existence of Engelbert Humperdinck has always baffled us: to whit why Arnold Dorsey, of Leicester, should adopt the stage name of a German 19th century composer of operas. The idea worked, which is more surprising.

Even if you don’t know who Humperdinck is (the still-alive one) you’ll know his songs: described as “one of the finest middle-of-the-road balladeers” his songs include Spanish Eyes, Strangers in the Night and Release Me.

He’s now 81 but this album sounds fresh, and he don’t sound like no old man, even if his voice has lost some of its power. Touchingly, it is a love letter to his wife of 53 years, Patricia, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s.

It’s a nice pop album but we suspect his audience is equally aging — the lyrics are printed in very big type to help those with magnifiers.

Opener Absolute Beginner could be by a 20-year-old up and coming country star and not an octogenarian crooner. There’s a guitar solo, too.

It’s a touching album, and all the lyrics relate to his life and wife: “I’ve been the heartbreaker / I’ve been the heartbroken / So how can it be when I’m with you / I’m an absolute beginner” goes the lyrics to the first.

Songs such as Richard Marx’s How Can You Live With Yourself, and Just Like The First Time are suddenly more poignant when directed to the singer’s wife of 50 years.

The Man I Want To Be is an apology to his “light and sun”.

Ed Sheeran’s Photograph and Bruno Mars’s Just The Way You Are are both surprising additions.

How contemporary most of it sounds is illustrated by the closing section: big band standard covers from his live show, presumably to catch the fans’ attention, but sounding dated compared to the rest.

A decent pop album that probably won’t get the attention it deserves.

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