Engelbert Humperdinck is driving home for Christmas, and there’s a timeless place in my heart for him to drive home to. So I’m gonna open this discussion with a laid back at home performance straight from the home library of this likewise timeless artist. Soak in it please.. because I’m gonna get serious, and I need everyone to be open minded and open hearted here:
”Driving Home for Christmas”
“Why”, you’re asking, “the fck”, you’re continuing, “is this guy discussing a Christmas album in the middle of fcking February?” Or not – doesn’t matter; you’re sucked in..
I’m the Ancient Mariner and you’re the wedding guest.
“And till my ghastly tale is told, This heart within me burns.”
SCENE: t’s the early 1990s and I’m working in a record store. Flipping through the opera section, I come across Hansel and Gretel by late 19th Century German composer Engelbert Humperdinck, who apparently enjoyed some moderate success as a conductor, arranger, contemporary of Richard Wagner, going past that affiliation to a long and respected career as a music professor.
But I digress: Opera was a format more easily appreciated by music lovers who weren’t musicians or in any sense “studied” or “schooled” in music, thus often brushed off by audiofiles as a means for composers to pay the bills whilst “working on their novels.” Richard Wagner kicked that sh*t right up several notches. Humperdinck’s affiliation with Wagner undoubtedly contributed to the success of Hansel and Gretel: early runs of the piece were conducted by Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, who were of course phenomenal composers in their own right..
But I’m digressing again.
Anyway, looking at this CD at a time when the CD was the newly-minted preferred music format took my mind to another time.. the 1970s. This was a decade of mainstream enter-f*cking-tainment at its goddamny-damn BEST. As was the opera by the end of the 19th Century, so was the snazz, jazz, and razzmatazz of the vocalist as liaison/translator between composers, musicians, musicologists, blah blah blah..
SCENE: It’s the era of the talented heartthrob-singer, and Engelbert Humperdinck is hanging with performers like Tom Jones (with whom shared management and PR teams), as well fantastic and likewise talented composers like Bert Kaemfert, Bert Bacharach, etc..
After said chart topping success in the UK, 1976 brings an already familiar US audience another brilliantly crafted and performed chart topper:
“After the Lovin”
That song is perfection – and my god, what a hunk!
Again, the era of the heartthrob – but don’t be easy to dismiss, because the dude could/can back it up with his equally gorgeous voice.. and you wanna talk CRED?
Well, you just check out my man Hunkerdinck delivering the goods with Tom Jones and Billy Preston – doesn’t get any more cred than this!
Following me okay here? Because I’m not sure I would. Whatever.
Basically I’ve been visited the spirits of Engelbert Humperdinck past, present, and future, and it’s changed me..
Whereas once there was none, I’ve since vowed to always keep Engelbert in my heart. Hence I bring news of a truly great Christmas album by an immortal musical titan who presents himself to those who have faith whenever he’s needed. During 1880s/90s, he’s a composer, conductor, teacher, et al., until somewhere around the beginning of the 20th Century he just up and disappears, likely because he’s desperately needed elsewhere.. or perhaps we should say, “elseWHEN.”
Here then (and here when) is where we find Engelbert Humperdinck driving home that great Christmas album. Actually, whatever holiday (or not) one chooses to celebrate, “one” should do oneself a solid and check it out – and yes, he’s still gorgeous.
Covering past/present/future tenses, these are my deep cuts from Driving Home for Christmas.
The past: “Please Come Home for Christmas”
The present: “Driving Home for Christmas (studio version)”
The not too distant future: “I’ll be Home for Christmas”
What I’m digging about this record is the arrangements, orchestrations, and performances – particularly the strings and those classic and angelic 70s style backup vocals – are a window to those likewise classic and angelic Engelbert stylings of the 1970s – from whence 1970s me is writing. Also bear in mind that I’m like, ohhh nine years old, tops; so please cut me some slack if anything’s misspelled or presents as otherwise wonky in any way..
But again I digress.
1890s me: “You there! People of Christmas 2018! What day is it today?”
2018 you: “Why it’s Christmas Day, Sir!”
1970s me: “Welp. Now that I’ve gotten this infernal albatross off my neck and I’m passing you the burden, we might as well call it a Christmas goose, amirite??
“And God bless us, everyone!”
Aaaand seeing that it IS the 1970s and all,
“Even Tiny Tim.”
- Pariah Jones, [non-linear specific]
*you can’t even script this stuff.