Engelbert Humperdinck enjoying life, continues to sing fan favorites

The King of Romance is taking more time to “smell the roses” these days. After 43 years in the busin
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The King of Romance is taking more time to “smell the roses” these days.

After 43 years in the business, balladeer Engelbert Humperdinck (born Arnold George Dorsey) insists he isn’t slowing down. He’s just taking more time for himself during his multiple international tours, he says.

The singer still performs about 80 shows a year and releases a steady stream of product as well — last year saw the release of two albums, “A Taste of Country” and “Legacy of Love,” along with a new single, “Endlessly.”

“I’m at the stage in my life where I want to enjoy my life,” he said from his home in Los Angeles, just back from a European tour.

Engelbert Humperdinck

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Where: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady

How Much: $48, $43, $38, $20

More Info: 346-6204, www.proctors.org

“I’ve been working so hard for the last 43 years, so everywhere I go now I take a little time. For instance, when I played Russia [earlier this year], I only did one concert, but I stayed for five days. I do that just to enjoy, to get to know the culture, the people, do a little bit of shopping. I like that now; that’s the way I want to live.”

Humperdinck is now back in the U.S. for a few shows, including a performance Friday night at Proctors. The current tour, also titled Legacy of Love, will offer up all the hits — including his first smash “Release Me” that rocketed him to fame in 1967 — along with new songs.

Trial and error

“Picking a show to travel on the road with, you have to — it’s a case of trial and error over the years to find out what the public really likes out of what you sing, your repertoire,” he said. “I keep the songs in the show, the ones [the audiences] really like, and add new songs from new albums, even try out your new singles. . . . For instance, I’m going to try a new song when I get into Schenectady to see if they love that particular song — I might even make it a single after I try it out on two or three shows.”

While constantly working on new music — he’s recording with producer Charles Calello, who also worked with Humperdinck on 1976’s “After the Lovin’,” and recently recorded a single with up-and-coming Australian girl group Trinity — the singer is also taking time to look back on his past. “Legacy of Love” features 26 of Humperdinck’s past hits performed with the Prague Symphony Orchestra.

“I wanted to see if, 40 years down the line, I could do it in the same fashion I did in the early days,” he said. “And actually, people who have heard [the album] have said it sounds better than the originals, and I’m so excited about that.”

He recalls the recording sessions for the album as being “very challenging, and very memorable.”

“It brought back a lot of great memories of how the songs were recorded in the first place,” he said. “I remember always looking at the charts to see, oh, is it number one this week? Number three? Number 10? All those memories came back of those particular songs. It was just a very exciting time.”

During Humperdinck’s heyday in the 1960s and ’70s, the crooner amassed a string of hits, including “There Goes My Everything,” “The Last Waltz” and the aforementioned breakthrough “Release Me,” which in 1967 managed to keep The Beatles’ “Penny Lane/Strawberry Fields Forever” single out of the No. 1 chart position in the U.K.

Enduring title

His penchant for love ballads earned him the title of “King of Romance” early on, which his fans still call him today. While he hasn’t charted since 1983’s “Til You and Your Lover Are Lovers Again,” he has maintained his following through relentless touring and recording.

While “A Taste of Country” features Humperdinck singing new versions of classic tracks such as “Desperado” and Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire,” in many ways the album is also a throwback to the singer’s early days. According to Humperdinck, the project was something that he always wanted to do.

“Most of my early hits were country songs,” he said. “My very first hit, ‘Release Me,’ . . . ‘There Goes my Everything.’ Country songs have got me onto the top of the charts, and I thought I’d try doing [a country album] now.”

He has embraced current online music trends, with his albums available from his Web site, www.engelbert.com. Even so, he bemoans the current state of the music industry, stating that releasing “A Taste of Country” now “doesn’t have the same effect because of the computerized world.”

“I’m releasing it to my Web site, but it’s not as good as it used to be,” he said. “It’s not as exciting as it used to be, but the world has changed and we have to go along with the changes. The way the music industry has taken us, we have to follow that pattern. . . . But it’s OK; that’s the way the cookie crumbles.”

Multi-generation audience

With 64 gold records and 24 platinum records under his belt and a legion of fans that continues to grow, he isn’t complaining. His audience contains people of all generations.

“It’s unbelievable; there’s quite a lot of younger people, and I’m very thrilled to see all different age groups,” he said. “This is what gives you longevity in this business, and to see the elderly people applauding as much as the young ones are, it’s wonderful to have that cross section of age groups.”

He attributes this universality to keeping his show balanced. “There’s a lot of psychology involved in keeping the interest of every age group,” he said.

But most importantly in his mind are the songs he chooses to sing, which he said have allowed him to remain in the business for so long.

“I believe in recording songs that have a good melody, a good lyric, a good story line — something that people have lived, the experiences in their lives, so when they hear it, they sort of relate to it,” he said.

“That’s what people fall in love with — songs that relate to their own particular lives — and that’s why I like to record songs of that nature, that hit home.”

Categories: Life & Arts

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