CD reviews: Kuh's memories, Humperdinck duets

Posted at 06/22/2014 4:53 PM | Updated as of 06/22/2014 7:08 PM

Kuh Ledesma
"Memories"

The original diva is back with a re-recording of six of her memorable hits and a new song a) to celebrate her 35th year in the music industry; b) to pay tribute to songwriter Cecile Azarcon; and c) to mark her homecoming to her first record label.

Immediately prior to “Memories,” Kuh’s last recording was an indie release entitled “Fragrance of Worship,” a set of testimonials to how she came to know Jesus Christ. She says she brings the album with her to share with other people her own re-discovery of the miracles of the Christian faith.

A previous album was a legacy recording of timeless kundimans to save them from getting lost in the relentless march of foreign competition.

Kuh’s contributions to OPM won’t likely suffer any such untimely passing. Most of songs on the new album never left the airwaves and they must have served as theme songs to lovers across the country.

Kuh has also retained the lush, crystalline clarity of her voice, which is the main attraction of “Memories.” She can still capture romantic moments in much the way she did with earlier versions of the same songs.

In the press briefing coinciding with the release of this small collection, Kuh hinted that she’s already toying with the concept for a brand new album. It’s high time to hear Kuh’s extraordinary voice once more and fall in love again with your significant other.

*****

Engelbert Humperdinck
"Engelbert Calling"

Engelbert Humperdinck’s chief claim to instant fame is that his debut single in the ‘60s, “Release Me,” stopped the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” from securing the No. 1 spot in the UK hit charts. Now at 78, he still does shows twice a week across the British isles, while contemporaries like Tom Jones seemed on the verge of retirement from the concert stage.

Humperdinck continues to be an active recording artist and his latest release is a "duets" album with guest appearances by Sir Elton John, Sir Cliff Richard, Dionne Warwick and Olivia Newton-John. Kiss’ Gene Simmons (“The Demon” onstage) turns up in the line-up, as well as one-hit wonder Lulu (“To Sir With Love”) and the reclusive Cat Stevens who now goes by an Islamic name.

Humperdinck is known for his cheesy ballads and his duets with over-emotive singers like Neil Sedaka and Johnny Mathis slap too much cheddar on cornball sentiments. More appealing are the salt-and-spice twosome with Elton John in “Something About the Way You Look tonight,” the pop-rock dash in Kiss’ Simmons’ company (“Spinning Wheel”) and the two-part soul shuffle with Smokey Robinson (“You Really Got A Hold On Me.”) The best portions, topped with low-fat cheese, include collaborations with country-pop star Shelby Lynne (“Real Love”) and singer/songwriter Ron Sexsmith (“Something To Hold On To”).

It’s probably the sprightly swing in modern-day singers that adds verve to Humperdinck ’s rather maudlin songs.

*****

Various Artists
"Pure… Acoustic"

Four decades of acoustic guitar and piano-driven hits come under the broad coverage of this collection. Generally, post-'70s pop and rock artists going acoustic beef up CDs 1 and 2. Interesting finds come from indie-associated acts The Shins, Beth Orton and Foxes even if contributions from Nina Simone, Dolly Parton (i.e. the country touchstone “Jolene”) and Billy Joel prove equally formidable.

CDs 3 and 4 reach out for the wellsprings of contemporary acoustic music starting with Bob Dylan in the ‘60s then on to Kris Kristofferson, Jeff Buckley and Dan Fogelberg in the ‘70s. There’s even a throwback to Elvis Presley performing “In The Ghetto.” Deacon Blue, Glasvegas and The Coral shine a little light on today’s version of acoustic aka stripped–down performances.