At age 77, Engelbert Humperdinck is poised to release what could be one of the biggest albums of his career. Over the last several years, Humperdinck has been recording collaborations with such artists as Elton John, Smokey Robinson, Willie Nelson, Dionne Warwick, Neil Sedaka, Shelby Lynne and KISS’s Gene Simmons for a CD that will be called “Engelbert Calling.”
“I’m very excited,” Humperdinck said. “It’s the first duets album I’ve ever done. I made calls to all my friends and there was tremendous reciprocation.”
Humperdinck announced on his website last week that the album won’t be released until March of next year because of some late additions – ”including another ‘Sir'” to go along with Elton John, he teased.
And during a telephone interview from his home in Southern California, he was similarly coy. He confirmed the names that already have been leaked, but he didn’t want to reveal any of the song choices.
“I’ve taken their songs and sang it with them,” he said. “It’s really a good way to go, but not all of them were written by them.”
Humperdinck has been doing the unexpected for much of his career, starting with picking the name of a 19th century Austrian composer as his stage name (he was born Arnold George Dorsey) after tuberculosis nearly derailed his career in the early ’60s.
“Release Me (And Let Me Love Again)” was a top five hit in the U.S. in 1967 and it was even bigger hit in the U.K., where it topped the charts, beating out the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Several other hits followed, including “There Goes My Everything,” “Am I That Easy to Forget” and “After the Lovin’.”
Grandmothers flock to his concerts, and their grandchildren know him as the guy who sang “Lesbian Seagull” in the movie “Beavis & Butt-head Do America.” And according to his bio, both Jimi Hendrix and the Carpenters opened for him early in their careers.
Humperdinck still averages about 100 shows a year, including a concert Friday at Packard Music Hall.
“That’s where I want to keep it at,” he said. “It used to be 140, 150, but I chopped it down just a section so I could relax, play my golf … Now I’ve got plenty of time to do my activities. I work for a couple weeks, take three weeks off. There’s plenty of time to enjoy your sporting activities and enjoy life, dining out.”
And Humperdinck said he isn’t slowing down on stage.
“It’s a moving show, nothing boring about it. There’s a tinge of humor, a lot of great songs,” he said. “Believe me I get a very enthusiastic audience. That hasn’t seemed to change over the years. There no quietness. It’s still a rowdy crowd. They shout and scream and I like it.’
He’ll be backed 10 musicians and backing singers for the local date.
“I bring the package when I come around.”
In addition to the release of “Engelbert Calling,” Humperdinck will have something else to celebrate in 2014 – the 50th anniversary of his marriage.
“Like they say, for better or for worse. It’s been a wonderful time. We’re as close now as we ever were.”