Albert Hammond interviewed by Music-News.com editor – Marco Gandolfi – in central London on 23rd May 2017.
It’s multimillion-selling hit songwriter Albert Hammond as you’ve never heard him before – for the first time ever, his remarkable hit songs lavishly adapted with orchestration and choir by award-winning producer Rob Mathes at Abbey Road Studio.
Legendary singer-songwriter Albert Hammond will sooon release the 14-track In Symphony, a collection of his best-known tracks – plus a couple of surprises – re-recorded over five days at Abbey Road Studio.
With over 30 chart-topping hits and sales of 360 million records for himself as well as artists such as Leo Sayer, Diana Ross, The Hollies, Whitney Houston and Starship, it would be tempting for Albert to hang up the guitar and take it easy. But he’s still writing and gigging, and after one especially energetic televised live solo show in Berlin last year, label execs wanted to hear more from the London-born, Gibraltar-raised performer. “This is a record that’s not supposed to happen,” he laughs, “The BMG people came to see me after the show and said, ‘We want to do something.’ I said ‘Well, I don’t, unless I do my hits symphonically…’”
The next day Albert got a call. The CEO had requested a meeting in Los Angeles when Albert was back home in the US. “We had breakfast together,” he continues. “I told him my thoughts and he said, ‘Let’s do it.’ I went home and I was pinching myself. What record company today would give a 72-year-old man who’s written some great songs but isn’t a huge artist himself all this money to do this? My mother was right, somebody is looking out for me.”
Albert refers to London in the 40s, when his family was evacuated from the bomb-stricken Gibraltan isle to see out World War II in safety. Living on the 8th floor of a hotel with her sister and young daughter and heavily pregnant with Albert, every day his mother saw what she described as a ‘vision’ through the hotel window. It’s a story she’d recount to Albert over and over, the feeling that something was guiding them. “And I’ve felt that ever since,” he explains, musing on the run of success he’s had since he had his first British hit song, Little Arrows, for Leapy Lee in 1968 at the age of 24. A few years later Albert was celebrating his own Top 5 US hit, It Never Rains In Southern California, in 1972. From there, the only way was up for the blossoming songwriter who, as a teenager, had lived rough and busked in tattered clothing on the streets of Madrid in order to pursue a dream of making music. Following success in the US, his partnerships with Hal David, Carole Bayer Sager, John Bettis and many more were forged in a spirit of creative spontaneity as Albert’s guiding light took him from one situation (writing the USA theme for the Seoul Olympics) – to another (launching Julio Iglesias’ English language career, and teaming him with Willie Nelson).
After five decades, Albert’s greatest melodies have now been re-scored with ensemble arrangements alongside his signature powerhouse vocal and guitar. The man responsible: acclaimed US producer/arranger Rob Mathes (Sting, Carly Simon, Bruce Springsteen, The Three Tenors), using key virtuosi from several British orchestras, the Trinity Boys Choir and the much sought-after London Voices. Albert’s best-known compositions have been redefined alongside two Latin tracks to reflect his bilingual upbringing: Alejete (the Spanish version of Just Walk Away, his hit song for Celine Dion,) and 1912 Mexican light classical tune Estrellita. “My uncle recorded me singing this aged 8, when I was a choir boy,” Albert says, “We made a 78 record that we sold in Gibraltar. I kept it for I don’t know what reason… now we’re recording it, so I’m singing with myself!”
In Symphony is the suitably grandiose sound of a lifetime of music made by the man who still can’t believe his luck in making a living from it. “I don’t think of money,” he says. “I think, ‘Oh great, I made all of those people happy!’”
1. It Never Rains In Southern California (Albert Hammond)
2. I‘m A Train (Albert Hammond)
3. When I Need You (Leo Sayer)
4. Give A Little Love (Hammond And West)
5. Alejate (ENG: ‘Just Walk Away’; Celine Dion)
6. To All The Girls I‘ve Loved Before (Willie Nelson, Julio Iglesias)
7. Estrellita (Albert Hammond)
8. When You Tell Me That You Love Me / One Moment In Time – Medley (Diana Ross/ Whitney Houston)
9. Nothing‘s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship)
10. Don’t Turn Around (ASWAD)
11. The Free Electric Band (Albert Hammond)
12. The Air That I Breath (The Hollies)