Udo Jürgens – ‘Mitten im Leben’

Udo Jürgens won the Eurovision Song Contest 1966 with his classic Merci Chérie. 48 years later, aged 79, Udo released his 39th studio album in February of this year. A combination of symphonic orchestras and big band ensembles accompanny on his album where he shows that he’s still in the middle of living at his age. It’s a rollercoaster in terms of quality. Udo shows that he is a master of chansonlike ballads, but also tries to show his uptempo side. And all of that is done with hints of romance and social criticism.
First of all, we need to make clear that Udo’s team of lyricists deserve a big compliment for this album. His critical songs are spot on and brought with a laugh to them. His romantic ballads on the other side are done in such a classy way, with such gentle lyrics that you don’t need big instruments or big notes to make it work.
Now, when we take a look at our uptempo offerings first. The song starts with an uptempo song, called ‘Der Mann ist das Problem‘ (‘Men are the problem‘). After wondering why on earth this man is singing that men in general are the failure of the system, you can sense that Udo doesn’t just mean him. Or his neighbour. When singing things like ‘Who doesn’t dare to go to the dentist, but starts a war?’ – you know Udo, as the wise old man he is, has a clear idea regarding world politics. But he makes that known in a rather subtle way, as said: with a laugh.
He continues this in the 11th track of the album, ‘Liebe bleibt Liebe‘ (‘Love stays love‘). Appearing as an anthem to preach love, the subtle criticism once again surfaces. Looking back on times, better times, he sings about former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, about the former East Germany and about the way couples looked at each other in the past. He comes to the conclusion that in earlier days it was pretty much better than today, but love still is love.

Neither of these two songs are highlights for me though. The absolute highlights are those songs, where Udo shows his qualities as a chanson singer. My prime example and absolute favourite of mine is the second track of the album. ‘Was Ich Gerne Wär’ Für Dich‘ (‘What I’d like to be for you‘) is a gorgeous piece of music which shows that we’re dealing with an amazing musician here. This is what he’s good at and even though being in the middle of life, as the album title says, suggests that we’re getting an uptempo album, the highlights are always the ballads. This song, where he basically says: I’d love to be almighty just to help you, I’d love to be a light just for you – but in the end, you just need to know I love you. It’s incredibly sweet and some may say too sweet, but I like this a lot. This song is worth buying.
After picking out these three highlights, there are also some point of criticism from my side. The album starts in a strong way: the first two tracks are the best two of the album. The last two songs however, ‘Mitten im Leben‘ (‘In the middle of life‘) and ‘Zehn nach Elf‘ (‘Ten past eleven‘) fail to impress and let the album fizzle out. There’s no highlight near the end and it all just falls a bit flat. If I’d have been in control of the order of these songs, ‘Was Ich Gerne Wär’ Für Dich‘ would have closed the album.
A second point I don’t really get on the album is the fact that there are so-called ‘Intermezzos’. Four of these have been added as track 4, 7, 10 and 14. They are 40 second clips of spoken word by Udo which don’t really make sense. It gives you an unnecessary break from the music. I’d have left these out.
Overall, I think you can notice that we’re dealing with an incredibly experienced and respected artist, who decided he didn’t want to focus on sales or charts. He made this album to show what he likes to do. He wanted to have fun and he did. It has to be noted that it’s obvious that one major plus of this album, the lyrics, would go lost for people who don’t speak German. But if you like gentle ballads, this album is worth buying anyway. Logically, if you’re no fan of symphonic orchestras and a ‘swing’ ensemble, there’s no point in buying this album. I am a fan of those though and even though I’m not a fan of some of these songs, I quite enjoyed the album as a whole.
Highlights: Der Mann ist das Problem, Liebe bleibt Liebe and Was ich gerne wär’ für Dich.
Rating: 7.5/10
You can buy Mitten im Leben here or buy it in music shops in the German language area.

Nick van Lith

I'm one of the founding members of Eleven years after the start, I'm proud to say that I am now the Editor-in-Chief of this wonderful website. When I'm not doing Eurovision stuff, you should be able to find me teaching German to kids... And cheering on everything and everyone Greek, pretty much. Pame Ellada!

Related Articles

Back to top button