CD of the Month


 

Audio CD September 4th 2006
Label EMI Gold
Discs 2
Catalogue No.

Side One

Other People                                               
Mirage                                                        
All of a Sudden                                     
Yours Alone                                                
Let Me Choose Life                              
Only The Night Wind Knows                  
No Puedo Quitar Mis Ojos De Ti
(Can’t Take My Eyes Off You)     
Love Song                                                   
Try To Remember
Alone Am I - Soundtrack from “Tomorrow Never Comes”                  
The Lady Smiles                                        
Don’t Answer Me                                      
The Touch Of Your Love                         
How Could I Ever Leave You
I Love You Too                                          
Walk Into The Dawn                                 
Is There Anything I Can Do                    
Love Comes Along                                   
It’s That Time Again                               
During One Night
Only Friends                                               
I’ve So Much To Be Thankful For                  
These Things Happen                             
Cuando Miro En Tus Ojos
(When I Look into Your Eyes)  
Where In The World
New York, New York

Side Two

Taking a Chance on Love
All That Remains                          
Lover’s Caravan
All Of You
Floral Dance
Nothing to Lose
So Little Time
I’m Just Breezing Along with the Breeze
By The Way
Everything is Nothing Without You
Picking Up the Pieces
I Got Love
Sitting on Top of the World
Blue Moon
Making Whoopee
Row, Row, Row
Day In, Day Out
Strike up the Band
Till
Birth of the Blues
In the Still of the Night
Lulu’s Back in Town
Up a Lazy River
The Wrong Time (It’s Alright By Me)

Bonus Extra

Let The Train Take the Strain – British Rail Jingle
Babycham
Pop Gear
Mangers

 

When Matt got the call from George Martin in 1960, little did anyone know what impact that event would have on the music that followed. Martin had joined EMI Records in 1950 and was to become rightly celebrated 12 years on for signing and producing The Beatles. 

George signed Matt to the Parlophone label and consequently set up a meeting with arranger/conductor Johnnie Spence.  Almost immediately the triple combination of Monro, Martin and Spence, all sharing the same perfectionist attitude, had UK hit parade success with “Portrait of My Love”.  Monro’s follow up success was “My Kind of Girl” which was written by composer and librettist Leslie Bricusse.  As a single on the Warwick label it was also Matt’s debut success in USA charting at 18 and was quickly followed by further hits of the same calibre, “Gonna Build a Mountain”, “Softly As I Leave You”, “Walk Away” and the title song from the James Bond film “From Russia With Love”. It was inevitable that such a celluloid success would provoke a demand for his work in America and the following year, Billboard Magazine named him Top International Act.

Matt and Johnnie Spence became close personal friends; Matt was even Johnnie’s best man at his wedding in 1964.  Spence was responsible for arranging some of the best music of that era; his understanding of the melody and the mood of the piece of music was inspiring.  Spence wielded the pen behind many of the arrangements collected on the Liberty albums.  The singer and arranger’s unified relationship is perfectly illustrated by the 1962 recording of “Stardust”, which is a thing of beauty and pure brazen bliss on the aural senses.  Johnnie had relative success recording under his own name, the Johnnie Spence Orchestra recorded several albums of outstanding value to modern music.  He worked with such notables as Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and John Barry who utilised his services as conductor for the album “Elizabeth Taylor in London”.  John stayed on as producer for this unusual album of the famous actress reciting a variety of poems and speeches over music.

Most of Matt’s recordings were produced or overseen by George Martin, ensuring timelessness to both the artistic and technical merits of the singer’s catalogue.  Unlike his contemporaries, Matt sang very few of the Tin Pan Alley standards popular in today’s repertoires.  Instead he and Martin searched for material written by gifted newcomers and even commissioned English lyrics for exceptional melodies by European composers.

In 1966, with the blessing of EMI, Matt released several albums for Capitol Records.  This golden opportunity allowed him to work with such musical giants as Nelson Riddle and Henry Mancini.  He was primarily partnered with one of two arrangers depending on what was required.  If an up-tempo, swinging, bass driven representation was required, Matt was placed in the capable hands of Sinatra’s old friend Billy May.  If a more romantic, sentimental mood was needed, Sid Feller was called in for some of his stirring string-laden orchestrations. Throughout his career Matt’s recordings featured arrangements by other notables such as Billy May, John Barry, Kenny Clayton, Quincy Jones, Colin Keyes and George Martin.
 
Over the years Matt’s albums would invariably feature the hits of that year and even since his death in 1985 requests have poured in for more of the Monro magic.  Each CD that followed would contain such timeless classics as “Born Free”, “On Day’s Like These”, “We’re Gonna Change the World” and the more familiar hits that new generations of fans could relate to.  These musical offerings have helped to keep Matt’s music in high demand and ensure that the legacy he left behind is not forgotten.

But what of the lesser-known songs, those little gems that have been secreted in the vaults of Abbey Road for thirty or forty years. Five decades stretch out each one enveloping Matt’s unidentified tracks.

Each time Matt went into the studio with George he would lay down five or six recordings.  Those were then listened back to and a song was chosen that the record company heads thought would be the next hit.  Sometimes their choices were wrong, but what if those that were relegated to the dusty corridors of EMI’s achieves, had been given the chance of release?  Would there have been different hits that would have been associated with Matt’s name today if history had been rewritten?

This idea inspired me to see what might still be available.  A listing was obtained and I was shocked to see several hundred entries logged at the record company’s storage facility.  Some of these of course were different versions and takes of songs we are already familiar with, but others had such obscure names as “Cuddly Old Koala” “Sitting on a Bench Theme” “No Reply” and yet others had only a few seconds of audio footage which were recorded as bench markers.  The latter tracks were later found not to be Matt’s vocals but that of other artists misfiled. Whereas I assumed the same mistaken identity had been made on other tracks, these were indeed the singer’s velvet baritones.

While this process was taking place I decided to access all the cassette recordings that were at my disposal.  Having been stored for several long decades the first one promptly snapped when placed in the stereo.  I was horrified that I had just destroyed a piece of history.
The guardian angel that came to my subsequent rescue was one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans. Specialising in audio restoration, Richard Moore offered his services.  Having been a member of the singer’s growing fan website www.mattmonro.com Richard contacted me.  Under the code name “Operation Santa”, Richard undertook the laborious task of transferring each tape to CD.  This was done purely for listening purposes as it gave me a chance to analyse a plethora of material without the worry of damaging anymore-original tape as I clicked back and forth a hundred times.  It took months to dissect each tape but finally a list was put together of album possibilities, but that would only be possible if the audio could be restored to a reasonable quality. Having volunteered originally, I cajoled Richard into seeing the project through to the bitter end and once again he was given the rather daunting task of getting the tracks up to an acceptable parity. After weeks of backbreaking work he managed to salvage what I think are some of this album’s most outstanding tracks.  Some of the renditions are under two minutes long but I thought their worth made inclusion necessary.
Many feature the Johnnie Spence Orchestra, which in itself are a rarity, but some are rare live renditions, which add an indefinable quality to these re-mastered gems.  I have to tell you that when I gave this material to Richard, I didn’t imagine for a minute that it would take months of laborious work but the results are stunning.
I have also been able to include one of my own personal favourites.  Nelson Riddle wrote a special arrangement for Matt, which would feature, on a special concert the two performed in 1967.  Unfortunately, this coupling by two of the finest performers of popular music only happened on this one unique occasion.  The brainchild of Vic Lewis, the concert was recorded on 14th July 1967 at the BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane and was a spectacular gathering of two great talents just doing their thing.  “Strike Up the Band” is a classic example of one of the moments from that historic night.
One of the most in demand soundtrack singers of his time, Matt also covered many of the most popular stage and screen songs of the 50s and 60’s so it seemed to make sense that a couple were included.  “Alone Am I” written by Roy Budd, comes from the 1977 motion picture “Tomorrow Never Comes” a violent thriller displaying the talents of Susan George and Oliver Reed and the beautifully haunting melody “When I Look into Your Eyes” from the film “Dr Doolittle” which Matt recorded in Spanish.
Learning the language phonetically, Matt recorded tens of Spanish albums for his loyal legion of fans across Spain and South America, most notably “Alguien Canto”, “Todo Pasara”, “En Espana” and “Un Toque De Distincion” The brainchild of Leonardo Schultz and Gary Mason at Supreme Records, Matt toured these countries on an annual basis and it was in fact one of these albums that afforded the singer his first platinum success.  Including the Spanish title “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” at first might appear strange to place on a rare album, as the song was highly popular at the time, but on reflection I realised Matt had never recorded it in English.
Although famous as a balladeer, Matt loved to swing and several tracks are testament to that.  “In the Still of the Night” for which Johnnie Spence created a special arrangement, “Making Whoppee”, “Day In, Day Out” are all outstanding in their laid-back elegance and superior technique.  “Birth of the Blues” was included in many of Matt’s live performances but had never before been laid down on disc and the swingingly up-tempo performance of “Lulu’s Back in Town” is Matt, as you have never heard him before.  While the Englishman’s delivery is known to many as smooth, laid back and sensual, these big notes explode unexpectedly with breathtaking drama.  Many a time when in the studio with Johnnie Spence the duo decided to try something new and the track “”It’s Alright By Me” (The Wrong Time) is a distinct recording of a track that Matt never meant for release, just the boys doing their thing, but oh what a thing.
This project has taken over five years to come to fruition, to ensure the timing is right for the public to accept that there can be a successful album without including every hit.  When the idea took shape I had no idea of the amount of material that would come to light and I am amazed that even with this double CD offering there are more than a hundred that had to be omitted.  I have played each song a dozen times to make sure the flow is right and found myself humming a particular track over and over because I couldn’t get it out of my head, those are the tracks that have gained inclusion into this elite rarities circle, songs that could have become Matt’s signature tracks had history been written differently, songs that I think go to make up one hell of a terrific collector’s item.
I have also included several of Matt’s TV jingles as evidence of the significance of “never look a gift horse in the mouth”.  On 2nd April 1959, on the very day that Mickie and her newborn baby daughter came home from the hospital, Matt received a telephone call.  He had been asked to record a TV Jingle for a soap firm.  It would bring in £75.00.  At that time, the money was a fortune.
What he and Mickie didn’t know then, was that because of repeats, Matt’s little bit of singing about the soap designed to make ladies “feel a little lovelier each day” would earn him royalties of over ten thousand pounds over the next few years.  In fact television jingles featured heavily in Matt’s life over those years.  Companies such as Pepsi Cola, Cadburys, Bisto, Oxo, Shell, Nescafe and Woolworths were all eager to sign him.  During a twelve-year span Matt recorded over 40 commercials for noteworthy companies.
Throughout his 30-year career, Matt remained a powerful welcome draw on the International circuit filling concert halls, cabaret rooms, nightclubs, arenas and stadiums spanning across the globe, from Japan, the Philippines, Australia and Hong Kong to Africa, the Middle East, Europe and the Americas.  From the Araneta Coliseum holding over 25,000 people to a private audience for President Eisenhower, performing to Her Majesty, The Queen Mother at the Royal Command Performance, representing his country at the Eurovision Song Contest or performing to the troops, Matt was as comfortable with his music as his audience were with him. He sold more than 25 million records during his lifetime, and over two million since he left us, imbuing each one with his elegant blend of majesty, splendour and technical expertise.  It is very likely that those performances will endure to be numbered among the most lasting contributions to popular music.
I hope he fills your heart with music and I hope that this, The Rare Monro, ensures that the legacy of this master stylist lives on.
www.mattmonro.com

Thanks to Steve Woof at EMI for putting up with my incessant nagging and weekly telephone calls, Richard Moore for his commitment to excellence and most of all to my mum who constantly regales me with her fascinating insight into the man behind the music - my dad.

 

PREVIOUS CD's

The Heart of the Man

A Touch of Class

The Collection

Tesco Exclusive

The Very Best Of

The Singers, Singer

His Finest


 



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