CD of the Month


 


Label Music For Pleasure
Discs 1
ASIN No. B000006X52
Catalogue No. CDMFP5568


Record companies are traditionally shy about their sales figures, but I don’t think I’m giving away a state secret when I tell you that THE VERY BEST OF MATT MONRO is a best seller. In fact, last year, it sold more copies than any other of the thousands of superb Music For Pleasure releases around. And that’s why I’m here – to contribute a few overdue words about Mr Monro as part of a general spring clean of this hardy perennial among albums.

Matt Monro’s sudden surge to fame in 1960 was against all the odds. That year, the British pop scene was awash with dozens of new faces for a new decade, but most of them were young heartthrobs in their teens or early twenties. Adam Faith, all blonde hair and sunken cheekbones, led the way. Following behind were the likes of Tony Newley, Eden Kane, Craig Douglas and John Leyton. And from America, Gene Pitney, Bobby Vee and Del Shannon.

Into the midst of this teen scene came Matt, a decade past his teens, short and slightly chubby, dressed in suit and tie, singing about Michelangelo and the glow of dawn. Not even the writer of those poetic lyrics, Norman Newell (working under the pseudonym of David West), expected Portrait of My Love to happen. But it did. In truth, both singer and song seemed to belong more to the fifties – and fifties’ stars were fading fast as the sixties got under way. Matt Monro was different.

His second hit-parader was even more of a shock. Where Portrait was merely a throwback to the fifties, Leslie Bricusse’s My Kind of Girl was unprecedented: with its finger snapping tempo and big band orchestration, it amounted to a highly credible English equivalent of the Songs For Swinging Lovers that only Americans had ever done. And when its UK success was echoed in the States (Top 20 on the Billboard chart), it was a case of high quality coal being transported to Newcastle.

Matt, in fact, was one of a handful of superior music-makers who anticipated the British invasion of American hearts and charts that The Beatles were to lead a couple of years down the line. Alongside him were the aforementioned Bricusse and Newley, collaborators on the smash musical Stop The World, I Want To Get Off (which would provide Matt with Gonna Build A Mountain): John Barry, with his Bond movie music (and, later, the music for Born Free): Lionel Bart, with Oliver (and, later, From Russia With Love): and EMI record producer George Martin (now Sir George), the man behind Monro, and in time, the man behind the Fab Four. And when The Beatles finally did arrive, Matt embraced beautiful ballads like Yesterday and Michelle, pointing the way, early on, to the worldwide acceptance of the Liverpool lads.

By the end of the sixties, a select handful of British singers would be worshipped across the Atlantic – Newley, Pet Clark, Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck among them. But Matt Monro was the only one you could mention in the same breath as the Sinatras and Nat Coles of this world. Indeed, when they’d lost Sinatra to Reprise Records and when Nat Cole had passed away, Hollywood’s classy Capitol label sent for the Shoreditch lad to fill the void – a unique accolade for a man born this side of the water.

Consequently, this collection of twenty prime cuts amounts not just to the Very Best of Matt Monro, but to the Very Best of British Popular Music – not to mention the Very Best of Sellers.

(Taken from the inside sleeve notes written by Gerald Mahlowe)

 



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