Spotlight on ……
Joshua de Gray
I first became aware of Matt Monro when I was about six or seven; being a huge fan of the James Bond character I of course heard Matt singing the theme to “From Russia With Love” (which is also my favourite Bond film) however it wasn’t until a few years later that I heard “My Kind of Girl” and became a fully fledged fan. With an interest in singers like Sinatra, Darin, Martin etc it wasn’t going to take long until a Monro CD was purchased! That CD was “The Very Best of Matt Monro” and from there my collection just grew and continues too.
The music of Matt Monro is timeless it’s as simple as that but why is it timeless? Well his ballads are just examples of pure musical perfection, they are exquisite, beautiful and he had the ability to fill a song with such emotion (listen to “Before You Go”, “One Day Soon”, “Walk Away” etc for proof of this) but Matt could also swing hard. These songs are of a toe tapping brilliance, uplifting, a joy to listen to and Matt sounds as if he’s having the time of his life but as well as all these qualities Matt’s music is just cool there is an element of cool to his recordings. Yes timeless and cool are probably the best words that sum up the Matt Monro sound
A tough question when asked ‘What is your favourite song?” and one that doesn’t really have an answer, “From Russia With Love” and “My Kind of Girl” are special to me as they introduced me to the magic of Matt Monro but as my collection has grown I have discovered so many new songs that I love just as much. So I wouldn’t say I have a favourite song, I just love too many to single out one.
Whilst I love the majority of Matt’s work, I can’t say I’m a fan of some of the early Decca singles. Songs like “My House Is Your House” and “The Bean Song” just don’t click with me, however it’s more the arrangements than Matt’s actual vocals plus the fact in these early performances Decca had specific ideas on how the songs should be performed limiting what Matt could do.
If I look at some of he past albums I can honestly say there isn’t anything I would like to have seen done differently. I’m very pleased with the recent output and the way the material has been presented. The releases are always presented with well written linear notes (often by Michele Monro) and the highest quality remastering possible thanks to Richard Moore. His work is extraordinary when you consider some of the origins of the material. The releases have been varied covering a wide array from live performances, original studio albums as well as rare or lesser-heard material. This varied mix makes for an interesting release schedule that always has the fans anticipating the release date with excitement. In fact the recent releases of more “specialist material” has been of particular interest such as “The Complete Singles Collection” and “Matt at the BBC” these offer something different to the fans in some cases (“Matt at the BBC” for instance) never before issued material! Certainly a treat for fans and we are certainly grateful. I for one hope the current variety is maintained.
Personally I loved the Rare Monro and it definitely was a welcome addition to the catalogue. The Rare Monro allowed fans to obtain either hard to find tracks or in some cases never before released songs! This certainly was exciting for any fan as it allowed new music to be discovered for the first time, which is always great. Plus the album was lovingly produced with great care, the songs were all remastered to the highest quality possible once again by Richard Moore and the album also contained extensive linear notes by Matt’s daughter Michele coupled with an outstanding cover that really caught the eye it’s a package hard not to fall in love with. The album was important as it bought these tunes to the forefront of Matt’s discography allowing them in most cases to be discovered for the first time. A follow up would most certainly be welcomed, I would say by all the fans!
Matt’s movie output was equal to his non-movie work, “On Days Like These”, “From Russia With Love” and of course “Born Free” are all Monro standards and are of the usual superb quality. They certainly do add to the films, it’s impossible to think of another song that could have opened the Italian Job as well as “On Days Like These”.
Michele asked me if I thought the singer should receive an Oscar as well as the songwriters and my answer is absolutely as it’s not just lyrics and a melody that make a hit record, it’s a singer’s performance as well and in many cases this is what an audience connects with, the way a singer delivers a song, so it seems to only be fair that when vocals are involved the singer is awarded an Oscar as well as the composer and lyricist as they are the artists that really makes the hit and gives the film something to identify it by.
I can’t say I’ve ever heard his “Christmas” recordings though I know he would have done a great album of this material as he approached all his records with the same care and attention and a Christmas offering would have been no different. I am surprised he never released one as I’m sure it would have been a big seller and most artists bring out at least one, I would have thought it would have been natural for a singer of Matt’s ability to bring out an album, he certainly would have pulled it off with he usual class and charm.
If I had complete free reign to come up with a project then it would be a “Complete Recordings” set much like what Reprise did with Sinatra’s recordings for that label. The “Complete Monro Recordings” would contain all the surviving studio recordings that Matt made from his various labels. Although it would probably be financially easier for fans if the set was split into his respective labels one for EMI, Capitol etc.
However that set would be probably be impossible to produce! So on a more realistic note I would ensure all of Matt’s original studio albums be released on CD with the original cover art and linear notes as well as new linear notes reflecting on the albums now. The tracks would be remasterd and be presented in the best audio mix possible. (I know some fans found it odd that “This is the Life/Here’s To My Lady was issued in mono when a stereo mix is available) This is the project I would most love to see done as we now have the “Singles Collection” all we’re missing now is the albums!
Richard Moore’s input has been invaluable no question about it. Just listen to the masters before he worked his magic touch and then hear something like “The Singles Collection” and the difference is instantly listenable. However he has not just only applied a new lick of paint to the well known Monro hits he is also responsible for restoring some of the more interesting releases in the Monro catalogue and bringing them up to a state where they can be issued to the public, this is no easy task and a lot of work has gone into releases such as “Live in Australia”, “Matt at the BBC” and “The Rare Monro” to name but a few. Without his assistance and talent these releases would probably never been issued to the public. I know for a fact that the fans are very grateful for the work he does for the Monro catalogue and the music is in great hands.
I love the fact there are now DVD’s in the Monro catalogue! It’s always great to see the artist performing and Matt was a consummate professional onstage. “An Evening With” and “Matt at the BBC” are two of the best Monro DVD’s available and offer a great contrast “An Evening With” is a live performance whilst “Matt at the BBC” contains a complete TV special as well as an interview and a variety of other TV performances. The interview is of particular interest as it’s rare to see Matt looming back and discussing his career. Certainly worthy additions!
”Matt at the BBC” was one of the highlights of 2009, the CD was packed with unreleased music, which was a real treat and the DVD was just of stellar quality as I’ve already said the mix of material was great, the interview coupled with the special was brilliant, and the other performances were just a bonus. One of the more interesting releases in the Monro catalogue in terms of material was that the tracks themselves were all from various BBC radio programmes Matt had done. It was really interesting to hear well-known songs done differently with altered arrangements. It was a refreshing change.
Considering how many Monro CD’s are available, I don’t think ‘The Ultimate Performer”, which came out on 16th February this year in any way flooded the market! I know Michele worries about such things but it certainly is a worthy addition as it’s packed with a great variety of TV performances from all stages of his carer and as an added bonus Matt Jnr introduces each clip! It’s just another addition to the visual side of the Monro catalogue, I for one will always welcome the release of a new DVD as I love seeing the artist perform as much as I do listening to his records.
Having the website available is such a bonus and without a doubt my favourite aspect of the site would have to be the Forum and the News section, both keep fans up to date with all that’s happening with the work of Michele and Matt Jnr as well as informing us on all the up and current releases etc. What the forum does is allow us to discuss all the news and releases and it’s great to get the perspectives of different fans.
www.mattmonro.com has won several awards since it was launched and recently the Forum was taken off air – Of course it was worth saving! It’s a unique place where Monro fans can come and discuss the man and his music in a friendly atmosphere. The members are all very knowledgeable about Matt and are always ready to help, there isn’t really another place like the MM forum on the web. It offers a wealth of knowledge and it’s always exciting to share your thoughts with other members as well as reading theirs.
I would say being a member of the Forum and having Michele Monro’s added input is the most exciting thing, it’s a connection to the Monro legacy, it’s such a thrill to actually be able to talk to Matt Monro’s daughter. In fact words can’t really describe just how special that is.
If I attended a Fans Reunited gathering I would expect to hear Monro music! Aside from that though perhaps a talk from a guest speaker people who have worked with Matt or members of his family. I would expect there also be a time for fans to mingle in a way and get to know each other, perhaps also a sort of quiz or game based around Matt’s music or life.
I know Matt’s son has followed his footsteps into the business and would like to see him live at least once just to see how similar or different he is to his father. I understand Matt Jnr doesn’t just sing his father’s material, which is great; he keeps his father’s legacy alive while also singing songs that are important to him showing what a unique artist he is. I would think the hardest aspect of his job would be touring! I’d imagine it’s pretty tough having to go all the way round the world several times a year, the attention he gets from some of these places must be pretty daunting too. I understand, just like his father, he is pretty popular in the Philippines. I’d imagine it must be exhausting at times trying to show all his fans there equal attention but somehow he manages to pull it off. I can’t say that I have heard any of Matt Jnr’s album but I have heard one of the electronic duets he did with his father (“You and Me Against the World”) and I can say it was interesting to hear both of the voice together but I didn’t particularly like the new arrangement that had been done for the song, however it was great experience to hear father and son together.
Why am I one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans? - In all honesty I just love hearing excellent music and Matt certainly falls into this category, the quality of his voice is unmatched. A smile comes to my face when I hear Matt sing that I just can’t help; those records are just too good not to love. I’m always looking into other singers of the Sinatra type of which Matt is one but is also entirely unique in the choice of songs he performs (many were contemporary songs as opposed to traditional standards) this is interesting to hear and the “These Years” album is unique in the face that it is made up of what was at the time contemporary songs.
Another thing that draws me to Matt is the fact that he was an English singer not American as most singers of that kind of music were, it makes me incredible proud to know that this talent came from England.
I know I don’t have a collection as large as some fans on the forum but I would like to think I have a varied one. I own around twelve CD’s many of which are multi-disc sets such as “The Singles Collection” and “The Rare Monro” and all of the official DVD’s. The thing that makes my collection so varied is the fact that I don’t own a huge number of compilations, instead I have a lot of the more “specialist materials” such as live albums or rare tracks. One part of my collection that I love is the “twofer” series, these discs contain two of Matt’s original studio albums on one disc – this is how I prefer to listen to the artist, via the original albums that he created. The live albums and specially created discs augment this collection into what I think is a real varied sample of the talent that is Matt Monro.
When I think of what Matt Monro contributed to the British Music industry, I think that he showed a good work ethic that other British artists tried to follow; he worked very hard throughout his life to get where he ended up. Matt has also provided British music with just some really fine records that artists today just can’t equal and would love to have the back catalogue he does. He showed a style that no one in British music at the time had or has had since, he just showed the artists at the time how it was done.
The recent book ‘The Singer’s Singer’, written by his daughter Michele was more than just objective, it was perfect in balance between the personal and professional sides of Matt Monro, but the focus was always on what is important: the music. It was funny, interesting and detailed plus I loved the layout and thought it was very unique. I can honestly say I have no dislikes well maybe I’d like even more but is that really a dislike? I’ve given a more in depth review of the book on the Forum in the book section.
The price of the standard hardback is relatively cheap considering there’s over 600 pages contained within and well worth the money. I’m fortunate enough to own the “Special Edition” which truly is special, housed in a great looking slip case with a complete discography and album reviews as well as complete listings of his television and radio appearances. This is also coupled with a unique CD of significant tracks to the Monro fan, for example his first ever recording. Naturally this edition does cost more than the standard book but is well worth the price as it is a truly unique collector’s item that is not only great to read and listen to but also to look out, well worth the extra price.
Unfortunately no book signing has been on a day where I could either make it or it has been to far away to travel but at such an event I would expect to see Michele Monro and/or Richard Moore signing copies! Richard contributed to the excellent special edition and without his help (and I’m sure Michele would agree) the special edition would not nearly be as comprehensive as it is. Aside from the signing of copies maybe there would be a short time to talk to Michele or Richard but then again I would expect the focus to be on signing as many copies as possible.
The book coincided with Matt’s 25th anniversary and EMI bought out two albums to celebrate that. They certainly were welcome editions to my growing collection! “The Greatest” was a collection of some of Matt’s most popular tracks or biggest hits with fresh remasters by Richard Moore so they have never sounded better it also contained a never before issued recording of “I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” so for completists it was an essential purchase. However I didn’t just buy “The Greatest” for the new recording I was looking forward to getting “This is the Life” in stereo as its one of my favourite recordings plus the compilation also featured new detailed linear notes by Michele Monro that were really interesting.
The other release, the one that’s really interesting was “The Singles Collection” this contained EVERY single A and B-side that was officially issued in the UK as well as some of his Spanish singles. Some of these tracks had never been on CD before or were extremely rare and all had new remasters by Richard Moore so they quite literally have never sounded as good. This compilation was a gold mine for fans and truly is one of the greatest releases out there of Matt’s music.
Unfortunately I never got the chance to see Matt Monro live as he passed away before I was born, however I have the next best thing, live albums and performances captured on DVD which give you a taste of what it was like to really be front row. They provide a nice alternative to his studio performances and a bit of the man shines through as well.
If I could only take one CD to a desert island I would want to probably take “The Singles Collection” just for the sheer amount of quality music on it’s five discs but I guess technically that isn’t one CD! So I would have to say I would take the “These Years and The Late Late Show” twofer. Why? Because for me it represents the various sides of his talent, it has a good mix of ballads and up tempo tunes but it also demonstrates his ability to sing a contemporary song just as well as a standard. “These Years” is an album of just contemporary songs whilst “The Late Late Show” is an album entirely comprised of just standards. Perfect.
If I had to describe Matt Monro in just three words I’d have to finish by saying he is: unique, talented and just cool.