Spotlight on ……

Mick Finn

Ellington

I first become aware of Matt Monro when, as a 26 year-old, I lived in Sydney, Australia and picked up a CD in a bargain bin. I knew a lot of the songs, being a lifelong Sinatra fan and knew Matt’s name from the ‘Born Free song’. Almost 14 years later, not a day goes by without me playing Matt.

I’d describe it as music from a past generation that gets right inside you. The quality of the songs is invariably top drawer and it is Matt’s diction, timing and power that bring these great songs to life. I would consider his music soothing, insightful and powerful on many levels.

Asking my favourite song is a bit like asking ‘Snow White’ to pick her favourite ‘dwarf’! I have many, many favourites like ‘With these Hands’, ‘Walk Away’, ‘Portrait of my Love’ and ‘What to Do’ but I guess the one I play most often – and it’s a little gem from ‘The Rare Monro’ album – is ‘Only Friends’.

As a Bond fan, I also like ‘From Russia with Love’ and ‘On Days Like These’ from the film The Italian Job. I’m not a great movie buff myself as I much prefer the music but I’ve often wondered why the singer isn’t in the running for an Oscar when it comes to the film music. It’s a chicken and egg scenario: the song is nothing without a singer, but the statement is equally true the other way round.

I guess picking a track that I’m not too fond of is much easier; it would be ‘Sweet Lorraine’... I much prefer Frank’s version! Looking back at some of Matt’s earlier albums, the productions were great with good liner notes but I am surprised that Matt didn’t bring a Christmas album out as most of his contemporaries did. ‘Mary’s Boy Child’, ‘When a Child is Born’ and the recently discovered ‘Christmas Magic’ are all excellent. Maybe they could produce a festive CD, not necessarily a Christmas one, with various moods

The more recent offerings have been marvellous; ‘The Rare Monro’ was five years in the making but was well worth waiting for and is fantastic. . Like fans of any performer, new material is always much sought after and with a few Matt fans in my locality, sharing opinions is part and parcel of being a fan. It would make my year if a sequel were to come out.

Richard Moore has contributed to the last few releases for the Monro Estate and ‘The Rare Monro’. The music certainly wouldn’t be the quality it is without his expertise and it is always good to have somebody who knows what he/she is talking about.

I have a fairly large collection of Matt’s music though not as much as Sinatra. I have mostly everything Sinatra recorded, much of it on vinyl. All my Matt music is on CD or DVD, of which I have some 50/60 items.

It is amazing that there was thought to be no film material a few years ago and then suddenly several came to the market on DVD. I would love more DVD material...the performance in Australia was top drawer and it was fantastic to see him perform live....it really showed the character behind the songs. It’s a pity there are not more DVD and CD mixes with concert footage but I will probably add ‘The Ultimate Performer’ and ‘Matt at the BBC’ to my collection just for the extra material.

Matt’s son played in Dublin a year or two ago but it was midweek and I couldn’t travel, despite the intention to do so. I would have liked to have bought his solo album but it was only available at the gigs, mind you it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been more readily available as unfortunately one of my city’s best music stores closed last year and it’s difficult to get certain releases. His job must be so hard especially as he carries his father’s name – people are always going to compare them both, which is quite unfair as I have heard he is a singer in his own right and doesn’t try and copy his dad.

Unfortunately I never saw Matt Monro perform live, as I was only born in 1972 so wouldn’t have known him growing up. He did actually play in my hometown of Cork one time around the late 60s or early 70s. I have seen some of the others perform, Sinatra (3), Tony Bennett (4), Perry Como (1), Jack Jones (1)...but that will always be a regret, not seeing the great man himself live. ‘An evening with..’ will have to do!

I enjoyed the book on Matt’s life immensely as it gave a very good insight into the singer’s life and times. It is hard to write an objective book if you are writing it from a personal background but it had to be written from a certain angle and anyone who bought or read it would have known that in the first instance. I thought it was worth the money and would have gone to one of the book signings that Michele did but she didn’t come to Ireland.

The book coincided with Matt’s 25th anniversary and EMI bought out two albums to celebrate that. They were welcome additions to my growing collection but they should have had more rare or unreleased material.

I have a big interest in retro shows so if money was no object and I had free reign, I would put a show on the road with a well-known singer and a big orchestra, singing the songs of Matt Monro. Not an impersonation show, but rather a tribute show...one on Mario Lanza toured Ireland recently to great acclaim. Obviously, the choice of singer is crucial...personally, I would pick the Australia Anthony Warlow who has a super voice.

I also have an interest in the Internet and I like the www.mattmonro.com website because it allows you to share opinions etc with other fans. It’s also quite easy to navigate. The site also hosts a Forum and that is one of the reasons why I log on to any website. It has been great being able to correspond with Michele and it was great to acquire a set of pens in the recent auction.

I’m definitely one of Matt Monro’s top fans in Cork, possibly Ireland. It all stemmed from buying a discounted CD and my love of his music just grew and grew from there. I also have a couple of good friends who were fans before me and that helped guide me along (even though I’ve now passed them in terms of acquisitions etc). As I said earlier, I’m also a huge fan of Frank and when I read of him saying Matt was his favourite singer, well, that sort of seal of approval also stoked my interest.

 

Matt contributed a huge store of popular music to the British Music Industry that’s as resonant now as the day he recorded it. In my opinion he is undervalued in this regard and I’d be shouting much louder about his contribution if he was Irish, I can tell you!

If I was going to a desert island and could only take one CD it would be ‘Matt Will Sing Forever’...because he will and because it was the first album I got. It will always be special for that reason as is the singer. Describe him in three words?

Unique, unique, unique.


 

 

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