Hi all, Richard here again, Michele is back on dry land but unfortunately has ended up with cellulitis coupled with a trapped nerve in her leg whilst away and this makes sitting in her office at a computer very painful. She’s on the mend but has asked me to write something for this month.
23rd June finally sees the release of Matt Monro – The Complete EMI Recordings 1971 – 1984 which, at last, brings back to catalogue 4 albums that have not been available for many years, including two issued on CD for the first time. Alongside singles and rarities etc.
There has been a lot wrong with previous releases, which this release sets out to resolve. The 2on1 CD release of the albums For the Present and The Other Side of the Stars is inherently flawed as it contains many tracks taken from vinyl and fairly battered vinyl at that. Some of the tracks from the If I Never Sing Another Song album (on the rare occasions they have appeared on CD), suffer from the same problem. Why exactly this was the case I can’t explain, as the master tapes have sat happily in the EMI archive building in Hayes since they were first recorded.
The biggest revelation on the new set is the Other Side of the Stars album, which has never been treated well. Why? It’s not clear if it was laziness or incompetence, but we’ll get to that. I’d never taken to the album myself. I found it an uncomfortable listen, something was off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then at the release of Michele’s Biography of her father at Ronnie Scott’s in 2010 I got chatting to the lovely Colin Keyes. He arranged all the songs for the album and was never happy with the mix. He explained that for some inexplicable reason, they issued a rough mix, he was horrified with parts of it, in particular, the version of I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore which was drenched in reverb and which featured a trumpeter (which Colin thought may well have been Derek Watkins, famous for his growling trumpet on James Bond Soundtracks) fluffing the difficult top note during the instrumental break. He had been assured that this would be fixed. Whilst the mistake was evident on both takes 1 and 3, it was perfect on take 2, so it should have been that which was edited into the master. This never happened, and the album as a whole contained rough mixes of the majority (if not all) of the album.
The reason for this seems to be that the powers that be at EMI just pulled down whatever was on the shelf without bothering to check with Producer John Burgess or any of the engineers who recorded it that all was ready to go.
A little background. Matt had just finished his final album with George Martin, For The Present. George was taking a back seat from producing for a while to concentrate on his new company and studios named ‘AIR’
Before that album had been released, Matt’s new producer, John Burgess took him into the studio and started work on an album of Standards – something which was unusual for him as he normally preferred contemporary material. Matt must have been sold on the idea after spending some time working through material with his new MD, Colin Keyes, who would arrange the whole album. The songs were recorded quickly over just three sessions at AIR, and at the end of the sessions a reel of rough mixes was put together, probably to test the sequencing sounded correct. It seems that, EMI decided that as For The Present had yet to be released, they would halt all work on the LP for the time being. At this point, it seems that the whole thing was forgotten about, as it would be over two years before somebody realised that they had the album sitting around. Instead of bringing in an engineer to mix the album properly, the rough tapes were sent to be mastered and pressed to vinyl disc.
Colin with Matt and Mickie Monro
Colin had never forgotten this, and it still rankled with him 40 years later. I said that I hoped one day I could rectify the situation.
When asked by Cherry Red to compile a track list for the album I’d proposed to them, top of the list was to get this album treated with some respect. I’d had half of the multitracks since 2012 when I’d mixed some alternate versions of a few of the songs for the Alternate Monro set. Michele agreed to me remixing the whole LP and after some negotiation with Warner (who own the rights and the tapes) I was able to secure the remaining reels. I set about mixing everything from scratch. Matt recorded everything live with the orchestra, but on about half the tracks went back and recorded new vocals onto the backings (something that would become common practice with John Burgess’s productions in the future). Whilst notes on the boxes sometimes indicated a different vocal take on the tape to those that were issued was the preferred master, I decided to keep the issued vocal takes as originally issued because it’s what people were used to. (There was one minor exception, but you can read about that in my “Making of” notes on my website HERE).
Colin at the BBC’s Friday Night is Music Night Matt Monro tribute concert
What I found was that Colin was 100% correct to be annoyed. His arrangements are superb, they have lovely little details in the woodwind, piano, and guitars that are buried in the previous mix. The sterile-sounding strings and boxy bass of the old version were actually beautifully recorded. The album, I’d previously written off as second-rate, was transformed. I now love it. Songs that I’d previously shunned like Be My Love and No Regrets now shine a new.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if Colin will ever hear it. I’ve been trying to track him down as the estate had lost touch with him and all our contact details are out of date. I’ve tried all sorts of avenues to get concrete information but to no avail. There is one website that says he passed away in 2018 in New York, but I can find nothing official, no obituaries, no death notices. So I’m hoping this might be incorrect – Especially as he lived in Oxfordshire for 30 years, so New York seems a bit of an odd place for him to be, but who knows. If anyone has any concrete information about Colin, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wherever you are Colin, this remix is for you!
I decided to give him a little cameo on this album. If you listen to the alternate take of I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore (originally issued on the Alternate Monro) you can hear Colin count the orchestra in.
Colin with Michele, Bobby Crush and Bill Buckley at the launch of Matt’s biography – Ronnie Scotts 2010
There are many other little bits and treats on the album, but I won’t repeat them here as I’ve covered them in my previously mentioned Making Of article on my own website.
I really hope that you enjoy the album as much as I did putting it together. I’ve been lucky enough to have been sent a pre-release copy of the set and it looks marvellous. It’s a digi pack which unfolds to reveal some great portraits of Matt – some not previously seen – and each disc sits on the cover of the LP featured on each CD. The final flap contains a booklet with extensive notes and more photos. Designed by the ever brilliant John Sellards and with an incredible previously unpublished front cover photo by Neil Dalrymple, it looks as good as it sounds.
Please order from Cherry Red here. If it sells well, you never know, I might be able to twist their arm to do something else!
I’m still battling away behind the scenes to try and get the remaining Capitol material online – and perhaps elsewhere. Watch this space.
Elsewhere in the Matt Monro universe a lost recording in stunning quality has re-appeared just a few days ago. Matt sing’s Portrait of My Love on the 1961 broadcast of the Ivor Novello Awards. Not only this but long time Eurovision collector Gordon Roxburgh has sent me two reels which I’ve just transferred. These finds were initially announced at a Eurovision event at the British Film Institute last year, but I don’t think we’ve mentioned them before. The reels contain an improved version of the songs from Song for Europe 1964 (We have a lower quality copy from the late Sue Parker) and a copy of the Eurovision song Contest audio with David Jacobs commentary (omitted from the copy that has been circulating for many years and Matt’s own copy). I’ve now made new transfers and hope to restore these by combining the best sources of each for the archives at some point in the future. Now if only the visuals for these programmes would turn up!
I’m not normally one for pushing my non-Matt Monro work, but if any of you are interested, I have my own website which includes a regularly updated discography of all the releases I’ve worked on. Many of the Matt Monro releases have “Making of” articles too which you might find interesting, press on the Monro album covers in the discography to find these.
That’s all for now folks. All being well, Michele will be back next month.