Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Matt Monro

Matt MonroAs a crooner, Matt Monro fits in right where he is supposed to, sitting somewhere between the sonambulance of Perry Como and the histrionics of Johnny Ray. He is not mannered like Johnny Mathis, declamatory like Frankie Laine, smarmy like Sammy Davis Jr., arrogant (forgive me) like Sinatra, emotive like Richard Harris, or brilliant like Elvis (and Elvis was a brilliant crooner).

With the right material, Monro hits just the right emotional temperature, and has the vocal smarts to pull it off.

In North America, Monro was just about unheard of. He had two hits in the top 100 in 1961 (one at number 18, one at 92) and one more in 1965. In England he had six top 20 hits between 1960 and 1965.

This is The Very Best Of Matt Monro. I picked that up as a prerecorded cassette, back when they sold such things, at Country Music Centre, which obviously sold more than country music. It’s decimated, now, the cassette, but fortunately I have the whole thing on MP3 as well. I’m not totally pre-historic.

    Matt Monro:

  • Born Free – Written by John Barry as part of the soundtrack of the movie (John Barry who did the James Bond soundtracks), Born Free is somewhat histrionic, but then I suppose it’s meant to be, given that the movie was about a lion. The song was a hit in 1966 for Roger Williams.
  • Softly As I Leave You – A beautiful song, especially given that it could have been titled “Ballad Of A Coward.” All the pros had a crack at it; I like Sinatra and Doris Day. Matt’s version was a hit in the winter of 1962.
  • From Russia With Love – Theme from the James Bond movie. This is the actual version used in the movie, so Matt Monro assumes his place with such Bond theme legends as Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones, Nancy Sinatra, Duran Duran, Rita Coolidge, Wings etc. etc. It was the second Bond movie, coming between Dr. No and Goldfinger. A hit in the fall of 1963.
  • On Days Like These – There’s a note on the label that says that this is from the film The Italian Job.
  • Walk Away (Warum Nur Warum) – I don’t know what the subtitle means. I don’t even know what language it is. The song is one those you’re-not-supposed-to-be-here-with-me-and-I’m-not-supposed-to-be-here-with-you songs. It’s well done, Monro achieving the right balance between meaning it and not meaning it. From the fall of ’64 (UK), winter of ’65 (US).
  • Around The World – Very popular this was in the late 50s, with hit version abounding, by Bing Crosby, Mantovani, Victor Young, etx. The reading here is so straight that any possible double entendre is lost.
  • My Love And Devotion li>Michelle – There are many covers of this Beatle song, but really only Paul could get away with it, and only because we love him. A hit for The Overlanders and for David & Jonathan.
  • On A Clear Day You Can See Forever – Another show tune.
  • Somewhere – Leonard Bernstein wrote the music for West Side Story, and Stephen Sondheim wrote the words. And the songs have outlasted the original context many times over. But this song, with its “there’s a place for us” refrain, sung by characters for whom there is no place, is utterly heartbreaking. A singer, though, has to be careful not to overdo it. If anything Matt undersings it, but it’s not bad for all that.
  • The Impossible Dream – I suppose he had to have a crack at this, as did every other crooner in history, and it’s what you’d expect.
  • Gonna Build A Mountain – Another show tune, this one from Stop The World I Want To Get Off.
  • Who Can I Turn To – A song of the emotional confusion that attends the loss of the one who you turn to for comfort.
  • Portrait Of My Love – A bit silly, this one. From the winter of 1960 / 1961.
  • Speak Softly Love – This is from The Godfather, and it’s a love song, though The Godfather wasn’t exactly a romance. Every movie has to have a love theme. Love Theme from Blood Gore and Guts, Part 2.
  • My Kind Of Girl – And what kind is that? An angel, apparently. Go know. From the summer (US) / winter (UK) of 1961.
  • For Mama – File this with all those other sickly parent songs…
  • Yesterday – This, believe it or not, was the hit version of Yesterday, and it’s perfectly respectable. The Beatles did not put out the song as a single, though Capital released it as such in North America, and it was huge American hit, so Matt lost out there. But in the good old UK, it was nought but an album track. From the fall of 1965.
  • This Time
  • We’re Gonna Change The World – And if not then we’ll sing about it…

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page