Matt Monro ‘Stranger In Paradise’
Matt Monro ‘Stranger In Paradise’
‘The Lost New York Sessions’ together with a new
‘Best Of’ on a 2 CD Set
Released by UMC on March 13th, 2020
“If I had to choose three of the finest male vocalists in the singing business, Matt would be one of them. His pitch was right on the nose; his word enunciations letter perfect; his understanding of a song thorough.” Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra and London’s East End boy made good, Matt Monro, had a fair bit in common. Aside from their vocal similarities, both endured very tough working-class upbringings (Monro was born in Shoreditch, London), both were best buddies of Sammy Davis Jr., both were activists for black musicians’ rights and both had an appreciation for well-tailored, handmade, suits. It was no wonder Sinatra wanted to sign Matt Monro to his Reprise label; Monro’s recorded legacy has sold in excess of 150 million records and his recordings have become the hallmark of vocal quality; impeccably-selected songs delivered with an elegance that was second to none.
Matt Monro was always ‘the Singer’s Singer’, one of a select number of popular vocalists who was admired equally by the public and by his fellow performers, including Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Karen Carpenter, Scott Walker, Paul McCartney and just about everyone else from that vast show business stable of the 1960s. Matt was a performer who was equally at home prowling the stage at the Royal Albert Hall or the Talk Of The Town as he was enjoying an impromptu sing song down at his East End local. Throughout his career he stayed true to his roots, yet he would conquer both the UK and the US, working with such illustrious names as John Barry, Quincy Jones, George Martin, Nelson Riddle, Billy May, Ted Heath, Mantovani, Michel Legrand, Robert Farnon, Henry Mancini and the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He would also deliver three of the greatest, cinematic theme songs of the 1960s – ‘From Russia With Love’ (the very first vocal Bond theme), ‘Born Free’ and ‘On Days Like These’ which memorably appears in the The Italian Job and is a recording of such perfect grace and style.
Signed to the famous Capitol Records label as a replacement for the deceased Nat King Cole, Matt constantly toured the US and performed legendary Vegas shows at the Freemont Hotel, the Tropicana, the Sands and at the Sahara with Jack Benny. His American television appearances read like a who’s who of light entertainment greats, including Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Pat Boone, Gypsy Rose Lee, Nelson Riddle, Liberace, Dick Cavett - and The Ed Sullivan Show a staggering four times. In the UK he was a constant TV presence, a household favourite who regularly topped ‘Britain’s Favourite Vocalist’ polls.
Matt’s last hit single came in 1973, when ‘And You Smiled’ made the Top 30. Sadly in 1984, the he became ill, was diagnosed with liver cancer and died in February 1985 at the age of just 54. It was a tragic loss to the music world but 34 years on Matt’s music resounds as strongly as ever. He has influenced generations of singers and continues to do so.
On March 13th 2020, UMC will release ‘Stranger In Paradise’, a much-anticipated double CD showcasing Matt’s estimable talent. Disc 1 is ‘entitled ‘The Lost New York Sessions’. This unearthed treasure from the Capitol vault features 16 tracks, the first time these songs have been released in their original, undubbed form and the way Matt had originally recorded them rather than the greatly altered versions that Capitol released on the 1967 album Invitation To Broadway.
In collaboration with the singer’s daughter and biographer Michele Monro, UMC is thrilled to bring the ‘lost’ session from New York to market in the way that Matt had originally intended. This album is a journey, from the opening bars of the unmistakable title track, originally popularised by Tony Bennett, through ‘Look For Small Pleasures’, ‘I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her’, the sublime, Latin-flecked ‘The Sweetest Sounds’, ‘Put On A Happy Face’ (originally from the musical Bye Bye Birdie) and the haunting melody of Jerry Brock’s ‘Sunrise, Sunset’ with lyrics by Sheldon Harnick.
To celebrate these performances seeing the light of day, Disc 2 is a newly curated ‘Best Of’ featuring the British singer’s unrivalled gifts to the music world. 27 of his greatest recordings are featured, among them timeless favourites such as the aforementioned ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘Wednesday’s Child’ and ‘Born Free’, the singer’s last British hit single, ‘And You Smiled’, and ‘The Music Played’, the English language version of his platinum selling No 1 Spanish hit single ‘Alguien Canto’. The inclusion of ‘This Is the Life’, which featured in a Siemen’s commercial in 2011, ‘We’re Gonna Change the World’, ‘On Days Like These’ and ‘If I Never Sing Another Song ‘are important additions as they have been missing from more recent collections. As is ‘When I Look In Your Eyes’, from the musical Dr Doolittle. Matt’s recording was lost for many years, buried in the Capitol vaults after a dispute with the song’s publishers, while the little known ‘Two People’ comes from the East End lad’s silver screen debut, Satan’s Harvest, which starred George Montgomery and Tippi Hedren.
Disc 1: The Lost New York Sessions
The full glare of American media was soon to fall on Matt Monro as the USA record industry underwent dramatic changes in the mid 1960s. With the death of Nat King Cole in early 1965 and Sinatra’s defection to set up his own company, Reprise, the giant American label Capitol lost their two best-selling male artists. The lad from Shoreditch was now expected to fill his boyhood idol’s shoes.
Matt had left the shores of England at the request of Capitol records. He had been offered an unheard of million-pound contract to replace Nat King Cole so that Capitol could maintain an A&R balance on the L.A. based label. The plan was for Matt to revive the great vocal tradition of Capitol.
By November 1966 Matt had already recorded two albums at the Capitol Tower studio in Hollywood but the label wanted more. Knowing that Matt had a three-week residency at the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel that month, they saw the opportunity to record yet another album, this time at their New York studios located at 151 West 46th Street, just around the corner from Times Square and the theatre district. It seemed an apt choice for a possible album release of Broadway songs.
For the sessions in New York though, instead of an orchestra or ready-made arrangements accompanying Matt, they chose the songs and did all the arrangements as they went along – head arrangements, as they are known. The band was made up of just five musicians - a pianist, bassist, drummer and two guitarists, who both played a mixture of electric and acoustic guitars. Sadly, there are no documents that can tell us who these musicians are. The majority of the recordings made over the week were from relatively new musicals, many running in Broadway theatres at the time of the recording, aside from ‘Stranger In Paradise’, which dated from the early 1950s. Seeing as Matt was there, Cavanaugh took the opportunity to lay down a couple of tracks written by Richard Ahlert for possible single release, which had no Broadway show connections. That, thought Matt, was that. He’d thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and looked forward to hearing the album.
However, unbeknown to him, musical director Dave Cavanaugh had decided that he preferred Matt with a bigger sound after all, so he took the tapes back to Hollywood and engaged Sid Feller and Billy May to write brass and string scores for 14 of the songs, leaving ‘Beautiful Beautiful World’ (a song attempted just once before being disregarded) and the last track to be recorded, ‘What Makes It Happen’, on the shelf. When Matt heard the results, he was not impressed and felt that the tracks had been somewhat ruined. Now for the very first time UMC can release the album Matt believed was the one he recorded.
Disc 2: Matt Monro The Best Of
27 Matt Monro gems such as ‘Yesterday’, ‘Walk Away’, ‘From Russia With Love’, ‘Maria’, ‘Wednesday’s Child’, ‘Born Free’, ‘This Is The Life’, ‘We’re Gonna Change The World’, ‘On Days Like These’, ‘If I Never Sing Another Song’, ‘When I Look In Your Eyes’ and for Monro treasure seekers, the little known ‘Two People’ from the 1970 film ‘Satan’s Harvest’
‘Stranger In Paradise’– (PRODUCT INFO/PRESS PHOTOS/ARTWORK)
‘Stranger In Paradise’ (ALBUM PRE-ORDER LINK): https://mattmonro.lnk.to/TheLostNYSessions
For further information please call Stuart Kirkham: 07795 844611