NEWS

October 2012

It’s amazing just how long it takes to get straight after being away, even if for only a few days. Mind you I’m not complaining. Last time we spoke I’d got off the P&O ship Adonia. I stayed in Southampton overnight as I was due on Fred Olsen’s Balmoral the following morning. Jury’s Inn Hotel is situated on a very busy gyratory and you pull into a small slip road where you have a set-down space to unload your luggage. Whilst reversing into the space a taxi driver pulled in sideways and I tapped him. Now when I say tap that is exactly what it was tantamount to. He was a nasty piece of work and was ranting and raving over it being my fault and ran into the hotel demanding to see the CCTV footage. I kept my cool and together with my son `max we took photos of the incident.

Being a bank holiday weekend I asked Max to ring the insurance company on the Tuesday and report the incident for me but needless to say they would not accept his statement because of data protection!!!! Instead I rang when I returned ten days later to report it and was told they had heard nothing. Two days ago I received a letter from Aviva saying that not only had Mr Ali claimed but that he was also going down the personal injury claim as well for ---- wait for it ----- whip lash.

I will cut this short, my photographs of the damage don’t exactly match his. He has obviously had another prang or done the extra damage himself to soup up the claim. I have a Kia Picante and he a massive people carrier so there is no way that the size and weight of my small car could have hit him sufficiently hard enough to cause whip lash and certainly without there being significant damage to my bumper. I have a scratch.

Thankfully Aviva are throwing out the claim for personal injury and the extra damage he has purported BUT they will pay for the damage that was sustained. I was appalled; the guy has basically committed insurance fraud and is allowed to get away with it. No wonder our country is in trouble and premiums keep going up. Would you like to know the reason? He is also a customer at Aviva and they don’t want to lose a client!!!!

Anyway be warned, if you are involved in any incident don’t just take photos of the damage but take pictures of the entire area including one of the other driver to prove his brain wasn’t pierced or the like.

Anyways the following morning saw me embark the Balmoral. Of course everyone has his or her own favourite but I have to admit to liking every ship I’ve been on. They all have their own character and the Balmoral is no exception. Even though she is small at 43,500 tons compared to the superliners over a hundred, I think it is nice to be able to walk the ship without getting lost. Because there are less places to frequent, more passengers use those areas and so you tend to see the same people everyday which could be a good or bad thing.

I thought the crew were wonderful, so friendly and everyone made me feel at home. I was actually on a back-to back cruise so most passengers got off after 4 days and it was a bit of a shame really as it rained leaving Southampton all the way to Belgium and back. The talks went really well and in fact I sold all the CDs I’d bought on with me by the end of that first itinerary so I knew several people on the second leg would be upset that there were no more left. The second cruise was a week in Norway and I have to say I absolutely loved it. I’d never given the country a thought before but I have to say it was marvellous and going by sea is definitely the best way to take in the magnificent scenery. Comic Andy Rudge was also on that sector so it was nice catching up with him again. The last time I saw him was on Arcadia in March in Australia. The group on board were a husband and wife team, Vee and Mark (Adante) and they were absolutely smashing. I found a shopping buddy in Vee and we got off in Stavanger and shopped till we dropped. The two boys came to meet us at lunchtime but we hadn’t quite finished so met them in one of the shoe shops. Honestly the looks of boredom on their faces only took about ten seconds to appear.

Being supportive everyone came to my talks and I was able to take away some good feedback but the passengers who came were great, they seemed to really enjoy the presentations which is a good thing as this is the first time on Fred Olsen and the report from the cruise director is all important. Luckily my report was good and I have already been offered another cruise with them next year.

I came back to nicer weather, which is always a bonus but there was certainly no smiles on anyone’s face in the Forum. I was very upset to find that there had been problems whilst I was away and it seems some people got upset. It is always best not to harbour ill feelings, Richard and I are always here if you need to offload. Instead things blew out of proportion and I was told we had lost several members who were regulars in the past. Now that the issues have all been ironed out I do hope we see some of the familiar faces back again. At the end of the day the site is about Matt Monro and being that we all have that in common gives us a great foundation to find out other common interests in another member. I did pride myself on the fact that we were such a friendly site and was thrilled when we were all able to get together. I know several people have stayed in touch with each other, which is marvellous and that is what it should be all about.

If you are a member that has stayed away recently, do come back, we miss you.
I’d like to welcome one new face to the Matt Monro website. I had an extremely nice email from a fan called Alastair McLoughlin. I had originally met him on my return trip to Southampton in June on board the Queen Mary 2. Bless if he didn’t put that meeting me was the highlight of his trip. I always get a thrill when I am able to get dad’s music to people that might not have heard it for a while and of course speaking on the ships gives me a chance to spread the word about the website. Alastair went one further than just an email and kindly put this together as a tribute to dad. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did

 

Joe Marchese was also back to visit, this time with his review on the newly release ‘Matt Uncovered; The Rarer Monro

The Second Disc

Expanded and Remastered Music News

The Heart of a Man: Matt Monro Anthologized On Deluxe 2-CD Set “Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro”

A remarkable treasure trove of Matt Monro rarities has just been released by EMI Gold, a timely reminder of the artist’s life and career.  He was sometimes known as the “Cockney Como” or the “English Sinatra,” but both descriptions fail to adequately capture the essence of the beloved singer’s unique and enduring style.  Fortunately, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro offers that singular sound in abundance as it traces the arc of his entire career, via almost entirely unheard material.  We’re celebrating its release this week by welcoming MICHELE MONRO and RICHARD MOORE to The Second Disc for two very special interviews.  But first, an introduction to The Rarer Monro

When Matt Monro recorded Don Black and Udo Jürgens’ “If I Never Sing Another Song” in 1977, the singer was just 46 years old, yet he brought a deep identification to the valedictory:

If I never sing another song, it shouldn’t bother me /I’ve had my share of fame, you know my name/If I never sing another song, or take another bow/I would get by, but I’m not sure how…

Luckily for his legions of fans, Matt Monro continued to sing on the world’s stages as well as in recording studios, leaving a behind a remarkable legacy in music when he died in 1985 at the age of 54.  The depth of his catalogue, however, wasn’t known to all until 2006, when EMI released The Rare Monro, a 2-CD set rescuing more than fifty prime Monro tracks from the vaults.  Now, the music plays on with the impressive new release, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro.

The original volume of The Rare Monro was a labor of love for the singer’s daughter, Michele Monro, and the engineer/audio restoration specialist Richard Moore.   Working with EMI, Ms. Monro and Mr. Moore have curated a number of collector-oriented releases that have kept Matt Monro’s profile visible in the 21st century, from an impressive 2011 overhaul of the 2001 box set The Singer’s Singer (a most accurate description if there ever was one) to The Man Behind the Voice, a magazine-and-CD package also released last year.  Ms. Monro also penned The Singer’s Singer: The Life and Music of Matt Monro, an authoritative biography of the artist, available in both a standard edition and a lavish coffee-table “Special Reserve” set also including a hardcover discography and bonus CD.  They’ve reunited for Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro as part of their ongoing commitment to seeing the singer’s catalogue thriving in the present day.

With a whopping 66 (!) tracks on two discs, Matt Uncovered explores all sides of this multi-faceted entertainer, spanning virtually his entire career.  It begins with a 1956 demo of “I Hear Music” that helped secure Monro his first recording contract; his very different vocal style makes for fascinating listening.  (One early track, initially unidentified, actually came from a selection of “hillbilly favorites,” we’re informed!)  The most recent track dates from 1977, a rare jingle appended in a section of bonus material.  These have been drawn from Matt’s tenures at EMI and American arm Capitol, plus various and sundry other sources including many broadcasts; indeed, no stone has been left unturned.

Some of the greatest songwriters of all time are beneficiaries of the Monro touch, on both the classic and contemporary ends of the spectrum.  These include Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (“My Funny Valentine”), Burton Lane and E.Y. “Yip” Harburg (“Old Devil Moon”), Cole Porter (“I’ve Got You Under My Skin”), John Lennon and Paul McCartney (“All My Loving”), Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim (“Maria”) and Jimmy Webb (“Didn’t We”).  The Rarer Monro also stands as a testament to the enduring partnership of Matt Monro with arranger Johnnie Spence and producer George Martin.  The legendary Martin personally produced Monro’s classic versions of Beatles hits like “Yesterday” (reportedly its very first cover!) and “All My Loving,” and even continued his relationship with Matt at his own AIR Studios in the early 1970s, after he had departed Abbey Road.
For any fan of Monro’s creamy vocals, the highlights of these two discs are almost too many to count.  It’s clear early on that these are not “also-ran” tracks following a successful first volume, but rather, more lost treasures up to the same high standard.  These are presented in impressively crisp sound, and when a source is less than optimal, there’ s an explanation in the detailed, track-by-track liner notes.
We have a lot more on this release after the jump, including the complete track listing!


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The Rare Monro (2006)

Thirteen tracks, arranged and conducted by Malcolm Lockyer for library music service Reditune, showcase Monro’s versatility: he’s passionately intense on “My Funny Valentine,” soft and sensual on “Amor, Amor, Amor,” brash on “The Birth of the Blues” and intimate on “The Nearness of You.”  A similarly expansive brace of material is an eight-song “set” derived from Monro’s 1961 BBC radio program, primarily consisting of elegantly-sung standards.  Perhaps naturally, the most illuminating tracks are these early ones, in which the singer was still discovering his style.  Beyond those already mentioned, there’s one from 1960 in which Monro takes a stab at Les Van Dyke’s jaunty “Fare Thee Well, My Pretty One,” three songs recorded in 1959 for a series of department store “covers” albums of current chart-toppers and three more from a 1961 jazz trio session with George Martin.  Of this last group of songs, all are atypically spare but typically sensitive, and Martin has cited Monro’s piano-only reading of his own composition “No One Will Ever Know” as his favorite recording by Matt.  It’s not difficult to see why, as Monro brings out the best in the song with a direct yet piercing rendition.

Some familiar tracks are presented in previously unheard alternate arrangements, such as a breezy “Love is the Same Anywhere” (which gave the title to Monro’s first album) and a gentle “All My Loving.”  The latter is particularly delightful.  Monro’s affinity for the words and music of Lennon and McCartney – and Martin’s pleasure at revisiting songs he produced for The Beatles – is very much in evidence.  Another song written by Martin, the plaintive “Once in Every Long and Lonely While,” was recorded two years before the familiar version from Monro’s I Have Dreamed LP.  An early take of Jimmy Webb’s supremely poignant “Didn’t We” was recorded one month prior to its released counterpart, (issued on Monro’s 1973 For the Present album) and though the singer’s interpretation isn’t radically different, the arrangements have subtly different flavors.  Piano is much less prominent on the early version and it’s a bit less stately, but with some strong writing for brass and strings.

There’s artistry even the carefree spirit of “Let’s Find an Island” from Herbert Kretzmer (lyricist of Les Miserables) and David Lee, from 1965. Three of the best later tracks date from 1968/1969 sessions impeccably arranged and conducted by John Cameron (another Les Mis alum, also responsible for Donovan’s Sunshine Superman orchestrations) of “If You Go,” the similarly-titled Jacques Brel song “If You Go Away” and “Losin’ You Again.”  For fans of Monro’s Spanish-language recordings, there are two hidden gems in the form of an unreleased performance of Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Maria” and a long out-of-print “For Once in My Life” (or “Por Primera Ves,” if you prefer!) previously released on an Argentinean CD.

There’s always something calm and reassuring in Monro’s relaxed tones, and his vocal floats above a lush bed of strings on the 1958 BBC stereo test transmission of “It Can’t Be Wrong.” But he also swings hard on a delicious “Old Devil Moon” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” with Paul Fenouhlet’s arrangement inspired by Nelson Riddle’s chart for Monro’s mutual admirer, Frank Sinatra.  Monro’s vocal is strong and driving on “How Can I Live Without Your Love,” a sweeping ballad with a beat that was excised from For the Present, and goes even further in a pop/rock direction on 1976’s unfinished “One Last Try.”  The singer never laid down more than rough vocals, but it’s still an exciting might-have-been.  A selection of jingles and commercials are a fun coda, with Monro extolling the virtues in song of everything from Macleans toothpaste (“Show teeth white!  Happy smile bright!”) to Newport cigarettes (“Smooth and fresh is the Newport taste/Welcome flavor you won’t forget!”) and Zal disinfectant (“Zal kills germs, just kicks them out!”)
Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro is a “ten out of ten,” for sure.  It’s available now, and can be ordered below. 

Joe has been a very good advocator of the site and is obviously a great Matt Monro Fan. This is wonderful especially as he wrote two further articles that he followed the review up with. I thought you’d be interested in the interviews that Joe did with both myself and Richard.

 

A Second Disc Interview: Talking “Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro” with MICHELE MONRO

 

A remarkable treasure trove of Matt Monro rarities has just been released by EMI Gold, a timely reminder of the artist’s life and career. He was sometimes known as the “Cockney Como” or the “English Sinatra,” but both descriptions fail to adequately capture the essence of the beloved singer’s unique and enduring style. Fortunately, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro offers that singular sound in abundance as it traces the arc of his entire career, via almost entirely unheard material. Click here if you missed our introduction to The Rarer Monro, or read on to join us in welcoming Matt’s daughter, MICHELE MONRO, to The Second Disc.  With engineer Richard Moore, Michele has curated this new collection as well as an ongoing series of Matt Monro reissues, and she has also written the definitive biography of her father, The Singer’s Singer.

Michele, thanks for your kindness in taking the time to speak with The Second Disc!  We’re thrilled to have you here, and especially in conjunction with a project as special as Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro.  This is a remarkable, singular collection, and indeed, those words also describe your dad’s voice.  In the past, I categorized Matt’s vocal style as “romantic but assured, capable of sensitively caressing the ballads and raucously swinging the up-tempo songs.  His style was a deceptively simple one: a dash of legit pipes, a touch of Bing Crosby-esque intimacy, a brash swinger’s confidence.” Who were his influences and who were his most favored singers among his contemporaries?

There were several artists dad admired greatly and Sarah Vaughan was one of them, and it was a regret that he never came to work with her. An early ambition when he first started in the business was to sing with the Ted Heath Band; nothing could be better. He couldn’t know that years later they would be his backing band on broadcast. He also loved Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis, Jr. and of course Sinatra. He actually coined the phrase ‘The Governor.’

That’s fantastic!

I think one of his favourite couplings was when he worked The Tony Bennett Show. Tony had arranged to come to England to record a series of shows and Dad was not only asked to appear, but asked to appear on three of the shows. They were made at London’s Talk of the Town and I know they had a ball together. On each show they performed a duet together and the performances were absolutely awesome.

Ah, to have been a fly on that wall!

[Michele kindly provided us with this quote from Matt: “There is no denying that Sinatra has influenced me, but so have Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Dick Haymes. A singer simply has to listen to the masters, you learn so much in this way. I don’t try to copy these people; that would be pointless. I have simply learned things from them and have tried to incorporate these things into my singing.” — Matt Monro]

What Matt shared with all of those artists was an unerring ear for quality material.  He especially recorded so much wonderful contemporary material at a time when musical styles were in tremendous flux, especially for an interpretive singer.  What did he look for in a song?

The one thing that can be said was that Dad only recorded tracks he felt had a quality about them. With any artist it is not just the songs you sing, but the reaction that is wrought from the audience. If it was good and they enjoyed his rendition of a song, then there was no better high. Having been established for some time and with quite a few hits to his credit, Dad was booked in America, presenting several shows each night. The management wanted a different repertoire for each show. Opening night came and when the second house audience didn’t hear all the hits they had come for, there was an uproar and they refused to let Dad leave the stage. The following night Dad sang all the hits in both shows.

He found it very difficult to change his repertoire because the fans that came to see him all expected to hear their favourite and were left disappointed if that were not the case. When Dad could slip different songs in, he preferred the rarer tune, one that might not have as much focus as the ones aired on the radio. One of his favourites was a track called “Ethel Baby” [from Jerry Bock, George Holofcener and George David Weiss’ Broadway musical Mr. Wonderful, which starred Sammy Davis, Jr.!].
There wasn’t one performance he didn’t glow in the aftermath but then analyze how it could be improved or bettered.  He was a perfectionist in his art and he never rested on his laurels; he felt every audience deserved his best performance. What makes Matt Monro special is that he sang a song how it was written; he made people feel special and sang with true feeling. He made people feel good about themselves.  He chose good lyrics, great musicians and the best producers in order to give the song the best possible treatment. He didn’t try and fool an audience with a lacklustre performance.  When he went on that stage he meant it and it came across.

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Johnnie Spence with Matt

It was usually a joint collaboration between the three musketeers – George Martin, Johnnie Spence and Dad. In the early years, Dad and the record company were inundated with material and the threesome would spend days listening to all the candidates and see what might work. The most important tool for any songster is the song itself, and Matt had been lucky with many of his choices, although he was the first to admit that he didn’t have an immediate eye for a hit. He hadn’t thought “Portrait [of My Love]” a possible commercial success, and then made a monumental mistake in turning down an exclusive on “The Shadow of Your Smile” [written by Johnny Mandel and Paul Francis Webster] long before Tony Bennett cut the 1965 Academy Award winner.  The song’s author had sent the composition to Matt, but the singer didn’t think it would appeal to the mass market. When it appeared in the film The Sandpiper, Tony Bennett sent Dad a thank you note!

Matt obviously had a very special relationship with George Martin as producer.  Could you share any insights as to their process together?

The making of a record would start with George and Matt having lunch together and talking for a couple of hours about what should be on the next record. The first item of business was organising a routine session. “Routining” meant that George would collect a number of songs he thought would be suitable for the artist, and then Dad would go to the office and they would run through them on the piano. Having agreed on the numbers they would sing, they would work out which keys they would be sung in, what size orchestra Dad wanted, what the shape of the recording would be, how many choruses they would have, what kind of orchestral backing, what kind of beginning and ending and so on.

It would be George’s job to organise all those things.  But when the appointed day came, the engineer took charge. They had great experience in the placing of the microphones and the acoustics of the studio and their ultimate aim in those days was simply to recreate the sound as faithfully as possible.

Recording was hard work and there was tremendous pressure on the whole team to deliver on time. George, Matt and Johnnie found the ultimate weapon for sustaining them through the subsequent long days and nights spent in the studios and alleviating session tension and anxiety: laughter. They all shared a similar sense of humour and each session would see one or all three of rolling around the floor in stitches.

Needless to say, the work created by those three musketeers continues to endure today.  If you could only select one song from The Rarer Monro to introduce someone to the music of Matt Monro, which would it be?  How about from his entire discography?

I don’t have to think about this answer; it is without doubt “My Funny Valentine.”  [The track can be found on Disc One, Track Seven.]  A chance remark by a retired radio and television producer who had worked with my father in Hong Kong led us to a company in England called Reditune. They used to provide music to the Rediffusion radio stations around the world and also deal in what was deemed elevator music. We tracked down their archives to their current owners Mood Media, but it took months for the company to actually confirm if any tracks were held in their archives. It was a long wait.

My father always used to sing “My Funny Valentine” when my mum was in the audience.  It was their song and it was a tragedy that he never came to record it – or that is what I thought. Several months after first contacting Mood Media, a list arrived of thirteen tracks. On that list was “My Funny Valentine.” The date the email came was 14 February 2011!

It took another eleven months until I actually got listening copies of those thirteen recordings; it was one of the most frustrating periods in my life. The company were in the middle of transferring their archives to digital media and Dad’s tracks were amongst thousands of tapes that were in line for treatment. Trying to extract them was a logistical nightmare, but the managing director Mick Bennett came to the rescue when he heard that I wanted to include the recordings on a brand new release if they were in fact playable. I received them two days before leaving on a six-month business trip and I wept when I heard them, for every one of those songs was pristine and even though there were a couple on the list that Dad had recorded later in his career, they turned out to be completely different arrangements. I couldn’t believe that they were nearly sixty years old; they sounded as if they had been recorded yesterday, and it was a wondrously exciting moment.

As I listened to each track on the disc I was in awe of the perfection of each performance and as the tune came to an end I held my breath in hope that the next in the play list would be as good. Each of these unexpected gifts was as wonderful as the last but I have to say that “My Funny Valentine” would have been enough. I feel that the other twelve were an extra bonus. This is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen every day and it makes this project even more special in that I am able to share it. I can’t think of anything more tragic had they been left undiscovered, just a list within someone’s computer document, never to be heard by the very fans that came to love that unmistakable voice from what was a remarkable artist, man, friend and father.
I’m often asked what my favourite song is, and this is not actually an easy question for me as my response changes all the time depending on my mood.  To me my father’s songs are like close intimate friends, something I grew up with.  Some I fell in love with instantly, and some I learnt to love over time; some are passionate, some sad and some are breezy, bright and uplifting. I know them really well; they have seen me through my private nightmares, my highs and lows, my reveries and my demons. They are always there for me whether I want them or not, but invariably they will elevate me to a better place.  They take me to a wonderland of imagination and sometimes I can quite easily live there for a while and when reality hits, I’m better for the song I’ve heard. A song is as changeable as my disposition and that is why my answer varies from day to day.

One very special track was recorded back in 1972. Dad had just finished a week at The King’s Club in Ilford and the following day was booked into Air London. The session included five tracks, all pinpointed to go on the new album For the Present. Dad took me with him which was very exciting. It was the first time I had been to the studio with my father. I had no idea what he was recording. Air London was full of people running back and forth but suddenly everything went quiet and Dad held my hand and started singing “Michelle” to me. It was such a special moment, the memory of which has stayed with me throughout my life.

Thanks for sharing such a precious memory, Michele.  I can imagine the joy in discovering these tracks for the very first time.  Were there other challenges involved in assembling the final release?  What was the biggest obstacle?

Putting together an album is always a challenge but we usually grab the tracks from the vaults of EMI. This album has material from other companies and of course permission is needed in every case. One track that was scheduled for the new release was “Bound for Texas.”  The track is a country and western style pastiche composed by Charlie Chaplin and included in the film The Chaplin Revue, a compilation of three of his silent films, all given new orchestral soundtracks. The song, the only included vocal, was used in the new score for The Pilgrim. The soundtrack was given a limited CD release in Japan in the 1990s, and more recently the film was issued on DVD.  “Bound for Texas” has never been released on a Matt Monro album and so I was eager to include it. We applied for permission to Universal but unfortunately they couldn’t find the official paperwork that showed ownership. Even though the song is public domain, being more than 50 years old, we didn’t want to go that route. Waiting for permission resulted in the album being delayed twice, but in the end I realised we could be waiting another year and still not had resolution so we went without it.

That must have been such an incredible disappointment, but looking over the treasure trove that did see release, I completely understand your decision to go ahead without the song.  How much more is in the vault?  Might there be subsequent volumes of The Rare Monro series?

Never say never.  When we released The Rare Monro in 2006, I would have said we’d pretty much used what was in the archives.  But over the last six years, my partner in crime Richard Moore and I have continued to dig and delve into archives across the globe. A chance remark actually led us to numerous tracks in a vault in England, which had sat there since 1957. They were near on perfect, and they are all now seeing an appearance on the new album. One can only hope that new material keeps appearing and if we feel it is of the best quality, I certainly will endeavour to get it released. After all, the music should be shared with the fans, not sit in a dusty vault for years on end.


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I couldn’t agree more.  How did your collaboration with Richard begin?
Each time Matt went into the studio with George Martin, he’d lay down five or six recordings.  Those were then listened back to, and a song was chosen that the record company heads thought would be the next hit.  Sometimes their choices were wrong, but what if those that were relegated to the dusty corridors of EMI’s archives had been given the chance of release?  Would there have been different hits that would have been associated with Matt’s name today if history had been rewritten?
This idea inspired me to see what might still be available.  A listing was obtained and I was shocked to see several hundred entries logged at the record company’s storage facility.  Some of these of course were different versions and takes of songs we are already familiar with, but others had such obscure names as “Cuddly Old Koala,” “Sitting on a Bench Theme,” “No Reply,” and yet others had only a few seconds of audio footage which were recorded as bench markers.  The latter tracks were later found not to be Matt’s vocals but that of other artists misfiled. Whereas I assumed the same mistaken identity had been made on other tracks, these were indeed Dad’s velvet baritones.

While this process was taking place, I decided to access all the cassette recordings that were at my disposal.  Having been stored for several long decades the first one promptly snapped when placed in the stereo.  I was horrified that I had just destroyed a piece of history.

The guardian angel that came to my subsequent rescue was one of Matt Monro’s staunchest fans. Specialising in audio restoration, Richard Moore offered his services.  Having been a member of the singer’s growing fan website [www.mattmonro.com] Richard contacted me.  Under the code name “Operation Santa,” he undertook the laborious task of transferring each tape to CD.  This was done purely for listening purposes as it gave me a chance to analyse a plethora of material without the worry of damaging any more original tape as I clicked back and forth a hundred times.  It took months to dissect each tape, but finally a list was put together of album possibilities.  That would only be possible if the audio could be restored to a reasonable quality. Having volunteered originally, I cajoled Richard into seeing the project through to the bitter end, and once again he was given the rather daunting task of getting the tracks up to an acceptable parity. After weeks of backbreaking work he managed to salvage what I think are some of The Rare Monro’s most outstanding tracks. I have to tell you that when I gave this material to Richard, I didn’t imagine for a minute that it would take months of laborious work, but the results are stunning.

In 2006 I had the opportunity of buying the rights to the Nelson Riddle concert masters and with the backing of EMI jointly decided to release this exceptional concert to the mass market. I decided Richard Moore was the man for the job and he had the arduous task of re-mastering the album from scratch. The source for this recording was a 3-¾ inches per second, quarter track, reel to reel tape which had been recorded directly from a TV line source. Professional standard mono recordings are made at the very least on 15 inches per second full track tape. As you decrease the speed of the tape the quality and frequency response of the recording drastically reduces.  On quarter track tape the sound is squashed into a smaller area and any defects on the tape become more pronounced causing what is known as “dropouts,” where the sound disappears for a fraction of a second.

The original restoration by Alan Bunting had removed some of the hiss and tape noise but had left behind some smaller defects that still needed to be addressed, [and this] meant removing them so as to bring the recording as close to its original sound as possible. The first problem was a hum (caused by the mains electricity supply) that ran throughout the tape, but was most pronounced during the spoken sections. The recording also had had a considerable amount of high frequency distortion removed and had then been re-‘EQ’ed’ to compensate for the slow recording speed.  After more hiss removal, there were still two more faults that needed attention [and these were] altogether much more time consuming. The microphone that Matt used during this broadcast had a minor flaw, which caused some strange clunking noises to appear on the soundtrack whenever the microphone was jolted. On the finished album, many of these noises were digitally removed where possible, but only where the removal of the noise would not harm or interfere with the original recording. Lastly, as many of the large “dropouts” as possible were repaired, although once again immeasurable care was taken not to harm the original recording.

Richard had been well and truly thrown in at the deep end but his love of music gives him the patience of Job. Since that collaboration, Richard has been my right arm, my co-conspirator, my rock and my confidant. We have spurred each other on, leaving no stone unturned looking for a Matt Monro item, even when some such piece looked irretrievable. Everyone should be lucky enough to have such a friend in their lives.

In addition to wonderful compilations like these, is there any chance that more expanded editions of original albums might arrive in the future?

The material that we have is probably not suitable for an expanded edition of an existing album. The Hoagy Carmichael session, which was issued on Words and Music, was an exception to the rule. Obviously if there comes a point where we have the opportunity through unearthing lost material then certainly we will consider releasing it.

Once again, Michele, thank you for taking the time to speak with The Second Disc!  We eagerly await chatting with you again about future projects, and wish you all the best!

 

A Second Disc Interview: Talking Matt Monro, Mastering and Mixing with RICHARD MOORE

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A remarkable treasure trove of Matt Monro rarities has just been released by EMI Gold, a timely reminder of the artist’s life and career. He was sometimes known as the “Cockney Como” or the “English Sinatra,” but both descriptions fail to adequately capture the essence of the beloved singer’s unique and enduring style. Fortunately, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro offers that singular sound in abundance as it traces the arc of his entire career, via almost entirely unheard material. We welcomed MICHELE MONRO to The Second Disc yesterday for this interview, and today we’re happy to speak to Michele’s collaborator, sound engineer RICHARD MOORE!  Richard is co-compiler of the new compilation, and the man responsible for restoring, remixing and remastering its tracks.  Click here if you missed our introduction to The Rarer Monro, or read on, to join our conversation with Richard!

Thanks for talking with us, Richard.  How did your association with Michele Monro and EMI begin?

I initially offered my help to the Monro estate in about 2005.  At this point Michele didn’t know much about what I could do, but in early 2006 I contacted her again – and as fate would have it, just as a cassette containing the only copy of a rare interview broke in her cassette machine.  [See yesterday’s interview for the full story!] She asked if I could repair it and transfer it to CD for her. Evidently she was happy with what I did, as I have worked on every official Monro CD release since. It was Michele who brought me in contact with EMI.

I’d like to pose one question to you that I also asked Michele: what was the biggest challenge in assembling The Rarer Monro

The biggest challenge is finding the material in the first place. I’ve lost count of the TV and radio stations and archives we’ve contacted around the globe, the hundreds of home recordings we’ve ploughed through to find one gem. It can be very frustrating too; some people are unwilling even to answer a simple enquiry, but persistence is the key!

Another big challenge is pulling all of the different sources together and making the sound fairly consistent. This album has material from 78 rpm shellac disc, vinyl disc, acetates, cassettes, ¼-inch home-recorded tapes and even an 8-track cartridge! On top of this there was material from the BBC – some of which was dubbed by them.  In other cases I was sent the tapes; recordings from Mood Media [took] almost a year to be found and dubbed, as well as material from the EMI archives in every conceivable track format.

And what was the most satisfying aspect of assembling this new set?

The most satisfying aspect is being able to bring so many lost gems to the public after so long. Finding a lost tape, or a previously undocumented session is a great feeling. Being the first person to hear recordings that haven’t been heard in years is a great honour. For instance, some early stereo tapes were found hidden in a cupboard in the BBC Research and Development Department and probably hadn’t been played since the day they were recorded in 1958. In cases like this you’ve no idea what you’re going to get. Does the tape actually contain what’s written on the box? Has the tape been wiped, demagnetised or recorded over? When you finally play the tapes and what you hear is good, it’s beyond satisfying!  Michele is always jealous as I always get to hear things before she does!


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You and Michele should also be credited as detectives, Richard!  Out of all of the songs you discovered for this project, which presented the biggest obstacles for restoration?

Thankfully, very few of the tracks required major restoration.  “I Suddenly” came from a publishers’ demo on an acetate disc. In fact I had two copies; one was 78rpm, the other 45rpm. I had to restore both versions in order to find out which would be the best. The 78 was in best condition, but the frequency response was better on the 45. It became a bit of a trade off; eventually the 45 rpm disc won, but the amount of restoration required was more extensive. I pride myself on not being too heavy handed with restoration, but there are occasions where you have to scrub that little bit harder, which is what I had to do with this recording. The very last chord of this song as heard on the CD actually comes from the 78 as there was irreparable damage to the end of the song on the 45.
Another track in that required a lot of help was a recording taken from a promotional 8-track cartridge, the jingle for “Newport Cigarettes.” 8-tracks were never the greatest sounding format invented and this one that was nearly 45 years old, so [that] didn’t make matters any easier. The sound was lifeless and covered in major amounts of tape hiss. It’s still probably the worst-sounding of all the tracks, but Michele really wanted to include it.

The tracks from Matt’s Kind of Music, a long-lost radio series, also required some careful handling.  I am not a great fan of digital noise reduction where tape hiss is concerned. It’s overused and unnecessary most of the time. However there are times when used carefully, it is a godsend. The tapes of this series were wiped many years ago, Thankfully Matt kept a few incomplete shows himself taped off air on to 3¾ ips half track Mono ¼ inch tape. These tapes were transferred to cassette by EMI in the mid-1980s, but for reasons unknown, the original reels were not returned and have since been lost. The amount of hiss from the FM radio interference, low speed reel tape and now cassette was excessive, so I had no choice but to use it. I find that more damage can be caused if you try and remove the hiss in one go, so I removed it using four or five gentle passes. I didn’t try to remove it completely, just [to] take it down to an acceptable level. I originally restored the recordings back in 2006, but technology has moved on so for this issue I went back to the original cassettes and retransferred them in 96k 24bit.

After the jump: Richard talks mastering, reflects on Matt’s collaborators, and reveals what’s next for him!

I have to say, you’ve worked wonders.  Of which tracks are you most proud of your work, or of Matt’s performance?

I’m my own worst critic, so it takes a while for me to appreciate some of the things I’ve worked on. But on the whole I’m very pleased with the completed set; I think it fits together very well.  It was certainly fun to work on. It’s hard to pick out tracks, although I am very fond of some of the tracks I mixed for the first time. As far as Matt’s performances are concerned, it is a testament to how good he was that some of these tracks have lain unused and unloved in the archives for so long.  “A Few Tender Words” is a great recording recorded in just one take and then forgotten about. I also like the early take of “Once in Every Long and Lonely While” we’ve included, which starts with Matt completely unaccompanied.

I know that your feelings about restoration and digital noise reduction will be greeted warmly by many of our readers.  Another “hot topic” today is definitely mastering.  How do you feel the digital/iTunes era has changed the art of mastering?  Has it changed your personal style?

I don’t think the digital era has changed the art of mastering as such; after all, early CD masterings often have much more dynamic range than modern pressings, and in theory the CD should have allowed more headroom than vinyl due to the increased signal to noise ratio. In my opinion, it’s recent trends in music that have made the difference in mastering styles. A lot of chart music is heavily compressed and I think this has affected back catalogue releases although I can’t see why they need to compete. As for ‘Mastered for iTunes’ if something is mastered well, it will work well as compressed or uncompressed audio; there is no need to master it again! No, it hasn’t changed my personal style at all. I still go for a clean and clear sound with room for the music to breathe. I am not a fan of “brick wall” mastering and from the feedback I’ve had about previous releases, neither are the majority of listeners.

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Richard Moore and Sir George Martin

Again, I know a great many readers here certainly agree with you, and the quality of your work truly speaks for itself.  It must also help when songs are recorded so well, to begin with!  Can you describe what made the sound of the George Martin-produced, Abbey Road-recorded tracks so unique?

It’s a combination of things. It’s not just a great-sounding studio, but who George chose to work with. Stuart Eltham was one of his favourite engineers for recording orchestras – most of the time, they recorded direct to stereo and the mixes were always perfect – and Johnnie Spence was one of the best arrangers the UK ever produced, so the three of them were a dream team.

Johnnie’s work is so often underrated!  His arrangements were just masterful, whether for Matt, Tom Jones, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Shirley Bassey, or any of the other artists with whom he worked.  I’m thrilled to see him getting his due from both you and Michele. 

Lastly, Richard: Down the road, what projects might we expect from you?
Late last year, I worked on a set by Shirley Bassey for EMI which has been caught up in all sorts of legal delays, so I’m hoping that will be coming out soon.

My fingers are certainly crossed!

I’ve also been working with Buddy Greco on an album with the prospect of some more in the future, and a few other projects I can’t currently talk about!   I also author DVDs and a series of eight CD/DVD sets I worked on called Sight and Sound are being issued by EMI Gold at the end of this month. 

Thanks again, Richard.  Best of luck with Buddy as well as everything else the future will bring.  This has been a tremendous pleasure and we hope to speak with you again soon!

 

So as you can see it’s been quite a hectic month, and I didn’t even mention that my gorgeous son Max got engaged to his girlfriend of five years Justine. They won’t actually tie the knot unto after their University studies but he felt he wanted to take the relationship a step further so here’s wishing them both everything they wish themselves.

I left England on 22 September to work on board Royal Caribbean. I have to say I was looking forward to this very much as it is one of my favourite lines. A full report next month but do remember I am still making an appearance every Wednesday on Siren 107.8FM’s ‘Midweek Drive’. The weekly slot allows me to select some of the lesser-known tracks of dad and that is wonderful as it gives me a chance to play a broader range.

Don’t forget to check out our Spotlight guest this month, I know so many of you enjoy them.

Most importantly please let me know if you have anything related to dad, whether a story, a photo or an old radio show. Or maybe you have some old VHS formats laying in the attic that might have a television show on it. We can always have it transferred for you at our costs. As Richard and I unearth these rarities we are constantly told “but we thought you must have it”. Please don’t be shy; you might have something we are looking for. I repeat this message every month just in case it jogs someone’s memory.

Check out the ‘Rough Guide to mattmonro.com’, which is available towards the bottom of the Homepage. A few of you have mentioned that you don’t know how to access certain areas of the site or in fact are unaware of new areas, this guide will explain how easy this website is to get around, once you know how.

There is also another information box “How to Use the Forum’. I know a lot of people have been tempted to join in on some of our conversations but are slightly nervous of doing so. For that reason I have printed step-by-step instructions of how to access it. It really does only take a few minutes.

Until November here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012 and may your year be filled with music.

Warmest
Michele Monro

Past News - September 2012

Past News - August 2012

Past News - July 2012

Past News - June 2012

Past News - May 2012

Past News - April 2012

Past News - March 2012

Past News - February 2012

Past News - December 2011

Past News - November 2011

Past News - October 2011

Past News - September 2011

Past News - August 2011

Past News - July 2011

 

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