March 13, Capitol/UMe will release Stranger In Paradise – The Lost New York Sessions, a much-anticipated double CD showcasing Matt Monro’s estimable talent.
The tapes for The Lost New York Sessions were housed in the Capitol vaults in Los Angeles and were impromptu arrangements that Monro originally intended for release. However, Monro’s musical director took the tapes, changed the arrangements and added brass and strings for a more produced version. These revised versions appear on his 1967 Capitol album, Invitation To Broadway and his original versions were never released. The new release’s first disc features 16 tracks released for the first time in their original, undubbed form – the way Monro had originally recorded them.
The full glare of American media was soon to fall on Matt Monro as the lad from Shoreditch followed in the footsteps of his boyhood idol, Frank Sinatra, when he joined the Capitol Records roster. Expectations were high given Monro’s enormous talent, and he went on to take his place among the list of artists that comprise the great vocal tradition of Capitol.
By November 1966, Monro had already recorded two albums at the Capitol Tower studio in Hollywood but the label wanted more. Knowing that Monro 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 New York sessions, though, instead of an orchestra or ready-made arrangements accompanying Monro, 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.
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 Monro was there, musical director Dave 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 Monro, was that. He’d thoroughly enjoyed the sessions and looked forward to hearing the album. However, unbeknown to him, Cavanaugh had decided that he preferred Monro 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. The rest is Invitation To Broadway history. With Stranger In Paradise – The Lost New York Sessions, Capitol/UMe is releasing the album Monro believed was the one he recorded.
Stranger In Paradise – The Lost New York Sessions takes listeners on a journey, from the opening bars of the unmistakable title track, originally popularized 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 complement these special recordings, Disc 2 is a newly curated best-of featuring the British singer’s unrivalled gifts to the music world. In addition to ‘From Russia With Love’ and ‘Born Free,’u the 27 recordings selected are considered his greatest and include the timeless favorites ‘Wednesday’s Child;’ Monro’s last hit single and 1973 Top 30 hit, ‘And You Smiled;’ and ‘The Music Played,’ the English language version of his platinum selling No 1 Spanish hit single ‘Alguien Canto.’
The compilation also includes “This Is The Life,” 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’ – all important additions as they have been missing from more recent collections. His version of ‘When I Look In Your Eyes,’ from the musical Dr Doolittle, was buried in the Capitol vaults for many years after a publishing dispute, while the lesser-known ‘Two People’ comes from the East End lad’s silver screen debut, Satan’s Harvest, which starred George Montgomery and Tippi Hedren.
Matt Monro was always ‘the Singer’s Singer,’ one of a select number of popular vocalists admired equally by the public and by his fellow performers, including Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Karen Carpenter, Scott Walker and Paul McCartney. Monro was a performer equally at home prowling the stage at the Royal Albert Hall or the London nightclub 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 perfect grace and style.
Although his death in 1985 at 54 from a terminal illness was a tragic loss to the music world, 35 years on Matt Monro’s music resounds as strongly as ever. He has influenced generations of singers and continues to do so.
Stranger In Paradise – The Lost New York Sessions is out on 13 March. Scroll down to read the full tracklist and buy it here.
Disc 1 – The Lost New York Sessions:
‘The Impossible Dream’
‘Stranger In Paradise’
‘Put On A Happy Face’
‘The Apple Tree’
‘If She Walked Into My Life’
‘The Sweetest Sounds’
‘I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think Of Her’
‘Come Back To Me’
‘Look For Small Pleasures’
‘The Lady Smiles’
‘Lover’s Caravan – Take 3’
‘Beautiful Beautiful World’
‘What Makes It Happen – Take 3’
‘The Apple Tree – Alternate Vocal / Take 7’
‘The Lady Smiles – Take 5’
‘Lover’s Caravan – Take 2’
‘What Makes It Happen – Take 5’
Disc 2 – The Best:
‘Portrait Of My Love’
‘My Kind Of Girl’
‘Gonna Build A Mountain’
‘Softly As I Leave You’
‘From Russia With Love’
‘This Is The Life’
‘On A Clear Day You Can See Forever’
‘Don’t Answer Me (Ti Vedo Uscire)’
‘Honey On The Vine’
‘I Will Wait For You’
‘When I Look In Your Eyes’
‘The Music Played’
‘All Of A Sudden’
‘On Days Like These’
‘We’re Gonna Change The World’
‘And You Smiled’
‘If I Never Sing Another Song’