John Murray hears an impeccable take on top crooner Monro
One of my guilty pleasures over the festive period was watching Michael Caine in The Italian Job, the original 1969 one of course with real minis and yes, Noel Coward and Benny Hill in the same movie. The soundtrack features one of our all time great UK vocalists, Matt Monro with ‘On Days Like These’. Matt became an international star, sold millions of records yet still loved to tour the theatres all over Britain. He first played the Adam Smith Theatre in May 1979 and returned for a week’s engagement in September 1980 and again in May 1983 just two years before he died of cancer aged just 54. There were few singers that could compare to Matt and Frank Sinatra placed him in his top three vocalists. Some time ago though I heard a vocalist in a Kirkcaldy hotel who took on some classic Monro songs within a set of other crooners and romantic stylists. He was Gary Grace, a perfectionist in performance and a tireless traveller just as Matt was. This week ‘Echoes Of Matt Monro’ was released and the interpretation had come full circle. Gary is fearless in his songbook taking on the most challenging of ranges as he soars above the orchestra on songs like ‘Born Free’ or ‘I Have Dreamed’. We get an impeccable ‘On Days Like These’, a swinging ‘We’re Gonna Change The World’ and a theatrical ‘Who Can I Turn To?’ Hearing the phrasing Matt brought to the orchestrated McCartney song ‘Yesterday’ all returns right here and reprising those ground breaking early hits like ‘My Kind Of Girl’ and ‘Portrait Of My Love’ he brings an appreciation that comers from within to the extent of family approval from Matt’s daughter Michele who contributes to the sleeve notes.