Earlier this year, George Martin passed away at the age of 90. Among the great producer’s most lasting associations was with vocalist Matt Monro. Martin and Monro’s professional partnership endured for more than fifteen years, while their friendship survived until the singer’s untimely death in 1985 at just 54 years old. Now, the joint Martin/Monro legacy has been celebrated on a wonderful new anthology. Matt Monro’s The George Martin Years is available now from Rhino and Parlophone U.K., containing 27 hits and rarities sung in Monro’s inimitably pristine style to Martin’s sublime accompaniment. All of the tracks were recorded between 1959 and 1974.
The George Martin Years appropriately begins with 1959’s “You Keep Me Swinging,” a Martin-penned track (under the pseudonym of Graham Fisher) from Peter Sellers’ comic tour de force Songs for Swingin’ Sellers. When it was clear that a Frank Sinatra impersonation was beyond even the talents of Sellers, the up-and-coming Monro was enlisted as “Fred Flange” to sing the Sinatra-aping melody. His pure tone, easy command of a lyric and seemingly effortless power was simply too irresistible for a one-off, however. The appearance of the mysterious Fred Flange would lead to Matt Monro’s joining EMI under his real name. Martin would be by his side as producer, most frequently joined by arranger Johnnie Spence. But their first recording under Monro’s own name was The Gershwins’ “Love Walked In,” recorded with arranger Tommy Watt, on March 2, 1960. It’s the second track on this collection.
The compendium continues with beautifully-sung renditions of standards (Hoagy Carmichael’s “I Get Along Without You Very Well”), showtunes (Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse’s “Gonna Build a Mountain” from Stop the World! I Want to Get Off!) and pop favorites (The Beatles’ “Yesterday” – a landmark Top 10 hit for Monro – and “Michelle,” The Bee Gees’ “First of May,” Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway’s “I Am in Life”) and songs composed by Martin (“This Time,” “Can This Be Love,” “No One Will Ever Know”). Monro’s signature songs are here, too, including “Walk Away,” “Portrait of My Love” and “My Kind of Girl,” all of which took him to the U.K. Top 5, and the James Bond theme “From Russia with Love.” All are lushly produced by Martin with his trademarks of class and sophistication. The first 21 tracks were all cut at Abbey Road, with the remaining six selections at Martin’s own AIR Studios.
As produced by Matt’s daughter Michele Monro and freshly remastered by Richard Moore, the team responsible for so many essential Monro releases of late, The George Martin Years boasts a number of notable rarities. A demo of “No One Will Ever Know,” co-written by George and featuring Johnnie Spence at the piano, was Martin’s favorite recording of Monro. The 1962 recording of “Tahiti” gets a first-time stereo release here. A number of songs have been out of print on CD since 1991: “Without the One I Love,” “If This Should Be a Dream” and “Once in Every Long and Lonely While” (the latter two composed by Martin). Matt’s version of the Dusty Springfield hit “I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten,” produced by John Burgess but arranged and conducted by Martin, makes its first CD appearance outside of limited edition supermarket CD release. Matt’s recordings of Bobby Darin’s “As Long As I’m Singing” and Charles Tobias’ “The Girl I Love” are also both returning to print with this release.
Filled with stunning balladry and swaggering swingers sung by a vocalist who could do it all with aplomb, The George Martin Years is an elegant testament to a team whose collaborations will continue to be savored for decades to come. The release contains a booklet with new liner notes by Michele and numerous photographs. You can order this new Rhino/Parlophone set at the links below!
- You Keep Me Swinging (rec. October 14 & 21, 1959)
- Love Walked In (rec. March 2, 1960)
- Portrait of My Love (rec. November 2, 1960)
- My Kind of Girl (rec. February 18, 1961)
- This Time (rec. February 18, 1961)
- Gonna Build a Mountain (rec. August 21, 1961)
- Can This Be Love (rec. April 25, 1961)
- No One Will Ever Know (rec. May 11, 1961)
- Softly As I Leave You (rec. December 27, 1961)
- Tahiti (rec. April 18, 1962)
- My Love and Devotion (rec. April 18, 1962)
- I Get Along Without You Very Well (rec. June 24, 1962)
- One Morning in May (rec. July 22, 1962)
- Walk Away (rec. April 28, 1964)
- Without the One I Love (rec. January 10, 1963)
- The Girl I Love (rec. January 22, 1963)
- From Russia with Love (rec. September 3, 1963)
- If This Should Be a Dream (rec. April 18, 1962)
- Once in Every Long and Lonely While (rec. January 8, 1965)
- As Long as I’m Singing (rec. September 26, 1965)
- Yesterday (rec. September 12, 1965)
- Sarah’s Coming Home (rec. April 5, 1971)
- First of May (rec. June 29, 1972)
- Michelle (rec. June 29, 1972)
- Ethel Baby (rec. June 29, 1972)
- I Am in Life (rec. March 2, 1973)
- I Close My Eyes and Count to Ten (rec. March 9, 1974)