Matt Monro - Stranger In Paradise
Mixed and Mastered by Richard Moore. Released March 13th 2020
I’ve written some technical notes for the booklet in this release, but thought I’d write this up in more detail.
The Lost New York Sessions is a project I’ve had in mind for 11 years. Whilst I’d gone through all of the tape logs, put together a session listing for Matt’s career and knew about the overdubs added to the ‘Invitation to Broadway’ tracks, I hadn’t known Matt’s feelings toward the release. I’d assumed that overdubs were always going to be added. But it was only when Michele Monro was writing about the sessions in the biography of her father and asked me to check the section for technical details that I found out his real opinion.
In short – He was not happy. Dave Cavanaugh arranged the overdub sessions behind his back. Matt didn’t even know who had been responsible for adding the strings and brass. Even though the album was complete and mixed by January 1967, it would be November 1968 before Matt allowed the release to go ahead – probably due to the success of “The Impossible Dream” that Capitol snuck out in late 1967.
Hello Dolly – Invitation To Broadway version
Hello Dolly – Undubbed
Come Back To Me – Invitation To Broadway version
Come Back To Me – Undubbed
The idea behind the original New York sessions was for Matt to go to Capitol Studios, New York, just around the corner from Broadway itself, and record songs from shows currently playing there with just a small group, working on ‘head’ arrangements – in other words, there was no written arrangement. They would choose a song and routine it in the studio. When they were happy with the structure, they would then record the song. Matt loved recording this way. He loved working directly with the musicians. He was delighted by the result. It wasn’t the first time either. He recorded a number of songs for a Winifred Atwell transcription series with a small group (probably also broadcast on radio Luxembourg), with the Bill McGuffie trio for BBC radio and George Martin produced a late-night session with a trio in 1961 for Matt’s first LP (Although this idea was ultimately shelved and the recordings not released until 2006 and 2011 – See Rare Monro, Matt Uncovered or the Rarities Collection)
You can imagine his horror when the finished Broadway album was presented to him.
This would not be the last time Matt would fall out with Capitol over overdubs either. In 1970 they took his recording of “We’re Gonna Change The World”, cut out a verse (making the song make no sense) and overdubbing more brass on to the track. What made things worse was that when they recorded the overdubs, Matt was across town at United Recording taping a couple of new songs. He knew nothing about what was going on at Capitol Tower.– This would ultimately lead to the parting of the ways with Capitol.
But, back to the Broadway sessions. Fast forward to 2009. After hearing about the overdubs I did some digging and found that Capitol had some multi-track reels for the project which were marked November 1966 and engineered by Johnny Cue (Engineer at Capitol New York). These must be the original tapes. I would only find out for sure once these had been copied – Little did I know this would take nearly 10 years!
Michele discussed this with EMI Gold label boss Steve Woof and we put it on our future releases list which we’d look at after the projects we were then working on. – Complete Singles, Singer’s Singer (remaster), Matt Uncovered and the WHSmith Bookazine. Then disaster struck. EMI collapsed – that’s a long story and I won’t bore you with it here. It’s fairly easy to look up what happened. Matt’s catalogue at EMI (1960 – 1984) was suddenly broken in two. EMI was bought by Universal Music but were forced to sell parts of it to other companies. THE UK arm of EMI was sold to Warner and Capitol kept by UMG. The upshot was that Warner now only had 1960 – 1965 and 1971 – 1985 and Universal 1966 – 1971. This meant some of his biggest his weren’t available to Warner and vice versa.
Steve Woof continued to work for Parlophone (The name Warner used for the EMI Catalogue) for a short time and the last projects we created with him were Alternate Monro and The Rarities Collection (an amalgamation of all the non-Capitol recordings on The Rare Monro and Matt Uncovered). The loss of access to the Capitol material meant that the New York sessions were no longer possible. Steve Woof left Parlophone not long after this.
Steve was a great friend to the Monro estate and losing him put the brakes on all releases. And since 2013 the only CD to be released was The George Martin Years. Then in mid-2018, I said to Michele. “Is it worth me contacting Capitol again?” We both felt we had nothing to lose so I reached out.
I’d tried to speak to someone at Capitol in 2014, but for reasons I can’t remember it went nowhere. This time, however, after a couple of false starts, my message reached the very helpful Chas Chandler (who has nothing to do with the Animals or Jimi Hendrix Experience before you ask!)
Chas was surprised to hear from us as he thought all the Monro Capitol recordings had passed to Warner in the EMI split, Just as Shirley Bassey’s United Artists recordings had done. (Perhaps the same should have happened to Matt, but for reasons unknown, this hadn’t happened). Once they had confirmed that they did indeed own Matt’s Capitol recordings, they asked what my idea was. Of course, top of my list was the New York sessions.
To cut a long story short, I finally got to find out if I was correct and that all of the tapes I’d identified were the originals from New York – I’d been 99.9% sure, but you always have that nagging doubt!
I shouldn’t have doubted myself. There were in total seven 4 track reels. These contained the following:-
- Compiled chosen takes of all tracks used on the Broadway LP (plus the ultimately unused ‘Sweetest Sounds’)
- A compiled safety copy of tape 1
- Masters for ‘The Lady Smiles’, ‘Lovers Caravan’ and three takes of ‘What Makes It Happen’ plus two songs where matt had replaced the vocal
- A safety copy of tape 3
- Session reel for ‘Beautiful Beautiful World’ and thirteen takes of ‘The Lady Smiles’
- A safety copy of tape 5
- Further takes of What Makes It Happen and Lover’s Caravan
Don’t get distracted by the words “Safety Copy” and think that that is a second generation copy. Far from it, at least in this case. Engineer Johnny Cue ran two machines 4 track machines simultaneously so both are 1st generation copies. This was extremely useful in some cases where there were small dropouts. Whilst one tape has the fault, the other didn’t and could be substituted, although on the whole as the tapes hadn’t been played since 1966 they were in excellent condition anyway. This did help in another matter too, but I’ll get to that.
The sessions took place over 5 days in early November 1966 and the musicians would probably only have been at the first 4, with Matt perhaps returning alone on 5th day to re-tape two vocals and for the master reels to be compiled. (Alternate takes of the main 12 songs were not kept).
The track make up varied from song to song. Apart from Matt who was always on track 1 and the drums (mainly) on track 3, the remaining tracks varied. The bass would always be on track 2, but sometimes it would be mixed in with acoustic or electric guitars. Track 4 would often be piano, but sometimes it could be one of the guitars alone or mixed in with the piano and in some cases, the piano wasn’t miked directly at all and was just picked up by the guitar and drum mics. It was evidently decided on a case by case basis.
What immediately became clear from the session tapes was that Dave Cavanaugh was in the studio with Matt and the band, not in the control room and acted as a sort of substitute musical director.
The identity of the musicians on the album is, unfortunately, a mystery. I have been trying to find out who they were since 2010, Even the AFM in New York couldn’t help (or possibly wouldn’t – they weren’t easy to deal with), which is a shame. They do deserve to be credited. Unfortunately, any Capitol paperwork for the sessions has disappeared too. There was definitely a ‘Sal’ mentioned (I think this is the drummer) as well as a possible ‘Ben’ or ‘Glen’ (not very clear) but these were the only names other than Dave (Cavanaugh) and John (Cue) to be mentioned on the tapes.
At first glance you’d think, this is only 4 track, can’t be that hard to mix. In some circumstances that would indeed be the case, but here there was a problem. Whilst Matt was on his own track, the band were mixed up across three tracks and often moved from one track to another between songs. As the bass was usually mixed in with one of the guitars it meant both had to be in the same place in the stereo picture. As a mixing choice, I do prefer to have bass in the centre, but then that puts whatever is sharing the track there as well. Whilst I didn’t want the stereo to be too wide – They are playing together in the studio with the mic’s bleed slightly into each other – panning everything hard left or right felt unnatural. I wanted to place the band around Matt as if they were physically grouped round him. The drums (which were of course recorded in Mono) needed to be central too, which left only one track that could be panned. The effect wasn’t right at all.
Spectral editing is a fairly new tool in the engineer’s toolbox. It allows you to take audio and split it into its component parts. It’s still being developed and is currently very time consuming to work on pulling a fully mixed track into its individual instruments, but some things can be extracted quite easily. Extracting bass is thankfully something that works quite well. If I could separate the bass from the guitars, I opened up more possibilities. Making the bass completely separate though wasn’t plain sailing. Acoustic bass is not just low frequencies and nothing else. The harmonics and the transient pluck of the strings all play their part in the sound. To take the entire guitar off the bass damaged the sound too much, but I figured leaving a little bit of the guitar behind would do no harm; it’s just like mic bleed.
Guitar and Bass track
The final result though now presented me with a five channel recording
- Piano (and/or Guitar 1, Or celeste)
- Guitar 2
The final mix generally followed this route. Matt would be central along with the acoustic bass, the drums were placed just left of them and then one of the guitars towards the right and the piano (or other guitar) towards the left. This did vary a little, but this became the basic rule.
It still wasn’t very natural sounding though. Some of the instruments were close-miked but others were more off mic or off mic altogether, being picked up by microphones on other instruments. It wasn’t exactly pleasing to the ear. On top of that, a close miked vocal was really jarring.
Rough Dry Mix
Voices often don’t sound natural completely dry. If someone were to sing to you in a room, the acoustics of the room always play a part. A dry vocal is like someone singing straight into your ear. I’m sure some would like that, but it’s not the effect I was after. First things first then, let’s give Matt’s voice some breathing space.
I went through a great many reverbs but, Matt’s voice needs something more than just a standard hall reverb. When the majority of his recordings were mixed, they were treated with arguably the two best echo chambers in the world – those at Abbey Road and Capitol Studios. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the budget to go to London or LA to mix the tracks, but I did have the next best thing. In collaboration with Abbey Road studios, a plugin that emulates their echo chamber had just been released. I gave it a go and after a bit of adjustment, the sound I’ve come to know when working on Matt’s recordings suddenly appeared. It was a “eureka” moment! Adding It in Stereo to the vocal (and to the band, with slightly different settings and levels, too) pulled the whole thing together. It pulls the listener in and puts them in the room with Matt and the band.
Matt was a master in the studio. If a take went wrong, it was rarely down to him. During this session, there were two songs where it was felt that the band had nailed it, but Matt wasn’t happy with one of his performances and on another, he’d had a frog in his throat mid take. (They recorded some edit pieces but ultimately left them unused). They decided to leave the band tracks as they were and overdub new vocals. To do this they played back the 4 track on one machine, directly copying tracks 2 – 4 to another 4 track machine and re-recorded Matt’s vocal. They recorded full takes and a few pickups which could have been edited in later. In the end, they used complete takes, but using this process helped preserve the original unused vocal takes and helped solve a little problem.
I decided I would like to use the same vocal takes as the issue Broadway album, and this worked well except for “I’ll Only Miss Her When I Think of Her”, one of the two songs where Matt had replaced his vocal. The problem was that in one section Matt had sung quite loud and his voice was also picked up on band’s microphones. He’d sung the phrase very differently when he’d re-sung the part and it was very obvious, but this problem was evidently covered by the orchestral overdub on the released version. This was solved by flying in a section of the original vocal take from the safety copy. Having the original un-dubbed take also allowed me to use the original first generation of the backing along with the vocal overdub, helping preserve sound quality.
Another problem was hum on the electric guitar. This stuck out like a saw thumb. So every time an electric guitar was used, the hum needed to be filtered out carefully, without harming the original sound.
The tape boxes mention overdubs on 3 tracks, it’s possible that this may have been added percussion, but it’s not easy to tell what, if anything was added to the songs (“Stranger In Paradise”, “Hello Dolly” and “Look For Small Pleasures”). It certainly wasn’t a vocal overdub, as both the master and safety copies contain the same released vocal.
One song, “The Sweetest Sounds”, is a combination of two takes, with both the main master and safety master 4 track tapes having been physically cut and spliced in exactly the same place. There is a tiny increase in tempo between the two takes and this may have been the reason why this song was ultimately rejected from the final overdubbed album.
The decision to include some alternate takes on the album was taken after the original album had been mixed and mastered and therefore the mixes had to be matched as close as possible to the rest of the album. Although there weren’t that many alternates left to choose from, I chose an alternate from each of the five songs where alternates existed, which were mainly chosen for differences in Matt’s interpretations. For “The Apple Tree” I used the original live vocal (with a small patch from an unused partial take to cover Matt’s ‘frog’).
One interesting thing found on the tapes was that the 4 track master (as opposed to the safety copy), had spliced into the start of every song, a count in by Dave Cavenaugh. These had been spliced in to aid the additional overdubs added in LA. It is perhaps typical of the whole original Broadway project that, whilst we don’t know the names of the musicians on the New York sessions, we know the name of every single musician who played on the overdubs!
Dave Cavanaugh count in.
Just in case you’re interested the overdub musicians were:-
22nd November 1966 – Sid Feller (Conductor). Victor Arno, Louis Kaufman, Louis Rademan, Marshall Sosson, Erno Nufeld, Jacques Gasselin , Anatole Kaminsky, Gerald Vinci, Mischa Russell, Carl La Manga (Violins). Alvin Dinkin and Samuel Boghossian (Violas). Raphael Kramer, Kurt Reher, Frederick Seykora and Armand Kaproff (Cellos). Larry Buncker (Percussion)
15th December 1966 – Sid Feller (Conductor). Victor Arno, Dan Lube, Louis Kaufman, Louis Rademan, Marshall Sosson, Alfred Lustgarten, Edward Bergman, Emil, Briano, John Peter DeVogdt and Sally Raderman (Violins). Alvin Dinkin and Sven Reher (Violas). Gloria Strassner, Joseph Saxon, Emmet Sargeant and Paul Bergstrom (Cellos) Larry Buncker (Percussion)
21st December 1966 – Billy May (Conductor), Pete Condoli, James C Zito, Robert L Fowler and Donald A Fagerquist (Trumpets). Lew McCreary, Gilbert M Falco, Vernon L Friley and Kenneth Shroyer (Trombones). Stanley Levey (Drums and Percussion)
If anybody has any ideas who the five musicians were at the original New York Sessions, please contact me. I’d love to know!
Disc 2 – Best of Compilation
Whilst the majority of the songs on this second disc are remasters from previous projects (which couldn’t be improved upon), there are 5 tracks that are new to disc.
Georgy Girl and Two People are brand new remasters from the original masters carried out in 24-bit 96khz transfers.
Three other tracks were remixed, two from the original multitrack session tapes and one using a bit of technical trickery.
First up was ‘Everybody’s Talkin’. The original mix of this track has always suffered from a problem during the introduction where the overdubbed piano riff always sounded dodgy due to a badly set (or possibly faulty) compressor. The song was recorded to 4 track tape. The orchestra was recorded direct to stereo on 2 tracks with Matt and the Piano overdub on the third track – The fourth track was used for a Spanish language version of the vocal. The mix is therefore not enormously different from the original 1970 mix.
Everybody’s Talkin’ – Original Mix
Everybody’s Talkin’ – New Mix
Next was the single version of ‘Pretty Polly’. This song was issued in its 1960’s stereo mix on the Complete Singles Collection. However, this was not a typical mix. The song was, unusually for Matt, recorded on 3 track tape at an independent studio (CTS). The contemporary stereo mix was made by placing both Matt’s vocal and the rhythm section in mono, with the strings, panned hard left and a delayed version of the strings in the right-hand channel. For this compilation, I went back to the original 3 track and mixed it in a more traditional style.
Pretty Polly – Original Mix
Pretty Polly – New Mix
Lastly, we have ‘The Music Played’ which had only ever been issued in mono. Regrettably, the original 4 track tape no longer exists. But not all was lost. When Matt recorded the Spanish version of the song (“Alguien Canto”) a mix of the backing track was made in stereo and still exists as a ¼” tape in the old EMI archive. Using the same software that I used to separate the bass from the guitar in the New York sessions I was able to take the finished mono mix of the song, reduce the backing track and push Matt’s vocal forward. Removing the backing completely caused too much harm to the vocal, so reducing the orchestra was the best option in this case.
The Music Played – Original Mono
The Music Played – Backing Track
The Music Played – Vocal
The Music Played – Stereo Mix
The reverb added to Matt’s voice was also reduced by this process, so stereo reverb was added back during the mixdown. The new vocal track and the stereo backing were synchronised and a new mix created leading to the first stereo mix of the song. This makes it sound straight forward, but the separation of the vocal took a while to perfect and the final track was edited together from several versions, with sometimes individual syllables being replaced, but hopefully, you will find all the work worthwhile.