Matt Monro: The Complete EMI Recordings 1971-1984
Back in April 2021, I spoke to Cherry Red Records about putting together a Matt Monro set. They were very interested in the idea and I suggested we look at the latter part of Matt’s career. The cogs turn very slowly in licensing departments of major record companies these days, so it wasn’t until Late 2022 that we got the green light from Warner Music to go ahead.
Of course, when I do a Matt Monro product, it’s never just a “throw on the usual old masters” project (actually that goes for all my work), but this particular project needed a little more TLC than others.
Why? Historically, this part of Matt’s catalogue hasn’t been treated very well.
Two albums – For the Present and The Other Side of the Stars had been issued on CD before (as an old EMI 2on1), but large chunks of these, for reasons unknown, were dubbed from vinyl and not very good quality vinyl either. What makes it worse is that these travesties are what is available on download and streaming services these days – avoid at all costs!
Be My Love – Original CD Release (from Vinyl)
Be My Love – New Remix
The other two albums, The Long and Winding Road and If I Never Sing Another Song had never been issued on CD in their entirety and again some of the tracks from the latter LP had also been taken from vinyl when issued on compilations.
The vinyl dubs were inexcusable and lazy. The master tapes are all in fine condition in the Warner archives and always have been.
There are other problems that I’ve tried to rectify over the years where I can – The lost master tapes for Matt’s Philippines recorded tracks for instance have made masters for those songs, somewhat lacking in quality.
This set contains everything Matt recorded for Columbia/EMI from the time he left Capitol to his very last recordings and includes a couple of unreleased versions of songs plus all his jingles from the era and a couple of previously unheard live tracks recorded in Australia.
Let’s go over the discs one by one
Disc 1 contains the full For the Present LP ALL from the master tape. Much of this album wasn’t remastered again as all (save for one track) had been issued on compilations from my remasters of these tracks over the last 12 or so years. I did some comparisons and decided that these couldn’t really be improved upon, but “Speak Softly Love” I’d never touched so that is new here. Likewise, the singles in the main are the same as the Complete Singles Collection and outtakes and jingles that I’d previously remastered (issued on Matt Uncovered etc) were generally left alone. There were a couple of big exceptions.
Historia De Amor was only issued in Spain in 1973. It had to wait until From Matt with Love in 2007 to get a release elsewhere. At that point, only a vinyl copy could be found and was used as the basis for that release. The mixdown mastertape is missing so this time I returned to the session tape and remixed the track so it could be heard in pristine condition.
Historia De Amour – Restored Vinyl transfer (From Matt With Love)
Historia De Amour – New Remix
Historia De Amour is of course the Spanish version of Love Story. For this too, I went back to the multitrack master and remixed. Not all of Matt’s attempt at an English vocal survives, wiped during the recording of the Spanish vocal, but 2/3rds of It does. The mix we used in the past (by Peter Mew at Abbey Road) was always a little dry for my tastes, so a remix was done. Besides the final verse, The last line of the surviving part of the English vocal “It’s Always There” had also been wiped, making the song sound unfinished. I decided to see what could be done to complete it. In all, there were 4 takes. Takes 1 & 2 were both false starts by the orchestra. Take 3 was a full take and included Matt’s live English vocal. George Martin evidently wasn’t happy with some aspects of the song, so attempted another take, but without Matt, intending to add a vocal later. It was this take 4 that was used for the bulk of the Spanish vocal. However, that take fell apart in the last section so the final part of the Spanish vocal comes from take 3 – hence the wiping of the end of the English vocal. There were no other takes to help complete the missing line. As it happened, the line was partly on tape. You can still hear “It’s al……….”
I decided to hunt through the rest of Matt’s catalogue to see if I could find the words “Always there”. You’d think that there would be plenty of songs which use one word or another, but there are surprisingly few songs Matt sang with the word “Always” Thankfully I struck lucky and found both words together in the song “I Love You Because” So the words were transplanted from one song, re-pitched to the correct notes and added into the vocal. Whilst the result isn’t perfect, it’s more satisfying to hear the phrase finish, rather than it stopping straight after “I reach for her hand….”
Disc 2 is based on The Other Side of The Stars LP issued in 1975, although recording started way back in 1972 before For The Present had been released. The album seems to have been forgotten about for two years and then rushed out without any quality control. A large number of the tracks were issued in the form of rough mixes, created for reference at the end of the sessions. One song, I’m Glad I’m Not Young Any More, was so bad it was smothered in reverb and a nasty trumpet fluff in the instrumental section. Looking at the multitracks, it appears that not every song used the vocal marked “master” either. It had long been an ambition of mine to fix the album after mixing some alternate takes for the album The Alternate Monro in 2013. I, therefore, took this opportunity to try and let this album get a bit of love!
I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore – Original Mix with mistake
I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore – Remix
I already had 2/3rd of the multitracks for the LP dating from the Alternate Monro sessions, and with Michele’s permission, Cherry Red kindly arranged for the last two reels to be sent over too.
The whole album – plus two out-takes from the sessions released later on compilations – was completely remixed from the 16-track session reels. Whilst more than one vocal was available on some songs, I decided to keep the vocal takes as they were on the original album release as this is what listeners were used to. There was small one exception to this. The track Your Sensational used a vocal where Matt was very slightly sharp on one line (a rarity!) I substituted this with a line from another take. The other major change in content was fixing the trumpet mistake on the originally released take of I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore, which still annoyed arranger/conductor Colin Keyes 40 years later when I spoke to him about recording Matt. Colin, wherever you may be, I’ve finally fixed it for you. As a little extra on this edition, the alternate version of the song from The Alternate Monro now includes Colin’s count in.
These new, clear and polished mixes finally show just how great and detailed Colin’s arrangements were. I was never a fan of this album but now look at it very differently.
Here’s a good example of the improvements. On the 2 on 1, the High hat on the intro was partially removed by noise reduction. A remaster from the original mix is an improvement, but the high hat is far too high in the mix.
For All We Know – Original CD release taken from vinyl with hi hat removed by digital noise reduction
For All We Know – Remastered but poorly balanced
For All We Know – Remix
The two additional tracks recorded during these sessions also never had proper mixes. Yesterday When I Was Young was OK, but I felt a remix would make it match the sound of the rest of the albums. The final song, It’s That Time Again was another matter entirely. Featuring Matt in full Scott Walker mode, It must have been recorded as a potential single, as a contemporary song it wasn’t part of the theme. The rough mix issued on The Rare Monro also used a vocal, where Matt fluffs a line. A second vocal recording was mostly better. It’s likely, had the song been mixed properly, that a master would have been created using the best sections of each take, which is exactly what I did for this remix.
It’s That Time Again – Originally released rough mix with mistake.
It’s That Time Again – Remix with correct vocal
Disc 3 contains the full 1975 LP The Long and Winding Road fully remastered from the original master tape. The majority of the other tracks are the same as previously released masters apart from the two unreleased tracks mastered from their ¼” master tapes. Darling Come Home Soon (early version) is an alternate vocal and mix which was rejected. A new vocal was recorded for the final version. The final mix includes the backing vocals in slightly different places too. This track first came to my attention as an acetate.
It should be noted that whilst John Burgess is listed as the producer of this LP, One song, The Auction dates from a 1969 Capitol Session with George Martin and Ready Steady Go was produced by Peter Sullivan.
Disc 4 follows suit and contains the complete If I Never Sing Another Song LP from 1979, once again fully remastered from the master tape. The gap between the songs was very short on the album and I have kept those original times for this release. The Long and Winding Road also originally included on this album was omitted rather than repeat the song, as the mixes were identical.
Again, most of the rest of the tracks on this disc are as previous releases, however, there are some exceptions. Alone Am I comes from a recently discovered original master tape for the score of Tomorrow Never Comes and was completely remastered for this set, as were the two Philippines recorded songs Be My Lady and Memory. Despite many years of searching, the master tapes for these songs cannot be found. I last remastered these tracks for The Singer’s Singer (remastered) set in 2012. New technology and software have allowed me to make improvements to the recordings. I still had the untouched dubs made in 2012 – I had multiple versions recorded using different turntables, speeds and even backwards. The only original source for the songs was the Philippine album The Very Best of Matt Monro – Volume 3. The vinyl however was not great quality – even from the sealed copy I used and there was little point in trying a new dub. I did however now have a cassette copy of the album too, although again the tape wasn’t great. It had some bad dropouts and couldn’t be used as a main source.
I auditioned my various dubs and found candidates for each number that I felt would clean up the best. These were gently de-clicked. New restoration algorithms proved much better than ten years ago but a little manual clean-up was also required. The vinyl rumble was quite obtrusive at the start of the recordings, although I could reduce this digitally, I wasn’t very happy with the results and these were replaced with sections from the cassette transfer, EQ matched to the vinyl. Whilst still not perfect, these are a definite upgrade in comparison to previous releases.
As a bonus, we added two live recordings from this era that had not been released before and were songs Matt never recorded in the studio. Recorded direct to cassette at a nightclub in Australia, the engineer had the foresight to record 2 channels, the 1st being a direct feed from the mixing desk and the second a microphone set up to pick up the reaction of the audience. There was a delay between the desk feed and the microphone, which was most likely placed near the desk towards the back of the room. Once this had been corrected, the sound of both channels mixed together was more natural but unbalanced. Using some of the latest audio tools I was able to separate elements of the recording into separate “stems” to allow rebalancing. I worked on the desk and audience tracks separately and ended up with about 8 tracks, which were then remixed to create an approximation of what would originally have been heard by the audience.
If They Could See Me Now (Live) – Raw tape.
If They Could See Me Now (Live) – Restored and remixed
This collection brings back to catalogue a large cross-section of Matt’s recordings previously ignored.
The album is available for preorder at Cherry Red Records website