Matt Monro

Original Gold

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Despite its title, this two-CD European compilation isn't quite a best-of. Matt Monro scored 14 chart entries in the U.K. between 1960 and 1973 (several of them got into the American charts, too), of which five "Yesterday," "Walk Away," "My Kind of Girl," "When Love Comes Along," and "From Russia with Love" -- are included. Another well-exposed Monro performance was his rendition of "Born Free," which was heard in the film, and that's here as well. That leaves 24 tracks, most of them recorded in the 1960s, with a few '70s recordings thrown in, sequenced in no discernible order. Monro takes on many standards -- "Unchained Melody," "Georgia on My Mind," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Autumn Leaves," "Ebb Tide," "Fly Me to the Moon," etc. -- and handles them well in his smooth, affectless voice. The rap on Monro was always that he was a Sinatra imitator, but here, when he tackles Sinatra signature songs like "My Way" and "Strangers in the Night," the differences are apparent. Monro is stylistically closer to Vic Damone and Jack Jones, singers who hide emotion behind technique, while the Chairman of the Board always let his feelings out. (Incidentally, by now one is struck not so much by Monro's similarity to his predecessors and contemporaries as by his influence on later singers, especially David Bowie.) Monro is unfailingly pleasant to listen to, and this is a generous collection, though it falls between the stools of being a hits compilation or a thorough overview of the singer's work. Rather, it's a seemingly random collection of 30 of his recordings; inevitably, there are some wonderful performances, but the selection doesn't make any particular sense.

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