Moonlight's Back In Style is a swing album. In fact, according to songwriter Nicky Campbell's liner notes, it's a New Swing albumsongs in a classic style but rooted in contemporary experience. Whether this recording heralds a new musical genre or not it's an easygoing and likeable set of songs. Old swing fans should find plenty to enjoy.
The genesis of this album warrants some explanation. Mark Moraghan is an actor, well-known in Britain for his work on top television series including Brookside and Holby City. In 2006 he entered BBC television's celebrity singing competition, Just The Two Of Us, partnered with Natasha Hamilton from girl group "Girls Aloud," and they came second. Songwriter Nicky Campbell has been "making up songs" since the age of 11he came to fame in Britain as a DJ and presenter. The two met during Just The Two Of Us, became friends and started to develop their ideas for songs based on a mutual love of swing.
This is Monaghan's first album as a singer and Campbell's first as a songwriter [Moraghan gains two co-writing credits]. Musically most of the songs are firmly in the swing tradition and Campbell has the ability to create melodies that fit readily into the style. Moraghan's voice is warm and engagingit's not the most powerful of voices but he avoids the mistake of trying to appear "transatlantic" and so he presents an authentic and honest sound. The band, with arrangements by pianist Paul Buck, are excellent throughout and do much to ensure the songs' authenticity. None of the songs last more than four minutes, emphasizing the centrality of the vocal performances and ensemble playing. On the down side the faux-country style of "Many's the Time" and "The Birds are Singing Your Name Again" fails to convince.
Part of Campbell and Moraghan's New Swing concept involves lyrics that reflect their own experiences. In songs like "Love Ran Out of Time" the simple but effective lyrics have a universality to them. On other tracks there are referencesfor example, to satellite navigation, Brooklyn Beckham [son of football superstar David] and DVDsthat may struggle to stand the test of time. In the main, though, the songs tell familiar stories of love, requited or unrequited. "We'll Never Have Manhattan" has the best lines, wittily comparing the less salubrious parts of London with the glamour of New York, and guest vocalist Margo Buchanan works well with Moraghan in creating an atmospheric centerpiece for the album.
Track Listing: Come for the Ride; A Blast From the Past; Moonlight's Back in Style; Angel Don't Cry; We'll Never Have Manhattan; Many's The Time; I'll Make an Exception for You; Through it All; I Got My Hat, I Got My Shoes; Love Ran Out of Time; The Birds are Singing Your Name Again; This Universe of Blue; Wonderfully Wonderful You; You Make This Whole Crazy Story Worthwhile.
Personnel: Mark Moraghan: vocals; Ben Thomas: trumpet; Kevin Harcourt: trumpet; Nick Atwood: trombone; Pete Tantrum: saxophones; Paul Buck: piano and arranger; Steven Sproat: ukulele [8, 11]; Nicky Campbell: acoustic guitar  backing vocals [6, 7, 8, 11, 13]; Maurice Hipkiss: fiddle, pedal steel guitar [6, 11]; Mark Howell: bass; Sam Brown: drums; Clive Miller: drums ; Margo Buchanan: vocals [2, 5, 6]; Gill Edmonds: backing vocals [11, 13].
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.