Album Reviews

Gerry Monroe: Sally, Pride Of Our Alley: The Complete Chapter One Recordings (él Records)

Gerry Monroe
Sally, Pride Of Our Alley: The Complete Chapter One Recordings
él Records/Cherry Red

Gerry Monroe was an amazingly unique musical phenomenon. In the early 1970s, he made his name as musical guest on the British variety show Opportunity Knocks, performing pop numbers for the entire family, songs both nostalgic and contemporary. That he was a homely-looking fellow who happened to have one of the most amazingly adept vocal ranges only added to the idiosyncratic appeal. He wasn’t a pop star; he was seemingly a normal man blessed with godlike ability. Sally, Pride Of Our Alley, collects the four albums released during his brief career.

Born Henry Morris, Monroe wasn’t an amateur or plucked from nowhere; up until his appearance in 1970, he had performed as vocalist and musical arranger and cabaret act for years, paying his dues that might not have given him any real commercial success, but reaped benefits in terms of experience and performance chops. Thus, when he appeared on Opportunity Knocks show in 1970, he soon parlayed the appearance with hit singles, from the sticky-sweet “Sally,” the thoughtful ballad, “My Prayer,” and a take on the classic pop standard, “It’s A Sin To Tell A Lie.”

But what makes this collection of Monroe’s output so rewarding is the richness of the styles found within. He could tackle classic jazz songs such as “I’ll Be Seeing You,” “Danny Boy,” and “You Only Hurt The Ones You Love” with the same aplomb as more current fare, such as “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” “Runaway,” and “Something’s Got A Hold Of My Heart.” His slick voice could launch into an amazing yodel on “She Taught Me How To Yodel” and then turn around and deliver a fine, delicate croon on “Love Is All” and ‘”Be My Love.” The riches of the material found here demonstrate that even though his recording career may have been a fluke, it was not for lack of talent; much like modern day equivalent Susan Boyle, he may have seemed an unlikely star, but the proof is there: Gerry Monroe was the real deal.

Perhaps it’s the nature of the fame beast that Monroe’s recording career came to an end as quickly as it began, and by 1972, his recording and charting career was all but over, when his fourth album, Where The Blue Of The Night, was unceremoniously cancelled, with the songs repackaged later on a pseudo greatest-hits budget release. The end of his recording career was a bit fortuitous, as he started to develop health problems that impacted his ability to sing and perform; he would pass away in 1989. Sally, Pride Of Our Alley is a cornucopia of pop goodness from an obscure but talented vocalist worthy of remembrance.

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