Mark Moraghan - Moonlight's Back in Style - allaboutjazz.com

Moonlight's Back In Style is a swing album. In fact, according to songwriter Nicky Campbell's liner notes, it's a New Swing album-songs 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 11-he 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 engaging-it'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 references-for example, to satellite navigation, Brooklyn Beckham [son of football superstar David] and DVDs-that 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.

19 November 2009