Mark Moraghan - Moonlight's Back in Style - Audio Video Club of Atlanta

"Moonlight's Back in Style: Songs of Nicky Campbell" was my first opportunity to hear vocalist Mark Moraghan's rich, smooth voice or indulge in the sinful pleasure of Campbell's lyrics. I suspect it was the first chance for many Britons, as well, since this is the first album released by either singer or songwriter. In the U.K. both are well known, but for other reasons: Moraghan as actor on several successful TV series, Campbell as "Radio Five Live and Watchdog presenter" (I think that means he's a DJ and a talking head). Well, they've kept the good news to themselves and their friends far too long. This collection of original hitsinwaiting that hearkens back to the swinging sound of an earlier time (some say Sinatra, others Sammy Davis, Jr. or Dean Martin) has a fresh, engaging quality that should make it a hit anyplace it gets played on the air.

So please, play it, deejays. The songs are as emotionally uncomplicated as the lyrics are populated with witty twists and contemporary allusions. (Who else but Nicky Campbell would find a rhyme for "Obama" as he does in "Come for the Ride," a very upbeat intro to the album, kind of a 21st century "Come Fly with Me." Most of the songs are about love, whether it's love begun, love lost but remembered, or the joy of beginning again. Listen to the great backing vocals of Margo Buchanan in "A blast from the past / A ghost that was gone / A love that lives on." Or her swinging duet with Moraghan in "We'll never have Manhattan / It's never gonna happen / We'll never makethat movie come true" with its allusions to Frank and Ella and bygone New York sophistication humorously contrasted to south London reality in the likes of Tooting Broadway. Sometimes, as in "I Got My Hat. I Got My Shoes," the lyrics are about the regret of walking away from a failed romance: "I'm gonna take my chance without a second glance / I'm gonna get a little flat that I can own / I'm gonna wrap this clichéd movie scene without a second take / But if I turn around my heart would only break." Other times, it's just the case that "Love ran out of time," to quote the title of another lyric that manages at the same time to be witty and poignant.

There are a lot of upmood songs on the album, too, like "Wonderful, Wonderful You" and "You Make This Whole Crazy Story Worthwhile." The blueish implications of the title song, "Hey there, you! / You're not at the party, / Me too / But I'm having a ball" and "Fashion is fickle but moonlight was always is style," transcend the chance rooftop meeting of strangers and take on a new dimension in the hands of a superb stylish like Mark Moraghan. Some critics have found the easy rhythms of "Many's the Time" and "The Birds Are singing Your Name Again" to be a step backwards into faux country, perhaps reminiscent of another Campbell (Glen). But you Brits may not realize the sorry state of country music at present on this side of the pond; to us, these songs are fresh as dew. And "Angels Don't Cry" may be sentimental, but in Moraghan's rendition it stops short of cloying (in the background, I seemed to hear the ghost of Nat "King" Cole, who would have loved it). So, give this album a listen. I guarantee you won't be sorry, and you may find yourself calling up your friends to share the good news.

08 January 2010