It started when I was four years old. We weren’t what you’d call a musical family, although my parents did have a nice record collection: brass bands and Tchaikovsky for dad; Elvis and Nat ‘King’ Cole for mum. If I wasn’t marching up and down the living room to the Royal Anglican Regiment Band, I was tapping my size five plimsolls along to Perry Como, catching falling stars for a rainy day. And then there was Frank Sinatra. My mum had the Nice ‘n’ Easy album, released in 1960 and arranged by the great Nelson Riddle, she’d play it whenever the mood took her, and I, so she tells me, was smitten.
My musical tastes were never what you’d call ‘modern’ (does anybody say ‘modern’ anymore?). I obsessed over the soundtrack of Broadway’s 42nd Street for a year, I could sing you every note of my favourite Pasadena Roof Orchestra album when I was 10, and I had sleepless nights trying to whistle as well as Roger Whitaker.
Someone once said that pop music is the triumph of rhythm over melody, and sometimes that is true. Though there is little to compare with the sophistication of Hoagy Carmichael or Billy Strayhorn, there are plenty of contemporary examples of rhythm and melody being used to equal and profound effect. These are the songs that I like to sing and I’m thrilled to be sharing them with you on this album.
I didn’t intend for Bacharach to be the opening track, but ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’ Is so uplifting, it seemed like a great way to start anything. ‘This Guy’s In Love with You’, ‘Close To You’ and ‘Magic Moments’ are all gems, woven into the backdrop of my childhood. Despite being over 70 years old, Bobby Troup’s ‘Route 66’ still sizzles and swings. I dip into my love of Latin America with ‘Mas, Que Nada!’ and ‘Amor’ – a song that’s proved especially resilient, having been recorded by Bing Crosby, the Gipsy Kings and the Mexican megastar Luis Miguel. There are plenty of British writers represented here too including Don Black, Leslie Bricusse, Anthony Newley and Lionel Bart.
And what about this band? I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to make music with these guys. Each time I listen, I can’t help but smile, noticing a little phrase Clive Dunstall played on the Rhodes or the huge brass sound in the ‘Matt Monro Medley’. Some of my favourite musical arrangers are here too, each of them bringing their own voice to these great songs. Thanks to my pal Héctor Ruiz for helping with my Spanish in Luis Miguel’s Amor. ¡Gracias amigo! A couple of years ago, for the first time, I started taking voice lessons. It was one of my best decisions. I have since been under the guidance of Richard Halton, a teacher who’s reinvigorated my love of singing and taken me to new musical heights. Most of all though, I am again indebted to my producer Chris Traves. He is all over this album: he played the trombone, all the percussion, did the mixing, the mastering, and again, managed to cajole the best out of me.
Every one of these songs is rich with meaning and memories for me, ever since I sat with my mum listening to those vinyl discs all those years ago. Magic Moments indeed.
“Williams obviously has what it takes to be a cabaret artist – one of the most difficult occupations for a singer” Musical Theatre Review
“Gary was terrific. Lovely voice, yes, but a wonderful sense of humour too and he made everyone in the room feel special… It’s a brilliant example of how cabaret should be done.” Debra Craine from The Times