(4 / 5)
Classic songs being re-worked some years down the line usually confirm the saying, ‘If it ain’t bust, don’t fix it’. Is that the case with Matt Bianco’s double disc June 2022 offering?
Not at all. A sparkling, feel-good effort across the entire set – “The Essential Matt Bianco: Re-imagined, Re-loved” sees 30 songs from the Matt Bianco catalogue either re-recorded or remixed and re-interpreted for 2022, the 40th anniversary of the band’s original inception.
Matt Bianco is a UK group that was formed in 1982 by Mark Reilly (vocals), Danny White (keyboards) and the late Kito Poncioni (bass), all of whom had originally been members of Blue Rondo A La Turk.
Signing to Warners record label, they hired Polish singer Basia Trzetrzelewska to contribute to their debut album, “Whose Side Are You On?”. Her vocals gave the record a jazzy dimension that Reilly and White had not fully anticipated, resulting in hits such as “Get Out of Your Lazy Bed” and “Half a Minute” that helped turn them into one of the biggest acts of the 1980s.
A reshuffle saw Reilly team up with session keyboardist Mark Fisher to record its eponymous follow-up, “Matt Bianco”. The album included the hit “Yeh Yeh”, a cover of the Georgie Fame track, penned by Jon Hendricks – a subsequent European tour seeing them perform to more than 250,000 fans.
With the group now a household name in the UK and mainland Europe, their label thought it was time to introduce them to US audiences and hired Emilio Estefan (producer and husband of Gloria) to record their third album, “Indigo”, which included the singles “Don’t Blame It On That Girl” and “Good Times”, plus a fan favourite ‘B-side’, “Wap Bam Boogie” that became a huge dance single in 1988.
Ending their association with Warners following 1991’s “Samba In Your Casa”, Reilly and Fisher decided to record independently moving forward and license their album projects out. They went on to build a loyal fanbase in Japan and wider Asia with the albums “Another Time Another Place”, “Gran Via”, “World-Go-Round”, “A/ Collection”, “Rico” and “Echoes”.
Basia and White rejoined Reilly in 2003 to reform the original Matt Bianco, which led to the album “Matt’s Mood” on Universal, and a world tour. Five years later, Reilly and Fisher combined forces to release “Hifi Bossanova” for the Edel label, their first studio record together for seven years. They went on to perform concerts and play jazz festivals worldwide before issuing “Hideaway” in 2012.
Looking to expand his creative outlook, Reilly subsequently teamed up with the Dutch jazz outfit New Cool Collective to collaborate on “The Things You Love”, released in late 2015 and toured the following year. Sadly, 2016 also saw the death of Mark Fisher.
2017 saw a new Matt Bianco album, “Gravity” featuring a new group of musicians and was recorded in London and Stockholm, while 2020 saw a reunion with New Cool Collective for ”High Anxiety”, which was recorded in London and Amsterdam. Both releases were produced and mixed by Reilly in his studio in Brixton, south London.
The new versions of their hits have not done damage and the songs sound pretty much as strong as they did back in the day. Nice cover of The Doobie Brothers’ “What A Fool Believes”, even though the ears may well take a while to adjust to not hearing the amazing Michael McDonald’s unique vocals on such a classic song.
Great to hear the infectious “Get Out Of Your Lazy Bed” again, this time a 2022 version. All in all, this new 30-track set is the perfect summertime soundtrack.
By Christopher Weston
(2 / 5) ‘OK Zone’
(3 / 5) ‘Decent Zone’
(4 / 5) ‘Super Zone’
(5 / 5) ‘Awesome Zone’