Matt’s Mood

Matt Bianco (Featuring Basia)

2004: Universal Music International BV B0003930-02

  1. Ordinary Day
  2. I Never Meant To
  3. Wrong Side Of the Street
  4. La Luna
  5. Say the Words
  6. Golden Days
  7. Ronnie’s Samba
  8. Kaleidoscope
  9. Slip & Sliding
  10. Matt’s Mood III

What a marvelous surprise! Not just that Matt Bianco has re-formed, nor that Basia’s voice is once again gracing the contemporary music palette: the best part of the surprise is that it’s an absolutely lovely album. The cherry on top of the cake is novel: the posthumous participation of Ronnie Ross, the saxophonist who helped create that Matt Bianco “sound” years ago, included here via some recordings of him playing solo that had been essentially orphaned when he died. That’s what “Ronnie’s Samba” is about, and when you know that (and the fact that Ross played sax on Lou Reed’s classic “Walk On the Wild Side”) the lyrics become much more significant and touching…and hearing Basia sing “so, children, here it is, yet another chance / Special Delivery for one final dance / prick up your ears, put on your dancing shoes / you’ve waited long enough, so no more time to lose” gives a thrill of intimately shared joy.

“Say the Words”—wow, really…it’s the kind of simply poignant song we’ve been missing throughout all these years of crap flash-in-the-pan singer/celebrities and heavier hitters (for better or for worse—think Jane’s Addiction, for example, in the Better category, but Perry never turned in something like this).

“La Luna” is unexpectedly sultry—my first listening didn’t make me think so, but upon revisiting it I find it’s quite a pleasantly bumptious strutter. That’s probably a good description of most of the tracks on this album, actually, so I’ll only call out a couple of others here and stamp the rest as DELICIOUS.

But “Slip & Sliding” is definitely my choice for Outstanding Song on this album. I don’t know for sure that this is what the songwriters had in mind, but to me the lyrics (and indeed the delivery) are an interior monologue of a perennial loser intensely focused on an impressively optimistic mental track: each failure is given a positive spin as part of an overall self-shoring-up. After countless downfalls this resolute ritual has become a mantra, the bare essentials of the vital message of reassurance. Each new defeat is dealt with by reinforcing the forward movement and portraying failures as opportunities to learn and do better next time—the lyrics are so minimal that I can simply quote them here to get the point across:

Slip and sliding
You’ll get it right another time
Try again
Lose again
Trip over
Fall better
Try again
Lose again
Take notice
Fail better
Try again
Lose again
No matter
Slip and sliding
You’ll get it right another time

They’re a part quotation, part paraphrase of Samuel Beckett, but they’re coming from the Matt Bianco collective and thus carry a different tone. My sole gripe with this track is that its production puts the horn bursts of the chorus atop the vocals, thus obscuring the delivery of the word “Slip” each time…which might sound trivial, but it means that we miss out on who’s singing which part of the vocal arrangement, and on what note, of a delicious (apologies for using that word twice in this assessment, but it really does apply here too) stack of at least four voice tracks (whose is anyone’s guess, when it comes to the guys) which all have beautiful radiance and downright sexiness if you manage to single them out but are instead laminated into an instrumental whole here (albeit one with great hips). Melodically, this track presents a beautiful juxtaposition of Basia’s soothing parallel swaths, which twist and turn through dodgy terrain—representing life’s challenges and difficulties, I suppose—with Mark Reilly’s resolutely two-note reiteration of the needed core.

Also there’s a delectable eloquence in the mix of enunciations here: Danny’s hip looseness (albeit spot-on) juxtaposes intriguingly with Basia’s more concise (albeit gently so) phrasing. Overall the track has an irresistably hip sensuosity and vibrancy that captivates and delights me.

I am very, very fond of “Golden Days” as well; it shines and struts in a unique samba that is ever so slightly sultry around the edges.

Nearly every online review I’ve read that’s written by someone who’s familiar with the Matt Bianco sound and history simply characterizes “Kaleidoscope Dreaming” as Part II of “Whose Side Are You On,” referring to the opening track of Whose Side Are You On. I can’t disagree with that assessment: it really is as though this were an unreleased continuation of that track. Not that that’s bad, not at all, it’s just a little funny to hear a continuation of something from 20 years ago as though there’d been no break.

As for the rest of the album, I don’t really have much commentary of any importance: I enjoy it all, I’m gushingly grateful to the triumvirate of Mark, Danny, and Basia for coming back together and producing such a joyous gem for us to share, and I recommend it all quite sincerely to any wary skeptic.

One last comment: hearing Basia sing in Polish, as she does on “Wrong Side of the Street,” is a thrill for me: I don’t speak Polish but I love the sound of any less-prevalent-than-English language sung by its native speakers, especially when the singer is as strong and elegant as Basia. Not only does it fascinate my ear and brain (and challenge me, reminding me that English isn’t music’s only language), it also re-energizes my wish to learn to at least understand that language if not become fluent in it. (For the record, two other languages that I have that reaction to are Bulgarian [because of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares] and Arabic [because of countless artists and recordings—it’s prolific and usually intensely compelling to me in music]).