Monday, October 30, 2006

Guilty Pleasures: Basia

For readers of a certain age, the rather daft, yuppyish sub-sub genre of 80s music inspired by the sort of turn-of-the-60s cool that inspired the hideous cinematic abortion of Absolute Beginners spawned a streamlined, post-New-Rom loungey nostalgia that was supposed to be new money's riposte to punk and 'rockism' in general. In short, the likes of Sade reflected aspirations; a good job well done. A decent soprano saxophonist helped. The fact that it subsumed blues and bossa nova and knowingness was almost incidental.

Matt Bianco were among the most egregious of those who leapt on the whitewalled bandwagon. The likes of 'Get Out of Your Lazy Bed' were superficially soulful; nowadays they sound enervatingly of their time, full of horrid electro-percussion patches and what sound like nasty early Kurzweil synths; any knowledgeable listener would say, within two bars, '85 to '89. While 'More Than I Can Bear' is passable pop, the 'band' got their just deserts by an absuive phone caller who sneaked through Saturday Superstore's screening system in 1985.

Oddly, frontman Danny White, who looked as if he had been carved out of Purbeck stone (with a voice to match) kept it going, and got what plaudits there were. Never mind his partner, the formidably leggy onetime model Basia Trzetrzelewska, whose multi-octave voice (shame about the harsh attacca at forte level, though); in 87 she was launched by Portrait as a solo artist; this week I've revisited her very commendable first album. Matt Bianco without White's horrid singing and tunes, plus a dose and a half of rhythmic steroids. Result? Chart indifference. At least her follow-up in 1990 scraped platinum status, no thanks to the UK.

I still treasure a 1988 letter from the lady herself, a pop star rambling on to me over four handwritten pages about influences of Milton Nascimento, Pat Metheny and Chick Corea - I'd never discussed these artists with anyone at the age of 23.

Lightweight? Sure. But very precious. Go Basia!


Anonymous said...

Mark Reilly was actually the male singer in Matt Bianco- Danny White wisely stayed the silent partner in the back playing piano and keyboard, as well as the lion's share of the composing and songwriting. (he did the same collaborating with Basia)

The third Basia album was by far the best of the three- far more complex musically and lyrically.

Dirk said...

While I share some of your opinions on the influence of Danny White's influence on Basia and early Matt Bianco, it would probably be interesting for you to check out Matt Bianco without Danny (a period lasting from 86 until today, apart from their 'reunion' album in 2005). The MB homepage features some examples of Dannyless MB. Check it out.