Matt Bianco: Gravity

It’s only been 7 months since Mark Fisher’s death, and we already have new Matt Bianco album. I didn’t know what to think about that. For me, Matt Bianco meant Mark Fisher’s catchy keyboard harmonies and Mark Reilly’s characteristic voice (I know, there was a different Matt Bianco with Danny and Basia, but that never did it for me). My favourite MB tunes were all Fisher/Reilly collaborations, so with him gone it was difficult for me to imagine what a Fisherless MB album would sound like.

While Fisher was ill, Reilly already collaborated with the dutch alternative jazzers New Cool Collective. I quite liked what they came up with: the album had some cracking tunes and I liked the New Cool Collectives idiosyncratic melange of brass and rhythm. So for the next Matt Bianco album Reilly again switched musicians: out are long time collaborators and studio heroes such as Tony Remy, Andrew Ross, Nick Cohen, Simon Finch, in are Graham Harvey (him of Incognito), Magnus Lindgren (Scandinavian Sax wunderkind), Dave O’Higgins (ditto, just not Scandinavian and already on Gran Via’s ‘Victim of Love’) , Geoff Gascoyne (British jazz bass legend) and Martin Shaw (Trumpeter extraordinaire). Elizabeth Troy – who got the background vocals job after Hazel Sim left) was allowed to stay.

So, all new personnel, new sound? Definitely, yesyes.

Out are the sequencers, the drum computers and electronic percussion. No more layered synthesizer harmonies, appregiatos and funky rhythm guitars. This is Reilly accompanied by classic acoustic jazz band, doing a Kurt Elling impersonation. This is not meant as a slight, as it works really well. A longstanding joke between the three remaining Matt Bianco fans is that you usually get two or three cracking songs per album (that’s ten pound per song if you order the Japanes import), and Reilly and his collaborators don’t disappoint: ‘Heart in chains’ and ‘Before it’s too late’ are excellent, and up there with the best of 30 years of Matt Bianco.

The album has been on heavy rotation at Chez Fordiebianco’s for 6 weeks now (tolerated by the best girlfriend ever – some sort of compliment, I’m sure) and I am still enjoying it. If you think about it, becoming more jazzy was always on the cards as Fisher and Reilly became more mature. HiFi Bossanova was already halfway there, so it feels natural that Reilly and the Jamie Cullen Band (which is what his marry men apparently are) have just progressed to where they should be.

This is a beautiful album that is beautifully produced and as such deserves a first class hifi system.

Nice one, Mark.

Gravitas? Nope.

Over the last ten years, during which middle age has finally set in (both mentally and physically, although I still don’t vote conservative/republican) the pleasure of going to the cinema has reduced inversely proportional to the size of my TV. At present the TV size is 55 inches, while my interest of going to the cinema is tending towards nil. As I am a happy sticks-dweller, the next cinema that’s worth visiting is 1 hour away and choosing the right showings has become tricky, as you want to avoid both mobile toting, constantly chatting teenagers and smelly single individuals. An additional bonus is the wait for some proper online reviews and the fact that catering is much better at home. I know of very few cinemas that serve their main feature with a fillet in mustard crust and parsnip chips. Add to that the fact that I can cuddle the best girlfriend ever during gruesome scenes (Red Wedding anyone?) without an arm rest and a kilo of popcorn between us, the cinema tends to be less important these days.


So I was absolutely thrilled to finally get my hands on the 3D Blu-Ray version of ‘Gravity’. After all the hype and the Oscars, I was looking for a veritable SciFi fest, featuring my favourite moving object in the sky (no, not Sandra Bullock), the ever so cool International Space Station, where science might be mighty expensive but Russians and USAians still get can get along.


So, the best girlfriend ever and I switched off all the lights, popped the disc into the noisiest Blu-Ray player Samsung has ever created (think of train noises) donned the 3D glasses (mine green, hers white) and off we went into the first Oscar winning Sci-Fi movie since 1996 (Independence Day for Visual Effects and Sound, Star Trek ‘First Contact’ for Make Up. Not kidding). 90 minutes later, a few shots of Sandra Bullock’s undoubtedly fit figure later and I was thinking ‘that’s it?”. It’s pretty much a seventies disaster movie (think Airport, Towering Inferno, Poseidon Inferno) with graphics my R9 290 could do on a fraction of its processor time and some horrible dialogue (which -I admit- is necessary in every disaster movie) in space. Without Roger Moore, instead with his naughty equivalent, the Cloonster (During the whole movie I begged for Roger Moore to appear behind a friendly helmet visor – or at least a friendly drunk Russian, as it was still possible in Armaggedon. But no).

ImageSo, before you choose ‘Gravity’ as an evening’s entertainment, here are my alternative choices:

  • If you reaaally want to see Sandra Bullock half-naked, watch ‘The Proposal
  • If you want to laugh out loud with Sandra Bullock, watch ‘The Heat‘ (which is admittedly brillant)
  • If you want a proper George Clooney movie in which he doesn’t get killed, watch ‘Ocean’s 11
  • If you want George Clooney sexy, watch ‘Out of SIght
  • If you want to see Space at it’s most beautifully rendered, watch ‘Starship Troopers’
  • If you want a nailbiting disaster movie, watch ‘Cloverfield
  • Or else, go and watch ‘Moonraker’

One thing I have to confess, though: Ed Harris was brillant.