Certain artists defy being categorized within any particular musical genre. Gino Vannelli stands clearly as an artist who has created his own genre of music. Gino Vannelli, along with his brother Joe Vannelli, were pioneers in the use of synthesizers in the early 1970s. While many bands that had begun using synthesizers during that time were progressive rock music based, the Vannelli brothers utilized the new technology in a jazz, rock, pop, and soul-based style that spawned a completely original sound. However, at the heart of that sound was a magnificent voice with an incredible vocal range that showcased a deep resonance at both the high and low registers.
For the early part of his career, Gino Vannelli maintained a large cult following. However, in 1978, Gino Vannelli scored big with his hit single, “I Just Wanna Stop.” While the song “I Just Wanna Stop” may have defined Gino Vannelli as a contemporary Adult pop artist to those who did not know his work, the man’s catalog distinguished him as an artist with a vast repertoire of original material that knew no stylistic musical boundaries. Like artists like Steely Dan and Frank Zappa, Gino Vannelli’s albums presented listeners with virtuoso musicianship, impeccable production, and substantive material. No one in popular music has ever sounded like Gino Vannelli. If you have never heard of him, we hope this Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs list will be a great introduction to this unique artist.
# 10 – Fly Into This Night
While Gino Vannelli’s album The Gist Of The Gemini contained no significant hits, it was heavily promoted in music magazines and various print ads when it was initially released in 1976. I saw a poster of the album hanging in Sam Goody’s record store in 1976. The cover art of the piano and album title inspired me to take a chance on the record. I became a fan instantly.
The album showcased Joe Vannelli’s brilliant synthesizer playing and production. “Fly Into This Night” is the perfect song to start our Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs List. The power behind the track’s groove and progressive synthesizer licks quickly prove why we have included Gino Vannelli on our Classic Rock History site. One listen to Gino Vannelli’s vocals on the song’s chorus will convince anyone that this man could sing rock and roll in a style that could not be matched.
# 9 – Black Cars
Rock music in the early 1980s became very keyboard-oriented. The DX7 Synthesizer that Yamaha released became the most popular keyboard since the release of the Moog Synthesizer in the mid-1960s. Gino and Joe Vannelli’s “Black Cars” presented music fans with one of the most original and memorable synthesizer licks of the 1980s. Fans are rewarded with great music when new technology is used creatively, like the way Ross Vannelli utilized the Yamaha DX7. The song was released in 1984 on the Black Cars album.
The video for the song echoes the style that many early 80s videos looked like. A lot of turning heads and quick-moving shots. Gino looks great in the video. Gone is his long rock star hair, replaced with more of a Miami Vice look.
# 8 – Wild Horses
Gino Vannelli’s “Wild Horses” was, in essence, the follow-up to the successful “Black Cars” single. The song was released three years later in 1987. The track was the first single from Gino Vannelli’s Big Dreamers Never Sleep album. The record was also Gino Vannelli’s first release for CBS Records. Although the song shares the same title as the Rolling Stones’ classic song, “Wild Horses,” it is an entirely different song that bears no resemblance to the Stones’ song.
# 7 – People Gotta Move
“People Gotta Move” was the opening track to Gino Vannelli’s 1974 album Powerful People. The album was Gino Vannelli’s second release of his career. The song’s importance on this Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs list is defined by the fact that the song was Gino Vannelli’s first hit. The song’s smoldering R&B jazz-influenced groove that wrapped around Gino’s heartbreaking sultry vocals quickly turned heads as music fans began to ask, “Who’s that?”
# 6 – Mardi Gras
The album A Pauper in Paradise was Gino Vannelli’s follow-up record to his 1976 A Gist of the Gemini album. The A Pauper in Paradise record was released in 1977 and is Gino’s fifth career release. The album is represented on our Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs list with the opening track “Mardi Gras.” One listen to the track’s hard-edged production and passionate performance will further confirm why we have chosen to write about this great artist. The album was recorded at AIR Recording Studios and the legendary EMI Abbey Road Studios in London, England.
# 4 – Living Inside Myself
Gino Vannelli’s “Living Inside Myself” is the first of two power ballads on our Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs list.” Living Inside Myself” and “I Just Wanna Stop” were the singer’s most successful commercial songs of his career. The song “Living Inside Myself” was released on the 1981 Nightwalker album. The song reached to the Number 6 spot on the U.S. Billboard music charts. The album featured some of the best session players in the music business, including Jimmy Haslip on bass, Ernie Watts on saxophone, and Carlos Rios on guitar.
# 4 – I Just Wanna Stop
If there is one song that the general population would recognize from Gino Vannelli’s career, it would be his monster hit “I Just Wanna Stop.” And that’s somewhat of a shame because the song did not represent the body of work that Gino Vannelli had produced before the song was a hit. For some people, it also classified Gino Vannelli as a balladeer.
It was an incorrect assumption based on a population that had not heard the rest of the magnificent Brother To Brother album. It was a great song with an incredible vocal and terrific verse and chorus, but the album it was released from was a phenomenal record. The song “I Just Wanna Stop” was Gino Vannelli’s most successful single release. The song reached the No.4 spot on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in 1978.
# 3 – Love Of My Life
While the Brother To Brother album turned out to become Gino’s most successful record, it was the release of the Gist of the Gemini album a few years earlier that began to get Gino Vannelli noticed in the United States. Released in 1976 during the Bicentennial celebration, the Gist of the Gemini album was a groundbreaking record in the way Gino Vannelli merged all styles of music into an original sound that celebrated musicianship at the highest level.
The song “Love Of My Life” was the album’s opening track. “Love Of My Life” was the perfect song to present fans with a progressive rock-based sound wrapped around a vocalist that few could compete with as far as range and resonance. Only Freddie Mercury comes to mind as a singer who displayed the same immaculate perfect pitch vibrato that Gino delivered. If you are new to Gino Vannelli’s music, I highly recommend starting out with the Gist of the Gemini record.
# 2 – Appaloosa
The final two songs on our Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs list hail from the Brother To Brother album. The record was released in 1978. The album was released in a transitional year in which disco’s popularity started to wane while the punk movement was taking hold. However, the success of Steely Dan’s AJA album in the late 1970s may have provided a larger audience for Gino Vannelli’s sounds. Or perhaps it was just the mood that disco had created a longing for something more of substance. But then again, Gino Vannelli was so good that anyone who heard him instantly was hooked.
Musicianship in the 1970s was respected and celebrated by a large part of the listening audience, who grew frustrated by the dominance of disco on the radio in 1977. The Brother To Brother album was a showcase in many ways for the return to deep composition and virtuosic playing.
# 1 – Brother To Brother
The title track to Gino Vannelli’s Brother To Brother albums stands at the top of our Top 10 Gino Vannelli’s songs list because it’s one of the most exciting tracks the artist ever recorded. The song opened side two of the Brother To Brother record with a ferocious drum and guitar lick that paved the way perfectly for Joe Vannelli’s slick synthesizer runs. The song featured an astonishing guitar solo by the legendary Carlos Rios, who would become the band leader for David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight Tour a few years later. The “Brother to Brother” performance helped Gino Vannelli win the Canadian Juno Award for Best Male Artist after the album was released in 1978.
When listening to Gino Vannelli’s catalog, one will find many excellent recordings that echo the progressive nature of Brother To Brother. However, the 1978 recording is regarded by many to be the best performance of Gino Vannelli’s career. It’s a point we won’t argue against here.
Photo by Noticaribe (Gino Vannelli en la Riviera Maya) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Professional Sources, research, experience, and citations
Charting and career information used in the analysis and research of the commercial success of these albums comes from the following sources
Further analysis and original thoughts are provided by the writer Brian Kachejian’s experience as a professional musician and music collector for over 50 years and his experience as a New York State certified music and history educator and professional music journalist with the New York Press.