There are certain artists that just simply defy being categorized within any certain 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 period 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 none other than 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 such as 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 serve as a great introduction to this very unique artist.
# 10 – Fly Into This Night
While Gino Vannelli’s album The Gist Of The Gemini contained no major hits, the album was heavily promoted in music magazines and various print ads when it was originally 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 out our Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs List. The power behind the track’s groove and progressive synthesizer licks, easily provide proof as to 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 was released by Yamaha 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. When new technology is used in creative ways like the Vannelli’s utilized the DX7, fans were rewarded with great music. The song was released in 1984 on the Black Cars album.
# 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 a completely 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 in the fact that the song was Gino Vannelli’s first hit of his career. 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 stands as Gino’s fifth release of his career. 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 ClassicRockHistory.com has chosen to write about this great artist.
# 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 all the way 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 really 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,” turned out to be Gino Vannelli’s most successful single release of his career. 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 albums opening track. “Love Of My Life,” was the perfect song to present fans with a progressive rock-based sound that wrapped around a vocalist that few could compete with as far as range and resonance. Only Freddie Mercury comes to mind as a singer that displayed the same immaculate perfect pitch vibrato that Gino delivered. If you are new to the music of Gino Vannelli, 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 both 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 was starting to wane while the punk movement was taking hold. However, the success of Steely Dan’s AJA album in the late 1970’s may have provided a larger audience for the sounds of Gino Vannelli. 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 both 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 great 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.
Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs
Written by Brian Kachejian
Photo by Noticaribe (Gino Vannelli en la Riviera Maya) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Top 10 Gino Vannelli Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2016 updated 2022
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