Soul Train, the television show which featured Gino Vannelli as it’s first ‘white’ performer is long gone. Gino, on the other hand, is improving with age.
The sixty-six year old native Montrealer returned home this past weekend on the heels of his first album of new material in over a decade. Wilderness Road is the name of Gino’s twentieth album and it may rank as one of his best.
On Friday and Saturday night at Place des Arts, Montrealers got a taste of the new album along with Vannelli’s greatest hits. They also received a profound example of what made Gino famous in the first place.
Sure Gino had the looks for the seventies. The sex appeal of John Travolta long before Travolta exited his T.V Barbarino character and emerged as Danny in Grease and Tony in Saturday Night Fever. Travolta should be thanking Gino with a regular paycheck.
Aside from the image, what separated Gino from the pack of both Italians and non Italians, was his attention to detail and his inner belief system. Those two elements (and persistence) made Herb Alpert of A&M Records pay attention. Much the same way the crowd at Place des Arts did on Saturday night. Rarely does an artist gather such focus between songs. Five hundred pins dropping would not be heard as each ear hung onto every word Gino spoke.
The reasons for the attention span is simple. Gino’s voice and his band’s precision. Aside from a couple of songs in Vannelli’s arsenal ( I Just Wanna Stop, Living Inside Myself, Wild Horses), Gino’s songwriting has not been easy to classify. His songs are diverse, complex and simple. His arrangements are unique and lean towards perfection. The audiences at a Gino show are given musical gifts before he opens his mouth.
People I Belong To, Nightwalker, Feel like Flying, Apaloosa, Black Cars, NightDrive (along with the songs mentioned above) contain vocals by Gino which are that of a much younger man. Some people are blessed with a singing ability and then there are ‘those’ blessed to hear it.
Two of the songs from the new disc showcased both Vannelli’s vocals and his songwriting brilliance. Yet Something Beautiful and Older N’ Wiser.
Both songs inspired on two fronts. Musically, Older N’Wiser displays Vannelli’s Jazzy versatility while Yet Something Beautiful is pure Dicken-esque in it’s brilliant storytelling. Gino’s vocals on the latter reaching depths not heard from anyone half his age. The vocals alone leaving the audience speechless in awe.
Like most ‘classic’ artists – the unfortunate part of Gino Vannelli 2019 is commercial radio’s unwillingness to play the new tunes and a hunger for the old tunes from those only wanting to live in the past. Fortunately for Gino, his band is not a ‘cover’ band and are talented enough to play the new album in it’s entirety if the demand is there. Fortunately for Gino, his band can also play the complex rhythms and arrangements of the past.
In short – Gino and his mates are ready for Soul Train 2.0