Quite a display of chest hair by Gino Vannelli on this record sleeve. To be jealous of. As a young man I only had two chest hairs. One has turned gray and the other I lost while taking a shower. And that amazing curly hairdo. I once tried, when I still had long hair, to create a Gino perm with my mother’s curlers. It was no use. Within two minutes my hairdo collapsed completely, like a plum pudding. Jealousy and prejudice can get in the way of appreciation of music. Because of his appearance I initially did not like Gino Vannelli’s music. ‘Beautiful boys don’t make beautiful music’, was the credo in my circles in the seventies. But actually I never really listened to it. Until I got an LP collection from an acquaintance.
She had all of Gino Vannelli’s LPs. He was one of her idols. She said it was all about the music. “I don’t need my picture being taken with Gino,” she used to say. All those scratches and creaks on vinyl detracted from Gino’s voice for her, which is why she exchanged the LPs for CDs. On those, he always sounded crystal clear. I was allowed to take over her LP collection on the condition that I set aside my prejudices about Gino. That was not so easy. It was difficult for me to get into Vannelli’s rhythm. But suddenly I got it. His voice spans three octaves. The band and the music go wild on this album. I couldn’t sit still. Before I knew it I was swinging, alone in my music room. For a moment I felt the urge to unbutton my shirt. Just in time I realized I had no parents of Italian descent.
Gino Vannelli was born in Canada in 1952 to Italian immigrants. As an ambitious teenager he already wrote songs that later turned out to be timeless: ‘People Gotta Move’, ‘Crazy Life’, ‘Mama Coco’, ‘Powerful People’ and ‘Lady’. He had a band with his brothers Joe and Ross, with Gino, of course, as lead vocalist. He signs his first contract with RCA Canada, not yet 17. Barely twenty he switches to A&M Records from record boss Herb Alpert. Here, the Vannelli brothers lay the foundation for a long career. They produce perfectly constructed songs, in a mix of jazz, pop and rock, with elements from classical music and opera. Gino and his brothers make clever use of all the keyboards and synthesizers available in the 1970s.
Of course his appearance also played a part, although Gino has always denied this. But the record covers speak volumes. On “Crazy Life” from 1973 and on this particular cover he is clearly depicted as a playboy. And all that hair on “Brother to Brother” from 1978. Not only on his chest, but there’s also plenty of them on his arms and legs. Millions of albums have already been sold. In particular, albums such as “Powerful People” (1974) and “The Gist of Gemini” (1976) are million sellers. So, Vannelli is a true phenomenon, and not just because of his appearance. He still performs live even though he is almost seventy years old. And it must be said: he still looks sexy. I would almost be jealous of that too.
Gino Vannelli is a welcome guest at de Boerderij. He still regularly visits the place, together with his brother Ross, because he likes venues with an intimate atmosphere. Especially then his music comes into its own. This year he was even scheduled to perform for two consecutive nights at De Boerderij, but that has been postponed, unfortunately. I look forward to seeing him perform again. Now I’m at the point where I can’t wait to take a picture with him. Without any prejudice.
By Gerrit-Jan Vrielink
Translation Alex Driessen