Welcome back, my wussy and wimpy friends! Are you ready for some more of the soft, smooth, sweet and sensitive music we call MELLOW GOLD? Well, too bad, you’re getting it anyway.
Did you know this song was by Sergio Mendes? Be honest. ‘Cause I didn’t.
I like Sergio Mendes. Here’s a picture of him with a pepper in his mouth.
Á‚¡Cuidado Sergio, ese pimiento es muy picante!
Most know Mendes, the popular Brazilian pianist and bandleader of Brasil ’66, from his album, the appropriately-titled Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes and Brasil ’66. Promoted by, uh, Herb Alpert, the album featured an extremely popular cover of “Mas Que Nada.” Mendes had a number of hits (mostly on the Adult Contemporary charts) throughout the late ’60s and early ’70s but then faded from the public eye. Personally, I think much of this had to do with his math trouble. The name of the band was changed to Brasil ’77 in…1971. (1977 brought the introduction of “The New Brasil ’77.”)
Anyhoo, with the release of his self-titled album in 1983 (a return to the label he belonged to during the height of his popularity, A&M), Mendes wound up with the biggest hit of his career – namely, “Never Gonna Let You Go.”
I am the first to admit that I don’t really know much about Sergio Mendes or his famous bossa nova sound. However, here’s what I do know: this sounds nothing like any Sergio Mendes I’ve heard. Tell me it’s Ashford and Simpson – I’ll believe you. Hell, tell me it’s Dan Hill and Vonda Shepard and I’ll go along with it. But Sergio Mendes?
First thing you need to know is who’s singing this song. (Not Ashford & Simpson.) It’s Joe Pizzulo and Leza Miller, two vocalists given no freakin’ credit in the public eye for catapulting this song to a hit. Why is Sergio getting all the credit? Is it because of his fantastic ’80s keyboard sound, which was stolen just 6 years later for the theme song to “Doogie Howser, M.D.?” C’mon, man – even Santana gives his vocalists credit from time to time. The last two people to be dissed like this were the duo that sang the opening verse of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” Go ahead, tell me who they are without looking it up. I dare you! You don’t know, because nobody knows. (Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley.)
If you want to give Sergio Mendes credit for something on this song, give him credit for his frequent key changes. And I mean it when I say “frequent.” The intro is in one key. The first verse is in two different keys. Pre-chorus? Two keys. Chorus? 2 keys. And so on. Seriously, I think the song is in at least six or seven different keys. I’m too cheap to buy the sheet music. But judging by the chords here, you get the idea.
And let’s talk about that site I just linked to for a quick moment. Once you’re done scratching your head over the cheesy romantic paperback artwork on the left, I double-dog dare you to play the MIDI file. Oh, the horrible MIDI file. You have to love how the vocal line, replicated by some sort of horrible synth saxophone, is not what you would exactly call “on pitch.” It almost hurts to listen. Really, you have to hear it.
This site seems to be some sort of repository for chords and MIDI files of some horrible (meaning awesome) music. Check out the master list. If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to play gems such as “Hard Habit To Break,” “Faithfully,” or “Can’t Fight This Feeling,” then this site is going to make you very happy. And very unpopular.
Okay, I’ve said enough – some might say, too much – about “Never Gonna Let You Go.” Let’s move on.
Gino Vannelli – I Just Wanna Stop (download)
You can thank our good reader Carlos for this one. He mentioned a friend of his mistaking Mardones for Vannelli in last week’s MG post, and it reminded me of this Mellow Gold gem. But it actually has some relation to the first song featured here: like Sergio Mendes, Gino Vannelli owes a good portion of his success to Herb Alpert. In a move that would definitely get you tasered today, Vannelli essentially stalked Alpert outside of his offices at A&M Records one day, chasing him down in the parking lot, running past security, and playing his songs on acoustic guitar. Alpert signed him two days later to A&M. The early ’70s were a magical time, boys and girls.
There are many reasons to love “I Just Wanna Stop” and, more specifically, Gino Vannelli. You can love him for his name, as it’s so smooth. You can love him for his impressive vocals, or the way he and his brother Joe craft a pop song around synths. You’ll love him for all of these reasons after you hear the song. But right now, I just want to focus on his hair. Gino Vannelli has hair that must make Brian May’s stomach wrench with envy.
Here’s Gino, just chillin’:
‘Sup, ladies? My coiff glows a radiant blue, no?
Here’s Gino on the beach. LOOK AT THAT HAIR, GODDAMMIT!
I don’t know what’s going on around his head, but it’s clear that it’s an aura of some sort.
Here’s one of Gino’s album covers:
Gino’s head grows out of a piano, film at 11.
And here’s Gino in more recent times, Soul Glo’in it up.
“Yeah, you want my hair, don’t you? DON’T YOU?”
Here are My Top Six Reasons Why Gino Vannelli Is Cool:
1) His name almost sounds like “Milli Vanilli.”
2) He’s Canadian. Given the state of our country, this is now a cool thing.
3) To that point, the first line of “I Just Wanna Stop” is “when I think about those nights in Montreal.” That takes balls.
4) He used to open for Stevie Wonder. Sadly, Stevie Wonder is blind and can’t appreciate how the hair looks – only how it feels.
5) He was the first white artist to appear on Soul Train.
6) Did I mention he fucking stalked Herb Alpert and emerged victorious?
Vannelli’s online biography boasts that his songs “came wrapped in elaborate arrangements dominated by multiple synthesizers while being totally bereft of guitars.” When was the last time you heard the term “totally bereft of guitars” as a bragging point?
“I Just Wanna Stop” is some clear-cut Mellow Gold, people. It’s not “totally bereft of guitar,” but it’s damn close. It’s all synths, but they’re used tastefully. The voice is smooth. The fine ladies singing those backing vocals are clearly having a good time, especially singing “ahhhhhh…stop!” And ooh, sax solo, y’all. I’m not calling it rock by any means – it’s a little bit soul and a little bit R&B – but it fits the MG category, no?
Vannelli only had a few hits on American Pop and AC charts, most notably the song above and “Living Inside Myself,” but has remained popular outside of the U.S. And the man truly has talent; he’s recorded a classical album, a jazz album, and one entitled Inconsolable Man, where, according to his discography, “Gino once again takes on societal ills: child abuse and prostitution, drugs, and complacency with his trademark urgency.” Wait, isn’t that the soundtrack to Into The Night: The Benny Mardones Story?
(I had to. I’ve been holding back on the Benny jokes all week. I had to make just one.)
Anyway, if you’re seriously interested in picking up a Gino Vannelli album, I’d suggest These Are The Days, which combines 7 new songs with 7 remastered hits (and, to my ears, they do actually sound better). Or, if you’re happy with just this one smooth track, then download away.
UPDATE: Reader Dan has noted in the comments that, just last week, Gino appeared on CBS’ Second Cup CafÁƒ©! Enjoy the video – I did! Thanks, Dan!
So the next time you’re sitting outside Herb Alpert’s place, waiting to bombard him with your smooth acoustic music, be sure to stop and thank him for today’s two tracks, okay? And see you next week for more Mellow Gold!