When my evil editor Jeff Giles (y’all) tweeted me with the assignment of writing about the new Yanni album, my response was simple. Direct, even. ‘Twas a four-letter word, starting with s and ending with t, with a big ol’ “Hi!” in the middle. He probably thought he had me—I can’t say no + Yanni’s got a new record + Yanni is painful to listen to = making me listen to Yanni will cause me pain. I’ll bet Giles even cackled like a little schoolgirl (something he usually saves for tickle-fights with his kids. Or with Jason Hare).
Well, touché, Jeffy-Poo! Cuz you just handed the new Yanni record to the Number One Yanni fan in, like, anywhere! See, I come to praise Yanni, not bury him. Live at the Acropolis? More like Live at the Awesomeness. Niki Nana? Niki Nanalicious! And my relationship with In My Time can only be described as beautiful and extremely sexual. Extra points to Mr. Hrysomallis for banging Linda Evans before the former Mrs. Blake Carrington had the ol’ Katherine-Helmond-in-Brazil facial treatment. In other words, I come to bring forth the word. I’m gonna use my little corner of virtual space here to spread the truth. I’m gonna let ’em know that Yanni is back on the scene! I’m gonna let ’em know that Yanni is his name, and fuckin’ up motherfuckers is his game!
Truth of Touch comes out at just the right time—we need meaningful music in a largely hopeless time, and who better to provide us the soundtrack for our hopelessness than Yanni? The title track starts the album with a wistful descending keyboard figure, lightly brushed drums, and a rip of Tom Petty’s “Yer So Bad” in what I believe to be the refrain. Majestic stuff, but he’s just beginning. The aural foreplay continues with the bassy lyricism of “Echo of a Dream,” and the placid melodicism of “Seasons,” which sounds like it could have been part of David Foster’s St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack (the eleventh greatest album ever made, after any ten of Yanni’s records). It’s that good.
Elsewhere, the Y-man gets his Moby on with the soundtrack-lite cut “Nine” (ironically, the seventh track on the record—Yanni keeps us on our toes, fer sure). There’s just something about the low-register synths accompanied by guitarish synths and synths of unknown origin that just makes me wanna go all Jason Bourne on somebody’s ass. There’s also the chart-seeking missile called “Can’t Wait,” on which vocalist Leslie Mills opines over a frothy cloud of Yanniness. Now, the addition of a vocalist usually means a lessened presence of Yanni, and thus worthy of avoidance. “Can’t Wait,” though, is primo pop balladry; against all odds, Yanni succeeds in rescuing a deadened, though lovely, voice with Yannitude. Curveball called; curveball thrown.
Also of interest is the Grobanesque tenor of Nathan Pacheco on “O Luce Che Brilla Nell Oscurita,” which I believe is Italian for “Oh, Lucy, Nelly’s Brillo is Obscured.” I believe there is also a reference to pasta primavera contained within the labyrinthine and quite frankly foreign-sounding lyrics.
But the Yann-meister totally—and I mean totally—throws down the shit with trumpeter Arturo Sandoval on the massively huge and creatively titled “Yanni & Arturo.” What we got here is a failure to communicate anything that is not awesome—it’s a jazzy, funkified Cuban/Greek maelstrom of instruments and voices and just pure awe-inspiring, overwhelming smoke and lightning and new age thunder. Good God, it’s something to behold, something to let wash over you for six seemingly endless minutes. I imagine the occasional whoosh of ocean-like keyboard noise shall be timed to the whoosh of the memory of Yanni’s long mane when he performs “Yanni & Arturo” live, probably in the Grand Canyon, or via satellite, from Mars.
So take that, Giles. Thought you were giving me the shit end of the stick again, huh? Little did you know how hip I am to the splendid, fog-enshrouded world of Yanni’s music. Indeed, there are many things in this crazy world worse than Yanni—pestilence, urban decay, the flu, Celine Dion’s smile—that you could have sent my way. Try a little harder next time.