Thursday, January 24, 2013
Gino Vannelli - The Gist of the Gemini (1976)
The Gist of the Gemini, Gino Vannelli's fourth studio album starts showing the promise that would eventually lead to his financial success with Brother to Brother. While the album doesn't have the chart-toppers or entirely consistent material like his later albums would have, tracks like "Love of My Life" and "Fly into This Night" embrace an electronic sound that is both tasteful and catchy. "Love of My Life" opens the album and is probably the strongest pop track on the album. The rhythmic "comping" of Joe Vannelli on electric piano gives a lot of energy to a rather flowing vocal line. The following track, "Ugly Man," is a very introspective ballad that seems to have been composed around the words and sounds sort of like a sketch of a song until the rest of the band comes in about halfway through the song. It is the latter half of the song with the polyphonic synth parts that is the most interesting as the track does not seem to have much direction in the earlier moments. "A New Fix for '76" is unabashed uptempo song without really any substance. The vocals in the verses don't seem to really match with what is happening the song and are sung so quickly that they lose their effect. Still, the instrumental parts of the song are what is really interesting, as the polyphonic synth delivered by Gino's brother Joe has an almost 8-bit sound that is still a bit unusual today for a pop song. "Omens of Love" is very reminiscent of "Ugly Man" in structure and feel, but it succeeds where the other track seems to fail. The sparse accompaniment in the beginning is layered very well with the vocals that create a sort of ambient mood until the drums come in and add a more evident rhythmic pulse. The tension of release of the vocal line in relation to the drums and synthesizer create a well-crafted song. "Fly into This Night" is another strong track that has a sort of Latin feel with the presence of maracas and cuiça. This feel blends well with the electric piano and the faster tempo of the song. This track is on par with the opener of the album "Love of My Life." Most of the remainder of the album is devoted to the "War Suite," a sort of classical meets progressive rock with an electronic bent. The opening of the suite might be able to be compared to the Renaissance track "Song of Scheherazade" with the chorus and very epic opening, but eventually goes into an electronic retreat with an almost swing rhythm on the hi-hat. This exchange between classical and electronic continues through the rest of the suite. While I won't go into detail about every track in the suite, it is a great addition to the album while it may not be for every listener as it is much more explorative than the pop contributions to the album. The album closes with "Summers of my Life," a medium tempo ballad that highlights a lot of the ideas present on the rest of the album such as flowing vocal lines and electronic elements. While Gino is undoubtedly a pop figure, his music does have a harmonic sophistication that you wouldn't expect from material of this genre. It may be hard for some listeners to get past the sounds of the time such as the rather cheesy background singers and things of that nature, but overall the album is relatively unknown despite its exploration of concurrent styles that might not otherwise be combined.