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Adventures Through The Mines Of Mellow Gold 4


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.

Sergio Mendes – Never Gonna Let You Go (download)

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.

¡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 Café! 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!

    • Dan

      Dude! He hasn’t gone away.  This was from LAST WEEK!

    • I hate you Jason Hare. I have to get work done and now I am going to be giggling like an idiot at Gino Vanelli’s poodle-fro for the rest of the day.

      Some notes.

      For some of these posts, Jason will call me and get me talking about these songs and (steal all my material) brainstorm with me about them. Suffice to say, I was the one who found that play-maker page. I apologize to all of you.

      I had never heard of Gino Vanelli or that song before Jason played it for me.  I still think the pregnant pause at the end of the chorus is reminiscent of "She’s Gone" by Hall and Oates (i.e. "(break) What went WROOOOOOOOONGGGGGG?!?!!?!" ) but if this site has taught me one thing, it’s that I am really bad at knowing what song was released before what song.

    • Dan – GREAT FIND!  Gino looks and sounds great – and it seems he’s finally become comfortable with the idea of "the guitar."  Thanks for the link.  I’ll revise my entry to include it!

      And my apologies to Mike for not giving him credit for finding that webpage.  I have been to so many Sergio Mendes websites over the past two weeks that I have a hard time remembering how I came across each one.  But I do remember you now pointing out that horrible MIDI track.  Please forgive me. 

    • Jane

      Hi Jason.

      I really enjoy your Mellow Gold posts. They are a bright spot in my week, so thanks.

      But I have to tell you, I could have happily lived out the remainder of my life without ever seeing the photo of Gino on the Beach. How will I be able to stop that image coming to mind as I listen to “I Just Wanna Stop” on my iPod? Or, you know, eat lunch?? I’m still reeling from the Benny Mardones photo …

      I think you’ve had a ton of suggestions already — but does Sneaker’s “More than Just the Two of Us” qualify for a future Mellow Gold discussion? That’s a childhood favorite, but I don’t know that much about the band. Um, then again, not so sure I want to see the pictures you would uncover … ha ha!

      Thanks again!

    • jb

      I always thought Elton John did “Soul Train” before any other white artist, but I could be wrong. God knows Gino belonged on there, too, no matter when he got there.

      Gino could do it uptempo when he had to–check out “People Gotta Move.” It’s still mellow, though.

    • I’m glad I could inspire a Gino post! That made my day!

      Did you know that Sergio Mendes released an album this year in the same style of Carlos Santana. Meaning, it was filled with current hitmakers singing along to Sergio’s compositions. Featured were the Black Eyed Peas and John Legend among many others. It didn’t really bother the charts.

    • Jane,

      Thanks so much – I’m glad I can add some joy (and fright) to your day.  Don’t deny the Vannelli.  You know you want the Vannelli.  And I must confess, you had me stumped.  It took me about 10 minutes to even find a clip of that Sneaker song.  I’ve never heard it before.  From the short 30 seconds I heard, it sounded a bit Air Supply-ish, which means it’d definitely be a contender…can you send it to me?

    • Carlos – yes, I did know about that – coincidentally (or not?), a Herb Alpert remix album was released just around the same time.  I heard about them both on NPR a while back…

    • Robert

      I’ll have to listen to "Never Gonna Let You Go" when I get home to see if it rings a bell.  The Mendes song I remember from that period is "Your Alibis," or rather I remember hearing the song on Macon, GA’s easy-listening station around 1988 and liking it.  Same male and female vocalists as the song you posted, I believe.

    • Jane

      Hmm. Maybe you’re right, Jason. Maybe the aura/halo around Gino is starting to grow on me.
      Sure, I’d be happy to send along that song. Well, I’ll certainly give it a try, anyway.

    • This Mellow Gold post wasn’t as painful as the last two, but the inclusion of Gino Vanelli was like the cherry on top of a shit sundae.  My aunt was a huge fan of this guy back in the early 80s and I just shook my head at her love of this music. But it’s clear that I was the silly one.  Why go on? I can’t, really.  Gino’s hair, his love of synth, his…hair.  I just wanna stop.

    • Robert

      Now that I’ve heard “Never Gonna Let You Go,” I totally remember it, and it was definitely a bigger hit than “Your Alibis.” I would’ve thought it was a James Ingram song. Didn’t you say he didn’t have a hit he could call his very own until 1990?

    • Jeremy

      Canto was played at my wedding. Gino is cool.
      So where does Brent Bourgeois fall in this thread?

    • Elaine

      I just got a calendar of events brochure (snail mail) from the Cerritos Performing Arts Center in California.  Guess who they just added?  Sergio Mendes, live! April 14, 2007!  No word yet on ticket prices.So, what does he do in a live show?  Play keyboard while a parade of people sing?

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    • Ray

      If I was ever one of the "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" on SNL, I would come up with a skit as a DJ for GINO-FM… "All Gino, All The Time!!!"

    • JP

      Gino wasn’t the first white guest on SOUL TRAIN (nor was Elton), it was guitarist Dennis Coffey in 1971, doing his instrumental hit “Scorpio.” But even now, African-American baby-boomers still have a soft spot for Gino. I worked in a used record store in the early nineties and blacks in their 30s and 40s came in buying old Gino Vanelli elpees all the time.

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    • Hello, goodmorning, WOW!!! All this attention for GINO VANNELLI and His life’s work. And His hair!!! Yes many men and women too are so jealous!!!
      Some of you do not know how to write Gino’s last name, so here we go again:
      It’s VANNELLI with 2″NN” and 2 “LL” GINO VANNELLI a name to remember with music you have to listen to…. 15 different Gino Vannelli albums and the 16th is coming soon, called the DutchBeat………….
      This is the Gino Vannelli fan web site where jasonhare.com stole the above Gino pictures from. http://www.ginovannelli.info and in someway we are very proud that people surfed through our simple Gino Vannelli web pages to steal pictures because it’s a lot of work to go through all the pages…. and in the meantime people learn about Gino Vannelli life’s work,
      GREAT!!! Our apologies for our bad English/American writing but we do the best we can and we have an excuse: we are Dutch and from Holland!!!

    • Ray

      Judging by the photos, methinks much of Gino’s millions was spent on mousse, no?