Guilty pleasures. Admit it, we've all got 'em when it comes to music.
A couple of months ago, fellow Blogcritic Glen Boyd had his go around in the confession booth, and at that time I made a toss away comment threatening to do the same.
I was reminded of that half-serious promise when I came across Rolling Stone Magazine's back-handed compliment piece listing 25 "undisputed" guilty pleasure bands. Yeah, yeah, I know, it's Rolling Stone, for crissakes, but much like that infamous "100 Best Guitarists" list, they sure seem to know how to get a lively discussion going. For the record, I found all but one entry on that guilty pleasures list either guilty or pleasurable but not both, except for one.
So after carefully building up a reputation here (ha) over some sixty odd articles, it all comes tumbling down here in one fell swoop. Behold my own guilty pleasures list:
1) Gino Vannelli
Why he gets scorn
Especially in the beginning, Toronto-based Vannelli wrote some incredibly cringe-inducing vapid lyrics, like "now don't get paranoid, I ain't a horny little mongoloid." He also often over-emoted the hell out of his voice, like as if he forgot he was singing rock and was performing an opera instead (much later he did recognize that he was singing opera and put out a real opera record). And the heavy reliance on ARPs and Moogs gave his recordings shorter shelf lives than a fresh grouper left out on a sidewalk in July.
Over time, all these quirks were mitigated just enough to give him a #2 hit in 1978 with the sappy ballad "I Just Wanna Stop." So Gino probably didn't get all that widely criticized, because nobody noticed him much when he was more prone to show his bizarre side. Lucky him.
Why I dig him, anyway
Vannelli had some pretensions of being a soul-jazz inflected prog rocker before he eventually settled for just getting a few AM hits, but while he often failed in that pursuit, he came up with some interesting, melodic stuff anyway. "Where Am I Going" flashed some sophisticated arrangements and tempo changes, while "The Surest Things Can Change" has a sweet, melancholy vibe that proved the Italian Stallion of the North could come across sincerely if he just went light on the syrup. Plus, he didn't skimp on the studio help; guys like Jay Graydon, Graham Lear, Ernie Watts, and Jimmy Haslip provided the instrumentation, and it showed.