[Walk the Night] -- Back in March, when I saw that Gino Vannelli's Nightwalker had turned 40, I passed on featuring it in a Flashback. You see, I thought I had previously done a post about this album. Turns out, I had featured only the title track as one of three "Guilty Pleasures" back in April 2013. Well, as Mr. Vannelli's birthday was just this past Wednesday (6/18), and because Nightwalker was an album my late father and I had bonded over, I think this is the weekend to feature the record in its entirety. (By the way, I still have my father's vinyl copy of this album).
Nightwalker (1981) was the seventh release from the Vannelli brothers (Gino's brother, Joe, worked with him for much of his career). It's a woefully underrated record if you ask me, almost a textbook example of recording engineering genius. I also consider it a milestone in that it shows a clear delineation between 1970s studio excess and the 1980s DIY attitude. Nightwalker is full and lush. You can actually feel a roomful of musicians and equipment, but it never feels overproduced – well, maybe it's a bit overproduced by mid-80s standards, but certainly not when judged on its own merits. The title track, which is also the first track on Side A, kicks off with the sounds of city traffic, evoking the very streets that the song's protagonist walks. A keyboard intro is gently woven in. Then, around the 45 second mark, the city gives way to the full sound of Gino Vannelli's band filling your ears and senses. I should also point out that this album marks Vannelli's sidestep from his more R&B and jazz influenced recordings. Pop music was on the rise as the 1970s gave way to the 1980s, and Vannelli's songwriting shifted to reflect that change.
Not that his writing always works on this record. "Nightwalker" sometimes comes across as ... well ... stalker-like ("I can't live in this world without love, without you" or "I walk the night because your head is gone from my pillow"). "Stay With Me" has the cringeworthy lyric "The only crime I see, is killing time with me," but Vannelli still sings it, or slings it, with his customary gusto. But there are plenty of highlights, too. Both "Seek and You Will Find" and "I Believe" are positive, upbeat songs which can still resonate today. "Sally (She Says the Sweetest Things)" is tender ballad of the highest order. And after a year of pandemic, pretty much everyone can identify with this album's biggest hit, "Living Inside Myself."
Flashback: Nightwalker (1981) by Gino Vannelli
Track order in the embedded playlist...
Side A:1. "Nightwalker" - 5:072. "Seek and You Will Find" - 4:403. "Put the Weight on My Shoulders" - 4:454. "I Believe" - 4:11Side B:5. "Santa Rosa" - 4:126. "Living Inside Myself" - 4:237. "Stay With Me" - 4:438. "Sally (She Says the Sweetest Things)" - 4:29
That's all till next week. Dedicated 80s-philes can find more flashbacks in the Prophet or Madman archives or via Bookended's 80s Flashback tag. As always, your comments are welcome on today's, or any other, flashback post. And if you like what I'm doing here, please share the link with your friends. If, however, you don't like the flashback, feel free to share it with your enemies.
I'll see you in seven!