Tuesday, February 6, 2018

"Black Cars" by Gino Vannelli

Song#:  2308
Date:  05/04/1985
Debut:  85
Peak:  42
Weeks:  16
Genre:  Synthpop

Pop Bits:  The last time Vannelli released a studio album was in 1981. That LP, Nightwalker, yielded his second Pop Top 10 hit "Living Inside Myself." In the four years following that successful release, Pop music sounds and sights (MTV) had changed quite a bit and Vannelli's smooth AC sound wasn't necessarily in favor. With a lot of ground to make up, Vannelli recorded his next album titled Black Cars. Embracing the synth and new wave trends of the day, Vannelli introduced his new sound via this title track first single. In his Canadian homeland, the song was a major hit reaching #4. Hopes were high when the tune crossed the border, but US listeners didn't really take to it and the single peaked just outside of the Pop Top 40. It did a bit better at Dance and Rock getting to #15 and #34, respectively. In turn, the album stopped at #62, which was his worst showing on the US chart since 1975.

ReduxReview:  Those expecting or longing for the romantic balladry of Vannelli's past hits were not going to find it on this single or album. Vannelli had moved on and this song certainly drew a line in the sand. While Canadians made it his second biggest hit at home, for some reason it just didn't connect with listeners in the US. I'm really not sure why. The tune was catchy, had great production, and had a sound similar to that of John Parr ("Naughty Naughty") or even The Cars. So why did it get ignored? Perhaps followers weren't ready for a glam, new waved up Vannelli or maybe the label didn't promote it well, especially on MTV (I don't even remember seeing this on the channel). It's too bad as this should have done a lot better. Yeah, it's a bit of a toss-off new wave-lite tune, but its fun and I dig the loud day-glo synth lines. The album isn't too bad either.

ReduxRating:  7/10

Trivia:  So why the four-year gap between albums? It ended up being another case of friction between artist and label. Nightwalker was Vannelli's first LP for Arista after leaving A&M. While that album was successful, the artist/label relationship soured after Vannelli recorded his next project. His follow-up album, Twisted Heart, was apparently an edgier album that was not liked by Arista's Clive Davis. Although an initial single was released ("The Longer You Wait"), Davis ended up shelving the LP and that started a tug of war between the label head and artist. Neither side budged with Davis refusing to release the album and Vannelli not recording anything else. Both stuck to their guns until Vannelli was finally released from his contract in '85. He was then able to sign with Polydor and he stayed with them over the course of three albums with Black Cars being his first effort.



  1. 5/10 for me. Not bad, but I find it to be a bit cringeworthy.

    1. It's cheeky cheezy-ness is kinda what I like. An odd relic for sure.

  2. The single and album was also released in the US on the small HME Records label. HME also released the final charted single for Donnie Iris, "Injured In The Game Of Love", as well as his album, "No Fuss No Muss". Even though John Palumbo's "Blowing Up Detroit" manage to only Bubble Under the Hot 100, that was also released through HME.