Between 1981 and 1985, the music industry was rocked by the emergence of MTV, which rewrote the rules of success while bringing the new wave crashing into the American mainstream. All veterans had to find a way to come to terms with the new music and the new presentation, whether it was embracing it or scorning it. Gino Vannelli embraced it, accepting it as the way things were now done. Consequently, Black Cars is definitively of the moment -- it's hard to imagine a record that sounds more 1985 than this. Every cut on the record is built on synthesizers, with Yamaha's infamous DX7 in the forefront. There are hints of mild dance rhythms and little concessions to new wave that pop up now and again. This is all essentially window dressing, though, since the core of the record is firmly in the smooth, lightly soulful, soft pop territory staked out on Brother to Brother and Nightwalker. Still, that window dressing is awful flashy, calling attention to itself on every single track on the record. Since Vannelli is a professional, he does make it work on occasion, most notably on the minor hit singles "Black Cars" and "Hurts to Be in Love." Yet, this is more noteworthy for what he attempted than what he achieved. Consequently, Black Cars is primarily interesting as an artifact for '80s fanatics and as a transitional record in Vanelli's career. He did one other record in a similar vein, Big Dreams Never Sleep, in 1987, before he started to break away from strictly mainstream pop, culminating in 1995's Yonder Tree, his first explicitly jazz album. That journey would not have been possible without this record.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine