The 90s Live on With Yanni

Photo Courtesy of Yanni/Wake Records

Do you remember the 90s? I do. I remember watching Montel Williams with my mom and the commercial respites between paternity test dramas were the commercials for phone psychics, River Dance videos and totally awesome New Age tapes (or laser disks!).

One of those musicians was Enya who moved on to be featured in the Lord of the Rings, somewhat legitimizing her. The other was Yanni, who never needed to be legitimized. You know why?  Because he’s Yanni.

On Nov. 14, 1954, the newest of the Greek pantheon was born in Kalamata, Greece. The offspring of Apollo (god of music and all things fantastic) and Aphrodite (goddess of love, beauty and sexuality), Yanni is actually the eighth wonder of the natural world. He taught himself how to play piano and graced his family with recitals before he could even read music. He moved to America to attend college at the University of Minnesota where he sought after a degree in psychology – to better understand the hearts and minds of mere mortals, perhaps?

In 1992, Yanni earned his first Grammy nomination with “Dare to Dream.” The music from this album was used extensively in commercials and sporting events. His life mission to capture the spirits of the world had begun. In 1997, Yanni began to tear down cultural barriers when he was permitted to perform at the Taj Mahal, a privilege not given to just any Western artist. He performed in China’s Forbidden City later in the same year.

But something happened in the 2000s. Perhaps it was Enya’s aforementioned success with the Lord of the Rings soundtrack detracting Yanni’s much-deserved adoration … or maybe the 90s were just over, literally and spiritually. Even though Yanni’s 2003-2004 concert tour was lauded by Billboard Magazine as the fourth largest concert tour, he was appallingly absent from the airwaves.

But now that long, floral skirts are bursting out of Urban Outfitters racks and Doc Martens are finding their way back into H&Ms everywhere, I think it’s safe to say that the 90s are coming back. And what a coincidence that Yanni has a new album out. Released on Feb. 8, “Truth of Touch” captures the glory of New Age instrumentals in a way that I feared was lost forever.

Let me offer you a sensory example. Imagine you’re walking around Downtown Disney. You’ve just left the Lego store as the scent of kettle corn and beignets hits you like a wall. Wafting softly on the wind, you hear the distant tinkling of piano keys over a swelling synth chord. What is that? You turn right and continue to walk toward the World of Disney to go try on Goofy hats, and the sound encompasses you. Yeah, it’s a guy with long hair bent over a keyboard. A sundry group of Disney patrons has gathered around him, bopping their heads, Mickey-ear hats wiggling, balloons swaying in the wind.

That’s what Yanni’s like, but better. Pop in “Truth of Touch” and get ready for an experience. The opening title track will lift you up and carry you to a world of waterfalls and snowcapped mountains. Are you seeing the commercials from our youth in your head yet? You should be.  You could be anywhere physically – a massage parlour, your orthodontist’s waiting room, your weird aunt’s car … but mentally, you’re in Yanni’s grasp. You’re in between reality and Mount Olympus, lying in tall grass as mythical creatures graze around you.

The next six tracks carry you on wave after wave of sonic bliss, like an adventure … nay, like a dream … like an epic movie saga.  Just when you thought music can’t get any better, “Can’t Wait” surprises with full vocals from Leslie Mills. She captures exactly how I feel about Yanni in the yearning lyrics, “Surround me, completely, lost somewhere in your arms.” There are four other songs with vocals, including the operatic “O Luce Che Brilla Nell’ Oscurita,” featuring tenor Nathan Pacheco. The album closes with “Secret,” featuring Australian singer Chloe. The song is haunting, yearning and sad … perhaps she too is sad that the album is over.

But here’s the good news. Even though the 90s were arguably the best 10 years in a row ever, nobody liked rewinding. Now that it’s well into the 21st century, we don’t have to wait the time to rewind to start the musical adventure over again. Yanni never leaves us. And he never will.