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Yanni's Back--and Ready for a Group Hug With the World

Pop Music * The recording phenomenon ends his two-year exile of despair to launch 'If I Could Tell You.'

October 24, 2000|DAVID SEGAL | WASHINGTON POST

"I wake up and I'm in the studio and I have almost no contact with people," says Yanni, relishing his mad-scientist intensity a little too much. "Somebody walks in the studio and leaves a sandwich in the back. For this latest album, I instructed everyone: 'Don't talk to me. If you see me in the morning, say good morning and let me go.' "

Rockers and punks of every persuasion, take note: In the age of the Internet, with dreams of end-running the music establishment dancing in your head, look to Yanni. Other musicians work solo (Prince) and other bands have blazed original trails to their fans (Phish). But only Yanni has waltzed around the music industry's vast machinery on his own.

That's why the corniness of his music is entirely beside the point. The guy is a living metaphor for Success on Your Own Terms, the dream of every American with an idea that is either ridiculed or ignored. He proves that if you sell a product, it doesn't have to be great as long as it's marketed correctly--and you are adorable.

Yanni is hope.

You may hug him now.

Depression Ends, New Vistas Ahead

"He's gorgeous to look at," says Donna Blumenauer, giddily chatting with friends, part of a crowd of 500 at Yanni's in-store signing in a Washington suburb.

"He's an Adonis," says one.

"He has an incredible talent," says another.

"I think it's sad," Blumenauer muses, "that he hasn't had children to pass on the gift that he has."

Is she volunteering?

"Who wouldn't?" Blumenauer responds with a laugh.

This is a chance for Yanni to see if there is interest in a full-scale tour, which he might launch in a few months. He's a little wary of touring because the last one nearly killed him.

After the triumph at the Acropolis, windblown shows at national monuments became his specialty, with performances in China's Forbidden City and near India's Taj Mahal. The platinum albums and nonstop touring continued until 1998, when he was playing five dates a week for weeks on end, full orchestra in tow.

Afterward, he went home and crashed. After the chaos and acclaim of the tour, the stillness of real life seemed shatteringly dull. And Yanni's relationship with Evans was coming apart.

"I realized that I was depressed," Yanni says. "There was nothing I could think of that I would like to do, and that's a very dangerous place to be. It scared me. So . . . I packed up and moved to Greece."

He stayed with his parents for three months, then traveled the world. Last year he snapped out of his funk through a quintessentially Yanni epiphany, staring one morning at a sunrise. "I thought, 'This is beautiful,' " says Yanni. "My heart opened up, and it felt good. And I thought, 'OK, you're healed.' "

He describes his new album as more even-keeled and less dramatic than previous works, though only hard-core fans will spot the difference. "If I Could Tell You" is filled with tinkling keyboards that suggest vast and inviting vistas, as well as drums and digitally reconfigured voices, seemingly collected from parts as far-flung as China and Africa. It won't win over detractors.

But Yanni claims he doesn't fret much about sales. He just wants to get along, to point out the sunrise and yak about simplicity and wear snug sweaters and play a national monument or two. And maybe, along the way, he'd like to make a few bucks, peddling tranquillity through song.

"I will always do my music," Yanni vows, "if it sells or doesn't sell."

Is that so wrong?

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