Rick Keene Music Scene – Gino Vannelli Is Still Here and Better Than Ever …

Soul Train, the television show which featured Gino Vannelli as it’s first ‘white’ performer is long gone. Gino, on the other hand, is improving with age.

The sixty-six year old native Montrealer returned home this past weekend on the heels of his first album of new material in over a decade. Wilderness Road is the name of Gino’s twentieth album and it may rank as one of his best.

On Friday and Saturday night at Place des Arts, Montrealers got a taste of the new album along with Vannelli’s greatest hits. They also received a profound example of what made Gino famous in the first place.

Sure Gino had the looks for the seventies. The sex appeal of John Travolta long before Travolta exited his T.V Barbarino character and emerged as Danny in Grease and Tony in Saturday Night Fever. Travolta should be thanking Gino with a regular paycheck.

Aside from the image, what separated Gino from the pack of both Italians and non Italians, was his attention to detail and his inner belief system. Those two elements (and persistence) made Herb Alpert of A&M Records pay attention. Much the same way the crowd at Place des Arts did on Saturday night. Rarely does an artist gather such focus between songs. Five hundred pins dropping would not be heard as each ear hung onto every word Gino spoke.

The reasons for the attention span is simple. Gino’s voice and his band’s precision. Aside from a couple of songs in Vannelli’s arsenal ( I Just Wanna Stop, Living Inside Myself, Wild Horses), Gino’s songwriting has not been easy to classify. His songs are diverse, complex and simple. His arrangements are unique and lean towards perfection. The audiences at a Gino show are given musical gifts before he opens his mouth.

People I Belong To, Nightwalker, Feel like Flying, Apaloosa, Black Cars, NightDrive (along with the songs mentioned above) contain vocals by Gino which are that of a much younger man. Some people are blessed with a singing ability and then there are ‘those’ blessed to hear it.

Two of the songs from the new disc showcased both Vannelli’s vocals and his songwriting brilliance. Yet Something Beautiful and Older N’ Wiser.

Both songs inspired on two fronts. Musically, Older N’Wiser displays Vannelli’s Jazzy versatility while Yet Something Beautiful is pure Dicken-esque in it’s brilliant storytelling. Gino’s vocals on the latter reaching depths not heard from anyone half his age. The vocals alone leaving the audience speechless in awe.

Like most ‘classic’ artists – the unfortunate part of Gino Vannelli 2019 is commercial radio’s unwillingness to play the new tunes and a hunger for the old tunes from those only wanting to live in the past. Fortunately for Gino, his band is not a ‘cover’ band and are talented enough to play the new album in it’s entirety if the demand is there. Fortunately for Gino, his band can also play the complex rhythms and arrangements of the past.

In short – Gino and his mates are ready for Soul Train 2.0

Visit Gino Here !

Rick Keene Music Scene – Gino Vannelli Shines Brightly on New Album

Sometimes – it is worth the wait.

Gino Vannelli ( Montreal’s wayward son) made a rule when he was younger. ‘Never put out music without a purpose …’

That is the reason why it has been over ten years since music fans heard something new from Vannelli. Wilderness Road is the name of the new record and it is a mark of beauty. It is a different sounding Gino yet it still sounds like Gino …

” Well … I can’t sound different …” Laughs Vannelli. ” I am who I am and my style and voice remain the same.”

Wilderness Road is a Bluesy / Americana – themed album and it is exactly the type of recording Gino wanted to do.

” I did not want to do a Jazz or Classical album or anything I had done before. I wanted to explore the rootsy side of things with the focus on storytelling. I had about forty songs written and the ones on the album are the best stories. All the songs were written in the last five years.”

The disc may be ‘ rootsy’ with elements of Blues and Jazz but Gino’s keen ear for perfection and production are what make Wilderness Road a typical Vannelli recording. That unique talent is what made Herb Alpert ( co- founder of A&M Records) sign Gino in the first place. A signature sound which eventually led to twenty million records sold worldwide.

” It is not so much as audio perfection.” Says Gino. ” It is getting an authentic sound. A real sound which comes from the soul. That is what I try to do in the studio.” He laughs. ” My brother Joe has something to do with it also … “

The album is part reflection. Part of an older man looking back but it is also a collection of personal stories and tales which have affected Vannelli in different ways.

The Woman Upstairs is about an abused lady who lived above my wife and I when we lived in Ahunstic. I couldn’t come up with a name for the song when it was done so I asked my wife. She said why not ‘ The Woman Upstairs …?”

Another tale is about the story of a five year old boy whose body was discovered headless. The killer was thought to be found but he was killed in an accident before he could stand trial.

The album is truly about the human condition.

” I saw this woman taking care of her husband, pushing him in a wheelchair. He had Parkinson’s disease or had a stroke.” Says Vannelli of the song Yet Something Beautiful. “I thought of all the unsung heroes in this world like this woman. The love and patience she had. We don’t hear enough stories like this”

Wilderness Road contains many ‘wistful’ ballads containing a Blues’ backdrop. A canvas which tends to arrive when Gino writes songs on guitar.

” When I am writing on my acoustic, the tendency is towards Blues and Folk. Rootsy / Americana sounding songs. Black Cars for example, was written that way but we turned it into an eighties’ sound to fit the times. The original ‘Black Cars’ could easily be on Wilderness Road – it would fit right in …”

Gino’s new album (his 20th) was not made because of a recent trend of older musicians making Blues’ records. (The Stones, Myles Goodwyn (April Wine) and Randy Bachman ( Bravebelt, The Guess Who, BTO) all have recently returned to their roots).

” I don’t know why they made these albums …” Admits Gino.

” If I had to guess I think it is because they want to ensure storytelling and their own expertise in storytelling does not fade away. I think in this day and age – the art of telling stories in songs has been lost. Some artists want to remind people before it is lost forever.”

Vannelli is in his fifth decade as a recording artist and he is not interested in ‘ fitting in’ with the trends or sounds of today.

” I just do what I feel is right. I don’t pretend or aspire to being anything different. After all these years people know who I am. I know who I am and that’s okay for me.”

Vannelli lives in Portland, Oregon and spends time jogging in the mountains to stay in shape. Once a year he gives Master Classes and it was during one of those classes he met a girl from Quebec who travelled to work with Gino. A voice which ended up on Wilderness Road …

Gino will be in Montreal April 26th and 27th.

Listen to The Long Arm of Justice Below

Get Tickets Here !

Visit Gino Here

Rick Keene 50th Birthday Bash / Fundraiser for Johnny Beaudine Line Up

Fifty years is a long time …

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Hard to believe on September 7th, I will be reaching a half century on this planet ( 47 years if you count the times I was in a different world as a teenager).

Jerry Mercer
Jerry Mercer

Please help me celebrate and at the same time – raise money for Sax player Johnny Beaudine. Johnny lost his belongings in a fire and requires help to get furniture and all the little stuff which is essential to feeling ‘ at home’.

Personal mementos cannot be replaced, so this evening will also be an opportunity for all of us to lift Johnny’s spirits through music and song. 

*Please attend and enjoy an evening of good music.

Listen Below for the line up !



Sept. 4th – Rick Keene 50th Bday Bash!


Jarrett Lobley Project Click Here !
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Gino Vannelli – Los Angeles and Home .​.​.

Gino Vannelli has been here before.

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The native Montrealer recently returned  to his birth city for a pair of great shows at The Rialto Theatre.

Just four short days after those performances – Gino recorded a DVD and CD of a show in L.A.

Please listen below as Gino speaks about that show including a duet with a very unlikely suspect. Is there a new album on the horizon?


Visit Gino Right Here!

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Visit Blues Bourbon and BBQ Here!



Sept. 4th – Rick Keene 50th Bday Bash!


Jarrett Lobley Project Click Here !
Jarrett Lobley Project
Click Here !

Ask Dave the Bartender; Episode Six

The man sees every type of person born under a bad sign …


He has cleaned up under every type of condition imaginable. He is the unpaid psychiatrist of the world. The listener. The guru of gossip.

He is also the man who has listened to every song played on every jukebox this side of Foreigner.

He is Dave the Bartender …


Email any question to Rickkeene2@gmail.com


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Gino Vannelli; All Those Nights in Montreal.Part Three

Once Gino Vannelli‘s mini-tour is finished, a tour where the final stop in Canada is Montreal’s Rialto Theater – it is off to Los Angeles to continue a new part of his career. Fitting because L.A. is where it all started …

” I can’t really say much about it …” Explains Gino. ” It is still under production and negotiations. I am not at liberty to say but I will be on television very soon.”

Gino-025tomsharpTelevision is the end to all means for Vannelli. It was a prime vehicle at the starting line in Vannelli’s musical journey by way of Soul Train and now a second leg begins with a major television show. Something that most Montrealer music stars  from the 1970’s cannot boast. Vannelli’s full music sound and his ‘way with the ladies’ – may have something to do with it. The mid-seventies sequined attire – accented by John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, was right at the time and Vannelli did not take any ‘flack’ from the stereotypical Italian males …

“I never really thought about it.” Laughs Vannelli.’ I never looked at it that way. I just sang the type of songs that were in my heart. In my mind. I don’t think I really wrote for the women, it just seemed that way. Ballads were part of what was on my mind. One song accentuated another one. As a musician, an artist – a pure artist, a thought process does not take place. It is emotions that write the songs and in that era, those were the type of songs that were written.”

Vannelli did conscientiously let the ‘Italian cat out of the bag’ when he recorded the album ‘Canto’ in 2003. A disc which showcased Vannelli’s  vocals in Italian, French, Spanish and English. Vannelli was also commissioned by the Vatican to perform for Pope John Paul II and the song ‘Parole Per Mio Padre’ is a tribute to his late Father.

” That album took me a while.” Explains Vannelli.” I had to learn to sing properly in the Italian language. It was a challenge because I did not want to have any Canadian or Montreal accent on the recordings. I tried to shake my Italian dialect so it took me a bit. That album was a milestone as far as what I was allowed to do as an artist.”

These days, Vannelli has an ear to the ground for all the new music that is circulating via the airwaves. He is into Americana and Roots music and attributes the resurgence of those types of music to the increasing expensive nature for musicians to tour and record.


” In Oregon, like everywhere – there are a lot of artists and concerts to go and see. I like a lot of Folk – ish stuff and am very interested in people writing real music with good storytelling. I think a lot of the Americana stuff is getting popular because artists can do a solo act or a duo. It is expensive to put on shows. The huge tours of the 1970’s are impossible these days. In order for new artists to tour, the simplest way to do it is with an acoustic guitar.”

Vannelli’s show in Montreal is modernized. His set list will start in 1973 andGino_Vanelli continue with some new songs that no one has heard yet. Vannelli takes a direction in rehearsals and pretty much sets the music before the tours start. That does not mean there will not be any spontaneity. Licks and rhythms may change and his old stuff will be the same great tunes with an updated version of things within. Gino does not play his CDs live – that would be pretty boring.

” My brother Ross and I take this very seriously. I think that music is handed down as well as ethics. Ross takes the production to heart and he is my brother, which is great, but I have him with me because he is a very talented guy. The show is complicated, we have a horn section – so the production is full and a lot involved. A lot of Jazz. Pop and Rock. Of course the rythym section is fantastic as always …”

Gino Vannelli will be in Montreal on The 2nd and 3rd of November at The Rialto Theater. Gino Vannelli is coming home.

What else is new …?

Gino Vannelli; All Those Nights in Montreal. Part Two

Gino Vannelli had a lot of ambition as a young man growing up in Montreal. According to him – you have to have that fire to succeed.

The+Best+Of+Gino+Vannelli“I was filled with fire as a kid. I moved to New York when I was young and signed a record deal by the time I was twenty-one, which was fairly young for even today’s standards. None of that would have happened without that fire. As I have gotten older, I would not say the fire has gone away but it is tamed. I became more interested in different styles and improving my vocal techniques. It has became an interesting musical journey …”

That trip is not over …

Vannelli is in the process of recording a new album which will be ‘in record stores near you’ in 2014. An album that will contain all original material. Material devoted to Jazz and Blues. Something Vannelli wants to get off his chest.

” I love the process.” Says Gino. ” I love to hear the results of hard work and the desire to make art. I love the sound of music. I love to play piano and I love to sing. Right now with all the new technology, I love to be in front of the computer, programming and using new school applications with old school ways.”


Growing up in Montreal, Vannelli was gaining fame around the same time as guys like Frank Marino. He really did not hang with him or guys like him because he was not a rocker. He did not fit in with most of the people making waves in the Montreal or Quebec music scene back in the 70’s. The state of the Canadian recording scene also had something to do with it …

“I had different visions musically. I wanted to explore music on my own terms and I knew I needed good producers and sound technicians. Back in those days – that did not exist in Canada. Now it is a different story. Starting in the mid-eighties, with the advent of Celine Dion and Bryan Adams – studios got really good in Canada. When I started, studios in Canada were in the infancy stage. You could not make the kind of music you wanted because producers and musicians were not skilled in the process of making records.”

Vannelli, a resident of Portland ,Oregon – is using all the skill he has gathered over the years to good use. For him – he learned his singing skill as he went along with no one to teach him the ups and downs of what it takes to be a singer. Gino is giving master voice lessons in Oregon. Something he wishes had existed for him when he was a young man starting out.

“I have ten students from all over the world. I have been doing this for threeginovannelliscan0032 years now. They are all good singers. I started doing this when I was living in Holland a couple of years ago. It is a lot of fun to teach up and coming singers and it is a great learning experience for me as well. Once in a while – I run into really great singers and it is wonderful. I have done this in Italy and France as well…”

Vannelli teaches the intangibles. Stuff that singers come across while on the road touring …

” A lot of people come in and think they can hit every note in the world. I say okay, what are you going to do if you just flew ten hours and you are tired? What happens when you are sick? Are you going to be able to hit those notes? We call it conscience singing – being aware of everything around you. Phonetically, annotative, diction and concepts are part of it along with theory and technical. There is a lot involved in singing. It’s a human being that’s travelling and you must really learn the ropes.”

Vannelli grew up listening to his Grandfather play the guitar but it was his Father who influenced him mostly – music wise. His Dad was a Big Band fan who brought home a lot of records. A real music lover …

” He had Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgreald, Classical and Opera records … He had everything and I was very fortunate to grow up in that atmosphere. He was a huge music fan and it made me a bit of a musicologist. I know the players , the bands, the singers who go way back to the 1930s. I studied classical music and my favorite period is the French Impressionists of the late 19th century. My taste run wild when it comes to music. I appreciate everything right down to Americana and Bluegrass. I like to mix and match when it comes to  recording. It’s like an artist mixing colors – the music process is about talking all genres and implicating it in the sound they are making .”

Something Vannelli will be doing in an upcoming television show …

Stay Tuned for Part Three

Gino Vannelli – All Those Nights in Montreal …

Hometown boy turned man; Gino Vannelli, is coming back to Montreal in November …

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What else is new?

The man who started his musical career as a drummer in Montreal and a current resident of Portland,Oregon – often comes home. He frequently visits his Mom and was most recently in Ste. Agathe to play a festival. He was also in Montreal scouting out the location for his next hometown gig. The Rialto Theater on Avenue de Parc. A newly renovated ‘concert hall‘ which impressed Mr. Vannelli immensely …

‘A few months ago I came to check out the Rialto because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to play there. We met the owner Ezio and I was really impressed so I decided to play multiple nights there. It’s a beautiful theater and the sound is so good. Even the balconies – I felt as if you could reach out and touch people on stage.”

Vannelli is playing at the Rialto on the 2nd and 3rd of November. He is bringing his Portland band with him and people can expect new material from an upcoming Blues/ Jazz album along with some ‘twists’ on the classic stuff. Twists that Vannelli seems to have always been drawn to.

“I was a drummer first and was drawn to the premiere drummers of the time. Buddy Rich, Ed Thigpen, Alvin Jones and Max Roach. Those guys were the cutting edge Jazz guys. The pop guys back in the day, were bringing something new  – they were were being helped by new techniques of engineering. The idea of putting two mikes far away from the drummer and letting the room speak, that was done in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Suddenly, in the mid sixties, the British groups started to close mike the drums, placing the microphone on the bass drum and closer to the snare. I worked with Geoff Emerick, who did most of all the Beatles’ stuff and he explained how they made that transition . It was fascinating.”

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Gino Vannelli’s first started making waves in the seventies. Following a stint at McGill, a time when fellow Montrealers Frank Marino and Sass Jordan were rocking the local stages – Vannelli decided he was looking for something else. A different sound. Following a stint in New York city, Vannelli ended up in Los Angeles and earned a record deal at the age of twenty-one. Listening to Vannelli’s early catalog – the ‘full’  and the ‘big’ sound came through louder and clearer than most of the Rock or Pop music at that time …

” It felt natural to me …” Explains Vannelli. “It was how I heard and felt music at the time. I was very curious about synthesizers and how you could manipulate them to sound like ‘real’ instruments. It gave the records an interesting sound and I had these tunes on my mind at the time. Another thing was the rhythm section. I really liked the hard rockin’ rhythm sections like Wyman and Watts of the Stones. I made sure the band we had going in the mid-seventies and late seventies had a really great rhythm section and I think we succeeded …”

Succeed is an understatement …

09 03 11_7048xStarting in 1974 – the hits started coming in bunches.

‘People Gotta Move” made it to No. 22 on the Billboard Top 100. On February 15, 1975,Vannelli became the second Caucasian performer to appear on Soul Train – a television appearance which opened the doors for him to tour and open up for Stevie Wonder.

In 1978, the song “I Just Wanna Stop” – sent him on a high-flying trip which landed Vannelli back on earth a different guy. That song earned Gino a Grammy nomination, was number one on the charts in Canada and number four in the U.S. Along with “Crazy Life,” “Powerful People,” “Storm at Sunup,” “The Gist of the Gemini,” and “A Pauper in Paradise” – Vannelli earned four Juno awards including Best Male Performer in the 1970’s. Gino Vannelli was on top of the world …

He was not finished there. His musical appetite – just warming up …

Stay tuned for Part Two