"Gino Vannelli, one of the greatest musicians and most intriguing artists of our time, has never received the recognition that he deserves." So says the official Gino Vannelli Web site. Of course, if you know Vannelli by his three Top 40 singles, that's kind of hard to fathom. Face it, the hirsute sex symbol's singing, "I just wanna STOP...," was the type of image that gave the '70s a bad name, along with Olde-English-style Italian restaurants, gold chains atop running outfits, and long Cadillacs. And there was always the Second City TV skit that featured Vannelli, as played by Eugene Levy, in a fake commercial in which every time the singer turned around to lip sync another song, he had grown hairier and hairier until, by the last song, he looked like a werewolf. But there is more to "Gee-no!" than repulses the eye. Vannelli is actually a musically eclectic figure (especially when he's not trying to make the ladies swoon). Some of his albums became staples of contemporary smoooooooth jazz radio stations in the mid- to late-'80s because of their jazzy feel and crossover appeal. Vannelli has even earned real jazz credentials. He has performed with Tom Grant, Jimmy Haslip and the Doky brothers. But, Mel Torme or Al Jarreau he's not. He's a pop balladeer who injects some jazz and classical elements into his milky-silky tunes. His songs get by because of his charisma. So be mindful, guys, of your ladies. One look into his eyes, and your gals might not be going home with you.
-- Paul J. MacArthur
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Gino Vannelli performs Friday, June 4, at 8 p.m. at Wortham Center's Cullen Theater, 500 Texas. Call (713)629-3700 for ticket information.