I’ve always found the most interesting bands in rock to be the ones who have had multiple singers over different eras. Blackmore’s Rainbow never did two albums in a row by the same lineup. From Ronnie James Dio to Graham Bonnet to Joe Lynn Turner and beyond, Rainbow has been an ever-changing entity during its brief lives. Each era has much to offer, with the Turner years sometimes slagged as the weakest. It is true that ballads became a larger part of the Rainbow sound under Joe, but the turn towards the commercial was evident during the Graham Bonnet era, on Down to Earth.
The peak of the Turner period would have to be Straight Between the Eyes, his second with the band. The lineup this time consisted of founder Ritchie Blackmore, with Roger Glover on bass (his third Rainbow record), drums by Bobby Rondinelli (his second) and new keyboardist David Rosenthal, replacing Don Airey. Rondinelli is a remarkably hard-hitting drummer and his solid, massive beats propel the songs. The finest example of this is “Death Alley Driver”, which could easily be seen as an updated version of “Highway Star” from a decade earlier. The amusing video clip featured Joe Lynn Turner on a motorcycle being chased perilously close by a pilgrim-hatted Blackmore in a hearse!* “Death Alley Driver” indeed!**
Although “Death Alley Driver” is the first track, the soulful ballad “Stone Cold” was the first single. It was a minor hit and still gets radio play today. The integrity lies in Ritchie’s smooth guitar, Joe’s always authentic vocals, and the classy organ backing it up. The song’s strength is in its unmistakable pulse, which is Rondinelli and Glover’s impeccable rhythm. Blackmore fans may have been aghast at the soft rock single, but “Stone Cold” holds up as a classy ballad from a spanking album.
Sadly the music video was not the humorous pleasure the “Death Alley Driver” was. Turner looks stiff**^ and awkward searching through a hall of mirrors looking for a girl with a frozen face. Blackmore just looks disinterested.
Straight Between the Eyes was produced by Roger Glover, as were the previous two albums. With Bobbi Rondinelli behind the kit, Glover extracted an even bigger drum sound, and it is up in the mix. Each track boasts a massive beat, even the ballads like “Tearin’ Out My Heart”. He provides a gallop, and that’s the extra kick the songs get. The album would not have been as forceful with a different drummer.
So as Joe sings it, “Let the Dream Chaser take you away” if you want to get “Rock Fever”! The album can be found affordable so it won’t be a “Tite Squeeze” on your wallet. Feel the “Power” and “Bring on the Night”! It’ll rock you “Stone Cold”.**^^
* Something about that action-packed music video makes the music seem faster and heavier.
** During the Blackmore closeups inside the hearse, pay attention to the rear window behind him. You can clearly see from the trees behind that the car is not moving an inch!
**^ Cue Aaron.
**^^ These are all good songs. No real duds on Straight Between Eyes.