Joe Lynn Turner

REVIEW: Smoke on the Water – A Tribute (1994 cassette)

SMOKE ON THE WATER – A Tribute (1994 Shrapnel cassette – tribute to Deep Purple)

This baby can be expensive to acquire on CD, so let’s give ye olde cassette tape a spin.  It’s not been played in over 20 years.  This review is with fresh ears.

The backing band on this tribute to Deep Purple consists of:  Deen Castronovo (Hardline/Journey – drums), Jens Johansson (Yngwie Malmsteen – keys), Todd Jenson (Hardline/David Lee Roth – bass) and Russ Parish (Fight/Steel Panther – rhythm guitar).  Each track has a featured singer and lead soloist.  Let’s dig in.

First up:  “Speed King” by Yngwie J. Malmsteen with Kelly Keeling on vocals.  Keeling is on the sandpapery side of Joe Lynn Turner here, while Yngwie gets to jizz fanboy style all over the fretboard.  The star might actually be Jens Johansson’s keyboards but this is an unfortunately very cheesy version of “Speed King”.  Woah, Keeling just nailed an Ian Gillan scream!  Nice.

Kip Winger and Tony MacAlpine team up for “Space Truckin'”.  Tony goes his own way with the solos, innovating as he goes.  This is…pleasant?  There’s some kind of spark that’s missing, and when you’re playing “Space Truckin'” you need to put accelerant in the tank or you’ll fall flat.  Studio sterility has replaced spontaneity.

You gotta hope Glenn Hughes and John Norum can shock some life into “Stormbringer”.  They can!  Of the guitarists so far, John Norum (Europe) is the one who has the right feel for Deep Purple.  Glenn’s great, but doesn’t get to play bass, and here’s part of the problem.  You can hear that the backing band recorded the songs and then the featured players recorded their parts over them.  In a perfect world you’d have Glenn plotting the way on bass too, gelling with the backing band in a united groove.  That can’t happen when you record this way.

One guy who manages to inject his song with personality is Richie Kotzen.  He’s got the funky “Rat Bat Blue” and is granted both the lead vocals and guitars.  Yngwie returns on “Lazy” and he’s teamed with former Deep Purple singer and his own former bandmate, Joe Lynn Turner!  Yngwie plays appropriately on this strong but fairly bland track.  And that’s the cue to flip the tape over.

Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big) gets the vocal and guitar honours on “Maybe I’m a Leo”, which frankly is too slow and lacks groove.  Paul’s vocals, however, absolutely nail Gillan’s on the original.  Things turn stale quickly when it’s time for “Smoke on the Water”.  Russ Parish takes the guitar slot while Robert Mason (Lynch Mob/Warrant) sings.  Far more interesting is “Fireball” with Don Dokken and his future Dokken bandmate Reb Beach.  Don sounds a bit overwhelmed by the demanding song, but hits all the requisite notes.  The brilliant Jeff Scott Soto takes the driver’s seat on Mk I’s “Hush”.  This veteran vocalist (Yngwie/Journey/man more) makes mincemeat of your ears, absolutely killing it.  Soto is absolutely the vocal star on this album (one that includes Glenn Hughes)!  The final song goes to Tony Harnell (TNT) and Vinnie Moore (UFO).  They busy-up “Woman From Tokyo” a bit too much with unnecessary fills, but Moore does some really cool picking during the quiet section.

Though interesting, Smoke on the Water is far from an essential addition to your Purple collection.  There are already so many tributes out there.  The most interesting was T.M. Stevens’ Black Night which re-interpreted Deep Purple according to his New York sensibilities.  He had Joe Lynn Turner, Vinnie Moore and Richie Kotzen on his album too!  Then there is the more recent Re-Machined, featuring Iron Maiden, Metallica, and more Glenn Hughes.  Considering the CD prices these days, place Smoke on the Water fairly low on your priority lists.

2.5/5 stars

Advertisements

#746: Deepest Purple

A prequel to #462:  The Deep Purple Project

GETTING MORE TALE #746: Deepest Purple

Black Sabbath appeared on my radar before Deep Purple did.  Perhaps the first true “heavy metal” album I ever heard was Born Again.  Best friend Bob owned it; he raved about a song called “Zero the Hero”.  He was on to something.  Even though his cassette copy was murky and muddy, the chorus rose above.

What you gonna be what you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Don’t you wanna be don’t you wanna be brother – Zero the Hero,
When you gonna be when you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Impossibility, impissibolity mother – really a hero.

It was the first Black Sabbath I ever heard.  I didn’t know they had any other singers until one day I was sitting in the basement, recording videos off next door neighbour George.  One that I had selected to record was called “Neon Nights” by Black Sabbath.  By then, I knew enough to know that Black Sabbath had a “moustache guy” on guitar.  I was surprised to see a doppelganger on bass, but the singer kinda looked familiar.

I casually asked George, “Did Black Sabbath ever have anything to do with Ronnie James Dio?”

“Yeah, he was their singer!” he told me.  My world expanded that day.  It would be longer still before I had the chance to hear any original Sabbath with Ozzy.

I was picking up so much musical information from the neighbour kids.  I was intrigued by bands like Kiss, who had many lineups and sounds to go with it.  Clearly, Black Sabbath was one of those bands too.  “Neon Nights” didn’t sound much like “Zero the Hero”.

I sought to learn all I could about rock and roll.  When I had accumulated enough knowledge (barely), I made a little heavy metal trivia game.  I will never forget one question in particular:

Q: What do Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and the lead singer from Deep Purple have in common?

A: They were all in Black Sabbath.

There are two things amusing about that.  1) I didn’t even know his name, and 2) “the” lead singer of Deep Purple!  Hah!  Finding out about David Coverdale?  That was a whole other story!

I made sure I learned his name quickly.  Ian Gillan was recognisable because of his long black hair often obscuring his face.  But I wasn’t ready to delve into Deep Purple yet.  The easiest (and cheapest) way for me to discover new music was by watching the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic: two hours a week of all kinds of hard rock.  But Purple didn’t get much play.  Much didn’t have any clips of them in the 1970s, and in fact only had two Purple videos to run:  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door“.  They weren’t exactly frequent flyers, so my exposure to Deep Purple took a lot of time to unfold.

Black Sabbath may have been my gateway to Deep Purple, but Purple eventually became an obsession that surpassed them.  In fact I used to go by the online name “Purpendicular”, named for one of their best albums.  I was known as “Purp” for so long that it became a bit of a phenomenon online in Canada and the UK when “Purp Ate My Balls” T-shirts were actually made for sale.  Most were in the UK.  This is an actual, true story!  A handful of people still call me “Purp”.

 

When people know you as “Purpendicular”, you better be a serious fan.  And I am.  I love Deep Purple.  I don’t think anyone can touch them for sheer integrity.

I floated through highschool without hearing a lot of Purple.  Much acquired a few more videos:  “Bad Attitude” and “Hush”.  They did not get played often.  I only caught “Bad Attitude” once or twice.  There was little interest in the band, it seemed.  Magazines announced that Ian Gillan had quit at the time of the Nobody’s Perfect album.  About a year later came the news that they hired on former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner.

It took some time, but eventually Purple returned with new music.  I happened to have the radio on one afternoon in late 1990 when Q-107 debuted a brand new song called “The Cut Runs Deep”.

“At first it doesn’t sound like Purple,” said the DJ, “but then Jon Lord comes in with that Hammond organ!”

I hit “record” on the tape deck.

The Earth moved.  What a song.  What power!  And speed!  Rewind, hit “play” and listen again.  It was 5:42 of full-steam rock, with the kind of playing that makes the genre awesome.  Purple were heavier than I expected.  My ears were beginning to open.

I asked a friend at school named Andy about the new album.  Turns out, his brother had it.

“Is it heavy?” I queried.

He chuckled in bemusement.  “Heavier than Ian Gillan?  No.  No.”

I tried not to be crushed.

“It’s still good,” he added.

If it wasn’t for my sudden new interest in Led Zeppelin, that might have been the start of my Purple obsession.  Instead, I spent a year or so discovering Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham.  To make matters even more congested, I soon found Queen, and began buying up old Black Sabbath albums too.

Finally, in the mid 90s, it was time to focus.  Once I had Deep Purple properly in the crosshairs, I commenced collecting.

My first doesn’t really count.  It was Purple’s latest, Slaves and Masters, their only album with Joe Lynn Turner.  It doesn’t count because it was just a taped copy.  Back when you could still rent CDs, I borrowed a copy from a video store up in Kincardine Ontario.  I put it in my boombox and began recording.  I remember my dad listening in on the last track, the epic “Wicked Ways”.  He asked who the band was.

“They are more of a musician’s band, aren’t they,” he remarked.  Yes!  Exactly.  My dad wasn’t into rock music, but he could hear that quality musicianship.  They were far and above the average rock band.

Slaves and Masters is a brilliant album, and although a full third of it is ballads, it’s hard not to like.  There are a lot of good songs on there.  So what if they are ballads?  “The Cut Runs Deep” and “Wicked Ways” more than made up for the lighter material.

Then:  two hits compilations.  Knocking At Your Back Door (a new release of 80s material) and Deepest Purple (all 70s).  This gave me plenty to absorb in a short period of time.  The most important song from this pair was “Child in Time”.  It appeared in live form on Knocking At Your Back Door and Ian Gillan was still in good enough vocal shape to do it.  I loved both versions.  When I played it in my bedroom, my sister could hear it through the door.  I played it so often that she gave it a name.  She called it the “Ahh Ahh Ahh” song.

Next:  Perfect Strangers.  A rewarding album in the long term.  Took a few spins to get there.

By 1993, Deep Purple got Ian Gillan back for another kick at the can.  The classic Mk II lineup was intact:  Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover.  They did a so-so album called The Battle Rages On…, and it really did rage on.  As I learned more about the band, I discovered that even though they were all intelligent, schooled musicians, they fought like children!  This reunion was not built to last, though it was my next Deep Purple album.

I certainly didn’t expect Blackmore to quit.  And I didn’t even know about it.

The mid 90s were a bit of a black hole for metal information.  Few magazines were covering classic rock bands anymore.  I didn’t know that Blackmore quit until their live album, Come Hell or High Water, was out.  I found out from the liner notes!

The internet was in its infancy, but I did some digging and found out that Purple were playing live with a new guitar player.  Could you believe it?  Joe Satriani temped with them!, but he was already gone! They were on to a new guy.  The review that I read said specifically that the new guy “looked a lot like Steve Morse”.

Well shit!

Steve Morse was a legend in his own time!  I knew him by reputation only.  And I was really intrigued by this news.

I had to special order the new Deep Purple with Morse from the US.  It was 1995 and I was working at the Record Store.  You couldn’t even get it in Canada yet.  That’s how bad it was for rock bands in the 90s.  But I did get it, paying $24.99 for the import.  Purpendicular arrived one Tuesday afternoon.  T-Rev was working when it came in.  “I hope you don’t mind, but I played a little bit of your Deep Purple.  It wasn’t sealed when it came.  It sounds pretty good.”

He apologised for playing it but there was no need.  I thought it was cool that he was interested.  Turns out, he liked that album a lot and ended up buying a copy himself!

Indeed, Purpendicular is a special album.  There is magic in those grooves.  Maybe it was the freedom of working without the yoke of Blackmore.  Perhaps it was the rejuvenation of Steve Morse.  It was probably both and much more, but what happened with Purpendicular has never been repeated.  No matter how many good albums they have done since (and there have been several, including four with Don Airey replacing the late Jon Lord), none have had the…I hate to use this cliche over again, but…none have had the magic that Purpendicular has.  It’s impossible to put into words, but easy to hear for yourself.

I mean, I friggin’ named myself after that album!  There are T-shirts with my face on them that say “Purp Ate My Balls”.  That’s dedication, pal!

 

REVIEW: Yngwie Malmsteen – Trial By Fire: Live in Leningrad (1989)

YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – Trial By Fire:  Live in Leningrad (1989 Polydor)

Walk up to the well-schooled rock fan in your group of friends and ask, “What do you think of Yngwie J. Malmsteen?”

Even the ones who don’t like the Swedish Speed Demon’s albums will admit, “except for that one with Joe Lynn Turner; that was pretty good.”

The short-lived Turner lineup did release a live album in 1989.  Trial By Fire: Live in Leningrad was accompanied by home video of the same name with more tracks.  By 1990, Malmsteen already had a new album and singer named Göran Edman, but only Joe Lynn Turner had the marquee value to bring Yngwie a Billboard top 40 charting record (#40 with Odyssey).

Although Turner can act as a gateway to hear Yngwie for the first time, his stuff can still be pretty off-putting.  Just look at the pompous “thank you’s” on the inside sleeve.  Sprinkled in with the regular names are da Vinci, Bach, Beethoven, Paganini, HP Lovecraft and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.  Come on, Yngwie!

Joe is a versatile singer, which is one reason he’s always been sought after.  He effortlessly imbibes the old Yngwie tracks with his own attitude:  “Liar”, “Queen in Love”, and “You Don’t Remember” are better with Joe singing.  Unfortunately this is marred by a too-loud audience and Yngwie’s always excessive shredding.  More often than not, he overplays.

When it works, it works.  “Heaven Tonight”, “Queen in Love” and “Deja Vu”, the most melodic songs, click.  The instrumentals are good too, like demonstrations of immaculate neo-classical rock.  “Far Beyond the Sun” is tightly composed and arranged, though live Yngwie lets the strings fly even more.  Listen for some Deep Purple right in the middle of “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget”, and some Rainbow on “Crystal Ball” too.

Yngwie produced Live in Leningrad himself, and it’s a rather shrill affair with obvious backing tapes on some of the choruses like “Heaven Tonight”.  The problem with many Yngwie albums is that you can only listen to so much before ear fatigue sets in.  Live in Leningrad is one such album.  By the end your brain is exhausted and you have to listen to something from a different end of the spectrum.  Even Joe Lynn Turner can’t blunt the aural razorblade effect.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Lee Aaron – Radio Hitz and More… (2012)

LEE AARON – Radio Hitz and More… (2012)

Respect to Lee Aaron!  She’s persisted through the decades with a multi-faceted career, including her early metal roots.  What she really needed was some kind of compilation CD that captured it all.  1992’s Powerline is a good compilation but some of Lee’s most interesting work came after.  Radio Hitz and More… fills in some of the blanks from the past 20 years.  You can only get it via Lee’s website as a promotional item.  I bought a T-shirt and got the CD with it, signed and personalized.*

Even if it haunted her career at times, “Metal Queen” is a damn fine song.  Period, end of sentence.  Today we can see that “Metal Queen” had it all:  killer quintessential riff, howling vocals and a searing solo.  Few metal singers could touch Lee Aaron’s ability.  While the fans knew she could do more than metal, she absolutely owned it on “Metal Queen”.  Hail to the queen.

Lee eventually shifted into a hard rock mold.  “Whatcha Do to My Body” was a big hit, and it’s next in radio edit form.  It delivered big hooks and didn’t require any song doctors.  Lee Aaron and her longtime guitarist John Albini wrote it and were rewarded with loads of MuchMusic video play.  However the two did collaborate with an outside writer on “Powerline” (1987) and that outside writer was surprisingly former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner.  “Powerline” is a bit light and heavily reliant on keyboards, sounding a little like Heart.

The songs included from Lee’s “rock” period are all pretty much hits in Canada.  “Hands On” followed “Watcha Do to My Body” in regular video rotation.  “Sweet Talk” and “Sex With Love” were singles from another big Lee Aaron album, Some Girls Do (1991).  The title track “Some Girls Do” is here and very Van Halen.  Two of Lee’s most stunning ballads are included too.  “Barely Holdin’ On” could be her best song, period.  “Only Human” was from the 1987 pop rock era, but is a strong ballad regardless.  Only a few notable singles are missing.  The always likeable Disco-dis “Shake it Up” is too hard to find out there in the wild.  Another big ballad, “Peace on Earth” is missing in action.  However the space does not go to waste.

In 1996 Lee Aaron resurfaced with a new band called 2preciious.  The lineup included Lee and the three Dons from Sons of Freedom!  A strange combo to be sure, and the alternative-flavoured album they came out with didn’t make waves, though it got decent reviews.  “Mascara” is edgy acoustic rock, completely unlike Lee’s previous work.  There’s even a rare European-only track called “Concrete and Ice” which is a bass-heavy 90s groove rocker.  Great stuff; it’s unfortunate it didn’t gain traction,  because with Alanis Morissette being so big at the same time, perhaps Lee could have tagged along.

The next stage of Lee Aaron’s career was her entry into the jazz world.  2000 saw the release of her album Slick Chick, and in 2004 there was Beautiful Things.  Tracks from both are here, including the instantly likeable “I’d Love To”.  It’s a little jarring to hear “Handcuffed to a Fence in Mississippi” in the middle of a bunch of rock tracks, though.

This compilation is great for gathering together a bunch of Lee Aaron’s diverse hits, but that’s not all.  Track 18 is a little bonus for collectors.  From Sweden Rock, it’s killer track “Baby Go Round” originally from Emotional Rain.  This live version is available nowhere else, which is like catnip for collectors.

77 minutes of music, for free?  How do you spell N-O-B-R-A-I-N-E-R?

4/5 stars

*If ordering, check before assuming they still offer signed CDs.

 

 

 

REVIEW: T.M. Stevens – Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York (1997)

Black Night:  Deep Purple Tribute According to New York (1997 DeRock)
Produced and arranged by T.M. Stevens

This is one of the coolest and most different Deep Purple tributes you are likely to find.  It’s also by far the funkiest.

Bassist T.M. Stevens (aka Shocka Zooloo) might be best known for his work with Joe Cocker, James Brown, Billy Joel and many others…but he first came to the attention of hard rockers via Steve Vai.  He was a member of Vai’s Sex & Religion band, and immediately stood out on CD and on stage.  Although his name doesn’t appear on the front cover for Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York, it’s clearly his project.  He produced it, arranged it, and is the only musician who appears on every track.  He has a pocket full of well known friends to fill out the instruments including:  Will Calhoun (Living Color, drums), Cory Glover (Living Color, vocals), Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow, vocals), Richie Kotzen (guitar, vocals), Al Pitrelli (Savatage, guitars), Vinnie Moore (UFO, guitars), Stevie Salas (guitars), Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic, keys), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz, drums), and Tony Harnell (TNT, vocals).  What a team!

Black Night is not for everyone.  Each and every song is drastically changed.  “Black Night” itself is slowed down and turned into a metallic bluesy grind.  Dual lead guitars by Pitrelli and Moore ensure its metal credentials, and Joe Lynn Turner comes down with his raspy soul.  Another raspy soul singer, Richie Kotzen, handles “Strange Kind of Woman” on guitar and vocals.  This one turns the funk right up!  The rhythm section of Calhoun and Stevens generates a punchy funk that can’t be stopped.  A standout.  Living Color’s Cory Glover takes over on the even funkier “Fireball”.  The creative arrangement deconstructs the song.  “Fireball” was one of the few Purple songs to feature a bass solo, so Stevens takes the opportunity to slap some bass.  A Purple tribute without “Smoke on the Water” wouldn’t be a real Deep Purple tribute.  It’s a hard track to funk up, so it’s more of a steamroller with funky verses.  Kotzen turns in a hell of a soulful vocal, proving how versatile any music can be.  An original and refreshing slant on a tired classic.

The most interesting arrangement is by far “Child in Time”.  The epic soft/loud dynamic of Purple’s beloved classic has been replaced by reggae, and why not?  Bernie Worrell does his best with Jon Lord’s original outline to create his own organ parts.  T.M. and Tony Harnell share lead vocals: Tony singing the clean and high parts (with absolutely no difficulty!), while T.M. does his Rasta take on the rest.  Sacrilege?  Keep an open mind.

Keeping an open mind is the key for this entire album.  If you cannot do that, you will probably hate Deep Purple According to New York.  That title says it all.  This is Purple according to Stevens and friends, and they do their own thing.  The rest of the material — “Woman From Tokyo”, “Stormbringer”, “Speed King”, “Burn”, and “Space Truckin'” — are as different as the first five tunes.  “Woman From Tokyo” is funky soul vocal nirvana, featuring four lead singers (Kotzen, Stevens, Harnell and Turner)!

In case you’re wondering what the closing track “Deep Purple NY” is, it’s just a funky shout-out to all the players on the CD.  “New York is in the house, New Jersey, Bernie Worrell!”  That kind of thing.

I’ve heard a number of Deep Purple tribute albums over the years.  Yngwie did four Purple songs on his mediocre Inspiration album.  Thin Lizzy did a Purple tribute under the name Funky Junction.  There was the star-studded Re-Machined CD.  There was even a 1994 tribute album called Smoke on the Water that featured three of the same guys on this album!  (Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Harnell, Richie Kotzen, as well as another ex-Purple member, Glenn Hughes).  None of those albums, even with all that star power, are nearly as interesting as Black Night.  I chose that word “interesting” on purpose.  It’s a very neutral word.  Your reaction to this album could be wildly positive, violently negative, or simply passively unmoved.  The listening experience will be anything but dull.  Whether you like it or not, if you pick up this CD you’re going to hear some of the greatest rock and funk players on the planet, so get your dancing shoes on.

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Joe Lynn Turner – Rescue You (1985)

jlt-ryJOE LYNN TURNER – Rescue You (1985 Elektra)

Post-Rainbow, Joe Lynn Turner embarked upon a solo career.  With the last Rainbow drummer Chuck Burgi on hand, Joe debuted his solo self with Rescue You in 1985 on Elektra.  Roy Thomas Baker, best known for his work with Queen, worked on the production.  All songs were written by Joe and guitarist Alan Greenwood.  The direction was heavy on keyboards, and sampled drum sounds.  The only thing in common with Rainbow is the voice.

That voice cannot be mistaken.  Nobody can sing soul-driven broken hearted AOR rock like Joe Lynn Turner.  Opening track “Losing You” fits this description like a glove.  The samples and keyboards are occasionally distracting, but the melodies are strong.  Joe has always been a fine writer.  Perhaps Journey should have knocked on Joe’s door for some help when they were struggling to come up with Raised On Radio.  The second song, “Young Hearts” is pure pop rock like Steve Perry did on Street Talk in 1984.

“Endlessly” was the single/video, a keyboard rock ballad, and a decent one at that, but it is overwhelmed by the title track. “Rescue You” is once again very keyboard heavy, but rocks better than anything else on the album. It has a European flavour, sounding a bit like some of the material Glenn Hughes was doing in the 1980s. Back to the Americas, “Feel the Fire” is a bit limp, but sounds like something that could have been played on radio.

The LP continued on side two with “Get Tough” which isn’t that at all. The toughest thing about it is Burgi’s excellent drumming at the start. The bassline sounds like “Livin’ on a Prayer” but before that song was ever conceived. One gets the feeling that many of these songs could have been hits if only recorded by someone more famous. “Eyes of Love” is a decent moody mid-tempo song, and Joe sounds awesome on it. “On the Run” is a bit more upbeat, boasting a strong chorus that’s as good as anything on Slippery When Wet.  Moving into Purple territory, “Soul Searcher” could have fit in well on their Slaves and Masters LP.  One almost aches to hear what Blackmore and Lord would have added to it.  Going into the closer, “The Race is On” really has the life sucked from it with the keys and samples.  You can distinctly hear a heavy blazing rocker desperately trying to get out.  The recorded song sounds half-arsed, with those unnecessary keys taking up valuable sonic ground.

Not a bad solo debut from Joe, but certainly inferior to the Rainbow that came before and the Purple that came after.

3/5 stars

scan_20161104

Songs written by Greenwood/Turner except noted

“Losing You” – 4:25
“Young Hearts” – 3:52
“Prelude” (Newman, Turner) – 0:56
“Endlessly” – 3:40
“Rescue You” – 4:31
“Feel the Fire” – 3:28

“Get Tough” (Delia, Turner) – 4:33
“Eyes of Love” (Turner) – 3:49
“On the Run” – 3:53
“Soul Searcher” (Greenwood, Newman, Turner) – 4:08
“The Race Is On” – 3:23

REVIEW: Rainbow – Straight Between the Eyes (1982)

scan_20160911RAINBOW – Straight Between the Eyes (Remastered, originally 1982 Polydor)

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”.**^^

4/5 stars


* 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.

REVIEW: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Inspiration (2 CD reissue)

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

What better way to end the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS than with a covers album?!  Thanks for joining us this week for some very questionable music!

Scan_20160317YNGWIE MALMSTEEN – Inspiration (1998, 2000 Spitfire 2 CD reissue)

“Woah!” said I upon spying this album for the first time, back in 1998 at the big HMV on Yonge St.  “Yngwie did a covers album!  Scorpions, Rainbow, Rush, lots of Purple…I’m in!”  For some reason, I thought that updated versions of some of my favourite songs redone by Yngwie Malmsteen would be something I’d want to hear all the time.  Eagle Rock did a reissue of Inspiration a couple years later with some bonus tracks out of the Yngwie archives, so when that one came in used at the Record Store, I swapped up for it.

Now, you might think that with such vocal luminaries as Jeff Scott Soto, Joe Lynn Turner, and Mark Boals, it would be hard to miss.  You would be wrong.  It’s impressive that all three guys served as lead vocalist for Yngwie in the early years, and returned for the covers album.  Beyond that, this album is still a turd.  Right from the orange-skinned Yngwie turd cover art, to the ghastly version of “Manic Depression” that Yngwie sings himself, this album is dreadful.  Just a real haul to try and listen to in one sitting.

Yngwie insists on producing all his music, and he has managed to make Jeff Scott Soto sound dull, sterile and boring.  No mean feat.  “Carry On Wayward Son” (Kansas) is an excuse for Malmsteen to over-shred, but Soto is not given a chance to do anything.  Even though Yngwie’s version of the song is actually shorter, it sounds way longer.  A simply atrocious “Pictures of Home” is given to Joe Lynn Turner to sing; kind of obvious since he was actually in Deep Purple for a few minutes.  How did they get drums to sound this bad?  The Blackmore obsession continues with “Gates of Babylon” (Rainbow) and even more Purple:  “Mistreated”, “Demon’s Eye”, and “Child in Time”.  Yes, that makes half of this covers album a Ritchie Blackmore covers album.  “Gates of Babylon” is pretty good, Soto finally unleashed, but then Yngwie shits all over it with a guitar solo that is way louder than the lead vocals!

Gates of Babylon

Gates of Babylon

The best things about these remakes could be the keyboard of Jens Johansson: not trying to copy Jon Lord in any way, but certainly a fun player to listen to if you’re into the neo-classical.  Unfortunately even he can’t save some of these tracks.  “Child in Time” is truly awful, simply not worth listening to.  Why waste eight minutes on this when you can play the original?  On the brighter side, a heavy version of “In the Dead of Night” by the progressive rock supergroup, U.K. is pretty good.  It’s a song you may recognize (I knew it from somewhere), but perhaps the reason I dig Yngwie’s version is that the original isn’t ingrained in my mind.    Mark Boals sings it, and his voice is strong and ripping!

Then we have the bonus CD.  (The Japanese version of the CD has a bonus track, Hendrix’s “Spanish Castle Magic”, but I don’t care.)  The best track on this disc is the song “Voodoo” from Yngwie’s album Magnum Opus.  Mike Vescera was the singer, and I always liked his era in Malmsteen.  It’s a heavy original tune with buckets of drama.

The balance of the bonus CD is a mixture of early Yngwie rarities and interviews…mixed together.  Meaning you don’t get actual full songs.  You get bits of songs and then Yngwie talking about the album and the music that inspired him, including Paganini.  I really hate when songs are chopped up like this.  The interview is not riveting but is good.  Childhood musical memories, early bands, and influences are notable topics.  Yngwie’s preoccupation with his own playing is fascinating.  He calls it an “obsession” and it’s clear from his work that he plays only to please himself.  And that’s just dandy.

Inspiration as a whole is overplayed, sonically sterile, and comes across as completely uninspired.  When Yngwie overplays on his own originals, that’s OK.  That’s the way the songs were written.  When you go nuts soloing all over “Sails of Charon” (Scorpions), all the listener really wants is to hear the sultry, original tones of Uli Jon Roth.  Inspiration is still a chore to finish, and it’s now going back on the shelf for a very long time.

1/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Deep Purple – Slaves and Masters (1990)

Get some Epic Review Time right here for your weekend!

DEEP PURPLE – Slaves and Masters (1990 BMG)

The much ballyhooed Deep Purple MkII reunion came to a crashing halt when Ian Gillan was fired in 1988. Just as the band released their first double live in aeons (Nobody’s Perfect) and a new single (a remake of “Hush”) to celebrate their 20th birthday, Gillan was out again. Except this time he was fired. And this time, Roger Glover did not go with him.  Even his friend Glover said to him, “Ian you have gone too far this time.”  His drunkeness and anger towards Ritchie Blackmore had gotten the better of him.

Blackmore briefly considered reforming Rainbow, or launching a new Blackmore-Turner Blues Band.  He was however reluctant to break up Purple, liking the current chemistry he had with the other musicians.  After inviting a singer named Bill Mattson from up-and-comers Tangier to try out for Deep Purple, the band reluctantly gave former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner a shot.  They eventually invited him to join.  According to Turner, “I had to sit down with the boys in Purple and say, ‘Are we going to be true to Purple? Are we going to have the hard rockin’ blues image come out?  I really don’t want to scream.”  Turner would get his wish.  According to him:

“The guys told me, ‘We’ve never really had a singer.’  I go, ‘Well you had Ian Gillan.’  They go, ‘He’s not a singer’s singer. He’s a stylist.’  I go, ‘Ahh, I see what you mean, a stylist as opposed to a singer — it’s two different things.’  They wanted someone who can really sing and write songs, like what we did on this record, as opposed to The House of Blue Light record, which was no songs and really yielded nothing they could bring to the stage.”

Call it what you like:  Deep Rain Snake, Deep Rainbow, or just Deep Purple Mk V. Blackmore, Lord, Paice, and Joe Lynn Turner added a new album to the Purple canon called Slaves and Masters, with Roger Glover once again producing.  With most of the music already written by Blackmore, it fell to Turner and Glover to take those riffs and turn them into songs.  But what would it sound like?  Would it sound like Deep Purple, or Rainbow?

Slaves and Masters is a regal disc, different from everything else in the Purple catalogue, but beautiful in a subtle, understatedly powerful way. The first track and single, “King of Dreams” for example gives you an idea of the what the rest of the album sounds like. It is a rock song, based on the bass guitar groove, but mellow. It’s in the pocket. The power in the song comes from the groove and the soulful and smooth vocal by Turner. The lyrics are a subtle rebuttal to Ian Gillan’s scathing 1973 song “Smooth Dancer”, which was a backhanded attack on Blackmore. “King of Dreams” takes Gillan’s lyrics and turns them on their head:

“I’m a real Smooth Dancer, a fantasy man, master of illusion at the touch of my hand.”

If you think “King of Dreams” is too mellow, fear not. “The Cut Runs Deep” is second up, and after a brief deceptive piano intro, the old Hammond organ kicks in backed by some ferocious riffing by Blackmore. When Ian Paice picks up the pace (a fast “Kickstart My Heart” drum beat), you’re out of breath and beaten. All you can do is submit to it and take the body blows of drums and guitars.

“Fire in the Basement” is acceptable, a blues shuffle that serves its purpose.  Most of the album tends to be balanced between groove rockers in the “King of Dreams” mold, and ballads. There are quite a few ballads on this record: “Foretuneteller”, “Truth Hurts”, and “Love Conquers All”, which is fully 1/3 of the record.  That is not to say these are bad songs, for all three are actually quite excellent. “Foretunteller” is particularly wonderful, with some beautiful fingerpicked chords as only Ritchie can play. These are not ‘power ballads’; rather these are powerful ballads, dark and moody. After all, this is Ritchie Blackmore; and the man in black himself could never turn in pop trash.

The band were sure to end the album wisely on a 6 1/2 minute jam called “Wicked Ways”.  This is pedal to the metal Purple with Turner’s smooth rasp on top.  You can hear Blackmore letting loose with his pick scrapes and pyrotechnics, but they are unfortunately too low in the mix to come through.  Obviously Purple were going for a radio-friendly sound even on the heavy rockers, because you could remix this one heavy as hell if you had the master tapes!

SLAVES AND MASTERS_0003

I remember listening to this album for the first time at the cottage.  I had rented the CD (remember that?) from a local video store in Kincardine, and I was recording it.  When “Wicked Ways” came on, my dad said, “Who is this group?”  Deep Purple, I said.  “They are obviously a musician’s band,” he said.  Normally he’d come up with one of his wisecracks like, “Why is the singer screaming so much, is he sick?”  Not with Deep Purple.  Upon “Wicked Ways” he bestowed one of his rare compliments.

There are only two poor tracks on the album: The lame-titled “Breakfast In Bed”, and “Too Much is Not Enough” which was written by Turner and outside writers. Otherwise, this is strong music. It is arguably not a Deep Purple album except only in name, but I think today most Purple fans are also fans of Rainbow.  It could have used a ballsier mix.

Regardless of the quality of the album, the tour was a reportedly a bit of a disaster. Having Joe in the group did enable them to play a few rarer tracks, such as “Burn” which was originally sung by Coverdale, but this wasn’t enough to sell tickets or convince fans that Joe was “the singer” for Deep Purple.

The band began work on a second Deep Purple Mk V album, but regardless of any progress made, Gillan came back for The Battle Rages On in 1993, ending this brief era of Deep Purple’s history.  But if you like Turner era Purple, there are still a few more rare tracks to be had.  They are as follows:

  • NEW LIVE“Slow Down Sister”, a single B-side, which was since reissued on a remastered version of Slaves and Masters.  It can also be found on the Shades 1968-1998 box set.  It cleverly recycles the riff from “Stormbringer” into a new song with a similar groove, although way more commercial.  This does not sound much like Deep Purple at all, and the funky bass does not sound like Roger Glover playing.
  • “Fire, Ice & Dynamite”.  This is apparently from a movie soundtrack called Fire Ice & Dynamite that I have never heard of.  I however have it on a Purple DVD called New, Live and Rare (2000).   This song is a Blackmore/Turner/Glover original, but Jon Lord did not play on it.  I believe Glover plays keyboards, and Paice was also present.  It is a pretty straightforward hard rock song, not too different from material on The House of Blue Light.  Decent song, and an uber-rarity.

Final note: this album just sounds better on headphones.  I don’t know why.

Check out Slaves and Masters for one of those lost Purple platters that, with a few listens, you could grow to love.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Rainbow – Finyl Vinyl (2 CD edition)

RAINBOW – Finyl Vinyl (1986, 2 CD Rainbow Remasters edition)

Finyl Vinyl was the third Rainbow album I bought, right after Rising and Straight Between the Eyes. The year was ’96, and the place was Dr. Disc.  I bought it on vinyl initially, because the original CD edition omitted two tracks for space limits (a major flaw with double albums issued in the early CD age). However what I did not know until recently was that the vinyl also omitted a song: “Street Of Dreams” which was only available on cassette!

This complete 2 CD remaster contains all the songs from all the versions.  For sheer portability reasons, it made sense for me to own this.  I have filed my vinyl copy away, and I now rely entirely on this new Universal CD version.

I love Finyl Vinyl and even though it was issued posthumously and consists mostly of unreleased live songs, I think it’s one of the most enjoyable Rainbow albums to listen to. It contains music from all three of the original Rainbow eras: Dio, Bonnett, and Turner. It leans most heavily on the Joe Lynn Turner era, with only a couple songs from the Ronnie James Dio era. Graham Bonnett also appears on two songs, and there is an instrumental B-side from his Down To Earth era as well. It is worth noting that the B-sides contained herein have been issued on other albums since.

Finyl Vinyl contains a lot of my favourites, and in great versions too: “I Surrender” and “Miss Mistreated” sound great live. Pop rock goodness, made classy as only Blackmore/Turner can do it.  “Jealous Lover” is a standout midtempo burner from the Joe Lynn era.  Blackmore’s picking is resplendent.  Unfortunately the two Dio-era songs don’t have the fidelity of the later Turner recordings, but you can’t have a Rainbow collection without representing Ronnie James.  That is done via unreleased 1978 live versions of “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”.

My only complaint: The photos inside are too damn small and blurry. One of my favourite things about the vinyl release was that there were pictures of almost every incarnation of Rainbow, but here you can barely tell who’s who. Too small, too blurry like a bad scan; the booklet should have been expanded. Also, the credits still contain some errors that were never corrected from the original vinyl issue (see Wikipedia).

Still, great music, and finylly (ha ha) complete!

4.5/5 stars