One of Yngwie’s most commercially successful records was 1988’s collaboration with Joe Lynn Turner called Odyssey. Several of the songs felt like they were aimed at radio, most notably “Heaven Tonight”. With prominent keyboards and an undeniable melody, it seemed Yngwie sought to emulate late 80s Rainbow.
With music by Malmsteen and lyrics by Turner, “Heaven Tonight” really checked all the boxes for an 80s rock hit. Solid verses that serve to set up the release on the chorus. Thick, memorable chorus. Wicked guitar, though not overcooked as Yngwie has been guilty of in the past. As a result, the album went Top 40 in the US. Top 10 in Yngwie’s native Sweden.
The Turner/Malmsteen collaboration only lasted for one record, though a live album was also released (Live in Leningrad). Turner returned to sing two Deep Purple tunes on Yngwie’s covers album Inspiration, but this here is the peak. “Heaven Tonight” indeed because it never got better than this.
This feels like Paradise We’ll be in Heaven tonight
Lost in a dream in the arms of the night Two lonely prisoners of our own device Don’t let me go, hold on together
You wanna know if love can be real I wanna take everything I can steal Love on the line, it’s now or never Why can’t the night last forever?
This could be Paradise Holding you here by my side If we just close our eyes We’ll be in Heaven tonight
Run through the night down streets of desire Burning my soul, my heart’s on fire Give up the fight, it’s sweet surrender
With trembling hands we reach for it all Two desperate hearts waiting to fall I need you now, now more than ever Why can’t the night last forever?
This could be Paradise Holding you here by my side If we just close our eyes We’ll be in Heaven tonight
WE WISH YOU A METAL XMAS AND A HEADBANGING NEW YEAR (2008 Armoury)
Yep, It’s another Bob Kulick album with various guests. You know what you’re going to get. Let’s not dilly-dally; let’s crack open the cranberry sauce and see what a Metal Xmas sounds like.
Generic! A truly ordinary title track features the amazing Jeff Scott Soto on lead vocals, but it’s a purely cookie-cutter arrangement with all the cheesy adornments you expect. Ray Luzier fans will enjoy the busy drums, but this does not bode well for the album.
Fortunately it’s Lemmy to the rescue, with “Run Rudolph Run”, an utterly classic performance with Billy Gibbons and Dave Grohl. All spit n’ vinegar with no apologies and nary a mistletoe in sight. I remember playing this for my sister Dr. Kathryn Ladano in the car one Christmas.
When Lemmy opened his yap, she proclaimed “This is bullshit! How come they get to make albums and not me?”
Lemmy Kilmister, pissing people off since day one, has done it again. You can buy the CD for “Run Rudolph Run” even if the rest is utter shit.
A silly “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Alice Cooper echoes “The Black Widow”, but novelty value aside, is not very good. A joke song can only take you so far, and Alice is usually far more clever. (At least John 5’s soloing is quite delicious.) And even though Dio is next, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” comes across as a joke, too. Which is a shame because the lineup is a Dio/Sabbath hybrid: Tony Iommi, Rudy Sarzo, and Simon Wright. Dio’s joyless, dead serious interpretation is amusing only because of its unintentional dry humour.
Funny enough, Geoff Tate’s “Silver Bells” has the right attitude. Even though Geoff is perpetually flat, his spirited version (with Carlos Cavazo, James Lomenzo and Ray Luzier) kicks up some snow. That makes me happy, but it pains me to say that Dug Pinnick’s “Little Drummer Boy” (with George Lynch, Billy Sheehan and Simon Phillips) doesn’t jingle. Ripper Owens, Steve More & pals team up next on “Santa Claus is Back in Town”, so bad that it borders on parody.
The most bizarre track is Chuck Billy’s “Silent Night”, with thrash buddies like Scott Ian. Chuck performs it in his death metal growl, and it’s pure comedy. Oni Logan can’t follow that with “Deck the Halls”, though it’s pretty inoffensive. Stephen Pearcy’s “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” adapts the riff from “Tie Your Mother Down” and succeeds in creating a listenable track. “Rockin’ Around the Xmas Tree” is ably performed by Joe Lynn Turner, sounding a lot like a Christmas party jam.
The final artist is Tommy Shaw with John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”. It’s an authentic version and while not a replacement for the original, will be enjoyable to Styx fans.
Christmas albums by rock artists are, let’s be honest, rarely worthwhile. This one has only a handful of keepers so spend wisely.
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.
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”.
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”.
“Purp Ate My Balls”
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.”
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”.
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!
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.
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?
*If ordering, check before assuming they still offer signed CDs.
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 prominently 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.
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.
RAINBOW – 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”.**^^
* 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!
What better way to end theWEEK OF FLAMING TURDS than with a covers album?! Thanks for joining us this week for some very questionable music!
YNGWIE 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
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.