Music Notes Interview

OVER THE RAINBOW: If Rainbow are the most listenable of the current crop of hard rock bands and I think they are the reason is vocalist Joe Lynn Turner, of Hackensack, N.J. His gutsy singing, in the tradition of British rockers like Paul Rodgers, is powerful rather than piercing, adult rather than juvenile. And since Turner shares the songwriting with the group's leader, former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, he's at least partly responsible for the melodic turns of Rainbow's recent material, as exemplified by their latest album, Bent Out of Shape.

"We've been trying to do this for three years," Turner said by phone from a tour stop in Pittsburgh, "trying to make it more accessible, and yet with integrity, some sort of class to it. So far it's been working. "He's pretty stubborn, you know," he said of Blackmore. "He doesn't bend his ideas very well. But he's moving into the '80s rapidly."

Turner's deep, masculine voice contrasts sharply with the shrill, high-pitched tones of most of the younger hard rock singers, many of whom seem to be imitating Robert Plant. "But if you listen to Robert, he's not doing that anymore," Turner said. "The textures are much lower, much richer. In fact, Ritchie prefers going for different keys, for the right key, to get that kind of texture."

Turner spent the 70s with Fandango, a Bergen County band that made four unsuccessful albums for RCA. Before he joined Rainbow in 1981, the group had been all-British. Today Blackmore and bassist-producer Roger Glover (also ex-Deep Purple) form a British minority within the group. Keyboardist David Rosenthal and drummer Chuck Burgi, like Turner, are from New Jersey. Burgi, the newest recruit, had played with Turner in Fandango, though not on any of their records.

"After that he played with bands from Hall and Oates to Balance to Brand X," Turner said. "He played on Michael Bolton's album, Aldo Nova's album, and countless hundreds of other ghost-type things. So he's done everything from fusion to 'Kiss on My List.'"

When the group's previous drummer departed and a replacement failed to measure up during recording sessions in Copenhagen, Turner suggested his old colleague. "Chuck came over, said, 'How does it go?' and there it was," Turner said. Burgi's arrival has brought some stability to the group, which had been notorious for its personnel changes. But now Turner himself is considering leaving for a solo career.

"I'm getting a lot of heat from record companies right now Geffen and CBS and a lot of people wanting to buy me out," he said. "I don't want to go over just yet because I don't feel the time is right. I feel like I have to finish out this tour and probably another album. And whilst that album is under way I'll probably start signing deals, so that after the album is done I can start work on my own.

"Geffen wants to put like an Asia band together with me at the front. I don't really feel that's necessary. I'd rather come out at face value and do what I want to do and have artistic control of my own material."

His own music would probably incorporate more rhythm and blues influence than Rainbow's. "Although nowadays rib can be very funkadelically new-wavish gizmotron dance music," he said. "I've heard a lot of really nice r&b melodies over some very synthesized stuff 'Too Shy' and 'Dead Giveaway' and things like that. That's all rock. Or Michael Jackson with 'Beat It.' That's rock-funk-soul."

Turner has kept in contact with his Fandango bandmates. They were touched by tragedy last August, when the group's guitarist, Rick Blakemore, was killed in a car accident. "It was kind of like a nightmare," Turner said. "He was 33 years old, and Ted Nugent was doing one of his songs, and Girlschool did a song of his, and all this other stuff. He had everything happening and that was it.

"I see the rest of them occasionally. I'm in touch with (pianist-songwriter) Denny LaRue a lot. (Bassist) Bob (Danyls) I see now and again." Would he work with any of them on a solo album? "I'd consider writing with Denny again," he said. "He's a great writer. In fact, I've got a ton of tunes that he and I already co-wrote that Fandango never recorded and we didn't give up the publishing on, which, updated, would be classic.

"As far as musicians, no. I think I've got much better musicians to pick from. Besides, Denny was never a piano player, he was a writer. Bobby's doing his own thing playing bass. Chuck is the drummer of this band. It's a new era."

Jim Bohen
Daily Record, Northwest N.J - January 6, 1984