I was very lucky to witness a special, rare, and intimate acoustic evening of wonderful songs and great performances at The Borderline in London last Sunday.
Joe Lynn Turner is an amazingly talented melodic American rock singer and composer with an incredibly powerful voice that can stretch from deep rich velvety rasps to perfectly pitched clear high vibrato.
He is best known for his work with hard rock supergroup Rainbow (formed by ex-Deep Purple guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore), releasing three fantastic studio albums during the early eighties: ‘Difficult to Cure’ (1981) ‘Straight Between the Eyes’ (1982) and ‘Bent Out of Shape’ (1983).
In addition to a prolific solo career, Turner has sang in the jazz/pop/rock band Fandango, collaborated with neoclassical metal guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen, and between 1989-92 fronted the legendary Deep Purple on the excellent ‘Slaves And Masters’ album and subsequent world tour. I was fortunate to attend one of the concerts on this tour in Edinburgh in 1991, and it was one of the best gigs I have ever witnessed.
From the mid-1990s, he has worked with progressive rock band Mother’s Army, formed funk rock duo Hughes Turner Project (with former Purple singer Glenn Hughes), AOR side project Sunstorm, while also pursuing a solo career (releasing 10 albums). He is currently the vocalist for Rated X, with Tony Franklin, Karl Cochrane, and Carmine Appice. Their debut album was released in 2015.
The concert set opened with one of Rainbow’s biggest hits, “Stone Cold” from the ‘Straight Between the Eyes’ album. A really great powerful anthemic song that works very well acoustically. Despite suffering from a cold Joe’s vocals sounded amazing and his performance sent chills down my spine and brought a tear to my eye.
Next up was another Rainbow classic “Street of Dreams” from the ‘Bent Out of Shape’ album, probably one of THE best classic rock ballads ever written. Definitely up there with such classics as “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, it is Joe’s tour-de-force and a truly great song with a beautiful melody, written by Joe and Ritchie Blackmore. Joe delivered the song with true passion and power that I was left breathless and emotional.
The gig was also an opportunity for Joe to tell stories from his music career and answer questions from the audience between songs. The inevitable question arose early in proceedings regarding the possibility of a Rainbow re-union with Ritchie Blackmore, to which Joe replied confidently and enthusiastically that some sort of Rainbow activity might well be on the cards in the autumn.
The third Rainbow song in the set was the classic “Catch The Rainbow”, Joe’s performance of this song was one of the best tributes to the late great Ronnie James Dio I have heard. “Catch The Rainbow” was originally on the Dio fronted album ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’ (1975). Joe delivers the song like it was one of his own. A big favorite with the audience, and a huge appreciative applause for a fine performance and heartfelt tribute.
“Mystery Of The Heart” was up next and is from Joe’s collaboration with Glenn Hughes in 2000 on their ‘Hughes Turner Project’ album. A beautiful song with a great arrangement and a welcome song in the set.
The middle section of the set concentrated on some of Joe’s choice cover songs from bands that influenced him, of which we are treated to some fine renditions of three Beatles songs, “Blackbird”, “I Saw Her Standing There’ and “I’ve Just Seen A Face”, followed by the Van Morrison classic “Moondance”.
The next song in the set was “King Of Dreams” which is the powerful, anthemic opening track and lead single from the 1990 Deep Purple album ‘Slaves And Masters’, Joe’s one and only album with the mighty Deep Purple, and definitely one of the top five albums of their entire career. The acoustic version is equally as good as the full band version. A strong, melodious well crafted classic rock song delivered from the heart with pure class and deep emotion. Without doubt another highlight of the set.
The high energy of the crowd was sustained by a rowsing sing along of Deep Purple’s first big hit, “Hush”. Another classic gem from the ‘Slaves And Masters’ came next, “Love Conquers All”. A beautiful and endearing rock ballad that should have been a huge hit. I really wish Joe would record an acoustic version of this track as it is truly a fantastic song that benefits from that stripped down feel where the voice shines.
Someone from the audience requested “Déjà Vu”, a Yngwie Malmsteen song Joe sang on from the ‘Odyssey’ album in 1988. As it wasn’t a song he rehearsed for the tour he only gave us a minute or so of an impromptu vocal rendition, with Joe stating that the song requires some very fast guitar playing so maybe he should leave that one out!
Towards the end of the set we were treated to another couple of choice covers, Deep Purple’s “Smoke On The Water” (sung by Joe for many years in Rainbow and in Purple), and The Doors “Roadhouse Blues”. Lots of crowd participation and a fine selection to close the set.
After the gig we waited behind in the venue for a while in the off chance that we might be able to meet Joe. Luckily I spotted him standing at the dressing room door near the back of the venue and wandered up to shake his hand and hopefully speak to him. Joe was a true gentleman and very accommodating, chatting with us for a good few minutes and signing autographs on my Rainbow and Deep Purple albums. A rewarding and satisfying end to an amazing musical evening by one of rock’s greatest vocalists.
Steven C. Gilbert
I was there too, and can attest to all this! Fantastic night of classy music and performances. Nice to see Joe playing guitar for the whole evening with his accompanying player (whose name I can’t recall – he did a fine job). Great to chat with too: one of the nicest people in the music business I have come across.