Saturday, October 18, 2008

Mr Mike's High School Record Collection: Rainbow - Bent Out of Shape (1983)

Hard rockin at the Renaissance Faire: Rainbow provides protection for polka dotted guitarist Richie Blackmore.

One of the first records I ever bought was Rainbow's Bent Out of Shape record because I liked the video for "Street of Dreams" with its mysterious conspirational mood. I was just starting to buy music and would catch videos at my friends houses to see this exciting new art form called MTV. Because of the amount of synthesizer in the song, I thought Rainbow was a new wave band so it was pretty shocking to throw the needle on the disc and get blasted out with hard rock. But once I adapted to it, I found this record to be an early favorite and really liked lead singer Joe Lynn Turner (or JoLT to you pal!) vocals. Later I would come to appreciate bandleader Richie Blackmore's guitarwork, since at the time my knowledge of Deep Purple began and ended with "Smoke on the Water".

So going in, I had no idea about the legacy of this band. That Ronnie James Dio once fronted the group or Graham Bonnet were unknown to me even though I was listening to Dio and Alcatrazz at the time. I would learn about that later, after experiencing Bent Out of Shape.

1. Stranded

Yup, I put the needle down on the record groove and expected to hear tinkling and boinking synths to an electronic drum beat. Instead, I was assaulted with a rampaging guitar riff and wailing about a guy being stranded. I didn't know where he was stranded at, but definitely had the feeling he was screaming from the middle of nowhere. It was perfectly in line with the Journey / Foreigner sounds I usually listened to anyway so Rainbow ended up being a pleasant surprise.

2. Can't Let You Go

In the dawning of the music video age, it was considered the new break thru art form, a mini movie where two styles (music and film) collided to bring the most modern product of culture to being. With that in mind, early videos could get a little lavish in their production and the two videos Rainbow had fit in that mold. Drawing from the film "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari", Rainbow plays out the video as half band performance and other half telling the story of a murderous zombie make out machine. JoLT delivers an outstanding vocal, emphasizing a rough lower range while keyboardist Dave Rozenthal provides a fantastic Gothic interlude at the beginning. It's been a favorite song of mine for years.

3. Fool For The Night

In this era of rock music, every band had to have an "I'm cuttin' loose 'cause I rock" kind of song and Rainbow deigned track three with that honor. The band rips it up with authority here.

4. Fire Dance

Even more high speed rock with as Rozenthal's keyboards give zip to this tune with the sinister organs and squiggly synths. Not to be outdone, Blackmore cranks up the juice with some equally impressive soloing. Drummer Chuck Burgi and ex-Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover give a strong anchor for the rest. More or less a "band" song with just enough singing to not call it an instrumental.

5. Anybody There

...and now we pause for an instrumental. In case anyone was confused over who owned this band, Richie Blackmore takes a solo spot here with some soaring grandeur. There's always a brittle sharpness to Blackmore's guitar playing that comes across strong yet graceful.

6. Desperate Heart

Why does the beginning of this song remind me of the Stonehenge moment in This is Spinal Tap? Anyway, another old school favorite of mine, I really liked JoLT's singing here (I just noticed I wrote that a lot in this post, what a great singer!). A lot of drama packed into this midtempo rock number. The line about "Torn apart / I was left to bleed" pops in my mind at times. Wow, looks so masochistic in writing.

7. Street of Dreams

The song that started the whole deal for me. This was a featured video back in the early days of MTV or Empty-V, whichever your preference is. Bubbling watery synths and JoLT's haunted voice gave such a unique texture to this song. The vid clip was of that surreal nothing-makes-sense-but-maybe-it-does variety and is well done. I seem to remember this video eventually either being banned or edited because it included hypnotism (those evil rock n' rollers and their mind control tactics!). This video also reminds me, why does it always look cool when bands perform in the basement of some building? Is it the metal pipes, the idea of indoor chain link fences, what is it? I don't know, it just is. (An additional note, if you should be hypnotized by this video I command you to go to your local bus stop and breakdance for half an hour. No special reason for this command, there's a guy in town that does this and it's really cool. I heard the guy goes by the name of Skittles. Awesome).

8. Drinking With the Devil

I used to blast this song in my room early in the morning before heading off to school. The song just flat out rocked and had what I considered an anti authority attitude. TAKE I'm rebelling against you and not doing my Algebra homework. Mainly because I don't understand Algebra, but still...

9. Snowman

The second instrumental led by Blackmore. This time slow, cold and ominous is the approach. Sort of like the Miami Vice soundtrack stuff Jan Hammer used to come up with when you would have a montage of a drug deal going down, Don Johnson' gettin' laid and Phillip Michael Thomas observing with binoculars in plain sight of everyone because if he's hiding you can't see the cool threads he has on. Observing the drug deal, that is.

10 Make Your Move

The album closer cranks up the energy again as JoLT orders you to "make your move!" The Deep Purple experience pays off as the charging groove and Turner's wail reminds me a bit of "Highway Star".

After Bent Out of Shape, Richie Blackmore broke the band up to return to Deep Purple. JoLT went the solo route and recorded the album Rescue You which I liked a few songs off of. I saw Joe Lynn Turner open for Pat Benatar in '86 and he delivered a good show. The songs "Endlessly" and "Losing You" were favorite tracks and I'm going to close with the one official video I remember. Here's "Endlessly", a kickin' ballad.

Joe Lynn Turner "Endlessly"


Some Kinda Wonderful said...

That's more info on Rainbow than I ever thought I'd need, Mr. Mike. Thang you berry punch. I did like them, tho. They rocked hard but yet were acceptable to girls, too. I mean, just the name grabbed a girls attention. Right? Right.

Mr. Mike said...

You're right, their name does grab girls attention. The Rainbow name would not look out of place next to Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy records. I mean, I thought they were a new wave group like the Thompson Twins or something myself it would have helped if the name was more clear.