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Rainbow and actually each of the members of the Purple family (Whitesnake and Gillan) had prevailed to the explosion of the NWOBHM in the early-80’s – maybe their musical concept wasn’t exactly alike to those new group’s but they managed to make their sound challenging, heavy and current enough to survive, in fact often sharing stage with most of those young acts. But Blackmore decided unexpectedly to follow an obvious mainstream direction once Dio left, a truly risky decision in contrast with the increasing harshness and aggression on the new British movement – yet it surprisingly worked, the group hit the charts and headlined huge festivals during that era. By 1983, it seemed the Man In Black intended to bring back some of the late-70’s ferocity with much faster, raw songs, combined still with more accessible ones on the last of the Turner years albums: Bent Out Of Shape.
Of course, there are strong melodies and romance on the record – “Can’t Let You Go” and “Street Of Dreams” are immaculately-arranged with lyrical, delicate harmonies and tortured lyrics featuring Turner at his best, accompanied by Rosenthal’s stratospheric synthesizers and Blackmore’s exquisite licks. Instrumental basis is polished, simplistic, creating an unique atmosphere, without interfering with the numerous verses excessively, eluding complication and introducing quite concise, straight-up solos. “Desperate Heart” is another melodic, power ballad presenting a similar composition to those 2, with a quicker beat, more elaborated arrangements and heavier guitar lines, however. On the contrary, bigger speed and energy is revealed on tracks like “Stranded” and “Make Your Move”, whose rhythms are looser, adding rougher riffing with less sophistication – still incorporating a few refined, neat licks and melancholy lyrics. Solos and instrumental sequences are lengthier and more complicated, structures more advanced and verses less persistent. “Fool For The Night” is also pretty vigorous and dynamic but undoubtedly, the most killer, frenetic tunes on the record are “Fire Dance” and “Drinking With The Devil” on a truly accelerated display of power/speed metal with vicious riffage, double-bass kicks, complexity and overtones – an equation completed by Ritchie’s insatiable shredding, extended solos and countless of licks and details reminiscent of classical music. Certainly, that’s the heaviest, fastest stuff Rainbow ever played since the monumental Rainbow Rising album. Other times, the Man In Black decides to push vocals away and emphasize instrumental structures, on both “Anybody There” and “Snowman” incorporating admirably proficient, expressive and melodic solos with the lord & master of the band absolutely inspired, displaying true talent – accompanied by Rosenthal’s vivid synthesizer textures.
Heavier, guitar-based songs are taking over on a much more relentless album, which is still plenty of finesse and melody but generally accenting roughness, speed and progression. It’s a more technical approach in comparison with the previous effort Straight Between The Eyes reigning simplicity and politeness. Blackmore is playing much lengthier solos here, adding more difficult riff changes and lots of dexterous instrumental shifts, accents, transitions and so on to escape from minimalist schemes firmly. As usual, he surrounded himself by highly-professional musicians, introducing Chuck Bürgi’s pounding drumming in the vein of Powell and David Rosenthal, probably the most inspired, technically capable keyboardist the group ever had. As I mentioned, it’s an album based on predominantly guitar-based songs, though the contribution and relevance of Rosenthal’s lines is vital as well to set a solid basis and more importantly, the adequate climaxes for the music – this guy is actually using distinct alternative synthesizer effects on each cut, which provide them of richer details, color and depth, and he can shred and follow Ritchie’s riffage without going haywire. So this stuff is less-commercially focused than previous efforts, yet Turner still has the opportunity to attract all the attention on the soft ballads on the record, offering his most remarkable, emotive and passionate performances – screaming and yelling like Gillan on the most violent tracks convincingly as well. And Mr. Blackmore as always is constantly shredding like mad, coming up with ferocious riffs and virtually countless baroque licks. This time, most of his attention is put on instrumental parts, working on more difficult solos and organ-guitar riff progression, eluding insistent choruses and verses, exponentially denying the commercial standards and cheesiness to embrace Rainbow ‘s late-70’s genuine power/speed metal concept again.
Underrated has always been an overused term but it’s a proper description for this unfairly ignored record – the musically strongest, most violent of the Turner era releases. That was one terrific line-up, including skilled musicians of the level of Bürgi and Rosenthal in particular, without ignoring Glover and Turner’s brilliant, passionate contribution. Rainbow dissolved in 1984 after 2 monumental farewell dates at the Budokan in Tokyo, after inventing power and speed metal, making this genre refreshing again in the late-70’s when the decline of British rock started, rockin’ also in the 80’s with radio hits, worldwide tours and commercial success. Bent Out Of Shape combines elements from each preceding work, from rabid aggressive metal to melodic, classy ballads – not an ultimate culmination itself, yet an admirably consistent, talented effort.