The Great Rainbow Debate (Part 1): In Praise Of Dio
Who was the best singer in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow?
Was it Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet or Joe Lynn Turner?
Over the next three days, Classic Rock writers will be stating the case for each of the above.
Today we start with Dave Ling on Ronnie James Dio. Tomorrow (October 9) will be Malcolm Dome on Graham Bonnet. And on October 10 Geoff Barton will be waxing lyrical (again) about Joe Lynn Turner. And no, we haven’t forgotten about Doogie White. (We have, actually…)
Take it away, Dave…
Geoff Barton’s review of Rainbow’s just-released Anthology 1975-1983 (available via Universal Records) has ruffled a few feathers.
Somewhat controversially, Barton takes the opportunity to pour scorn upon the years the band spent with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, claiming that the records fronted by Joe Lynn Turner – 1981’s Difficult To Cure, the following year’s Straight Between The Eyes and Bent Out Of Shape (1983) – have been undervalued.
“Wading through the contrived bombast of Catch The Rainbow makes you realise Dio has been getting away with the same old stodge for 35 years,” claims Barton, adding: “Turner eventually saves the day. Originally criticised for his super-syrupy style, today JLT sounds as timeless as Dio sounds turgid.” (For the full text, see the current issue of Classic Rock, dated October 2009).
Unsurprisingly, these comments have caused a furore among the group’s fan-base.
“I’m sure Barton was writing his opinion, but to be honest I was wondering if he was being 100% serious!!” spluttered a poster called Dark at the Classic Rock website forum.
“Hopefully Barton won’t be reviewing the soon-to-be-reissued version of Rising!” agreed an individual called AWM79.
As a long-time follower of Dio’s work, I can only concur. Not that it’s the issue being debated here, but Dio’s voice remains in the best shape of all the classic-era rock singers. Whilst Coverdale, Plant et al – JLT, included – are having to adapt their style of delivery, Dio still belts ‘em out like he did decades ago.
The JLT-fronted albums have their place in the band’s catalogue, of course, as does the Bonnet-voiced Down To Earth. The hits from all of those records speak for themselves. But to demean Rising and Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll is nothing less than an act of heresy!
Whatever Mr Barton – I believe he used to be nicknamed ‘Deaf’ during his time with Sounds magazine? – was drinking on the day he wrote that review, I’ll take a pint of.
Then, whilst wondering whether Ronnie might be sticking pins into voodoo doll of Geoff Barton, I happened to stumble upon an interview printed in the April 2000 issue of Classic Rock in which Ronnie offers his own opinion of his successors in Rainbow.
“Graham Bonnet [1979-'80] wasn’t bad, but Joe Lynn Turner was a bit too poppy for my taste,” reveals Dio. “My problem with all the singers that followed me was that they negated the whole idea of the band.
“We started Rainbow as a classical rock band that would take things further even than Jethro Tull, but it eventually became a deluded pop thing.
“Nothing personal to those guys, but I don’t hear people out there demanding Graham or Joe Lynn Turner to get back with Ritchie again.”
Barton… you’ve been told!!
– Dave Ling