When I was discovering what the black neighbor kids once called “white boy music”, one of the bands I stumbled upon was Rainbow. I used to confused Foreigner and Rainbow, especially when I heard “Stone Cold” from Rainbow. When the Straight Between the Eyes album came out in 1982, Foreigner had moved away from it’s raw corporate rock style to a new slick synthesizer led future of polished rock . Rainbow would follow slowly, but the differences between the two bands were becoming more apparent.
Rainbow was the real “white boy music band”, as they unlike Foreigner were keeping it real with straight forward rock anthems that might have blasted from old Vauxhalls in the high school parking of England. Not that Rainbow was ever not accused of being too polished. The album before Straight Between the Eyes was considered a polished radio friendly gem, but many purists complained of the band going soft. That was always an criticism of Foreigner, but in the case of Rainbow, Straight Between the Eyes returned the band to a harder formula.
Led by the vocals of Joe Lynn Turner, Rainbow had gone through a lot of members by the time its 6th album was recorded. Ritchie Blackmore formally of Deep Purple was still in the band, but I would only know them from Turner’s voice which sounded like Lou Gramm of Foreigner sometimes. That one hit “Stone Cold” would have been a dead ringer for a new Foreigner song had it’s video not been played to death on MTV and Night Flight.
In fact it was that song that led me to think that Foreigner had a new single (and new style) right after 4. Joe Turner’s vocal range was not quite that of Lou Gramm, but that song and “Power” had a very Foreigner-like ring to it. Other songs sounded vaguely familiar stylistically to other British bands like Judas Priest, especially the album’s opener “Death Alley Driver”. It’s a hard sound with no frills. What is looses in melody, it more than makes up for in rhythm.
Some of the credit to Straight Between the Eye’s hard sound goes to the history of keyboards in the production. There’s piano, Hammond organ, Moog and Roland synthesizers all represented, giving Roger Glover’s production a multi faceted sound. When used effectively together, songs like “Stone Cold” are the result. It start with ’60s style organ flourishes and goes all the way to Roland synthesizers by the end. And of course there’s Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar leading the way.
Finally, no discussion of Straight Between the Eyes could be complete with mentioning the disturbing and unfortunate album cover art from Jeff Cummins of Hipgnosis. Hipgnosis was the 23 Envelope of the 1970s, defining the style of mostly prog British rock bands at a time when album covers were beginning to be taken seriously. It ranks second only to Queen’s News of the World on the trauma scale as the most disturbing graphic image of my childhood. Fortunately, I can avoid the cover art with my remastered digital file of this album.