Released: 2005, Frontiers Records/Atenzia Records
Reviewer: Anders Sandvall
Joe Lynn Turner is a maestro in the business and has been a member of Rainbow, Deep Purple and has worked with Swedish guitar legend, Yngwie Malmsteen. He sang on the best selling Yngwie album of all time, ODYSSEY. Besides that, Joe is also a part of the Nikolo Kotzev band, Brazen Abbot and together with his label mate Glenn Hughes; he has the project The Hughes Turner Project – HTP. They have released two studio albums and one live album so far.
Besides all of this Joe, has his own solo career. He released his solo debut already back in 1984 called, RESCUE YOU, and in the 1990’s came NOTHING’S CHANGE and HURRY UP AND WAIT. The solo albums did better and better and he gained many more fans when he released HOLY MAN, SLAM!, and JLT. Now it is time for Joe to release his ninth solo album, THE USUAL SUSPECTS. His career stretches over 30 years and includes over 50 album credits; quite impressive to say the least. Even if you’re not a hard rock fan, you ought to know who this man is.
I haven’t followed Joe’s career and albums any closer, but on the albums I’ve heard he has always impressed me with his remarkable voice. I have heard his latest album with Brazen Abbot, where he sounds just as perfect as ever. Even if he sounds a little tired nowadays he makes that up with his legendary status. Compared with Glenn, a man that has also been in the business for 100 years; Joe’s voice sounds more tired.
On THE USUAL SUSPECT Joe delivers 11 tracks, including one European bonus track titled, UNFINISHED BUSINESS. The album is listed as hardrock but that’s a pretty wide range, I think. I’d rather say that this sounds like a mix between 70’s inspired hard rock combined with more melodic hard rock, with a few ballads here and there. With that, we move further on to the production.
Joe has produced the album together with Bob Held. The two have managed to create a very heavy production, where most of the space is devoted to Joe’s voice, of course. Also, the guitar section (Al and Karl) is given quite a lot of room. Bob and Joe have managed to make an excellent production and created an outstanding combination of 70’s hardrock and melodic hardrock. This lead vocals/guitar based album was engineered by Gary Tole (Bon Jovi), and those three have really succeeded with transcending the 70’s feel into a production of the 21st century.
Joe has some help in the music department by old hard rock veterans, such as, Al (Savatage, Megadeth etc) – guitar, Karl (Ace Frehley) – guitar, John (Rainbow) – drums, and Paul (Rainbow) – keyboards. All of the musicians know exactly what to do, and Karl/Al really lifts the album with some brilliant guitar play and solos. John and David add a solid rhythm foundation to the album, and the keyboards, played by Paul and Andy, have a lot to do through the album; especially in the more 70’s like ballads.
“Power of Love”, “Devil’s Door”, and “Blood Money” are all three melodic hard rock songs, with Joe on top of the mix. Al and Karl deliver a very heavy and rough guitar sound in this track, also containing many tempo changes. In “Jack Knife”, “Into the Fire”, “Ball and Chain”, and “Unfinished Business”, shines the 70’s hard rock influences show through. You can draw comparisons with the band Rainbow, for example. Joe sounds like he’s still in the 70’s, adding many screams and stuff like that to the music. “Really Loved” is an up-tempo ballad that sounds like it’s influenced by blues. Everything evolves around Joe’s voice and he shows off what an enormous depth he still has. “Rest of My Life” is another up-tempo ballad and it’s a typical one as well. This song really has the potential to become a radio hit; no doubt about it.
That was a few of the greater songs on, THE USUAL SUSPECT. I have had it for a while now and it really gets better the more you listen to it. There aren’t many negative things I can find with this album. Joe says the following about THE USUAL SUSPECT.- “As a return to the melodic rock that is more reminiscent of my Rainbow days. It’s a return to something that was part of me, part of my past. It has big choruses but also rocks hard in a lot of places. I’m very proud of this album”.
The only negative things I can point out are, that some of the material feels a bit too weak sometimes, and there are too many ballads. The cover looks dreadful, and is almost a copy of the cover of the movie “The Usual Suspect”. It doesn’t reflect the music at all, and one can wonder how the title connects with the album. Another thing that I have pointed out before, but still seems to haunt me, is the constant running love theme; it’s boring.
If you like Joe Lynn Turner’s previous albums and what he’s done prior to this, I can only imagine that you’re gonna love this. But personally, I think there are way too many ballads included and, the lyrics are not quite impressive either.
Killer tracks “Devil’s Door”, “Blood Money”, “Jack Knife”, “Into the Fire”, “Ball and Chain”, and “Unfinished Business”.