JOE LYNN TURNER
"Getting A Second Chance At First Impressions" Part 2
An Exclusive Look At The Jan Holberg Project featuring Joe Lynn Turner
In part one of this site's exclusive look at The Jan Holberg Project featuring Joe Lynn Turner, we learn that just three years ago, Norwegian bassist Jan Holberg, had decided that he wanted to get away from doing strictly session work; he wanted to write and compose some of his own material for a new project. Then he came up with this "crazy idea" to ask hard rock vocalist Joe Lynn Turner to be HIS singer for his upcoming debut project. He got this idea because Joe Lynn Turner was once an integral member of a couple of bands for whom Jan felt had influenced him "big time" as a musician growing up, vocal-wise.
Once Joe said yes to the project, Jan "gave him the artistic freedom to do a few changes, here and there" to the demos, so that the final result of recording was a 10-track, multi-layered mosaic of songs with at least five separate genre labels (pop/rock/funk/jazz/instrumental) attached. The work showcased not only the outstanding and superb musicianship of its players, but also once again demonstrated the versatile vocal talents of its lead singer.
Having been a fan of JLT's music for a number of years-in effect since I became a young adult growing up in central California (before moving to my present home in Arizona), two things had always impressed me about Joe Lynn Turner, the musician. One was in how he wrote and composed lyrics, and the other was in the manner he sang those lyrics. Personally, it didnít matter what genre label was given to the song he sang, just that he had sung it in the first place!
Call it a sort of 'blind, unwavering love' I suppose, for this 'voice', I have called my dearest and closest friend for so many years, but there have been a lot of times in my life, when I needed to share a happy moment with someone or cry on a shoulder. And no one was there, except for "the voice" that came out of the woofers of my record player then, and my CD player now. That voice, which comforted me, consoled me, and in the words he sang, as I played the selection over and over, made me feel that "my someday would come" and I could live, dream, and love again with the hope for a better today, or better yet - tomorrow.
And so in listening to, and in getting familiar with the tracks in this latest offering, right away I began to notice that Turner was testing the limits of his vocal ability and skill. This new vocal style was different from past styles for which he had earned a "hard rock vocalist" moniker, a label that music critics had been placed on him for so long, but for which he seemed comfortable enough in living up to, since his professional music career began 30 plus years ago.
Looking back to late January, what piqued my interest into looking into this particular project, notwithstanding Turner's name being attached to it, was a quote I read from the project's initial press release posted on both his official Myspace page and website (joelynnturner.com). It was there he stated, "I had a great time stretching out the vocal style on Jan's songs. I'm always interested in something different with quality". I eagerly awaited and then finally listened to the CD before asking Joe the following question that, even though I began to understand what he meant just by virtue of listening to the recording I had in front of me. I also knew that other journalists might ask the same question to get clarification to his earlier statement.
Could you please tell me what 'stretching the vocal' means?
Well... I am doing something different than that, which I am known for and it's like an actor "stretching" a character in a role they are playing. It's like a new personality... "stretching" is a term we use for doing something other than what we are known for.
Does that include the improvisational parts you add into the track?
Well... yes in a way! It's about the whole new genre of music. Obviously this is not Rainbow or Purple! The sound and style is different!
What tracks do you recall, then, to which you utilized that 'stretching the vocal' technique on this current Jan Holberg Project?
All of them! It concerns the style and sound of a musical genre... again... this is not melodic hard rock! It's a bit different. It is melodic... but not hard. It needs a different approach in the singing style.
Turner's answers to these previous questions, though, were intriguing enough for me to re-examine the project I was hearing now and compare it to his previous body of work. I also thought this latest effort made an even stronger comparison to a band, to which Turner belonged to prior to the era of superstardom in which he garnered the 'hard rock vocalist' moniker, as a member of Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, and Deep Purple. That band's name was Fandango.
For a bit of background, with Fandango, Turner recorded and released four albums for RCA records in the states from 1977 to 1980. Turner was the band's primary lead vocalist as well as rhythm guitarist to his lead guitarist "brother" and late friend (who was killed tragically in a car accident in the early 80's), Rick Blakemore. Fandango's music can be "best described as an eclectic mix of R&B, pop, country, jazz and melodic rock", with harmonies reminiscent of another band of that era, The Eagles.
So in listening to this latest project, one couldn't help but draw a parallel to Fandango. In a way, Joe was revisiting his musical roots. I noted the overall production quality and musicianship on this current record surpassed what he had produced in the past. But that's only because of technological advances in today's recording equipment and not due to the lack of quality in lyrics, arrangements, etc. of the tracks from the previous era.
And so after listening closely to several complete plays of the current CD, it's easy to deduce that Turner's seven-song vocal performance of the tracks on this record comes naturally to him. Joe was able to adapt accordingly, allowing him to fully expand or in this case "stretch (out) his vocal" the way he saw fit to the style and sound of Jan's unfinished tracks.
Moreover, because it has just the right number of improvisational accents, my favorite track on this record was "Heart Of Summer". When he uses that part of his own unique style of vocalization through the latter half of the song, I am quickly reminded of another vocalist to whom Joe has referred as being one of his main influences from an era long past, Otis Redding.
The last question I asked of Joe was based on the 'history' I knew of Joe with the aforementioned Fandango and my sort of 27-year commitment into chronicling his career, as both a fan of his music and as a photojournalist. It was not meant to trivialize the influence Joe had on Jan as a musician.
It seems as if all the vocal tracks were written exclusively with you in mind. Did you ever consider that this album, in one sense, is perhaps paying tribute to you (of course, minus the hard rock material not present here) for the variety of musical genres you have explored and the recordings you did throughout your own career?
Well... I don't believe the tracks were solely written with me in mind... even if Jan thinks they were. It may have been an inspiration but clearly I am known for a different type of music. However, this is a good "stretch" because I can sing all types of music!
And, Jan knew my history and ability to accomplish this kind of project! I am a very versatile singer and Jan knows that. So, a tribute?... that's a stretch in itself!
If it is a tribute I am totally honored but I never looked at it that way!
And while I certainly appreciate Joe's most humble answer to my last question, I'll never forget something he told me during the first interview I had with him 23 years ago this month, when he said, "I don't believe you get a second chance at first impressions". I have lived myself by that mantra for many years. Well Joe, let me say here as I close this missive, that in this latest project, the proof is there that you somehow, some way revisited your musical roots through the making of this record, and in an almost imperceptible way, it was paying tribute to you. What is better than art imitating life, eh?
Julie Barela Mills, Rainbow Fanclan
Many thanks go to both Joe Lynn Turner and Lisa Eichholzer-Walker for the interview portion of this piece.
I dedicate this piece to the friends I made all over the world, especially in the last four years, that too were inspired by JLT's music and who, over those years, contributed to this site as well as JLT's English/Japan fanzine, "Voice Of Reason". You know who you are!
And finally to my dear friend Frans van Arkel who hosts this site. Your help and friendship to me, is immeasurable.
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu watashi no tomodachis!!!