Most listeners in the U.S. know Joe Lynn Turner either for his three-album stint in Rainbow (which yielded classic tracks like “I Surrender,” “Stone Cold,” and “Street of Dreams”) and his brief tenure in Yngwie Malmsteen’s band (which resulted in the album Odyssey and the hit “Heaven Tonight”). Upon leaving Rainbow, Turner recorded the requisite solo album, Rescue You, which found middling chart success, but was embraced heartily by AOR aficionados (the ballad “Endlessly” will one day have its own entry in this column).
A follow-up record was apparently prepared for but never recorded; or recorded but shelved; or partially recorded and partially shelved; or prepared for, recorded, shelved, removed from the shelf, dusted off, then re-shelved. Something happened — sources are iffy on what, exactly — but the phantom second JLT record never saw the light of day. Bootleg tapes of song demos intended for the record made the rounds of industry folks and journalists who traded in that kind of stuff, and eventually Serafino Perugino, the head of Frontiers Records (the European label that conducts its business as if Rainbow and their ilk were still packing arenas) procured a copy and urged Turner to revisit the songs.
In 2006, Turner agreed, and the demo songs were augmented by no fewer than seven tracks either written or cowritten by — you guessed it — Jim Peterik. Perugino tapped Pink Cream 69’s Dennis Ward to produce and play bass, brought in European AOR stalwarts Uwe Reitenauer and Thorsten Koehne to play guitar, and added Gunther Werno (keyboards), Chris Schmidt (drums) to round things out. This was not the Joe Lynn Turner Band, though — this was a project, not a group, per say, though the differences between these distinctions are mysterious (can a “project” technically have groupies? If a member of a “project” chucks a TV out a hotel window, who pays?) and, quite frankly, irrelevant. Sunstorm was born, and its self-titled debut was one of the finest AOR releases of 2006, and one of the best front-to-back albums of Turner’s career.
“Strength Over Time” is one of two songs on the record written solely by Jim Peterik, and it stands as one of the album’s highlights. As is the case with much of Peterik’s recent work, it’s a song by adults for adults — a midtempo yearning to return to the permanence of love, to the ability of relationships to “burn through the years like a star.”
He acknowledges the difficulty of the search for such durability:
I’m not looking for guarantees
I can’t hold on to fantasies
If there’s someone who shares my dream
Send for me
That request — “Send for me” — is telling, like a flare shot into the night to attract a rescuer. The consequences are dire in the song, as well; the voice wants to commit, but is afraid his lover cannot. “I look in your eyes,” he sings, “and I see / The promise, the hope, and the doubt.”
The chorus ties it together — the desire for stability in an unstable environment:
When true love was judged
On how well it weathered the tears
And time was
When love meant to trust
And romance was measured in years
And time was
When I was a fool
For the rush and the thrill of the climb
I believe, I believe, I believe
In strength over time
He looks back, not as an old curmudgeon insistent on some impossibility, but as one who is hopeful that such commitment is still possible, hopeful still that perhaps he has found it. As listeners, we can all hope we are able to do (or to have already done) the same.
All this is delivered by Turner, whose voice has (in defiance of all that is physically and aesthetically probable for rock singers pushing 60) gotten stronger over the years. At one time considered a poor man’s Lou Gramm, Turner has somehow matured his instrument and now occupies a realm of his own: he tours incessantly, both as a solo artist as well as with “voices of rock”-type package tours and in something called Over the Rainbow, featuring several ex-members of Rainbow, along with Ritchie Blackmore’s son, playing old Rainbow tunes.
That Turner can still go out and play truly exhibits a “strength over time” to which too few vocalists of his generation can lay claim. That material this rich is still being written by people like Peterik and performed by people like Turner is a heartening display of strength as well.