Top Rainbow Songs of the '80s

While on hiatus from legendary British hard rock outfit Deep Purple, guitar wizard Ritchie Blackmore put together his own band, Rainbow, which initially peppered the late '70s with blistering, complex hard rock fronted by diminutive powerhouse vocalist Ronnie James Dio. However, by the late '70s and - especially - the early '80s, the band transitioned into a melodic arena rock band, churning out a mixture of compelling power ballads and muscular rockers. For this phase of the band's career, lead singer Joe Lynn Turner surged to the forefront, and for a few years the latest version of Rainbow delivered some of the finest melodic hard rock to be heard in the days preceding hair metal's peak. Here's a chronological look at the very best Rainbow songs from the band's brief but potent early-'80s run.

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"All Night Long"

Rainbow on stage circa 1983 (l to r Roger Glover, Joe Lynn Turner and Ritchie Blackmore). Peter Still/Redferns/Getty Images

Because of the calendar - as well as his limited time in the band - powerhouse vocalist Graham Bonnet squeezes only one of his contributions onto this list. (The fine Russ Ballard-penned "Since You Been Gone" belongs squarely to 1979.) Unfortunately, the chorus here is so weak and cliche-ridden that the track can't receive an unabashed endorsement. Nevertheless, Bonnet's spirited work and the playful lyrics of the far superior verses elevate "All NIght Long" to something close to essential Rainbow status. The post-Dio lineup of Rainbow would ultimately generate more consistent rockers than this one, but it certainly led off the '80s with a considerable bang. Apologies for that last bit, of course.

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"I Surrender"

Rainbow's album cover for 1981's 'Difficult to Cure' LP.
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Polydor

For 1981's , powerful, clear-voiced rock vocalist Turner stepped in ably as Bonnet's replacement. This was his first major song with Rainbow, yet another Ballard composition that fits perfectly into the mainstream rock wheelhouse of this version of the group. Turner's precision fits in quite well with the fluid nature of Blackmore's classically inspired lead guitar parts, and the quintet as a whole churns along with conviction and energy. There's a transcendent, religious quality to Blackmore's best guitar playing, and for that reason more than any other, this tune stands out as a highlight.

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"Spotlight Kid"

This album track from Difficult to Cure proves that the '80s manifestation of Rainbow maintained more than a little of its propensity to rock from back when Dio prowled out front. Even better, Turner displays his versatility and passion, stepping in just in time with impressive vocals that prevent the song's long keyboard/guitar instrumental break from taking over. During that middle section, the song sometimes threatens to turn into a classical or polka piece, but Turner and his soaring yet muscular style brings the proceedings back down to earth nicely.

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"Jealous Lover"

Turner proves his vocal versatility immediately on this 1981 tune, which was originally released on a 4-song EP of the same name but then showed up quietly also a B-side to the "Can't Happen Here" single. So although it began life as an under-the-radar Rainbow selection, "Jealous Lover" features some nimble riffing from Blackmore and some remarkably soulful moments from Turner. For a moment the latter sounds uncannily like one of Blackmore's old Deep Purple bandmates, Whitesnake's David Coverdale. Ultimately, though, Turner's precise brand of soaring hard rock stylistics wins out. This isn't one of '80s Rainbow's absolute finest, but it's a solid entry nonetheless.

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"Stone Cold"

Rainbow's cover for its 1982 single "Stone Cold."
Single Cover Image Courtesy of Polydor

Speaking of finest moments, this hauntingly perfect, organ-infused power ballad undeniably stands as not only one of Rainbow's greatest contributions to '80s music but also one of the decade's most memorable mainstream rock efforts overall. Everything latter-day Rainbow had to offer is on wondrous display here: Turner's transcendent voice, Blackmore's riffing and adventurous lead fills, and punchy, emotionally evocative melodic sense. This tune also nails the brooding, romantically injured male psyche far more concisely than the hair metal that so often tried vainly to follow in its wake. "Stone Cold" also provided plenty of balance to the otherwise hard-rocking LP from 1982.

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"Death Alley Driver"

The album cover for Rainbow's 1982 release 'Straight Between the Eyes.'
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Polydor

Speaking of full-tilt rockers, this album track from Straight Between the Eyes bears more than a slight resemblance to many of the uptempo offerings from the classic '70s lineup of Deep Purple. In many ways, that's certainly not a bad thing, but it certainly doesn't help distinguish Turner and keyboardist David Rosenthal as the singular contributors they often were. Nevertheless, this is the kind of song that helps preserve the hard rock credibility of a band trying not to verge too completely into fully pop/rock territory. It accomplishes that aim and then some.

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"Can't Let You Go"

The album cover for Rainbow's 1983 LP 'Bent Out of Shape.'
Album Cover Image Courtesy of Polydor

Blackmore indulges his love for Euro-centric classical music here - blasting listeners with an oddly placed but powerhouse organ intro. After that, however, its back to business for another deft combo of the guitarist's riff-making gifts and Turner's soaring, immensely entertaining vocal style. Highly emotional but never whiny, the latter exemplifies the best of impassioned hard rock singing, and his ability to linger on and spotlight compelling melodies drives the majesty of this standout from 1983's . It's a fitting centerpiece for Rainbow's final album, though perhaps not its finest moment.

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"Street of Dreams"

Heavily pop-oriented and imbued with synthesizers though it may be, this mid-tempo masterpiece delivers on the promise of its otherworldly, ethereal title. The lure of a classic-lineup Deep Purple reunion would soon spell the end of this version of Rainbow, but this varied, powerful tune ended the group's run on a memorable, compelling note. The power and singularity of Blackmore's guitars fight their way through the production without any real problem, and as for Turner, it's too bad he would not enjoy another frontman role this prominent for the rest of his career.