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Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Art Rock, Arena Rock, Celtic/Medieval
Starting Period: The Interim Years
Also active in: The Punk/New Wave Years, The Divided Eighties,

From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of a Rainbow fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Rainbow fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Year Of Release: 1975
Overall rating =

The one true authentic Dungeons & Dragons record to own. Everything else is forged!


Track listing: 1) Man On The Silver Mountain; 2) Self Portrait; 3) Black Sheep Of The Family; 4) Catch The Rainbow; 5) Snake Charmer; 6) The Temple Of The King; 7) If You Don't Like Rock'n'Roll; 8) Sixteenth Century Greensleeves; 9) Still I'm Sad.

Pumping new blood into a withered corpse doesn't always work - look no further than all those late period Jethro Tull lineups for proof. But in the end, it all depends on the blood quality, and in that respect, in mid-1975 Ritchie Blackmore got lucky. Sceptical? Why don't you just compare Rainbow's debut album with the Deep Purple albums of the Coverdale/Blackmore epoch, then? The difference is striking to say the least (and even I'm hardly prepared to say the most). Shaking himself free of Purple's rusty shackles, Ritchie Blackmore procures himself the support of Ronnie James Dio and most of his previous band (Elf) members (Craig Gruber on bass, Micky Lee Soule on keyboards, Gary Driscoll on drums), and with that, goes on to show the world that it's indeed too early to count him out as an old, withered dinosaur. Quite the opposite, in fact: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow might just be the most groundbreaking effort to ever come out of the guy's pompous ass.

But before going all theoretical and genre-entangled, let me say something far more simple and sincere: in one particular respect is this debut positively amazing - the songwriting. Now we all know that Lord Dio has got a terrific pair of iron lungs (most of the regular heavy metal fans probably would have first learned of the guy's existence from his 1980-82 Black Sabbath albums, but believe you me that his Sabbath period looks almost like a self-parody next to his Rainbow curriculum). That said, singing alone won't save your boat from leaking (somebody please explain that to Mariah Carey, in a slow, friendly, carefully articulated manner). We also all know that Blackmore is one of hard rock's best guitar players ever. That said, I actually don't find Blackmore's guitar work on this album nearly as impressive as on, say, Deep Purple In Rock: the riffage is good, but the blinding solos have obviously been saved for live performance. Only once, on the closing instrumental version of the Yardbirds' 'Still I'm Sad', does Ritchie really shine on his instrument for a couple minutes.

But none of this really matters when you start realizing just how classy the actual songs are. It's all in the melody, doggonit. The melodies are so impressive that for once, the album's inclination towards the "dragon rock" style can be excused. And not just excused - actually appreciated with gusto. Yes, it's a given that Ronnie James Dio does like writing songs about men on the silver mountains and kings and queens and ladies of the lake and years of the fox and princesses locked in towers (how come they never used the 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves' theme for Shrek, I wonder?), and moreover, he does like singing these pocketbook fantasy tales with the most serious look on his face. (And yes, he did quit Black Sabbath because he accused Tony Iommi of not being Satanic enough, or so I've heard). But then again, something like Lord Of The Rings actually is a pocketbook fantasy tale, and it's a classic - surely, given enough care, rock music can produce some sort of an equivalent?

And if Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow is an equivalent, it's not because of Ronnie's lyrical imagery; it's the melodies and the hooks that place this record in the upper league of Seventies' hard rock. 'Man On The Silver Mountain' initiates the proceedings with a supercool funky riff, vaguely reminiscent of 'Smoke On The Water', and an equally supercool 'pop metal' vocal melody that's seamlessly overimposed beyond Blackmore's guitar. The way Dio roars out 'someone's screaming my name/Come and make me holy again', and the way that unforgettable riff springs out from under the last two words, constitute an unbeatable hook which I'll be the last to deny. It's the definitive Rainbow song that has it all - to hell with 'Stargazer', I say! You could never in a million years headbang to 'Stargazer' as recklessly as you can to 'Man On The Silver Mountain' and yet at the same time feel that cheesy, but oh so tempting, quasi-medieval vibe around you.

One important thing that makes me prefer this record to all of the subsequent ones is that it doesn't really overdo the bombast thing. It's heavy and it's densely produced, but it still sounds like a tight rock and roll band playing their hearts out in your basement rather than a murky chaotic concoction. Even the brooding, atmospheric compositions like 'Self Portrait' merely achieve that effect with two guitar parts (one of them a sneering funky wah-wah) overdubbed - pretty simple, eh? All it takes is but a little coordination between Blackmore and Dio on the 'feel like going down, down, down, down, down' part, and the desired melancholic (apocalyptic?) effect is achieved at minimal expenses.

Meanwhile, 'Snake Charmer' reaches to your deepest internal organs, locking you in another funky groove of the kind that Deep Purple Mark III could never have pulled off - or, at least, would never have pulled off. (Although with Tommy Bolin at his best, they eventually came close on stage). And, of course, then there's the album's second (first? it's sometimes hard for me to discern) coolest of them all - 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves', telling a nice little kiddie story of people rebelling against their tyrant and putting him to slow torture for daring to lock pretty girls in his dungeon, but who cares? It's so exciting just to hear Dio interweave his screams of 'fire, fire, fire' around the stomping Blackmore riff. It's even more exciting to hear him end each and every one of these 'fires' with a little pharyngeal flourish ('we shall dance around the FIRE! - HRRRR!... hang him HIGHER! - RRHRHR! - HIGHER! - HRHRHR!'). Now here's a man who's definitely not afraid to literally "go to the limit" with his singing. Below that level you can only find the belly or something like that.

Remembering my usual attitude towards power ballads, I sort of blush to say it, but the ballads on here are... not bad at all! Normally I should be despising stuff like 'Catch The Rainbow', but I don't. Maybe it's the subtle, subdued minimalism of the track that does it for me. Ritchie tones down the approach, understating all the obvious bits, and comes up with something truly magical, in a way. The track is more than a little bit similar to 'Little Wing', as has been observed by reviewing colleagues Wilson & Alroy, but far from being a mere inferior rewrite as has been stated ibique, because both the vocal melodies and the main guitar hooks are quite different. It's also possible that there's a streak of sincerity running through the song that gets to me - that it is, indeed, a sort of lament for the impossibility to merge Dio's (and, let's face it, not only Dio's - many of us used to share these dreams, and some still do) lust for idealized romance and fantasy with real life. Gives it extra power.

All these highlights are occasionally "outbalanced" by more forgettable stuff - lazy folksy ballads like 'The Temple Of The King' which never really ignite, or goodtime party rockers like 'Black Sheep In The Family' that are mildly catchy but don't really offer too many extra reasons for their existence. As for the band's raunchy celebration of the devil's music in 'If You Don't Like Rock'n'Roll', I don't find it awful like some do, but it sure ain't that impressive, and besides, whoever wants to hear a retroish piece of boogie on a Rainbow album? The best thing I can say about it is that it's one of the few truly danceable numbers on the record. But you don't listen to Rainbow for hip therapy. You listen to Rainbow for dragons. In fact, you listen to Rainbow if you don't like rock'n'roll, or, at least, if you don't like only rock'n'roll. There's gotta be a paradox somewhere out there.

Now, finally, about the groundbreaking stuff. It's not like "dragon rock" never existed before 1975, it's just that it wasn't much of a credible genre, and it didn't exactly have a prophet of solid stature (well, maybe Hawkwind, in a sense, but Hawkwind's view of life - and musical style - was obviously fairly different). Here, Dio and Blackmore took the thing and breathed a whole new conceptual life into it, showing that yes, something good can actually come out of the idea. Just how many miriads of bands have found their inspiration in these sounds? Who can count? Most (if not all) of them sucked, of course, but not these guys. In 1975 at least, these guys were good.



Year Of Release: 1976

Aye, that's half a star more up there. I mean, it's half a star less than the previous album, but the reviewer actually bothered to reach out for the superscript tag and put in that half star. So don't crucify the reviewer just because he thinks that Rainbow Rising, Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio's breakthrough epochal quintessential unbeatable indestructible sacrosanct second album, is actually a letdown from Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio's equally breakthrough epochal quintessential unbeatable indestructible sacrosanct first album. Because it's THE ULTIMATE TRUTH!

As you might have known, Ritchie Blackmore never liked to have the same lineup for two albums in a row. Supposedly a medical problem. Either he was quickly developing an alergy to his bandmates' armpits, or his bandmates quickly developed an alergy to his armpits, anyway, whatever the case, Rainbow Rising already feautres Jimmy Bain on bass, the drum great Cozy Powell on goatskins, and Tony Carey on all kinds of offensive hi-tech synthesizers. And the sound - whammo - has changed. Significantly. Somehow, the riffs of Blackmore become worse: more generic metal, less distinguishable melodies. Instead, we get a true POWER onslaught: Cozy bashes the hell out of the goatskins, Dio wails at the top of his lungs to overshout Cozy, and Blackmore just adds extra packages of distortion so as not to get lost in the background. Result? Too noisy, and you hear this from a person who's slowly started to overcome his bias against heavy metal. (Still can't stand all those hairy Eighties' assholes, though). Noisy and not too melodic. And not enough songs! Six? How come? They aren't even multi-part!

The album is also strangely divided into a 'short song' and a 'long song' part. The short side is by far the best one, although for some reason they never played any of those four songs but one live, or at least, never bothered to include them onto live albums. Maybe it's because they all sucked? And they knew that? Note that the short side is the best not because it's better melodically, but because the songs are short. The opener, 'Tarot Woman', supposedly does have a riff, but I couldn't memorize it if I tried (I think I managed to hang on to it a couple of times before Mr Powell banged me on the head with something particularly heavy and I never regained full control of that song again). All I remember is it had a cool sci-fi synth intro and brilliant lead guitar inside. 'Run With The Wolf' has Dio shout out his usual load of mystical medieval crap in a very distinguishable way, but no distinguishable riff either; 'Man On The Silver Mountain' it ain't. 'Starstruck' is probably the best song, then: I catch the riff, I catch the chorus and I catch the rainbow, too. 'Do You Close Your Eyes' is powerful enough (did I really need to say that?), but it really came to life on stage.

The second side is a disaster, then. Two songs. Each goes on for eight minutes. Each one is based on one musical idea. At least the idea of 'Stargazer' is more or less cool: to make a Rainbow equivalent of 'Kashmir' (and since then Blackmore has created about a couple dozen more of these 'Kashmir' imitations, both within Rainbow and - later - the reformed Deep Purple). The idea of 'A Light In The Black' is just to make a heavy boogie, though. Ah well, it's a good riffalicious boogie. But eight minutes for each? Isn't that a bit too much? Especially since 'Stargazer', for instance, finishes with about three minutes of the same theme played over and over again with Dio wailing out his idiotic lyrics again? (Typical example: 'We built a tower of stone/With our flesh and bone'. Excuse me?). Was it really that hard to write a little bit more material?

So you can only imagine my thorough unhappiness as I listened to the last seconds of the album. 'That's it?' Unfortunately, yes. So why three and a half stars? Well, for one reason exactly. Blackmore's guitar playing on the album is awesome. While he was holding a little back on the debut, here he gives it his all, and the soloing on both of the long tracks and a couple of the shorter ones is absolutely breathtaking. Frankly enough, it has to be heard to be believed. You can now see why all of these Eighties' metalheads paid so much attention to hyper-technical lead playing: they were all raised on this album. The only thing is, none of them ever quite matched Blackmore's spirit on this album, and that's a difference indeed. Anyway, if you respect technical efficiency when it comes to guitar playing, you have only one excuse for not owning the record: that is, if you go out and buy a live Rainbow album instead. And who's gonna help you decide on that? Why, that would be me, of course! If you don't mind.



Year Of Release: 1994

Rainbow must be heard live. Period. And if you wanna hear Rainbow live, this massive 2-CD program is probably your best bet. Recorded in Germany on the Rainbow Rising tour, this concert was actually shelved and only appeared to the public around 1994 as an archive release. It is definitely less easily available than the more popular On Stage, but on the positive side, it's fuller and arguably represents a more adequate picture of the band's live skills.

And those skills? Friggin' incredible. And that says a lot, especially considering that just about each of the eight songs on here are drawn out and stretched beyond measure - to eight, ten, fifteen minute epics. But they are drawn out and stretched with a single purpose - to let the audience revel in the sound of Blackmore's guitar, and that's what you get from all of the songs. Amply. Ritchie's playing might have been great on the studio albums, but in a live setting he pulls all the stops. And it's not just pointless technical skill, no: all of these solos rock, and they rock mightily. I used to dismiss 'Stargazer' originally, but the 'Stargazer' off Rainbow Rising and the 'Stargazer' on this album have absolutely nothing in common. The live 'Stargazer' is just a target for Blackmore to shoot off some absolutely fabulous 'astral' solos, alternating "cosmic overtones" with finger-flashing speedy runs that make your head go round. And he does that for five or six minutes without stopping! No matter how one might despise such 'showing off' on a theoretical level, you just gotta at least give the man some credit.

Of course, Live In Germany has often been sneered at for following the standard pattern of all live metal releases. Long songs, always featuring prolongated intros. The intros are quiet, the songs are loud; the transition is sudden, meant to shun and shock the audience. The mid-section features a dazzling solo and another quiet part. Then another sudden transition into the loud outro part. Obligatory guitar/vocal 'duo' (on 'Mistreated'). Obligatory drum solo (on 'Still I'm Sad'). Just standard. Normal. Typical. SO WHAT? All of these things are done perfectly well!

Here's the track listing now (note that they only do two numbers from Rainbow Rising, which could actually be a plus, ya know). A funny opening - apparently, they're displaying some Wizard Of Oz excerpts in the background, with Dorothy squealing 'I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore' (hey! I resent that! A violent and unjustified attack on the inhumane talents of Steve Walsh and Kerry Livgren!) and 'didn't we just go over the rainbow'? After which the band opens with the pretty-titled 'Kill The King', a song that would only appear on their next studio album. Hmm, maybe that's why it's so short?

Anyway, at five minutes it's just like a short tasty warm-up. Then the real bashathon starts. The old Mark III Deep Purple standard 'Mistreated' is completely revitalized, with Dio roaring out the lyrics like that old fart Dave never really could. Mark the echoey riff that leads in the song - perhaps one of heavy metal's most glorious and defining moments, baby. 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves' really obliterates the studio version, as powerful as that one was originally. You know, I'm a pretty boring and serious kinda person, but when I hear Dio go 'FIRE! FIRE! HIGHER! HIGHER!' at the end of the song, I just can't help but experience a wave of dynamics, paranoia, nervous tension, giggliness, and hysteria rushing all over me. Don't miss the pretty, er, sixteenth century introduction. But whatever for does Dio claim that the song was written by King Henry VIII???

The first CD ends with an extended rendition of 'Catch The Rainbow' (Blackmore goes for romanticism and epicness this time), and makes way for the second CD which is even more ass-kicking in certain ways. 'Man On The Silver Mountain' goes off splendidly (with Blackmore doing his usual trick and inserting a lengthy quotation from 'Lazy'... why not 'Smoke On The Water', I wonder?), although that bastard Ronnie doesn't even bother to hit those joy-bringing high notes (like, 'I'm the man on the SIII-I-I-LVER mountain!') and mars my excitement a little. Then 'Stargazer', which I already mentioned. 'Still I'm Sad' has vocals this time and sounds perfect (although I could do without the drum solo, but I realize that we can't have a live hard rock album without a drum solo), and 'Do You Close Your Eyes' suddenly works out fine as the album closer - maybe that's because Ritchie plays out his fastest solos on the record? Geez Lord, I'm asking too many questions. Any heavy metal fan must own this record. In fact, what the hell, if you know shit about heavy metal and would only want to buy one record, you might just as well buy this one. Why not? It rules!



Year Of Release: 1977

This one is now rendered completely unnecessary by the far more important Live In Germany: it has a shorter running time, doesn't cover all of Rainbow's true live highlights and actually has a slightly weaker performance. That said, so far it's still the more easily available performance of the two live albums dating back to the Dio epoch, and if you're gonna go out and buy one of the two, chances are you'll have to hunt down Live In Germany which you won't be able to do if you're a lazybones like me who gets both on an MP3 CD-ROM (hah hah, fooled you all) or if your location's economic and socio-cultural potential isn't strong enough to recognize the true epochal importance of Rainbow and their eminent, imminent and prominent contribution to your particular location. This means I gotta give you the lowdown on this particular album as well.

And what kind of lowdown would that be if I already said everything in the previous review? Heck, this is a recording of a performance from the same tour, and all the arrangements and unexpected tricks and some of the stage banter are just the same. They even incorporate the old 'we're not in Kansas anymore' gag, after which comes the inescapable 'Kill The King', and, well, you-know-what. This is still a double album, so it only omits 'Do You Close Your Eyes' (sad, but I can forgive that one) and - an unpardonable crime - 'Stargazer'. Omitting 'Stargazer' is an unpardonable crime. You heard. The song might have sucked big green balls in its original studio version, but the live setting gave ol' Ritch the chance to display what might have been his greatest playing chops, ever. Ever, man. What da fuck? Why didn't they kick out 'Still I'm Sad' indeed? It just kinda rambles on the spot for ten minutes, and adds nothing particularly new in the way of aural experience to those who already sat through the previous live tracks. Man, does the end of the album kinda suck... Imagine a Deep Purple live album ending with, I dunno, 'The Mule', instead of the cathartic 'Space Truckin'. Wouldn't you wanna cuss just like me?

Oh well, this one still receives four friggin' stars because I don't judge live records by how they relate to other live records - I just try to imagine never hearing Live In Germany and value the record by itself. Yeah, 'Still I'm Sad' is unimpressive; plus, the way Dio butchers that great D&D classic, 'Man On The Silver Mountain', puts me into panicking mood likewise. Not only does the son of a bitch not even bother to concentrate on the high notes in the chorus, he just runs through his lyrics as if he were himself embarrassed by their corniness and wants them to be unnoticeable. Okay, Ronnie, you may change the lyrics if you don't like 'em cuz nobody likes 'em, but sing em, you bastard! Instead, he just ends the song on a beautiful 'you're the man... you're the man... you're ALL the man!' note, and the audience probably goes gaga. Oh, did I mention they incorporate a bit of 'Starstruck' into the song? There you go. On the other hand, there's no pseudo-'Lazy' introduction, so you're free to make your bets again.

'Mistreated' and '16th Century Greensleeves' go off splendidly, as usual, and same goes for 'Catch The Rainbow'. Point, full stop, whatever. If you already own the German album, don't even think about getting this one. Seventies' metal has its peaks, of course, but is way too monotonous and rigid to be worth collecting every single performance. If you want collecting every single performance, stick to the Who. Ever tried listening to Live At Leeds and At The Isle Of Wight in a row? Mostly the same songs, from the same year, and yet they sound nothing like each other. That's true live inspiration for you. This one still gets a friggin' four stars, though, so don't accuse me of bias. Oh! And why does that Dio introduce 'Man On The Silver Mountain' as 'a song from my first LP'? And then adds, '...Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow'? Isn't that kinda mellow and stupid?



Year Of Release: 1978

Dio's last album with the band, and as far as studio albums go, it's a major improvement over Rainbow Rising in most aspects. Perhaps the most important aspect is better production: I still lack the stripped-down, crystal-clear guitar sound of the debut album, but here at least they managed to find a resonable compromise between that early approach and the murky sloppy bombast of Rising. It is a trademark Seventies' metal sound, but it's not a sound that hits you over the head just by being loud and powerful - everything is perfectly distinguishable.

But apart from that, I really like most of the songs, because the old powerful riffs are back, together with the impressive vocal hooks. The aggressive rockers kick so much ass they really blow away all contemporary competition. The title track, in particular, is no retro boogie like 'If You Don't Like Rock'n'Roll': it's a massive, epic song with mind-blowing guitar solos and a catchy, impressive refrain that'll have you singin' in no time. Reminds me a bit of Deep Purple's 'Strange Kind Of Woman', but it's not a rip-off - it's just the rhythmic patterns that are similar.

This epic and yet, at the same time rather unpretentious, approach is also visible on several other tracks, which prove that Rainbow's material wasn't solely limited to Dungeons & Dragons stuff, after all. 'L.A. Connection' rolls along at the usual mid-tempo pace, based on a riff re-worked from Led Zep's 'Wanton Song', and it isn't the best song on the album, but Dio's passionate vocal delivery and his wailings about his poor, poor fate really save the day... but perhaps the funniest and 'charmingest' element is those glorious 'whoooooh!'s in the coda. Almost Elton Johnish in character. 'Sensitive To Light' also belongs to the same style, with its funky rhythm almost establishing a dance-happy atmosphere... oh, is that song catchy! I really like it when a snobby heavy metal band goes back 'to the roots' for just a single moment and strips itself of the usual seriousness.

Of course, the band never wanted to completely shed its D&D roots - after all, Dio was still in the band, and nobody loved a good old swords & magic anthem as good old Ronnie James. So 'Lady Of The Lake', 'Gates Of Babylon' and 'Kill The King' all have plenty of mystical, medieval and fantasy imagery for the fans to handle... the most amazing thing, of course, is that all of these are good songs! 'Lady Of The Lake' is funky and cool, not really 'medieval' in atmosphere at all. 'Gates Of Babylon'... well, 'Gates Of Babylon' is that typical 'Stargazer' follow-up, its Oriental synth/guitar pattern is typical for this period of Rainbow and will later be used for about half of the revamped Deep Purple material. But the riffage is good, the solos are tolerable, and it's two minutes shorter than 'Stargazer', with far more clear and nice production, so count me happy. As for 'Kill The King', that one was already previously introduced in Rainbow's stage performances of 1977, and Blackmore and Dio didn't disappoint the fans with the marvelous studio version: speed-metal at its most aggressive and technically perfect. Oh, what about the melody, you ask me? The melody works out just fine.

In fact, if I might be allowed to make a brief excourse, Rainbow's debut and Long Live Rock'n'Roll are two albums that really clarify the term 'melodic hard rock' like nothing else. Most of these songs go far, far away from the cliched R'n'B patterns of the past, and if you replace the hard rocking guitars with jangly twelve strings or something like that, they can all be accounted for as power-pop masterpieces, with strong prog-rock tendencies... but there's no real need to extract these hard rocking guitars anyway, because Blackmore's technically immaculate deliveries and Dio's unmatched vocals put the "Adequacy" into what could have turned into ridiculous sci-fi pseudo-rock in some less experienced hands. I can only shudder at the thought of how some of these numbers would have sounded if put into the hands of... of... of Kansas! Yay! That's right! Let me bash Kansas a little bit more!

If there is a slight problem with this album, it's that too many parts of it sound like the band had been listening a bit too much to Led Zep's Physical Graffiti, and no, I don't necessarily mean the usual 'Kashmir' references that pop out when we talk of Rainbow's music. I also mean the funky rhythms ('Wanton Song' and 'Custard Pie', eh?), the 'psychedelic' sound intros in songs like 'The Shed (Subtle)' ('In The Light', anybody?), and stuff like that. Still, there's at least one serious benefit: Long Live Rock'n'Roll is a single album, and thus less subject to crappy filler than PG. No 'Rainbowpedias' on here, that's for sure.

And plus, Robert Plant could never hope to sound as beautiful as Mr Dio does on 'Rainbow Eyes', the lengthy seven-minute ballad that closes the album with nary a hint at 'power' or a metallic guitar chord in sight. Just clear acoustic guitar, gentle folkish flute, subtle orchestration, and a beautiful vocal delivery. Since we're so hot on the Zep connection, you can count 'Rainbow Eyes' as Rainbow's equivalent of 'The Rain Song' (I don't know which song is better - simply impossible to tell). Funny, isn't it, how these guys love to use the word 'rainbow' in their lyrics, isn't it?



Year Of Release: 1979

Down to SHIT, if you ask me! Well, not as in "total shit", but rather as in "smells of shit". First of all, one day Ritchie Blackmore woke up and remembered how nice it was one day when he had this practice of kicking the vocalist and the bass player out of his band, so he decided to exercise that upon his current ensemble. Well, actually, it might be that Dio himself was partially guilty of the sacking (both Ronnie and Ritchie are known to have hot lead tempers, so it's actually strange that they managed to get around for a whole four years), but fact is a fact: Dio is out, the bassist is out, and in their place Ritchie gets Roger Glover - don't laugh at me, the same Roger Glover that he kicked out of Purple in 1973! - and Graham Bonnett. Glover is a good choice, Bonnett is a bad choice. The guy obviously took his lessons from Paul Stanley and Dave Coverdale rather than Dio; he sounds just as pompous and overblown, but he also sounds like a redneck dork. At least the good news is that this time around, the band tends to stay away both from cock-rockish and starry-eyed fantasy lyrics... which means the lyrics don't play any part at all in this album. Wow, great; finally we can concentrate on the music...

...NOT. Well, at least, not as much as we'd like to. The downward slide is pretty much indicated by the very first track - 'All Night Long' does open with an okayish Blackmore riff (which is way too similar to 'Man On The Silver Mountain', tho'), but after just a few tacts the track is transformed into a hundred-percent authentic KISS-style pub-pop-rocker; give the chorus, with Bonnett roaring out 'I wanna love you all night long!', to any long-term KISS fan, and he'll be thanking you for such a magnificent long-lost outtake. Generic power chords and barroom boogie - wake up, Ritchie! Don't give us this bullshit!

Granted, this is the worst song on the album, but it doesn't get much better throughout. In fact, the songs are so pathetically mediocre throughout I can't wait till we get to the instrumental break on each - ironically, it is this album that hosts some of the most mind-blowing instrumental breaks Ritchie ever did, lodged in among the dreckish melodies. 'Eyes Of The World', for instance, is another in an endless series of Eastern-influenced/synth-adorned Rainbow arena rockers that holds no surprises in its main sung parts, but the instrumental part is awesome, with multi-tracked soloing and a cool quasi-sitar-guitar-tone (don't know how to describe that better), actually, there are several different guitar tones and styles that Ritchie explores here, and they're all great.

The only two songs that strike me as somewhat memorable on their own are 'No Time To Lose' and 'Since You've Been Gone'. The former is a really driving rocker that could have seriously benefited from Dio's vocals instead of this throat-burning idiot Bonnett, and it served as a blueprint for just about every fast Deep Purple rocker of the Eighties, too. And 'Since You've Been Gone', penned by none other than ex-Argent member Russ Ballard, is a semi-decent pop song that Ritchie decided to make his own and decorate with hard-rocking guitars. It still comes across as pretty cheesy for Rainbow... heck, it comes across as cheesy for anybody, but when coupled with stupid Rainbowish keyboards and Bonnett's vocals, it's barely eatable.

Elsewhere, you get more of those "Eastern synth" thingies like 'Danger Zone', more of your typical fast excessive rockers like "Lost In Hollywood", more of your slow ominous anthemic numbers like "Love's No Friend", and a totally dismissable song called "Makin' Love" that's half "Eastern synth" and half Coverdale-style funk-rocker that could have been taken straight off Stormbringer. And... hey, that's all. Eight songs? That's all? What the heck!

Seriously now, I can only give this such an unbelievably high rating because there are wonderful Blackmore leads throughout. It's amazing how one guy can have so much taste and refining in one area (playing) and allow such a complete suckjob slip through his hands in another (songwriting), not to mention tolerating this evil dickhead. Thank God Mr Bonnett only lasted through this one album. Then, I guess, Blackmore just put it on and thought: "Oh no! We're sounding like Kiss!" And fired him. Best thing Blackmore ever did.



Year Of Release: 1981

Yeah, you don't need to tell us that, Ritchie! When a once respectable innovative metal band starts ripping off the image of Foreigner, it certainly is difficult to cure. You put this record on the turntable, and as the initial loud outburst of 'I Surrender' hits your speakers, your amazed friends start shouting, 'hey, that's one Lou Gramm tune I ain't never heard on the radio!'. But it isn't Lou Gramm, it's Joe Lynn Turner, the replacement of Graham Bonnett. Yet could you really tell the fuckin' difference between the two? But that ain't all, they also feel the necessity to model the patented sound of Foreigner: loud, but meaningless guitars, cheesy synths thoroughly devoid of energy, and a singer who sounds like he's speaking to God when in reality he's participating in a shitty pseudo-rock comedy. Blackmore's descent into despisable sellout territory continues - do you prefer KISS-style Rainbow or Foreigner-style Rainbow?

I originally thought of giving the album the same rating as Down To Earth, but that would have placed the album on the same level with Foreigner's best, and this is still marginally better. I mean, there's no way a band that has Ritchie in it can sound worse than Foreigner at their best, right? Blackmore might have been a dumb sellout, but his fingers and spirit were still there, and at least on one track, the pretty instrumental 'Vielleicht Das Nachste Mal (Maybe Next Time)' [why the German subtitle? What am I missing here?], he almost seems to be ascending some of the same heights he'd been scaling so easily with Dio half a decade earlier, both on stage and in the studio. It's slow, economic, and very emotional in a totally non-weather channel manner, with a sharper guitar tone and darker mood than usually prescribed by the weatherman.

Then there's also the title track, based on a free rock interpretation of Beethoven's 9th; not particularly surprising, seeing as how Mr Ritchie had always been fond of stealing little bits from classical composers and putting them into the middle of 'Lazy' or 'Smoke On The Water' or whatever. Non-purists will find the track amusing, purists will probably get irritated; I personally have a suspicion that Ritchie's resorting to Ludwig was a sign of lacking original ideas of his own (particularly since a big chunk of the middle part of 'Difficult To Cure' isn't structured at all and essentially sounds like a lazier, more relaxed take on the 'Child In Time' solo), but then again, it's certainly better to offer an interpretation of somebody else's genius if you look like you're temporarily devoid of your own.

As for the rest, well, it's, you know, songs. Pieces of music that start at 0:00 and end about four or five minutes later. What else can I say? I really like one of these rockers, the mean-spirited, fine-boogieing 'Can't Happen Here', although the chorus essentially sounds like it's been copied from 'All Night Long' with the blatant offensiveness taken out and replaced by a scarier, more ominous mood. Surprisingly, Blackmore sounds pretty timid even when he's soloing; this doesn't prevent him from displaying some fine technique now and then, but I still can't help thinking about the good old days when the young angst-filled Ritchie was tearing at 'em strings like a mad (yet strangely concentrated) bulldog, proving the world who can kick the shit out of his guitar better than anybody. These days are long gone, and that's why not even a super-fast finger-flashing rocker like 'Spotlight Kid' can help matters much. In desperation, Blackmore throws a few phrases copped from Russian folk music into the mix, but it still produces the effect of a cute novel trick rather than of a startling musical revelation. And somebody please steal Don Airey's keyboards from him. The guy's obnoxious as hell. And these days, he's being obnoxious as hell serving as the official keyboard player in Deep Purple. (A game not for the faint-hearted: how many lineup connections can one trace between Deep Purple, Rainbow, and Black Sabbath? At times, it seems to me that all the "oldies metal" in the Eighties was written by one huge band called Purple Rainbow On A Sabbath).

'Magic' kinda makes me blink and wink because the main guitar hook is almost defiantly ABBA-esque - listen to it and tell me Blackmore hasn't been listening to 'Dancing Queen'. Apart from the guitar hook, the song is one big nothing. Same goes for 'No Release': Blackmore chugs a good riff out, but the song is basically a lumpy cock-rockish arena monster with as much subtlety as a pile of brontosaur excrements. At least the saving grace of the album is that it's really light on power ballads: apart from 'I Surrender', easily the worst idea for a Rainbow opening number ever, the only other 'romantic' song is the 'Nachste Mal' instrumental I've already mentioned. So if you just concentrate on headbanging, you might as well get through from the beginning to end. But if you wanna search for exclusive technical prowess, great vocal melodies and innovative values, you'd better pick up something by 'N Sync instead.



Year Of Release: 1982

For some reason, the All-Music Guide (yeah yeah I know, I refer to other reviews too much, but what can I do? These guys get paid and I don't, so out of pure egotistic jealousy I have to use every occasion to stick a knife in their back) pinpoints this record as a really high point and a return to form after the disappointing Difficult To Cure. Mmm... what the heck? If anything, Blackmore has Foreigner-ized his band even more by including more power ballads and excluding all of those classy little instrumentals.

I mean, yeah, if a song like 'Tearin' Out My Heart' can be called by any other word than 'abysmal' by anybody, it's the kind of anybody that has always been fully satisfied by generic AOR crap. I guess Blackmore himself was going after another 'Mistreated' here, which is why he piled up that mess of power chords and made Turner clear his lungs better than a field commander, but the song has none of the excellent structure of 'Mistreated'. The acoustic verses are so full of cheesy bathos it hurts, and the way they get resolved with that gruesome two-chord "monster" riff is so pathetically predictable Lou Gramm and the boys were probably jealous somebody could sound even dumber than THEM.

Even worse, in a fit of nostalgia Ritchie has made the last song, 'Eyes Of Fire', sound like a rehashment of past 'Stargazer' glories, with synthesized orchestration a la 'Kashmir' again. But with 'Kashmir' and 'Stargazer' already available (as well as all those other Rainbow and future Deep Purple tunes), 'Eyes Of Fire' adds nothing to the already existent legacy and is ultimately reduced to a six-minute pompous nothing. Turner wails like he's actually taking this goshdarned crap for serious, Ritchie replays licks he's already played a thousand times before, and the entire band plays along in a limp and vague manner as if telling us, 'oh yeah, this is just the boss and his fancies - we know this song sucks.'

But the ridiculous nostalgia doesn't actually end here, because 'Death Alley Driver' takes us even further back; this is Rainbow's 'Highway Star', and it's a faithful clone of the original, with the same chuggin' proto-thrash riff, same ecstatic lead singer wails, same "drive along the highway" lyrical topics (although this time the lyrical mood is "ominous" and "dangerous" rather than just the simple teenage excitement of 'Highway Star'), and same chase-the-lightning guitar and keyboard solos with Blackmore and Airey actually replaying some (fortunately, not all) of the chords on the 'Highway Star' solos. For those who have never heard 'Highway Star', 'Death Alley Driver' can be an ecstatic thrilling powerful rocker; for those who have, it's bound to be a severe disappointment. It's kinda fun to see how well Blackmore can arrange a clone for his earlier stage vehicle (not all that well), but surely the track will never stand to repeated listening.

So all in all, the album is essentially saved by the fact that on a bunch of remaining tunes, Blackmore does squeeze out a bunch of interesting bluesy riffs. 'Tite Squeeze' is at least musically more interesting than 'All Night Long' and could rank along, uh, I dunno, some of the better Deep Purple Mark III tunes. The riff to 'Power' is also terrific, a great four-note pulsation in the 'I Can't Explain' vein; in a better epoch, it could have been honed with something more interesting than a totally generic arena-rock arrangement, but alas, epochs are epochs. And I confess I actually dig the hell of 'Rock Fever', probably my favourite tune on the album. Lovers of intelligent music will certainly cringe at the obnoxious 'LET ME SEE YOU ROCK! LET ME SEE YOU ROLL!' chorus, but it's just one of those songs along the lines of Kiss' 'Rock And Roll All Night' where the obnoxiously dumb atmosphere is at least supported by catchy musical structures which blend in well with the general rock'n'roll excitement. In other words, it's dumb, but it's rousing and catchy. After all, let us not forget that a large part of "classic" Deep Purple, starting from 'Speed King', was about the same thing as 'Rock Fever', so let's not complain.

Ritchie is generally in good form throughout, but the day you catch Ritchie in a bad form is the day he dies, so it's not much of a consolation. He can't elevate these miserable power ballads like 'Stone Cold' or 'Tearin' Out My Heart' of total misery anyway. Spoiled by arena-rock arrangements, feeble and flaccid due to lack of hooks, featuring not a single half-classic, Straight Between The Eyes just kinda sits there and says, 'hey, it's not my fault that guy hopped on the Foreigner trend mistaking it for true rock art!'. So leave it sitting right there.


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