There may be numerous colours in the Rainbow, but despite the many line up changes Rainbow the Rock Band only came in two forms. The Dio era and the post Dio Era, and Rainbow Rising marks the point in Rock History when three monoliths of rock (Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powel) came together to make something truly monumental.
My relationship with Rainbow Rising began in 1989 in a second hand Record shop in Chester that was situated approximately 5 minutes walk from the train station. I was out with my girlfriend at the time and popped into the shop to establish if I could procure a second hand copy of Down to Earth at a reasonable price. (Down to Earth having a number of tracks that I had heard on a Rainbow greatest hit record). Having found a copy of the fore mentioned vinyl I attempted to buy it when the shop owner gave me some advice that changed my life forever.
“Don’t buy that one mate, buy Rainbow Rising. Trust me, it is a lot better”
Girlfriends came and Girlfriends went but 25 years after I purchased the record Rainbow Rising is still one of my favourite albums.
The history of the line up is well known Ritchie Blackmore retained only Ronnie James Dio from the previous album line-up, and recruited drummer Cozy Powell, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboard player Tony Carey. Recorded in Munich in less than a month, the album was overseen by legendary rock producer and engineer Martin Birch, who had worked with Blackmore on Deep Purples In Rock and who went on produce many classic rock albums including Black Sabbaths Heaven and Hell and numerous Iron Maiden epics such as The Number of the Beast and Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.
The opening track is Tarot Women. The album starts with a very 1970’s keyboard intro, and then Blackmore’s open riff . Tarot Women is a fast track. with big drums and increadably catchy melodies. “Beware of the place, a smile on a bright shinny face” The guitar solo is very special, rising to a crescendo where it matches the melody of the pre chorus.
Run with the Wolf is next, followed by the single Starstruck and side one ends with the monster riffs of Do You Close Your Eyes. All four tracks on side one are hard rocking numbers with a very commercial edge. The tracks are pacey, original in sound and are characterised with big riffs, big drums and big words.
Side two is different. Two longer tracks, longer guitar solos and a heavier sound.
Stargazer starts the second side. A song about a wizard building a tower or something more subtle about human ambition and who we are prepared to hurt on our way to the top? Who knows, do I really care? I love it. Stargazer also features the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra although their input is actually very subtle and not as pretentious as other attempts to fuse heavy metal and classic music. The album ends with a light in the Black. Another longer track in excess of 8 minutes, with speedy riff and extended solos. Not my favourite track on the album but a good clear way to end the record.
The lazy critic will criticise Dios lyrics as being too much Sword and Sorcery without actually listening to the melody and rhythm in the words he uses, but will not criticise showmen such as Dave Lee Roth for being an entertainer. Dio was no different. He delivers a complete package melodies to make you hum, subject matter that gives you something to think about and a peerless vocal and stage performance.
It is my opinion that Blackmore’s finest work was in Rainbow. Deep Purple was a good band, In Rock is a great album but overall I have never been that great a fan. Deep Purple was just too hit and miss for me. Better on a Greatest Hits package. However with this line up of Rainbow, Blackmore had created a super group and the end product reflected a more focused approach to hard rock music.
Ronnie James Dio is on record saying that he preferred Rainbows following studio album, Long Live Rock and Roll which is without doubt another classic rock album, slightly more commercial but equally as heavy hitting as Rising. However for me Rainbow Rising is this bands finest hour.
Two of the band members Messer’s Dio and Powell are no longer with us. (Dio died away from Cancer in 2010, and Cozy was killed in a car accident in 1998) and Ritchie Blackmore has a different vibe these days playing and touring with Blackmore’s Night ( a kind of folky Spinal Tap). Rainbow Rising is therefore a moment in time that can’t be recreated through reunions (although there is a great UK based coverband that are worth seeing)
In reality the real damage to Rainbows creativity was done when Dio left the band in 1978. Although initially commercially more successful, the subsequent releases Down to Earth and Difficult to Cure actually only contain three of four decent tracks each and plenty of filler. In the middle to late 80’s the band drifted away, as they lost their relevance compared to stadium monsters of rock, and Blackmore rejoined Deep Purple.
So lets rejoice and remember classic Rainbow from 1975 – 1978 when Rainbow were more than just relevant. They were brilliant.
Rainbow Rising is one of the greatest albums of all time. If you don’t own it, pay for it and download it.
“I see a Rainbow Rising, up there on the horizon”