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After several nostalgic months of viewing various early Rainbow tunes on YouTube, I decided to take it a step further recently by purchasing the classic 'Rising' on Amazon for a splendid £5.00. And am I glad I did that! Look out for more reviews of early Rainbow in the up coming months, for I am sure that I will be visiting Amazon for more!
'Rising' is the second album from Blackmore's Rainbow since he quit Deep Purple. It is looked upon as one of the greatest classic rock albums of all time and features many a classic song.
After a mesmerising keyboard into, a stabbing Blackmore riff sets the scene for the opening track, 'Tarot Woman' (5:58). This is a young Ronnie James Dio at his most powerful. A truly great song, with a stunning harmonic yet sleazy guitar solo in its middle.
'Run with the Wolf' (3:48) flashes along with a tremendous drum beat by the late great Cozy Powell. It is a slow number, but stomps along all the same. We have a sliding, cheeky guitar solo and the ever great vocals.
'Starstruck' (4:06) is a steady swinging song about a nightmare of a groupie. A crowd favourite. I have seen Dio play with as a solo artist.
'She wants a souvenir,
to everyone it's clear,
he's hooked. One look!
She wants a photograph,
And everybody laughs... but not me, I see...'
'Do you close your Eyes' (2:58) continues in the same vein. Get you air guitar out for this one!
'Stargazer' (8:26) is a epic song in which each musician plays to their potential. A classic drumming riff opens it up and then there follows a bluesey guitar until the song builds up. There is a delicious instrumental part in the middle with both guitar and keyboard solos abound. A well known classic amongst rock fans.
'I see a rainbow rising,
Up on the horizon
and I'm coming home...'
A Light in the Black (8:12) is another epic track, never a favourite of mine, but I guess Stargazer is a tough act to follow!
All the songs were written by Blackmore and Dio and the album was produced by Martin Birch.
Bass - Jimmy Bain - This artist left the band after this album, but joined up with Dio later for Dio's solo albums.
Guitar - Ritchie Blackmore - The best guitarist there ever was! Continued to make more Rainbow albums before reforming Deep Purple. Now left Purple and after a failed attempt to resurrect Rainbow, formed Blackmore's Knight (I think he communicates with goblins now).
Keyboards - Tony Carey - left after this album, went onto the Planet P Project and several solo albums.
Vocals - Ronnie James Dio - Recorded another album with Rainbow, then joined Black Sabbath, recording the stunning Heaven and Hell album. Created Dio in the mid eighties.
Drums - Cozy Powell - Featured in several bands and recorded several solo albums. A top drummer, sadly passed away in 1998.
One thing that strikes me about this album is that it is only just over thirty three minutes long, and that is quite short. Another thing is that it is over thirty years old! Yet, to me, it still sounds as fresh and energetic now as it did when I first heard it as a pimple faced teenager.
Having had one of many, many temper tantrums, Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore quit the band (not for the last time) and decided to make a new one. Seeking to collaborate with former touring partners Elf, in particular powerfully-piped Ronnie James Dio, he formed the modestly named 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow', and released an LP of the same name. While it was a curious listen and a tangent into neo-classical rock fusion territory, the band sounded a little uncomfortable in places. So, having fired the two band members he felt didn't fit in and replaced them, the new line-up went about penning a new album.
First of all, the musical talent of this line up of the band is phenomenal. Blackmore's guitar playing seems to go stratospheric in its scope and ambition, Dio out-wails Robert Plant, Cozy Powell and Jim Bain sound like they could fell trees with their rhythm section, and Tony Carey gives Rick Wakeman a timely reminder that keyboards really, really shouldn't be used as a method to teach the history of Tudor monarchs. Ultimately, this is a record about pushing the limits of what a rock band can do, and what could be considered acceptable. And for better or worse, its influence is huge. Iron Maiden, Iced Earth, Dragonforce, Yngwie Malmsteen, Queensryche... the list of bands that took this as a template could go on and on.
'Tarot Woman' starts off with a long, spacey keyboard intro, before kicking into a galloping rock rhythm while Dio gives us a tale of ambiguous Tarot readings from some mysterious girl in a tent. 'Run with the Wolf' is a more stripped down rocker, as is 'Starstruck', the latter spattered with sprightly riffs and runs. 'Do You Close Your Eyes' is a bit forgettable, and sounds a bit like it could be relegated to a KISS b-side.
But it's the last two tracks that really define the Rainbow sound. 'Stargazer' is an 8 minute epic full of lumbering riffs and heavy drumming that recounts the foolish actions of a wizard building a tower in the desert, only to jump off it for some unfathomable reason. 'A Light in the Black' takes the mould of 'Stargazer' and shifts to a higher gear, thundering along at a breathless pace with all members of the band trying to outdo each other in terms of showing off their musical chops. It's also slightly odd that given that there are quite few overdubs and layers that this record can sound so bloody massive. Kudos to the engineering team.
Rainbow gave Dio a platform to air his obsession with dungeons and dragons themes. The majority of the lyrics in here are concerned with wizards and magic, which have the ultimate Marmite effect. Taken with a pinch of salt and the tongue placed in the cheek though, it can taste quite naughtily nice, if you're in the mood... Bruce Dickinson once said that 'this record will make goblins jump out of your speakers', and whilst I've never found any little green miscreants squirming out of my speakers after giving this a spin, I think he may be right.
This marks the moment where rock got silly, over-the-top, indulgent, fantastical and into realms of the theatrical that hadn't been trod before. It's a bit like stuffing your face with quails and mead at a medieval banquet; something you'd only want to indulge in once a year and you'll feel terrible for it afterwards, but worth it for the decadent experience. And it's all either good, spectacular entertainment, or utterly preposterous nonsense, depending on where your tastes lie. I'm still not sure if I've decided yet...
4 stars it is then, rated just on the skill of the musicianship and its lasting influence.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Tarot Woman
2 Run With The Wolf
4 Do You Close Your Eyes
6 A Light In The Black