Rainbow - 'Down To Earth' and 'Rising' Deluxe Editions (Polydor) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Jim Rowland   
Tuesday, 15 February 2011 05:00

Down_To_EarthBy 1979, Blackmore's revolving door policy was in full swing again. Feeling the need to move in a more commercial rock direction, Blackmore instigated the most radical Rainbow line-up change since 'Rising' (I'll get to that in a minute). His former Deep Purple colleague Roger Glover was drafted in, just as much for his production and writing skills as his bass abilities, and Don Airey was in on keyboards. Wisely, Cozy Powell was retained on drums.


The most significant change was of course the departure of Ronnie James Dio. Offended by Blackmore's request to change his lyrical style to more commercial ends, Dio had had quite enough of Blackmore and was off, soon to replace Ozzy in Black Sabbath of course. His replacement, one Graham Bonnet, may have seemed like an odd choice at first. With no previous background in heavy rock, and a clean-cut image that wouldn't have seen him out of place as an extra in 'Saturday Night Fever', a few eyebrows must have been raised. What this album proves though, is the most important thing - Graham Bonnet had one hell of a voice.


'Down to Earth' is probably best remembered for the two big hit singles it spawned, kicking off sides one and two of the album respectively. 'All Night Long' is a thunderous piece of pop metal magic that packs a serious punch, thanks to its killer riff, mega powerful chorus and Cozy Powell's thumping drums. The Russ Ballard-penned 'Since You Been Gone' was the lighter of the two, but still had a great riff and was a top ten smash.


The album also marks the start of the transition from the epic, grandiose style of the band in the Dio years, to the more radio friendly, almost AOR sound the band would develop in future years with Joe Lynn Turner. The two real highlights for me are 'Eyes Of The World' and 'Lost In Hollywood', tracks that gave a nod to the more epic, heavy rock style of the Dio period. 'Eyes Of The World' in particular is a peach and holds up to anything Rainbow ever recorded. 'Lost in Hollywood' was another belter that really showcased the amazing talent that was Cozy Powell. 'No Time To Lose' is another scorching rocker at full pelt, as is 'Danger Zone', whilst 'Love's No Friend' is a mean and moody, bluesy plodder that just oozes class. 'Makin Love' is perhaps the only weak link in the chain, a slightly soft, pop-oriented number that doesn't quite fit with the quality, and heaviness, of the rest of the album.


Blackmore obviously made a very astute move in recruiting Roger Glover as producer, as the album has an incredibly powerful and well-produced feel to it. Powell's drums are a delight and Graham Bonnet's powerful vocal performance is stunning.


For me, 'Down To Earth' is the last truly great Rainbow record. Following the subsequent tour, Bonnet was off to his own chart success with 'Night Games' and the 'Line Up' solo LP, before briefly attempting an 'Assault Attack' with MSG, and eventually escaping to Alcatrazz. Rainbow continued down the radio-friendly AOR route with Joe Lynn Turner, released some decent albums, had a few more hit singles, but never quite matched up to the Dio & Bonnet versions of the band.


The extra tracks on the first disc of this just released Deluxe Edition are the two single b-sides, 'Bad Girl' and 'Weiss Heim'. Nice to have, but not really Rainbow essentials. And disc 2, whilst an interesting listen, is rather disappointing. Entitled 'Work In Progress' it contains several instrumental rough mixes of the tracks, plus two early versions of 'No Time to Lose' and 'Love's No Friend', with different lyrics and titles. Most fun is the 'Cozy Powell mix' of 'All Night Long', an instrumental mix with Powell's canon-like drums turned up to 11. It seems to me that an opportunity was missed with the bonus disc. Many people were hoping for the Donington 1980 live set to be included, which would have been great, even if it did include Bonnet's infamous 'Percy Edwards impression'. There's also supposed to be a studio recording of the track 'Will You Love Me Tomorrow', which was allegedly recorded as a single but never saw the light of day due to Bonnet's subsequent departure, which would have made a fine addition, regardless of how bad or good it may have actually sounded.


'Down to Earth' was the first rock album I ever purchased (and hence why I'm reviewing it first here), and it was great to relive that magical moment again whilst reviewing this reissue. To this day it still reminds me of jumpers for goalposts in the field at the end of our road, celebrating a crucial goal with my prototype air guitar to the riff of 'Since You Been Gone'. At this stage, this album was my first exposure to the delights of Ritchie Blackmore, and it wouldn't be too long before I started to go back in time to discover the delights of Deep Purple and the Rainbow albums that had preceded 'Down To Earth'.


RisingAs it turned out, one of these albums instantly stood out from the crowd...'Rainbow Rising'.


The first Rainbow album, 1975's 'Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow' had been hastily put together and released whilst Blackmore was still an active member of Deep Purple. Having nicked the entire line up (minus the poor guitarist) of Purple's support band, Elf, to play on the album, it was seen as a Blackmore solo album/side project but is a mighty fine album in its own right. That line up never performed live however.


By the time Deep Purple had released 'Stormbringer', Blackmore had grown disillusioned with Purple's move towards the Glenn Hughes-inspired 'shoeshine music', as he so politically un-correctly put it. It was time for Blackmore to quit and launch Rainbow as a proper touring band. Consequently, 'Rising' can be seen as the first album from Rainbow the band. And boy what a band. The extraordinary vocal talent of Ronnie James Dio was retained from the first album, and powerhouse drummer Cozy Powell was brought in along with Jimmy Bain on bass and Tony Carey on keyboards.


One look at the cover of 'Rising' gives a good indication of the treasure that lies within. The giant hand rising from a stormy sea, gripping the rainbow on the coastline of a magical, mystical land. A lone warrior stands transfixed. It has the word 'epic' written all over it.


'Stargazer', Rising's crowning moment, is the granddaddy of epic sounding heavy rock. Powell's immense drums, Blackmore's killer riff, the dramatic choral keyboards, and Dio belting out lyrics like 'we built a tower of stone with our flesh and bone' - if this was a film, the budget would be off the scale! With the slightly Eastern sounding guitar, and phasing on the drums, I often wondered if this was Blackmore's answer to Led Zep's 'Kashmir' that had appeared the year before. It certainly gives it a good run for its money.  'Stargazer' was one half of the original vinyl's second side, and probably overshadowed the equally immense 'A Light In the Black'. Once again Powell pounds away, his twin bass drums driving the track along as first Carey and then Blackmore deliver virtuoso extended solos that just blow you away. It's these two tracks, making up side two, that make 'Rising' such a monumental album.


That's not to say the four tracks on side one are to be forgotten. 'Tarot Woman', kicking the album off, is a brilliantly written and once again epic sounding track, notable for Carey's eerie keyboard intro, before the band explode into life. 'Run With the Wolf' is a great rocker, with a groovy little riff and trademark epic Dio lyrics -'there's a hole in the sky, something evil's passing by'!  'Starstruck' has an irresistible groove, harking back to Purple's 'Black Night', and a brilliantly catchy chorus, with the lighter subject matter being less typical of our Ronnie's usual preferences. 'Do You Close Your Eyes' isn't the album's finest moment, and for some reason, having listened to this track for the first time in ages, it's more standard Rock'n'Roll riffing reminds me of something Kiss might have come up with at the time.


Every Rainbow album is good, but it's hard to argue against 'Rising' being the band's greatest achievement. It's an incredibly powerful album, largely down to the fact that both Dio and Powell were two of the most powerful sounding musicians there have ever been in the rock world. Both of course are now sadly no longer with us, but this album is testament to their greatness.


Obviously with this being a Deluxe Edition CD reissue, you don't get sides one & two anymore, so what extras do you get? Well for a start you get the whole album twice, one with an 'NY' mix and the other an 'LA' mix. To be honest, I can't really tell one from the other, they both sound great - this is 'Rainbow Rising' after all! The second disc contains rough mixes of each track, which sound a little rawer than the finished articles and are definitely worth a listen. There's also a very poorly recorded tour rehearsal of 'Stargazer' that's largely a complete waste of time.


So there you have it, two of Rainbow's very finest moments lushly repackaged as Deluxe Edition CDs. Both are all time classic heavy rock albums that belong in every rock fan's collection. Me...I'll stick with my well-worn vinyl originals on this occasion.