RAINBOW • RISING (Oyster OY-1-1601)

From Deep Purple's earliest recordings to this second album with his solo group, there's no mistaking a record in which Ritchie Blackmore is involved. Here, abetted by lyricist/vocalist Ronnie Dio, guitarist/composer Blackmore continues to lord over his peculiarly dark corner of the universe.

The problem, compounded on the both Rainbow albums by the lyrics, lies in the discrepancy between the listener's and Blackmore/Dio's reality. Evil is the prominent subject, but what's portrayed is either too ambiguous (the apparently diabolical wizard in "Stargazer") or too mundane (the autograph-hunting groupie in "Starstruck") to merit attention.

Blackmore's songs have a predilection for minor modes and simple riffs punctuated predictably and often with syncopated power chording; the result is disjointed, grandiose and humorless - a gothic heavy metal style.

Dio is certainly the match for Blackmore, in both his relentlessly impassioned warbling vocals and his lyrics, which uncover apocalypse at every turn. "There's a hole in the sky / Something evil's passing by" Dio spits and snarls, but what he is describing is usually called spring fever.

Even after Blackmore mounts the most successful musical attack of the album, replete with Who-like slashing guitar chords, all Dio can muster -albeit with exceptional angst- is: "Do you close your eyes / When you're making love?" If this ia the denouement, what's all the fuss about?

Blackmore's guitar soloing has always been the saving grace of his compositions. He has a full-bodied, fluid style, most effectively displayed here on "A Light in the Black," and he can stutter and wail with the best blues-rock guitarists. Unfortunately, on Rising the setting is too distracting. In a less gloomily banal context, his playing might shine.

Robert Duncan, Rolling Stone - July 1976

RAINBOW • RISING (Oyster/Polydor)

Wow, a new Ritchie Blackmore album! Hot off the trots and ready to guitar-masticate your mind until even the whole rest of you is just one big blob of ABC gum. I mean, you gotta admire Ritchie. Why? Because he's a total asshole. Pouts, snits, wears black leather like it means something and even brags about it.

"I wear black leather and I don't give a damn," he told interviewer Cameron Crowe in the pages of this very magazine last year. So you can see that this palooka is no chump to bait. He also told Crowe he keeps his business offices in Germany because he empathizes with the real deal the Germans got in World War II. The very sight of his nose epitomizes danger. A tiger. A wolf-schmidt. A guitar wiresurd now trying to be a true star.

So how does he stand up in the image/media/public-personja sweepstakes? Well, he could pull crows to a cornpatch at sunset. Because he be mucho macho tough mean biznez badass. Look at the evidence. Throws steaks around restaurants if they miss his specifications by even one ion. Alienates just about everybody around by similarly abrasive sans rationale behavior. Gives better than average interviews because like Ted Nugent he has nothing good to say about anybody or anything.

Now, Deep Purple, Ritchie's old venue, were (I'm assuming that, as I've heard, they broke up. These days you never know.) a formula band in it for the money pure and very simple. Jon Lord was the only one of them with any brains, in fact he was smart enough to realize from the top that this whole D.P. gig was just a shuck to cop big bread, which at the time I interviewed him he of course could not admit for obvious reasons so instead he copped off with "Of course we're journeymen, and what's wrong with that?"

But Ritchie. Well, Ritchie was famed for, among other cakewalks, laying his guitar on the stage and strolling up and down the length of its strings. With jackboots yet. He treated his fretboard like huey Long would a recalcitrant Negro. Which was fine by me. I mean, haven't we all had it up to here with guitars, aren't there at least 230.000 too many electric guitars in the world, weren't you glad even in '65 when Townshend first smashed his to smithereens? Sure.

But you'd be surprised what happens when you go to interview these guys. When I asked Ritchie why he liked to take constitutionals on his fretboard, he responded straightfaced with nary a hint of irony: "Yeah, I always wanted to play with my toes... I thought it would feel good. I should imagine a person if they had no hands might get into something... You know Django Reinhardt? He was my idol. He could only move his hand, and created fantastic music."

Deed he did. But Ritchie saying that, in the light of his music, is Kind of like Kiss letting on they been bigly fluenced (if not financed) by Alban Berg. I mean forget it. When D. Purp were still alive, lots of people thought Ritchie was a hot hailstromming guitarro, much better perhaps than the sonic schlubs he had da work with, and I imagine Ritchie was not the last person in the world to come to this conclusion, so here's the second big rave-up from his OWN group Rainbow, the very title of which most aptly demonstrates the man's gift for imagery.

And yeah, he is quite a hot mashdown metal marksman, he doth cook both in D. Purp and hereabouts, but one cooker on any axe duz not a great Rock And Roll Band make, which is why I am not going to comment on any of the individual songs on Rainbow Rising, because they are not in truth songs at all but merely excuses for Ritchie to go apeshit and trod upon his fretboard with his palms, sweat-beaded forehead, belt buckle, dropped hangnails, dislocated ribs, etc. I think he also does something with his fingers but we gotta sell this magazine in supermarkets and you know how those housewife/mothers are.

Ritchie plays herein like he was being chased by a blowtorch-wielding PLO terrorist and that guy with the flesh mask and saw in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. And I think they're chasing Ritchie into the heart of the Cold Center. Because if right and left are both after your ass and you can't leave the stage where the fuck do you go but upfront and center and solemn?

So he ends up as stultified as he ever musta felt in Purple, even though he's supposedly calling the shots. Nobody in this band can write, the singer whose name I don't know and why bother to find out might even be Ritchie himself is every lame Rob Plant/Oz Osbourne/Jack Bruce/Ian Gillian limey stereotype squealayakoff you ever heard, which maybe is why Ritchie reserves side two for two extended pieces where he extends his guitar until it begins to resemble a taffy pull performed by Washington while crossing the Delaware with one stooge standing back on shore holding the other end. Plus which all the good stuff he played on Deep Purple in Rock I'd swear was copped straight out from the MC5, Fred Smith and Wayne Kramer who really were rock'n'roll wether they wore jackets of any kind because they certainly gave a damn. SO do I, but not about Blackmore, his ego-tripping guitarists trying to build mystiques by living totally infantile anal-agressive lifestyle and bragging about it while putting out music as slop-ridden as the walls of whatever restaurant housed Ritchie's worst temper tantrum.

Lester Bangs, Creem Magazine - August 1976

RAINBOW • RISING (Polydor 2391 224)

RainbowFlame's Metal Domain Review

Every once in a while an album will come along that will raise the standard for its genre of music. 'Rainbow - Rising' was and still is such an album. When you consider that this album was released in 1976 it makes it even more phenomenal that it is still such a big influence and a release by which others are rated. 'Rainbow - Rising' defines epic metal in its 6 tracks and 33 minute running time. Everything about this release is near utter perfection - Ronnie James Dio's soaring vocals, Ritchie Blackmore's supremely confident guitar work, the bone crushing rhythm section of Cozy Powell [RIP] on drums and Jimmy Bain on bass, all this is iced perfectly by Tony Carey's keyboard work. Overall this is a monster of an album from the opening hurricane of 'Tarot Woman', to bounce of 'Starstruck' not to mention perhaps the best metal track ever in 'Stargazer'. Everything you need to know is here and is as good every time you listen to it. The production by Martin Birch is superb, Cozy's drums have an air to them that is rarely heard while Blackmore's Strat slices your head off majestically, whilst Dio's vocals are enough to make you forget near enough every other vocalist. Its magical album that thoroughly deserves all the praise its ever received.

1. TAROT WOMAN (5.58) - Mystical ' Mini Moog' keys open the track and pulls you into the spell right from the off. The swirling sounds build to a climax before Ritchie Blackmore enters with a simple but enticing riff before Cozy Powell assaults your eardrums with a drum fill that leads into the main verse. Here the instruments interact so well that it is impossible not to be hooked to this 'gothic smeared mystical groove' (thanks Alanna). Dio comes roaring in with 'I don't wanna go, something tells me no no no. The traces in the sand, the lines within my hand say go go go'. The conviction of Dio's voice of these vocals is eerie to say the least and that's part of his magic that makes him so good. The chorus is again enticing 'Beware of a place, a smile on a bright shining face, I'll never return how do you know? Tarot Woman'. This paves way for Blackmore's first solo on the album and it is up there with his very best, at first relatively restraint before building through a melody of the chorus then into overdrive with some stunning licks and phrases that are among the best he has committed to tape - STUNNING. The track goes through another verse and chorus before Tony Carey sees the track out with more 'Moog' excess over the pounding rhythm.

2. RUN WITH THE WOLF (3.48) - The pace drops slightly for this moody, blues medieval laced track. Again Dio is pure magic while Cozy's drums continue to pound your internal organs with every beat of the skins. "There's a hole in the sky, something evils passing by, what's to come when the siren call to go, to Run With The Wolf". The track has an upbeat quality that keeps the dark lyrics from making you too withdrawn into yourself , while Blackmore's throws in a slide solo which defines the word 'moody'. Chills down the spine ever time.... A bit of an odd track to describe but a very strong one again. The outro sees the pace pick up with Blackmore, Powell and Dio getting more worked up, before....

3. STARSTRUCK (4.06) - A bouncing riff opens the track before the groove settles down for the verse - "If I'm high on the hill she would still be looking down on me". The lyrics tell the story of a woman who follows you everywhere you go, not in body but in spirit - "I could fly to the moon but she would still find a way to be there", "The lady's Starstruck, she's nothing but bad luck, coming after me". The solo is quite simplistic and full of melodic charm i.e. perfectly suited. A good track that is perhaps the most upbeat on the album.

4. DO YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES (2.58) - The most straightforward track on the album, the chorus is quite commercial and again features a great vocal performance. The simple riff is reminiscent of Blackmore's work in Deep Purple. Overall its a good track but the weakest on the album.

5. STARGAZER (8.26) - I shouldn't have to really tell you folk about this track I hope?! Quite simple one of the best tracks ever, its all here from the spellbinding riff to the powerhouse vocals, this track is quite simply THE majestic epic. Not once does the track bore, all eight and a half minutes are so magical and captivating that you will not quite believe the power this track has. Everything is perfect - the drums, the bass, the parping keyboards not to mention the solo - which comes searing through your ears on every spin. Dio's vocals soar as expected but even here they manage to sound that bit more magical. Special praise must go to Cozy's drumming which in my view helps make this track what it is - listen to that double bass drum assault, the distinctive snare sound - its sooo good!! The lyrics tell the small story about a wizard, a man who takes people and makes slaves of them. He has them build a huge tower to the sky and the stars - hence the title 'Stargazer'. This track is everything you want in metal and that really sums it up the best stunning.

6. A LIGHT IN THE BLACK (8.12) - Cozy's drumming again opens the track for this pulsating track. This is one of the hardest hitting Rainbow tracks along with 'Kill The King' and 'Death Alley Driver', the riff is relentless and takes no prisoners and many a metal band have used this track as a basis for their own [WASP's 'Arena Of Pleasure' anyone?]. Tony Carey throws in an impressive Moog solo that works well over the intense rhythm before a scalding neo-classical section that sees Carey and Blackmore trading lines. Blackmore's lone solo is full of his distinctive runs and licks all with that great Stratocaster tone again. The production from Martin Birch helps keep the sound cemented together and the speakers grown at the pummeling they receive. A great track from a great album.

This album is one of those very rare things - near perfection from start to finish. None of the tracks disappoint, 'Do You Close Your Eyes' is the weak link personally but this doesn't char the overall impact of this album. 'Rainbow Rising' is a breath of fresh air every time you play it, from the stunning vocals, to the musical interplay, practically everything about this album is so right, even the cover perfectly represents what is inside.

Many of Blackmore's best cuts are here - 'Tarot Woman', 'Stargazer' and 'A Light In The Black' all have that special something that connects your ears to your heart and permanently etches these tracks into your soul. This album is that good, and its down to the fact that no-one overpowers the other. Each member works together to create the sonic powerhouse heard throughout. Only one word can describe this album and that is - ESSENTIAL.


Andy Craven, RainbowFlame's Metal Domain Review 2000