Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rainbow - 1975 - Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow

01. Man On The Silver Mountain (4:37)
02. Self Portrait (3:12)
03. Black Sheep Of The Family (3:19)
04. Catch The Rainbow (6:36)
05. Snake Charmer (4:30)
06. Temple Of The King (4:42)
07. If You Don't Like Rock 'n' Roll (2:36)
08. Sixteenth Century Greensleeves (3:29)
09. Still I'm Sad (3:53)

- Ronnie James Dio / lead vocals
- Ritchie Blackmore / guitar, arrangements
- Mickey Lee Soule / piano, Mellotron, organ, clavinet
- Craig Gruber / bass
- Gary Driscoll / drums

Backing Vocals – Shoshana Feinstein

Masterminded by Ritchie Blackmore, the guitarist of Deep Purple, Rainbow recorded nine studio albums between 1975 and 1995. The period between 1975 and 1978 (also known as the Dio Era) would be remembered as the most important incarnation of the band. Blending hard rock with classical music, Rainbow paved the way for many Progressive and Progressive Metal bands with their musical virtuosity and the "sword, magic and wizardry" imagery in their lyrics. Blackmore´s strength in improvisation led to many live albums, which are still being remastered and released until this day. 

In 1975, after Deep Purple had released "Stormbringer", Ritchie Blackmore had become disillusioned with the funk/soul elements that were being introduced by David Coverdale and Glenn Hughes, and also wanted to express his ideas that were being suppressed in Deep Purple. He went into the studio with an American band, Elf, which were to act only as a session band. Rainbow's debut was actually recorded whilst Ritchie was still a member of Deep Purple! This took place just before Deep Purple's European tour to support "Stormbringer". The line up at this stage was Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Ronnie James Dio (vocals), Gary Driscoll (drums), Craig Gruber (bass) and Mickey Lee Soule (piano, Mellotron, clavinet and organ). Blackmore instantly struck up a strong working relationship with the lead vocalist of Elf, Ronnie James Dio. Their shared interests in both medieval and hard rock music would build the foundations for "Ritchie Blackmore´s Rainbow", in which Blackmore and Dio shared all the songwriting credits. Extremely pleased with the results of the recording session with Elf, Blackmore decided to quit Deep Purple and form Ritchie Blackmore´s Rainbow.

"Ritchie Blackmore´s Rainbow" was released in August 1975, but even before its release, the first of a long line of musicians had already been fired. Bassist Craig Gruber was given his marching orders and this marked the beginning of Blackmore´s policy of firing and hiring musicians at the drop of a hat. After the debut album was released, all the members of Elf (except for Dio) were replaced. Blackmore recruited two unknowns, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboardist Tony Carey. Former Jeff Beck drummer Cozy Powell was brought in to complete the line -up. Their second album, "Rising", contained three lengthy compositions, "Tarot Woman", "A Light in the Black" and the all-time classic Rainbow track, "Stargazer" which featured The Munich Philharmonic Orchestra. This album is widely regarded as the essential Rainbow album among their legions of fans.

Many of the shows on the 1976/77 World Tour were recorded (many so safely guarded that they would be released twenty years later), and a double live album, On Stage, surfaced in 1977. The live album included Rainbow's version of Deep Purple's "Mistreated" and the classic "Catch the Rainbow" from their debut album, which clocked in at over fifteen minutes. Many regard this line-up (Blackmore, Dio, Powell, Carey and Bain) as the classic Rainbow line-up. In May 1977, bassist Jimmy Bain was replaced by Mark Clarke. That same year in August, Clarke as well as keyboardist Tony Carey were replaced by Bob Daisley (bass) and David Stone (keyboards) At the end of that year, Rainbow released "Long Live Rock ´n Roll". On the track "Gates of Babylon" Blackmore decided to use The Bavarian String Ensemble. String accompaniment was also used on the ballad, "Rainbow Eyes"

Never Forgotten!

1975, and Blackmore had finally had a terminal fallout with Deep Purple, although it seemed to mainly be the funky direction set by Hughes & Coverdale that really lay at the heart of the problem. So, he formed a band with himself and Elf, led by the, well, elf-like Ronnie James Dio from the States.
Right from the word go, with the eternal classic Man On The Silver Mountain, Blackmore began to set his imprint of a band going back to basics, focusing on hard rock as an art form, with blues and folk based leanings. He also, of course, set the ultimately terminal course of his baby by beginning to sack anyone who he didn't like the look of first thing in the morning. By the time this rather good debut was released, only he and Dio remained, with the remainder of Elf probably feeling like the jilted bride at the alter after the promise of future riches being blown away.

This is a solid album, without ever really approaching true classic status. Rather, it should be regarded as the initial statement by two heavy rock gods laying down their initial template, from which great things would be built.

The aforementioned opener is a genuine classic, still sung by Dio on stage up until the point of his passing away. Sixteenth Century Greensleeves, with its medieval influence, is a very early foretaste of the direction Blackmore would take when he finally left Purple and hard rock forever and moved in with his missus. Temple Of The King is the one almost forgotten Rainbow track that every completionist should definitely own, a beautifully sung track with subtle backing by Blackmore, who makes his instrument sing with the vocalist.

My personal favourite is Catch The Rainbow, extended to ridiculous lengths on the classic On Stage live double album, but here a track of exceptional feeling, maturity, and heralding, to me, the onset of a writing partnership that was to define the maturation of hard rock in the late 1970's and influence a huge number of post rock bands in later years. Dio rarely sounded better, and the true musicianship of Blackmore is very much to the fore.

Elsewhere, the album closer, Still I'm Sad, a cover of a classic Yardbirds track, is poignant when one considers the split from Purple and extremely well performed. Much of the rest is simply high quality mid 1970's rock, nothing more, nothing less, no bad thing if, like me, you were awakening to the joys of such music at about this time.

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