Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rainbow - 1976 - Rising


New York Mix
101. Tarot Woman 6:05
102. Run With The Wolf 3:45
103. Starstruck 4:08
104. Do You Close Your Eyes 3:00
105. Stargazer 8:31
106. A Light In The Black 8:11
Los Angeles Mix
107. Tarot Woman 6:04
108. Run With The Wolf 3:45
109. Starstruck 4:04
110. Do You Close Your Eyes 2:58
111. Stargazer 8:22
112. A Light In The Black 8:11

Previously Unreleased Bonus Tracks
201. Tarot Woman (Rough Mix) 6:06
202. Run With The Wolf (Rough Mix) 3:49
203. Starstruck (Rough Mix) 4:04
204. Do You Close Your Eyes (Rough Mix) 3:04
205. Stargazer (Rough Mix) 9:08
206. A Light In The Black (Rough Mix) 8:12
207. Stargazer (Pirate Sound Tour Rehearsal) 8:33

- Ronnie James Dio / lead vocals, arrangements
- Ritchie Blackmore / guitar, arrangements
- Tony Carey / keyboards, Vako Orchestron (CD2.5 intro)
- Jimmy Bain / bass
- Cozy Powell / drums

- Munich Philarmonic Orchestra / strings & horns (5)
- Rainer Pietsch / orchestrator & conductor
- Fritz Sonneleitner / concertmaster

Every lover of rock music ought to have this stunning album in their collection. And every fan of metal ought to listen to it regularly, reminding themselves of their genre's origins.
RAINBOW was the hard rock supergroup assembled by RITCHIE BLACKMORE after he left DEEP PURPLE in the mid 1970s. This was going to be bigger than purple - after all, a rainbow has all the colours. Their first eponymous album was disjointed though it showed promise, but this, their second album, is where everything came together. Every member of the band was at the height of their powers, and in a mere 33 minutes each band member has ample space to contribute their own genius. The superb songwriting on this record deserves to be highlighted: a blend of short, sharp rockers with not a bloated note anywhere and three magnificent extended tracks. Frankly, this album almost serves as a 'Greatest Hits' for RAINBOW, so uniformly excellent is their work here.

The first side of the album begins with 'Tarot Woman', an extended keyboard introduction building energy, leading to a dramatic, above-average rocker. RONNIE JAMES DIO is perhaps an acquired taste - I found his distinctive exaggerated tremolo hard to take initially - but it is suited to the semi-operatic style he adopts and the storytelling lyrics that characterise this album. COZY POWELL lays the strongest of foundations with his double bass drum attack, and BLACKMORE has never sounded better. The intensity drops a little with 'Run Like The Wolf' and 'Starstruck', but these songs are better than anything DEEP PURPLE was cobbling together in the mid-70s. And certainly better than the KISS-inspired pap masquerading as rock. 'Do You Close Your Eyes' is this album's little mistake, a short love song in somewhat bad taste. For those of you who demand perfection before you award five stars, subtract a star.

Side Two, however, is a level above anything hard rock had hitherto brought to the table, and must be listened to repeatedly at maximum volume. 'Stargazer' is, simply put, one of the most influential tracks in rock. However, I'd like to consider Side Two as one unit - after all, 'A Light in the Black' continues the story begun in 'Stargazer' (a wizard tries to learn the secret of flight, enslaving men to help him build a tower. He dies in the attempt, setting the slaves free). 'A Light in the Black' tells the story of one man's journey home. So, here we have a common progressive theme (fantasy) and the music is most certainly prog. From the rollicking drum prelude through the guitar motifs and the astonishing variety of vocal hooks, 'Stargazer' grabs your attention immediately. It is, however, the gargantuan keyboard lead in the chorus (with the vocal responding) that gives this song its mystical flavour. There's a central guitar solo - easily the best thing to come from BLACKMORE'S fingers, you forget such naivety as 'Smoke on the Water's riff - which builds into a series of rising notes that bring us back into the narrative of the song.

The final two minutes feature DIO at his very best, with a series of rising exclamations ('My eyes are bleeding!' 'There's a rainbow rising!') with the band at their bombastic best, backed by a full orchestra into an extended fadeout. I wish I could listen to this again for the first time, so breathtaking did I find it in 1976.

'A Light in the Black' is a much faster track, sounding for all the world like an ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND workout, something from 'Live at Fillmore East' perhaps, but with a much heavier, driving beat. The central section of the song is a series of frenetic soloing from keyboardist and guitarist, an over-the-top celebration of freedom that leaves the listener breathless. A final rock-n-roll ending - the boys deserve it - and the album is over far too soon.

This is how they made music back then. It's an album that retains every bit of its lustre three decades after it was recorded. An essential element in the history of rock, 'Rainbow Rising' is one of the most impressive albums of the 1970s and perhaps the best of its year.

Tarot Woman opens with a one and a half minute flurrying, phasing keyboard run from new guy, and relative unknown, Tony Carey. This sets the scene for Blackmore to gradually crank up the volume on a menacing single-note rhythm that suddenly explodes into the main, driving riff.

Then the unmistakable tones of Ronnie James Dio knock you for six - the man could be singing about anything, the power of his vocal chords, the perfect intonation and the quality of the tones he produces are simply astonishing, no matter how many times you hear them.

A great opening, and great sound to a song that is, in itself, fairly unremarkable. The melodies are strong but forgettable, the key changes reasonably dynamic, and the performances driven with an almost unheard of precision in rock music of the time, but I find that the choppy drumming removes flow in an almost surgical manner, and the aimless noodling on both guitar and keyboards gets a bit tiring.

Run With The Wolf sounds a bit like an outtake from a Mark II Purple album. Again, all the elements are carefully in place, but the precision drumming does make the song feel rather cut up. Naturally, when you focus on the great Mr Dio's voice, the shivers run up and down the spine, but again, the song is pretty unremarkable, and Blackmore's soloing insipid. His interjections to Dio's vocal line have a decent loose and expressive feel, though, and the last minute of the song is significantly better than ther rest, as the band get into a groove.

Starstruck has a lot more groove going on - the change in gear is almost tangible as the energy of this song pours out at you, the drums flowing decently, and every change feeling like it's a part of the ongoing musical narrative rather than some afterthought. The slide guitar solo enters more interesting territory as Blackmore experiments with the possiblities of using the slide, and moves away from pentatonic noodling into something more melodic.

We're back to the choppy ploddy stuff for Do You Close Your Eyes - and it's worth nothing that we've heard little from Tony Carey apart from atmospherics, and absolutely nothing from fellow new guy Jimmy Bain... and we're still hearing little. Small wonder that Blackmore continually changed the line-up, as there are none of the personality players found in his previous band(s).

Now for the big event.

From the opening phased drums of Stargazer, you know you're in for something rather special. All the ingredients of the previous tracks are still here - inconsequential keyboards and bass, ploddy, precise drums, crunching power chords, and the majestic tones of Dio - but the overall feel has suddenly changed, like an aura of magic has descended on the group.

The verse lines are long and strung out, with decorative instrumental lines and sumptuous keyboard washes concentrating the mind on the moment rather than the journey - but Eastern flavoured motifs spring out of the guitar and keyboards, and suddenly some of Dio's rather nonsensical lyrics suddenly take on a life of their own and begin to make sense.

Then Blackmore winds out a perfect concoction of Eastern sounds, thanks to flurries around the harmonic minor scale, and microtonal note-bending and a not insubstantial amount of bluff - although here, again, the Rainbow magic is at work, making a mysterious sense out of the bluff. Some very tasteful dive-bombs later, and an even more impassioned vocal section follows, the vibrato in Dio's voice almost brass-like in quality, the spat out rhythmic patterns and note-bending giving more feel to the music than any note- flurry or technical display possibly could.

Underneath, there's the vaguely dissatisfying feeling that this is just a two-chord jam, in the manner of a psychedelic band - but, for a Hard Rock act, this is an act that's Hard to follow.

And it has to be said that Lights in Black does a good job to start with - it feels like part II of Stargazer somehow, uptempo and driving fast and hard, ex Jeff Beck group member Cozy Powell putting in a thumping battery on the double bass drums. This is quite an exit, and Blackmore and Carey's arpeggio duet puts me in mind of some of the duets he had with Jon Lord.

5 minutes of this feels a bit long though, especially when Blackmore goes off on a noodle trip. He fortunately brings it back to something a lot more melodic later - and I recognise the melody line as the same one Riot later used on the title track of the album Narita. There's lots to like about the ensuing duetting and soloing, and, of course, there's more Dio to look forward to - but nothing new is stated musically.

In Summary

Side 2 of the vinyl (the last two tracks) are well worth owning this album for, if you enjoy the heavier side of rock - although I'd argue that Stargazer is a song for all). The first side is second-rate hard rock, though, and the entire album is just the Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie Dio show, not an excursion into experimentation and improvisation by a great Prog Rock band.

Ultimately an energetic rock album that would be unremarkable if it were not for the tight precision in performance, the legacy of Blackmore, Stargazer, and above all, the astonishing vocalisations of one Ronnie James Dio.

I believe I’m well on record for being a connoisseur of deluxe editions.  I love to collect all the extra music, check out the liner notes, and feast on unreleased tracks.  The problem with Rainbow Rising is that no extra unreleased songs or demos survived. So, what you’ll get is three different and complete versions of Rainbow Rising, plus a tour rehearsal version of the quintessential Rainbow song, “Stargazer”. If you don’t want to hear the whole album three times in a row, plus a fourth version of “Stargazer”, then don’t buy this disc. Just stick with the regular CD.

The three versions of the album inside include a previously unreleased rough mix. This one is especially interesting because a lot of these song versions run slightly longer than the original album versions. Therefore, you will hear some valuable performance stuff that you haven’t heard before. The other two versions of the album include the “LA Mix” and “New York Mix”. The liner notes don’t go into detail here, but the original LP and CD versions of Rising had different mixes, and now they’re both here in one place. The differences are subtle, but those intimate with the album will recognize slightly different keyboard, vocal, and guitar parts. Previous to this, I had only owned the original CD edition, which was the “LA Mix”. Later CD editions had the “New York Mix” which I haven’t heard until now.

Lastly there is a tour rehearsal version of “Stargazer” from Pirate Sound, where Deep Purple rehearsed Come Taste the Band. It is surprisingly lo-fi considering where it was recorded. It sounds like somebody taped it on a hand held cassette deck. Not very listenable unfortunately, and kind of baffling why something this lo-fi would have been included at all. You can barely hear Dio at all at some points.  Still, there was room for it and why waste plastic, right?

This album itself is probably Rainbow’s best. That’s just my opinion. The renowned Martin Popoff ranked Down to Earth higher, but he did rank Rising highest of the Dio-era. I think five of these six songs are incredible. The only one I’m not especially fond of is “Do You Close Your Eyes”, which I just find doesn’t fit the overall darker direction of the album.  It would have sounded better on Blackmore’s Rainbow.  “Tarot Woman”, the album opener, is one of the most incredible songs Dio’s ever done. It’s absolutely a highlight of his storied career.  Cozy’s drum pounding is monumental throughout. “Light In The Black” is just furious jamming throughout. Incredible playing. And of course “Stargazer” is purely epic. The lyrics are cool and the keyboards just take the whole thing to another level. If I could only play one Rainbow song for the rest of my life, it would be “Stargazer”.

The liner notes don’t the mention any sources or history about the three different mixes at all, and I don’t really know anything about it. There is, however, a great interview with keyboardist Tony Carey, supplemented by an old one with Cozy Powell. The packaging, including cover art from Ken Kelly (Kiss Destroyer), looks amazing in digipack form.

While normally Rainbow Rising would be a 5 star winner, hands down, I left this deluxe edition feeling slightly disappointed. It is what it is, but I think I would have preferred some different bonus material. Maybe some live stuff. If no outtakes or extra songs exist in the vaults, there’s only so much you can include I guess.

I am hoping that someone can help me out finding a digital copy or a actual copy for sale of the Rainbow Rising Deluxe Manufactured and Printed in Thailand.  This version unlike the EU, Japan and other version of the Deluxe edition, includes two extra tracks at the end of disc 2. 

208. A Light In The Black [Pirate Sound Tour Rehearsal]9:52
209. Man On The Silver Mountain [Pirate Sound Tour Rehearsal]2:22

The tracks are not documented in print anywhere on the discs or packaging they are only found by actually loading the disc in player.  It is believed these tracks were originally planned for all versions and were pulled at the last minute but the Thailand version was accidentally overlooked. This version also has a heavy plastic Deluxe Edition slipcase.

Barcode and Other Identifiers of the Thai version:
Barcode: 600753322666
Rights Society: BIEM/SDRM
Label Code: LC06448
Matrix / Runout (Disc 1): 5332266-CD1 DIP00010110012 DDA 11010052 F40183 UM54-0177
Matrix / Runout (Disc 2): 5332266-CD2 DIP00010110012 DDA 11010053 F40184 UM54-0178

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