AT LONG last Rainbow have released a new album, despite the fact that its emergence was becoming increasingly unlikely. The reasons for doubt were the gradual demise of the band after the disappointing "Long Live Rock And Roll," and the continual arrivals and departures within the line-up.
Critics of the former Deep Purple guitarist would certainly have relished knocking the final nail in his professional coffin had this new album been a failure - but, as it happens, Blackmore has triumphed, making sufficient progress beyond the previous studio output to satisfy loyal, fans and ensure a bright future.
Hitherto "Rainbow Rising" - which boasted such all-time heavy rock classics as "Stargazer," "A Light In The Black" and "Tarot Woman" - has generally been regarded as Rainbow at their very best, but that accolade must now be shared with "Down To Earth." To achieve this standard with different musicians and mounting outside pressures is no mean task.
The 1979 Rainbow glows with the addition of former Colosseum II keyboard player Don Airey and a new vocalist in Graham Bonnet, but unquestionably the most valuable new member is Roger Glover. Like Ritchie, Roger has worked consistently since leaving Purple, and has been involved in both production and playing, but since their separation neither has managed to re-scale the dizzy heights of the Purple era.
Now the two musicians have resumed their unique relationship, combining to write all but one of the songs on the new album. In fact Glover has assumed another important role in the band, by producing the record as well.
Only Cozy Powell remains from the original Rainbow, continuing to provide the distinctive "crash-bang-wallop" drumming which has always been a characteristic of the group's music.
"Down To Earth" comprises eight tracks, leading off with "All Night Long." The immediate impression is that Rainbow have strayed towards a more commercial line with this number and, in point of fact, a far superior opener would have been the second cut, "Eyes Of The World," a decidedly stronger and heavier affair, where hints of items such as "Gates Of Babylon" and "Stargazer" are in evidence. It features a dramatic classically-based introduction, before hurtling along at gale force until Ritchie himself breaks the flow with a smart guitar break.
Next in line is a rocker, "No Time To Lose," a number where Ritchie's axework and Don Airey's keyboards blend majestically. By now it's also apparent that Graham Bonnet's vocal chords are ideally suited to the music. The first side closes with "Makin' Love" which - deceptively - seems to be the slowest song of the bunch until it builds pace, showcasing Ritchie in a slightly laidback mood.
The only tame track on the whole album is the first on side two, a rendition of Russ Ballard's "Since You Been Gone." As with "All 'Night Long," it adheres to a more commercial pattern and is probably destined for release as a single.
On subsequent tracks, hard rock tends to dominate and with "Love's No Friend" the band establishes a powerful heavy atmosphere, happily maintained by the Zeppelinesque "Danger Zone." Halfway through the latter it's once again Don and Ritchie who shine, each providing ace solo work.
Cozy has his minor moment of glory with some frenzied drumming at the beginning of "Lost In Hollywood," whose riotous riffing is an amalgam of "Burn" and "Lady Double Dealer" from late Purple days, but Blackmore steals the limelight with a challenging solo; this outburst of great axe is possibly his finest work on the record.
Thus Rainbow have made a concerted effort towards survival in the rock world - where, if the current line-up is consolidated with minimal internal bickering, opportunities will abound for them in the future. Much depends on Ritchie, who would be singularly foolish to endanger his career further by failing to settle down and concentrate on writing and playing of the calibre displayed on "Down To Earth."
Steve Gett, Melody Maker - July 1979
RAINBOW • DOWN TO EARTH (Polydor POLD 5023)
Lost in the danger zone
THE OLD: 'I'm the man on the silver mountain!'
And the new: 'I lose my mind when we're makin' love!'
Compare and contrast. Add and subtract. Weigh and evaluate...
In line with Ronnie James Dio's departure and Rainbow's new, much-touted 'commercial consciousness', this new LP 'Down To Earth' (aptly titled, as it turns out) contains no tracks with titles like 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves' and 'Stargazer', no sword and sorcery slanted lyrics, a tight rein being kept on the quality of wild romance.
Instead, we have numbers called 'All Night Long', 'No Time To Lose'and 'Love's No Friend', songs that adhere closely to the tried and trusted heavy rock formula of grabbin' a woman, gettin' down havin' a real good time. (Note if you please the all-important use of the apostrophe in the latter half of the preceding sentence.)
But don't despair AOR-haters, contrary to previous reports Rainbow most definitely haven't done a Foreigner' and mustered an all-out, assault on US drive-time radio. No, the music's hard hitting and much the same, it's just that Dio's leave taking (did he fall or was he pushed? Will we ever find out?) and Roger Glover's subsequent arrival has made for this natural lyrical progression (to be cruel, it could be labelled 'regression'). And being a fan of Kiss, a band that associates itself with some of the dumbest R&R words known to mankind. I shouldn't really be complaining. But somehow it just doesn't seem right...
While on one hand the band must be commended for keeping matters short and simple on this album (no meandering three-and-a-half hour versions of 'Catch The Rainbow' f'rinstance) nonetheless feel myself pining for the days of yore, when even the band's more basic tracks such as 'Lady Starstruck' and 'Long Live Rock And Roll' had an epic feel, were much more than mere rollicking good-time, four minute throwaways.
Still, times change and so do bands. The latest Rainbow line up reads Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Graham Bonnet (vocals... his surname's spelt Bonnet but pronounced 'Bonney', which partly explains this paper inconsistent spelling of it), Roger Glover (bass), Don Airey (keyboards) and Cozy Powell (drums).
And I agree with Powell's comments of a few weeks back, this is the strongest version of the band so far - in the keyboard department in particular, Don Airey making his predecessors sound like ham-fisted singalong pub piano players.
No so keen on Bonnet's vocals however, I must admit. While he's got a hell of a lot more range and variation to his 'chords than Dio, to my ears on this album he tries a trifle too hard, his shouts'n'screams seemingly resulting from a conscious effort on his part (not as bad as John Lawton, but maybe getting that way...).
Track by track, then: 'All Night Long' is the album opener, one of the unpretentious stompers mentioned earlier... and with words like 'Wanna touch ya / Wanna feel ya / Wanna make ya mine' it could so easily be one out of the Simmons/Stanley songbook.
Next up: 'Eyes Of The World', a brief 'Rainbow Rising' recollection, an Oldfieldesque intro leading into some hugely entertaining HM dramatics, Powell thundering away like he was Thor beating Mjolnir repeatedly on Loki's skull and Blackmore soloing in wondrously classical style (unfortunate reference to the title of a Uriah Heep album in the lyrics however, see if you can spot it).
Final tracks on side one are 'No Time to Lose' and 'Makin' Love', enjoyable, energetic thrash and bash workouts, but they could - should - have been so much more.
Side two starts with Rainbow's stab at Top 30 success, Russ Ballard's 'Since You've Been Gone'. I can't understand why they decided to record it when Clout's rendition of the number has been such a big hit so recently. And I can't imagine Blackmore stooping so low as to play this, let alone smash his Strat at the end of it. It really is the pits.
Thankfully matters pick up with 'Love's No Friend', heavy metal blues in the finest 'Mistreated' tradition. Bonnet's vocals send shivers up the spine for the first time: 'Ah learn to live with a cloud 'bove my head / Got no shame / Got no pride / Got no feelin's left inside...' Masterful.
'Danger Zone' (also the title of an old Russ Ballard track, trivia fans... only this one's a Rainbow original) follows, fast and furious and rather familiar, 'Gates Of Babylon'-style speed and ambition running hand-in-hand with Far Eastern freneticism, Bonnet urging the listener to 'Take no chances in the danger zone' (maybe they should heed their own advice?).
Final cut is 'Lost In Hollywood', an at times uncomfortable amalgam of the old, romantic Rainbow and the new commercial motivated band... clever Airey keyboard work however, and a delightfully pompy mid-section.
A confused and rambling review this, to be sure. The new Rainbow incarnation has a lot to recommend it; similarly this album is definitely 'worth listening to'... but in these days of the 5 album is it truly worth buying'? After infinitely careful consideration I can't bring myself to award it more than three stars. That should tell the tale.
Geoff Barton, Sounds - July 28, 1979
RAINBOW • DOWN TO EARTH (Polydor PD-1-6221)
Just one spin of "Eyes Of The World" will convince you that Ritchie Blackmore's guitar chops are as hot as ever. And his playing on the LP's other seven cuts isn't shoddy, either. Power rock and roll constitute Rainbow's musical fare, and throughout Blackmore shines with combinations of strong, taut chording and clean, slick leads.
There's something for everyone on this album: Aficionados of FM radio should find tunes like "All Night Long" and "Since You Been Gone" to their liking, while rock fans with more melodic sensibilities will respond favorably to songs like "Makin' Love."
But taken as a package, Down To Earth is probably not where you'll be after listening to Rainbow's newest.
JS, Guitar Player USA 1979
RAINBOW • DOWN TO EARTH (Polydor PD-1-6221)
The cast of characters changes but the song remains the same. For "Down to Earth," Rainbow's fifth LP, guitarist. Ritchie Blackmore and holdover drummer Cozy Powell assembled one technically accomplished but virtually inaudible keyboard player (Don Airey), another stentorian lungbuster of a lead singer (Graham Bonnet) and Blackmore's former Deep Purple compatriot Roger Glover on bass.
Glover's production lends a more controlled, pop-oriented flavor but the music still consists of thunderous metallic riffs topped by the occasional progressive flourish and lyrics of the "Don't know about your brain/But you look right" variety. All competently performed heavy metal, to be sure, but Rainbow (which plays the Long Beach Arena next Sunday) remains a prime example of the lumbering dinosaur bands that have been bypassed by the musical times.
Don Snowden, The Los Angeles Times - November 4, 1979