Rainbow, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)
Thing is, by 1975, most of the decade’s best heavy rock had already been made. The psychedelic era was over. Black Sabbath had done Master of Reality, and Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, The Stooges and Pink Floyd had (at least arguably) hit their peak, not to mention the slew of heavy rock acts that popped up and had by then receded — Sir Lord Baltimore, Cactus, Atomic Rooster, Buffalo and the like. Some had gone super-prog like Jethro Tull and others, like King Crimson, were already there. Hawkwind still had some cool stuff going on, as did plenty of others and heavy metal proper would start to take shape before 1980, but still. All of a sudden, here’s Ritchie Blackmore, out of Deep Purple post-Stormbringer, linked up with some dude named Ronnie James Dio from a band called Elf, and they blow out one of rock and roll’s all-time powerhouse records. With most of Elf as their backing band, Blackmore and Dio concocted one of rock’s most essential debuts in 1975’s Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, reviving the former’s career and establishing the latter as a major presence on some of the world’s biggest stages.
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was the first of three records that, by my judgment, are indispensable. No single one of them is perfect, but when Rainbow, who shifted their lineup after Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow to become a more permanent project, locked in, they simply could not be argued with. The first album has more than a few of those moments. Of course there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain,” and the ripping Quartermass cover “Black Sheep of the Family,” but even the subdued groove-blues of “Catch the Rainbow” has movement at its center, and the fantasy elements that came together across “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” and “The Temple of the King” established what became the lyrical basis of a good portion of Dio‘s career. True, Craig Gruber (bass), Gary Driscoll (drums) and Micky Lee Soule (keys, clarinet) kind of got the shaft in being ousted before 1976’s Rising – to be replaced by Jimmy Bain, Cozy Powell and Tony Carey, respectively — and they basically had their singer swiped out from under them by Blackmore, but the results speak for themselves. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Rising and 1978’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll are as much monuments to ego as to talent, but they prove just how much room there was for both in this band at that point in time.
And Gruber, Driscoll and Soule made their presence felt in cuts like “If You Don’t Like Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the closing Yardbirds cover “Still I’m Sad,” both of which played off a strong sense of boogie while also showcasing Blackmore‘s inhuman ability and command as a lead guitarist. Any given day, I could pick any one of the first three Rainbow records as my favorite, but no question the first of them was a special moment put to tape and had a kind of let’s-try-this-and-see-what-happens air to it that even a year later they’d never be able to capture again. A complete classic.
I hope you enjoy it.
By way of a confession, and a transgression I hope you’ll forgive, I didn’t put the Rainbow record on while I typed out the above. A couple minutes here or there, but I’ve had a severe-enough headache for most of the night that I couldn’t really hang with the front to back and wanted something I knew well enough that I wouldn’t need to. My brain feels like it’s throwing itself against the sides of my skull like it’s trying to break a door down so it can escape. I almost went with Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll for “Sensitive to Light” alone. It would be only too appropriate as I sit here and type in the dark, which I think is actually bad for a headache with the light from the computer monitor, but I’ve got that turned way down as well. Still a bit of throb going on.
Anyway, I’ll crash out shortly. If you’re in the States, I hope you had an excellent Thanksgiving yesterday. Much family time on my end. Tomorrow, The Patient Mrs. and I drive back north to Massachusetts from New Jersey — I got my license back (did I tell you about that? It was like I pulled a bad card from the Monopoly deck; “bureaucratic issue, go directly to the Registry of Motor Vehicles”), so I can actually drive — and hopefully we’ll get some rest before next week starts. Could use a quiet afternoon, to be honest. And some Advil.
Next week, look out for a Balam track stream on Monday, plus reviews of Deadpeach, a new split between Goya and Wounded Giant and Stone Machine Electric‘s new tape. We’re getting on December, so it’ll be time to start the year-end wrap-ups soon, and I have a few new ideas for that I’d like to work in, provided there’s time. Or maybe they’re not new and I thought of the same stuff last year, didn’t get to it and forgot to write it down. That’s entirely possible. Either way we’ll try again. I’m also already planning out this year’s best-of podcast. It will be up before Xmas. Not that it would be a huge draw either way, but I might talk on it. Probably not. But maybe.
Gonna try to get my interview with Alunah online this week as well, so keep an eye out for that.
All the best to you and yours as we move into the holiday season. Before we get there, though, I hope you have a great and safe weekend.
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