Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rainbow - Rising


You know you’re old school or just plain old if you’re into this album. I’ve known and loved it for years but recently picked up the excellent LP reissue on England’s Back On Black label and it’s been on non-stop rotation on my turntable. Talk about classic! Everything about this 1976 album is perfect. The striking front cover artwork by Ken Kelly is truly denim jacket worthy. The classy black and white band shots are powerful and mysterious. Martin Birch’s production is outstanding. But, most important, is the incredible songs and the superpowers of the musicians who created them.

After leaving Deep Purple, guitar wizard Ritchie Blackmore formed Rainbow with the one and only Ronnie James Dio to form one of the greatest alliances in all of heavy rock. Both men made great music before and after Rainbow Rising but this might be the peak for both of them. Then when you add the powerhouse drumming of Cozy Powell that’s a lot of talent and sky scraper egos in one unit.

“Tarot Woman” starts off with some atmospheric keyboards from Tony Carey. Right off the bat you know this was not meant to be a clone of Deep Purple, Jon Lord would never play like this. Not better or worse, but very different. When the band comes, the rhythm section of Cozy and bassist Jimmy Bain stomp hard and leave plenty of room for Blackmore’s guitar and Dio’s vocals. “Run With The Wolf” is another mid-paced rocker with a nice bluesy solo from Ritchie. Side one wraps up with the ass kicking “Starstruck.” Featuring an awesome riff that gets stuck in your head as soon as you hear it and a great arrangement, Dio’s vocals are so powerful.

Side two opens with the raunchy “Do You Close Your Eyes.” Dio’s lyrics are usually fantasy oriented but rarely sexual in nature and it’s a lot of fun to hear him howling “when you’re making sweet LOOOOOOVE to me!” on the chorus. It’s also a great lead in for the centerpiece of the album – “Stargazer.” The overused term “epic” really does apply here. Here’s a song that rivals Zep’s “Kashmir” in full on exotic heaviness. Cozy’s drum intro is breathtaking and Ritchie’s riff is one of the heaviest of all time. On the inside of the gatefold sleeve this is the only song that has the lyrics printed. If used the inside of the gatefold sleeve correctly then by the time this song came on your attitude had been properly adjusted and you could bug out on the amazing tale that Ronnie relates. The production on this song is majestic. There’s tons of phasing effects on all the instruments and towards the end the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra make this heavy song even heavier. It’s impossible to follow up this song, but the fast headbanger “A Light In The Black” wraps up the album nicely.

It’s a short album, only a little over half an hour that leaves you wanting more but it’s perfect as an LP. The Back On Black reissue is pressed on heavy duty vinyl and the short sides mean there’s plenty of room to spread the grooves for maximum fidelity. I’ve been listening to this album for many, many years and it’s never sounded better. It ain’t cheap but when you’re cranking it twice a day you’re definitely getting your money’s worth.

  --Woody

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