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The early 80’s were good times for Rainbow. The band became respected and popular, reaching the highest positions on the British heavy metal bill along with Judas Priest, Motörhead and Iron Maiden, and headlined legendary festivals like the memorable Monsters Of Rock ’80, that included Saxon and Scorpions as deluxe guests. Promising young NWOBHM groups, AC/DC, Scorps and Maiden themselves supported their gigs during those days, and their massive Russ Ballard cover hit “Since You Been Gone” became their most famous and successful cut ever, in fact you can still hear it in some radio stations nowadays. Blackmore took the risk and changed the sound, following a completely opposite direction to the Dio years...and he won. Unfortunately the line-up that recorded “Down To Earth” didn’t last: Cozy Powell and Graham Bonnet left, but they got replaced properly by Bobby Rondinelli and Joe Lynn Turner. And it was the right time to put out another long-play, would Rainbow use the same successful ways as on the previous record?
It was easy to guess the answer to that question: there’s no need for significant changes if the actual music direction is working fine, they must have thought. So expect no similar aggression, speed and technical supremacy as on the first 3 masterpieces. Rainbow keep the melodic sound, but this time introducing some remarkable progression on the instrumental parts: “Spotlight Kid” and “Can’t Happen Here” show their good taste in classical music and include a bunch of ambitious song structures with well-executed technique. The band put emphasis on melody, rather than on the riffing, and vocals become a much more important element to develop the sound than ever before. There’s a more notable presence of Don Airey’s keyboards, that most of the time support the guitar parts in the same way that a second rhythm guitarist would do; he fills the tunes with exquisite details and provides them of a climax of distorted synthesizers that contribute to make the whole atmosphere get kinda mellow. But don’t forget about the energy and power of the Man in Black’s guitar riffs, licks and raging solos, some few times getting wild and fierce, but don’t expect much like those because the intention of the group this time is focused on a more quiet and commercial musical path.
I highlight the rest of the songs as well, but they’re different and plenty of elements taken from motley music styles. “Midtown Tunnel Vision” (Intro: “Purple Haze”?), “Freedom Fighter” and “No Release” feature some blues and jazz influences, and the lead and backing vocals of Turner sound like a bizarre display gospel and soul, those nice surprises actually make sense, work and sound good! The admiration of Blackmore for his heroes (Hendrix, Bach, etc.) becomes evident and peculiar on each track too. About the trio of covers (“I Surrender”, “Magic” and the Symphony No. 9 in D minor) I must say that Ritchie’s outstanding arrangements make them reach a different level than on their original edition. The simple track of Ballard becomes powerful thanks to the delightful guitar riffs that lead the band to unpredictable variations from the primitive pop on the original version. His tribute to Ludwig is totally different from the pathetic lame tributes that ten billion rock musicians attempted to play and make sound heavy, the most comical in this case are Barón Rojo and Miguel Ríos, but there’s millions of abominations on TV and radio advertisements that reduce Beethoven’s symphony to ashes with abysmal guitar arrangements. Blackmore managed to include his own riffing style, some polished breaks and rhythm changes that make a difference and fit perfectly the genuine piece of music by the German composer (Hey, that sinister laughter in the end of the song makes me tremble!).
I’m sorry about Lars Ulrich’s pal Flemming Rasmussen, but my comments about his sound engineering and mixing job have to be negative. The mellow, sweet and clear production fit the plans of Rainbow by that time, but if they would have got rid of the cheesy keyboards and the overloaded backing vocals, and the drums would have sounded tougher and louder along with a much more heavy distorted guitar sound, then the result would be completely different. Can you imagine “Spotlight Kid” with a brutal raw production? Pioneer merciless speed metal, and I mean it. Remember, Accept’s “Fast As A Shark” came a year later, if you know what I mean... The rhythmic section sounds weak and sometimes impossible to listen, the supremacy of Joe’s voice and Don’s organ in the final mix is too loud. Well, I guess Flemming was having a bad day.
This review is dedicated to the Rainbow fans who ignore or just pretend that the Turner years never existed. There’s no excuse to forget about the stunning magic on this album, it’s time to stop comparing it with the Dio stuff and enjoy the art on these 9 tracks. By the way, does that mysterious wicked Hipgnosis cover design make you wanna listen to it?
With the dawn of the 80's came a new Rainbow. Armed with a more accessible sound for the masses and a new, more poppy vocalist in Joe Lynn Turner, the first record to feature this new voice would be their most commercial effort released by the band. The ultra talented drummer Cozy Powell was gone too, and Bobby Rondinelli stepped behind the kit and had some tought shoes to fill. While Turner would be a good vocalist for Rainbow, there are times on this album where he seems a bit off.
The opener is "I Surrender" and right away it is known that this record is not going to blow your mind. The poppy guitar intro and the often reapeated chorus leaves something left to be desired. Luckily, the next track saved me from turning off this album. "Spotlight Kid" is one of the top songs Rainbow has ever done. There is a flashy, fast guitar riff and some nice vocal cuts by Turner, but it is in the solo where this song truly picks up. The back-and-forth soloing from Ritchie to Don Airey is utterly great and mesmerizing. It is like they were trying to outdo each other as the flow and the speed of it is something that just must be heard.
Unfortunately, most of the album does not feature the musicianship as found on "Spotlight Kid." It is widely known that Ritchie could rip some awesome guitar parts and solos, but on this album it seems like he was holding back. A standard little riff followed by a solo which is not memorable or mildy entertaining. "Magic," "No Release," and "Freedom Fighter" are all guilty of this. There is also the awful "Midtown Tunnel Vision" which is a bluesy, mid-paced rocker and Turner cannot sing something resembling the blues.
As I said in the beginning, there are times when Turner sounds a bit off. On "Magic," he is just trying to hard to hit that high note in the chorus and seems a bit forced. In general, his voice is actually just a bit too high. Some of the verse parts "I Surrender" and "No Release" seem like they are supposed to be a bit toned down and lower as Turner's voice control is not there. At other times though, he sounds brilliant, like on "Can't Happen Here" and his voice flows well on "Freedom Fighter" as his voice goes from reserved to full blast and is the highlight of that song.
Thankfully, not everything is bad. "Can't Happen Here" actually has a great riff that sticks in your head and the snappy piano ignite the sound and is something very easy to get into. The closer "Difficult to Cure" is also one hell of an instrumental. It is one of Beethoven's symphonies with the arrangements made by Ritchie. There is where Ritchie truly shines as he totally rules the classical musical and breathing life into it with his guitar and again Don Airey has great works on the keyboard. What a way to close the album.
This album definitly is a Jeckyl and Hyde. The poppy, uninspired songs are really bad, but the good ones are really good and must be heard. Joe Lynn Turner delivers an adequate performance, but he would become better on the next two albums. Ritchie is good as always, though he holds himself back at times. "Difficult to Cure" is worth checking out as it is enjoyable, especially "Spotlight Kid" and is something fans of Ritchie, Rainbow, or AOR would like.
The first Joe Lynn Turner album. I remember When I first heard I Surrender, I was like oh man why did Dio have to leave? And its funny how I love that song now. I guess its just a shock when you first hear their stuff without Dio. Its good, but it takes a little time to get used to. The biggest thing for me is that there is no Cozy Powell! I know Bobby Rodinelli is a sick drummer. Its just that in my eyes Cozy Powell is Rainbow's drummer. Rodinelli does an amazing job though. So no real problems about the drumming just a little mental thing. I Surrender has a pop feel to it, but dear god its catchy, and the singer.... I just can't describe Turner's voice. Then Spotlight Kid is a nod to their heavier days. Oh man this is the shining star of the album. No Release is OK I guess. I don't think there is a Rainbow song I full on dislike. Magic is better than the last track, it has a cool beat to it. A little bit on the pop side.
Vielleicht Nachster Zeit(Maybe Next Time) is a mellow instrumental. Can’t Happen Here is awesome! It’s a hard rocker, a bit on the commercial side though, heavily enjoyable! Freedom Fighter is another great heavy track with a cool chorus. Midtown Tunnel Vision is a song that you skip past. Difficult To Cure is a sick version of Beethoven’s 9th. Although the synthesizer makes it a bit cheezy. So Joe Lynn Turner’s first album with Rainbow is rather good. Although not as good as the album to follow it. Although it’s a lot different from their 70s stuff. Down To Earth foreshadowed what was to come. I prefer the Dio days, but this a good album.