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Before those godawful "Punk Goes Pop", "Metal Goes Pop", and "Pop Goes Pop" compilations, there was Down to Earth which should be called "Rainbow Goes Pop"!
First things first, it's quite obvious that the absence of Dio effected the band drastically. Even if it is "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow", Dio had just as much say over the music and direction of the group. I find it ironic that Blackmore would put out this record and change Rainbow's sound and image considering he had left Deep Purple 5 years earlier for the same reason. The entire purpose of Rainbow was to play music that was heavier and faster!!!
Instead we get Down to Earth which believe it or not, while not creatively meeting the standards of their first 3 releases, manages to stand on its own 2 legs. However, this is not because of the virtuoso skills of Ritchie Blackmore which are all but gone on this record. It's not because of the powerhouse of a drummer that was Cozy Powell. It's not because of former Deep Purple bassist Roger Glover who not only plays on this record but produced it. It's definitely not because of Don Airey who tickles the ivories. It's because of Graham Bonnet who gives his sole performance with Rainbow on this record.
If there's one thing I give Blackmore credit on with this release, it's being able to replace one insanely talented vocalist with another. While the poppy AOR sound of hits like “All Night Long” and “Since You Been Gone” suits Bonnet's voice perfectly, could you imagine him singing on the early power metal epics of Rainbow's first 3 records? What's a shame is that everybody on this record underperformed except Bonnet, whose voice absolutely soars through the sky with power and fury, yet also melody and elegance. All this from a guy who never had a proper vocal lesson in his life.
The singles (“All Night Long” and “Since You Been Gone”) are catchy and get played on classic rock to this day. We do get some subpar love songs (“Makin' Love” and “Love's No Friend”) as well as FM rockers (“No Time to Lose” and “Danger Zone”). Finally we have the "epics", “Eyes of the World” and “Lost in Hollywood”. I must admit that compared to previous Blackmore efforts (“Child in Time”, “Highway Star”, “Burn”, “Mistreated”, “A Light in the Black”, “Gates of Babylon”, etc.), these are some pretty weak "epics" and the shining star is Bonnet.
Had Dio stayed in the group, this record would've never been made. Why would the “Man on the Silver Mountain” need some guy from Argent to write him a top 40 hit? Exactly my point. Bonnet was the perfect fit for Rainbow, but Rainbow was not the perfect fit for him. Following the departure of Bonnet, Rainbow hired Joe Lynn Turner, a Lou Gramm soundalike, who thankfully helped Rainbow refine their newly found AOR sound for the new decade. Bonnet would join Michael Schenker Group and later start his own band, Alcatrazz.
As for Down to Earth, well, it's certainly not a record I'll be blasting “All Night Long”.
Rainbow redefined the concept of heavy metal during the splendorous Dio years, both Rising and Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll revealed new possibilities for this music, including a fascinating pioneer sound of greater velocity (“A Light In The Black” was incredible) and power than any other late 70’s classic rock stuff, though keeping melody and sophistication untouched. However, just as it happened by 1975 when Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow was recorded, the Man In Black was aware of the changes in the rock/metal scene and the need to change to prevail. The NWOBHM would explore shortly after this album was released, along with Scorpions’s Lovedrive and Judas Priest’s Killing Machine these songs included already elements that would determine the essence of the 80’s British movement, although Down To Earth remains more accessible and refined. Bonnet, Glover & Airey would support Blackmore & Powell to conceive this consistent commercial attempt.
“All Night Long” and the Russ Ballard cover “Since You Been Gone” don’t sound like anything the band ever did before, the persistence of vocals, the instrumental simplicity and the more notable melody make them ideal for the radio, very polite and catchy. Those cuts definitely made clear Blackmore & co. were decided to follow an alternative direction from the Dio material. There’s no more astonishing progression or lengthy instrumental passages, either aggression and frantic speed of tracks like “Kill The King”, everything now has been simplified as you can check on casual cheerful tunes like “No Time To Loose”, which gives vocals bigger presence, very repetitive and insistent while the difficulty of the instrumental configuration is certainly humble. Songs are generally executed straighter, without great ambition or complication of previous works, yet still you can find exquisite sections like the trademark Blackmore classical and baroque pickin’ on both epic “Eye Of The World” and dynamic “Lost In Hollywood”. Rainbow pushed away complexity and renounced to make anymore 8 minute compositions, but their performance stays meticulous and rigorous. The immaculate arrangements make titles like “Makin’ Love” unique and charming, though it’s not only romanticism and melody what you’ll find here, Ritchie’s harsh riffing reappears on another surprising speed metal number called “Danger Zone”, on which the emphasis put on instrumental parts is bigger, giving Blackmore & Airey more space to develop their superb solos, although Bonnet’s harmony vocals and that background choir reminds us the classy nature of the band’s new musical patterns. In contrast with all that vigor, “Love’s No Friend” slows down the tempo, getting bluesy and melancholy with Graham’s vividly tortured voice at its best.
Rainbow incorporated simplicity and loose tempos to their music, both indispensable elements of the upcoming NWOBHM, but contrary to the predilection of those promising acts for aggression and sinister lyrics generally, these guys preferred to make their songs melodic and sophisticated. The clearly commercial-focused production and arrangements with more insistent choruses and notable vocals, the straighter structures and lyrical themes concentrated on love, life and relationships, all those characteristics are determined to deny the past. There are no more fascinating epic high fantasy lyrics (the album-title is actually revealing), no astonishing technique as I already mentioned, the band is obeying a completely distinct concept. They had always been popular and respected, though never intended before to be a hit band, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind hitting the charts but this commercial attempt isn’t as explicit as the later plague of cheesy comical pop-metal trend the infamous Def Leppard started with Pyromania. Simplicity is present in these songs undoubtedly but it’s not exhausting, Blackmore keeps instrumental abilities and coherent structures in the music, giving them consistence, professionally performed, so all attention isn’t put on making vocals and choruses catchy and infectious, their percentage is significantly bigger than ever before but the instrumental methodology is constantly skilled and solid. Actually, even though the solos are mostly concise and shorter, they’re designed and executed with great talent and rigor. Definitely, Ritchie isn’t relegating guitars & keyboards to become a background mediocre support in favor of the supremacy of Bonnet’s lines. Glover’s competent production is reasonable as well, none of the numbers is particularly annoyingly overproduced or too cheesy, yet the clear arrangements are inevitable to satisfy the group’s new patterns.
This is an honest effort of melodic heavy metal, not Rainbow’s most ambitious or solid work, yet very professional and amusing. Certainly, this challenging line-up isn’t making use of its entire potential, the commercial direction they’re following didn’t give these guys many possibilities for it, musicians like Blackmore himself, Airey or Powell could’ve definitely made something bigger than “Since You Been Gone”. It was such a risky idea to become accessible while the NWOBHM changed the whole metal scene with underground and extreme sounds. The group luckily prevailed and achieved success, even shared stage with all those promising young bands, performing spectacular gigs like the legendary Monsters Of Rock ‘80, so you see, there was no reason to be skeptic.
Honestly, I had no interest in hearing any of Rainbow’s recorded material after Dio departed for bigger and brighter things. Though the band was known as “Ritchie Blackmore’s” Rainbow, everyone knows that’s only half true: Ronnie had as much a hand in the band’s glory as the man himself. His replacement, Graham Bonnet (later to score some more minor notoriety with Alcatrazz, serving as a bridge between Blackmore and his reincarnation, Yngwie Malmsteen) is a strong, capable singer, but without Dio’s flair for the fantastical, I knew that Rainbow’s future was unsure. Little did I know just how right I would be.
To say that Down to Earth is a swift descent in quality for the band is to state the obvious. Even the album title seems to reconcile this: no longer is Ritchie rising to lofty musical heights…he’s come back down to earth, to the realm of mortal conventions. Pop conventions, in fact. Foreigner’s string of runaway hits must have been the inspiration for miserably cheery pap like “Since You’ve Been Gone,” a song I’ve heard on the radio for years and never once connected it with the band that penned “Gates of Babylon.” The side openers are the worst offenders in this eager beaver department: “All Night Long” is cool post-Purple pomp for about twenty seconds before it nose dives out the fucking window. Horrible, horrible lyrics, and a slightly creepy pre-chorus that serves as teaser between the horrible verses and horrible chorus. Are you catching my drift? This song is horrible. Textbook case of self-parody if I’ve ever heard one, and it’s still not as terrible as “Since You’ve Been Gone” by any stretch of the imagination. I flipped the record and it turned into a Cheap Trick LP, holy shit! Just kidding of course, those guys at least had some tuneful stuff like “Dream Police” in their holster: “Since You’ve Been Gone” makes wimp-rock like “Surrender” sound grisly by comparison.
But the fact that Ritchie sold out his super cool band for Top 40 revelry isn’t the insulting part. What’s insulting is that, nestled between all the hooky, one-dimensional bullshit, are delicate shades of what once was and perhaps what might have been. Besides the occasional glimmers of hope in the average tracks, there are actually some really solid tunes in here. “Eyes of the World” seems to be the one that everybody likes on this album, and what do you know? I like it too. Not exactly the atmospheric metal from the old albums, but close enough for my money. “Making Love” shadows this, as does the bluesy, emotional “Love’s No Friend.” Glimmers here and there of the old Rainbow shine through the muck, such as a few choice moments in “Danger Zone” and “Lost in Hollywood,” but why oh why couldn’t they have been the focus? I don’t get you Ritchie, and I’ve really been trying.
It’s a case of talented musicians performing schizophrenically, trying to balance artistry and accessibility, entertainment and enlightenment, and finding out just how Herculean a task it is. Not as horrible as it perhaps could have been, but at no point during the album’s run was I not reminded of how much better the band was just a few years prior.
Forgetting about historical and revolutionary aspects of developing music, Ritchie Blackmore decides that he wants to be commercial... but not so commercial. That's why he intends, maybe under the effects of a weird substance, to enlist his love-hate-tragedy friend Ian Gillan to lead the vocals. Anyway, the thing is that, after a bit of auditions, Grahan Bonnet, a nice vocalist with unique tone, maybe not as gifted as Dio, but with that distinctive touch in his throat, took the role and with the priorly-astonishing additions of Roger Glover in the bass, Don Airey, one of the most talented keyboarders in metal and always powerful Cozy in the drumms, the thing was promising, in one way or another, to say the least.
But (and as previous reviews by members of the Metal Archives cleverly noted) the thing about this record is the unshaped or undefined idea for it. It was like doing something like "we love your attention and we are looking for that so anxiously, but we are not a commercial rock band" and this is precisely why all the potential of this formation gets lost. That's why in here we can find very good (though not brilliant) pieces like "Eyes of the World" (by far, the best and the most metal-oriented track of the album, with Ritchie and Airey stealing the show with their progressive-neoclassical soloing) or "Lost in Hollywood" (a remanent spirit of Dio's hard-rocker tunes in previous albums, specially Ritche Blackmore's Rainbow or Long Live Rock n Roll, with Bonnet taking the high pitch) with excellent commercial songs like "All Night Long" and "Since You Been Gone" (both catchy and with a little touch of hard rock, being the album opener track a nice fusion of "trying to be popular while trying to look heavy" stuff. The riff does the thing, Bonnet's singing suites perfectly for the duty and the rest of the team, from backwards, fill the line with total correction. The latter one, well, that's almost pop-rock and stuff. But somehow, the lyrics enter your head and stay there for long time) with crappy and totally forgettable pieces like "Makin' Love" or "Danger Zone", totally unworthy for such a group of talented guys and a guitar god, as Blackmore is. The lyrics are goofy, stupid, without any sense and there isn't anything remarkable in the musical aspect. "No Time to Lose" and "Love's No Friend" are fillers with a more straightforward feeling and they have one or two things to be rescued, maybe some solo's by Ritchie, Bonnet's singing and Airey's work on the keyboards. Maybe not blasters, but they contribute to make those songs a little bit more enjoyable.
For fans of early and modern heavy metal, this album could enter in the in-between line of deception and the famous phrase "it could have been worse". And actually, it isn't totally crappy, au contraire, there are some worthy pieces here. We can find embryonary Don Airey doing his thing, Bonnet is at one of his higher points and Blackmore, as usual, even when he does shit, he does it with style and unique talent. That's why we can find here a couple of powerful and mindstrucker solos and riffs. And if we are going to judge this thing according to the success it had, well, the singles "All Night Long" and "Since You Been Gone" both reached the Top-5 in the UK and the rest of Europe, so, we can't say other thing but "hey, Ritchie, you did it again".
If you are a total metalhead, well, this is, maybe, the last "standable" album by Rainbow until their total downfall with Joe Lynn Turner. A little resurrection would be found with Doogie White. Enjoy it carefully if you think you are tough enough to play it. Otherwise, you better stay away from it and leave this only for Rainbow fans (not even Blackmore fans, the Turner era and Blackmore's Night are for those ones).
After making three stellar albums with Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore wanted to take a new approach with his band Rainbow. Dio exited the group and in came Graham Bonnet who started Blackmore's mission of hitting Top 40 on the charts. Bonnet brings in a more soulful and gruffer style to the band and fits the aptly titled “Down to Earth” perfectly.
As the first chord churns in “All Night Long” it can already be heard that this is a radical departure from the Dio records. With a riff resembling that of “Burn” from Ritchie’s Deep Purple days, the song is a catchy, up-beat tune. While it reeks of commercial excess, it is still very enjoyable and a solid start to the album.
While “All Night Long” shows what the new direction Rainbow is going in, “Eyes of the World completely swerves the other way. The song begins with some spacey, futuristic keyboards from the new maestro in Don Airey and bursts into a lead by Ritchie. The track has an epic feel to it and could have easily fit onto a Dio album.
This album meanders from being really good at times and also being really bad at times. The Jekyll and Hyde nature of “Down to Earth” is what prevents this album from reaching its potential. Ritchie delivers standout tracks in “Love’s No Friend” and “Lost in Hollywood”, but then he comes back with total stinkers in “Danger Zone” and “Makin’ Love.” “Danger Zone” has one of the dumbest choruses with “Looking for love is a danger zone.” It just sounds so stupid and unfortunately the rest of the song can’t save it.
“Love’s No Friend” could be called Rainbow’s version of “Mistreated.” It has the melancholic, bluesy riff accompanied by a brilliant, soulful vocal performance from Bonnet. “Lost in Hollywood” is a great closer with a driving riff and vocals with a rapid vocal hook by Bonnet just before the chorus. The solo is what really shines on here though and if Ritchie just let it rip on the rest of this release; it could have been something special.
I could not talk about this album without mentioning “Sine You Been Gone.” This was the song that showed Rainbow was serious about going commercial. The Russ Ballard penned tune is addictive and undeniably catchy and it did exactly what it was supposed to do. It got Rainbow noticed and on the charts. I find enjoyment in the track, but it is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.
“Down to Earth” saw the entry of Roger Glover into the fold the new bass player for the group. With the talent this man has, there are unfortunately not too many awesome bass lines. The only one worth mentioning is “Eyes of the World.” That is the only track where he shines. It is the same case with Cozy Powell. Again, he has extraordinary talent, but his drumming was effectively neutered on this album.
As stated before, it is the Jekyll and Hyde nature of “Down to Earth” that dampens the listening experience. The album has its shining moments with “Lost in Hollywood”, “Eyes of the World”, and “Love’s No Friend”, but a couple tracks bring it “down” a couple notches. However, it is still an enjoyable record and worth the listen. This release saw the band take a dip into commercial territory, but the next album would see them take the plunge.
After three albums, Ritchie Blackmore decides he wanted commercial success and as such decided to play songs about and relationships instead of men on silver mountains. Ronnie James Dio (thankfully) decided that he didn't want to do this and as such left Rainbow, so Ritchie, after drunkenly trying to get Ian Gillan to join Rainbow found Graham Bonnet. Bonnet unfortunately looks like he should work in accounts, however he can sing these 'boy meets girl' songs quite well (albeit in a very cheesy fashion).
Musically 'Down to Earth' as the title may suggest is more basic musically than the Dio-era albums however it's not completely dumbed down as Ritchie still provides some brilliant classical influenced lead work and a fair few great riffs (well it is Blackmore after all). However despite this change in direction I would of not minded this if the song writing was on par with say 'Long Live Rock 'N' Roll' or 'Rising' however there is a fair amount of filler here with some downright throw away material such as 'No Time to Lose' which is like 'L.A. Connection' but even worse. Perhaps surprisingly most of the good songs on this album are the more poppy numbers with 'All Night Long' being my particular favourite despite some absolutely absurd lyrics for instance 'You're sort of young but you're over age' which comes across as slightly creepy.
As with most Rainbow albums this features line up changes as previously mentioned Graham Bonnet is vocals and although he's not to my liking as vocalist he does a good enough job. Bob Daisley has been replaced on Bass by Roger Glover who for some reason plays rather boringly especially when compared with his groundbreaking playing on Deep Purple's masterful 'Machine Head' and 'Fireball' albums. Journeyman Don Airey is on keyboards and yet again although he is an excellent player he comes across as somewhat restrained as to keep with the albums poppy direction. So it can be said that no only is 'Down to Earth' a step down in terms of song writing quality but also the playing is not as good as previous albums with only Blackmore and Cozy Powell giving exceptional performances.
Some Rainbow fans see 'Down to Earth' as a transitional album between the epic hard rock of the Dio albums and the pop rock of the Joe Lynn Turner albums, I personally could see this point if this album had more songs like the excellent 'Lost in Hollywood' which is reminiscent of 'Kill the King' in places. However, songs like 'Since You been gone' are nothing but pop.
So this album can be seen as the point at which Rainbow stopped making great albums and became more of a singles band. This change in direction paid off commercially (as 'Since You Been Gone' was a massive hit single) but it definitely lost the interest of a lot of fans.
It is 1979. Ronnie James Dio has left Rainbow after 1978's, "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll," a fantastic album in the Rainbow catalogue. Ritchie Blackmore spends three days trying to acquire former Purple singer Ian Gillan to enter the fold, but Gillan declines. So after holding auditions, Blackmore pulls in Graham Bonnet to handle lead vocals.
The album produced by this line-up of the band, "Down to Earth," in my mind, is the greatest album Rainbow ever put out. Each song is carefully planned out and they all have great things about them. The album opener, "All Night Long," is my favorite song of all time. Graham Bonnet was told to sing reminiscent of the old Stone's song, "Out of Time." However, he adds his own style to the track and pounds out every word with passion. Ritchie Blackmore turns out a fantastic solo and the guitar work for the rest of the song, though tuned down a bit, is incredible.
"Eyes of the World," is next on the album and for fans of the Ronnie James Dio era of the group, it will most defiantly give them something to love about this album. Blackmore turns in an awesome solo, as does keyboard player Don Airey. The vocals are fantastic on this track and Bonnet still hands in a terrific performance. "No Time to Lose," the next track, is a straightforward hard rock song typical of the 70's. Blackmore turns in a fantastic riff and his playing holds true throughout the track. The band decides to get a little bluesy on the next track, "Makin' Love," which leads to a great song. The notes the whole band hits gives the song a bluesy feeling to it and in turn makes for a great song.
The radio hit, "Since You Been Gone," is probably my least favorite song on the entire album. Mediocre riff and all right playing by the rest of the band. Bonnet doesn't impress me on this track as much as he does the rest of the album. In my opinion, this is a good filler track and I prefer the other hit off of the album, "All Night Long." The band kicks it into high gear again with another bluesy track, "Love's No Friend of Mine." Great musical structure with Blackmore turning out some great playing as well as Don Airey, who is often forgotten about. The keyboard playing on this whole album is absolutely phenomenal.
The band continues its outrage of material on the next track, "Danger Zone." When I first heard this track, I felt greatly tricked by it. Some of the vocals that I expected that Bonnet would sing in a certain way did not turn out that way. They turn out better than what I had thought of and though some parts could be hit higher, the low octave gives this song a chilling feeling to it and is a straightforward rocker. Blackmore pulls out a great solo and his riff in the song is astonishing. Cozy Powell plays a great drum track on this song as well as the final track, "Lost in Hollywood." Cozy gets a thunderous sound on this track and Blackmore continues to pour out great riffs. Probably one of the best tracks on the album, the solo is great and the entire song is deeply rooted in a classical style.
As you can probably tell, "Down to Earth," is my favorite Rainbow album. It has everything a good hard rock album requires. Great riffs, stunning solos, thunderous drum beats, quality bass work, amazing keyboards, and a great voice. It angers me when people put this album down cause if you really care about the music and it all, you wouldn't judge it on just the vocal work. It doesn't really matter with me though, because I enjoy Bonnet's singing and I think it's a real shame that this line-up of Rainbow didn't stay together for at least one more album. An album with Graham Bonnet, a man who can give an emotion to these songs, is better than any with Joe Lyn Turner, a man who's voice is entirely commercial.