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'70s metal? Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. The mistake a lot of people make is ending the list there, because not only is this 1976 gem the metal god Dio's breakthrough album, it's one of the best albums in the 1970s to take Sabbath's foundation and run with it, altering enough to remain original but keeping Iommi's newfound invention of heaviness along for the jog. One complaint I do have lies in the songwriting; tracks like "Run With the Wolf" and "Stargazer" are about as metal as Iron Maiden (and definitely as metal as '70s Halford and co.), but "Do You Close Your Eyes" is nearly unforgivable, even if its simple rocking nature isn't uncharming as an 'every once in a while'. The song has similarities to Elf, Dio's former band that played softer blues rock with an upbeat, rock'n'roll vibe. Other songs flirt with being radio-friendly, but for the most part [i]Rising[/i] is a masterpiece of traditional metal, with "Stargazer" being the absolute peak of the whole affair (maybe even extending to Dio's career - it's that good; [i]Holy Diver[/i] is fun but can't hold a candle).
The album blasts off with a minute and a half of Tony Carey showcasing his keyboard abilities before transitioning into the song part of "Tarot Woman". Not my favorite track, but it does define the model that most tracks on the album follow. Ritchie Blackmore plays thick galloping riffs interspersed with well-placed lead guitar, always aided in rhythm by bass player Jimmy Bain and drummer extraordinaire Cozy Powell. Powell is a real standout on this album, punishing the kit at almost every opportunity - fills galore - and rarely descending into simple timekeeping mode (thankfully the rock influence doesn't show up everywhere). There are a few synth solos, but they don't get in the way. Guitar solos are more prevalent (a given considering Blackmore's ego?) and are usually good, sometimes great.
Dio is on top of his game here, putting on a flawless performance made immortal by unforgettable melodies - "Where is your star? Is it far? is it far? faaaaaaaar?" - perhaps trumped only by Dio's successful stint in Black Sabbath. There's no real need to split hairs, it's all good, but [i]Rising[/i] seems to be, for whatever reason, the least championed of his prime efforts. Unjustly so, as it's legendary stuff in the heavy metal/hard rock field, cherry-topped by a total epic in "Stargazer" - which, I forgot to mention, features the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
Anyone interested in Dio, Blackmore or just one of the first great metal bands should definitely pick this up.