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You know, I feel remarkably unhardcore liking this one because in my brain I know that the public opinion of Ritchie Blackmore's R-A-I-N-B-O-W as the band's finest hour is just plain wrong, but my gut tells me that it's just stupid to dislike such accomplished, fun, dopey hard rock on that basis alone. Therefore, I'm already more open-minded than droves of underground metalheads, so I guess I should be proud of myself.
Anyway, the album in question doesn't have much wrong with it at all. It lacks the ambition of future Rainbow monsterliths (the next two anyway), focusing on Deep Purple-alikes and obscure rockabilly covers, sort of a 'Deep Elf' really. Metallically speaking, there ain't much beyond barnstorming opener "Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves", both pre-power metal with a vengeance, a continuation of Purple-y castle tones on "Pictures of Home" and the majority of Ritchie's classically-based soloing.
Beyond that, this bouncy little album boasts a surprising amount of variety. In "Temple of the King" you get what amounts to a Blackmore's Night track twenty years early, all renaissance faire and soothing melodies, Ronnie exercising a lot more of his clean vocals here and on the rest of this album than any future releases. Way I figure it, that regal roar probably loosened bowels back in the early 70's and thus was used sparingly.
"If You Don't Like Rock'n'Roll" with it's boogie piano and "Black Sheep of the Family" (the straw that broke the Deep Purple camels back!) are just hooktastic, the former sounding like Elton John crossed with a happy Who, Ronnie writing some hilariously out of it lyrics. "She was dressed the way the stories tell/I tried to grab her and I saw she'd read the story well". That sounds, to me, like a D&D fanboy's first (and only) date being recounted to his equally hopeless buddies. "Black Sheep of the Family" is incredibly catchy, bravely stupid melody inspiring the most embittered metal head to smile brightly and sort of bob his or her head left and right.
Beyond these we get some really grim hard rock in "Snake Charmer" and "Self-Portrait" that sounds like (surprise!) a particularly irritated Purple jamming on a track like "Into the Fire". It's odd that this album is virtually devoid of true steel, the majority of the metallic tracks being very minor updates of older concepts with perhaps just a slightly bloodshot eye to the future of grandiose spires like Rising and Long Live Rock'n'Roll.
Stand-Outs: "The Man on the Silver Mountain", "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves", "Still I'm Sad" (a Yardbirds cover, from back when Jimmy Page didn't suck)