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I have to say that for me never having bought a Rainbow album before this, it caused me to go out and buy a few albums: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Rising, On Stage, and Long Live Rock and Roll. It was also a great introduction to Ronnie James Dio as a heavy metal vocalist, and what a great and unique voice he has! Now, I have to also mention that Ritchie Blackmore has written some incredible riffs during his Rainbow years (and Deep Purple too, of course)... And the best of which are included on this album.
First off, there's the Ronnie James Dio block. It kicks off with the greatness of Man on the Silver Mountain. The lyrics here are very high quality, as is the main riff and the solo. The way this song is set up, it makes me wonder if this isn't comparable to Smoke on the Water. "Come down with fire. Lift my spirit higher. Someone's screamin' my name. Come and make me holy again!" The lyrics here foreshadow the lyrics of Ronnie James Dio to come (the overuse of words like "fire", "higher", and conveying of mystical images). But really, they fit the music well, and are quite original for their time.
Then comes the epic track Catch The Rainbow. Nearly 7 minutes long, this slow track is comparable to a more technical and better sung Stairway to Heaven. In fact, if you wanted to slow dance to a song (even though slow dancing is definitely not metal by the way, but sometimes you must do what you must do) then here's a winner. But this is better than any other slow ploddy song I've heard before, mostly because of the great guitar playing and singing combination. Ritchie seems to play atmospherically in this track, which is something I haven't heard him do from this point until later on in Blackmore's Night album Ghost of a Rose.
After this comes Starstruck, which proves Ritchie's guitar chops with an insane main riff that isn't just metal power chords. It's a crazy set of single notes in a great sounding pattern. The solo in this song is very metal though, and the bluesyness shows through. There's alot of fast bends and little strung together licks that flow well together.
Then comes Stargazer, which is a similar type of riff to Starstruck, except this one is much heavier. Yet again, great lyrics and vocals. I should also mention how well the drumming flows in this album, but namely during this song... The syncopation is amazing! And his timing is great for not having a click track or anything to go by. But wow, an 8 and a half minute track, that's pretty long for a rocky metal song back then.
Kill The King starts out with a great guitar, drum, and keyboard (yes, keyboards... and they sound so good) intro, and then this great Ritchie Blackmore riff that the vocals come in over. This track is a classic, with Ronnie's "ooohs" sounding so smooth, and Ritchie's solo being one of the fastest I've ever heard. Tremolo picking out the wazoo. But then at the end he goes with this crazy fast melodic line that fits in time perfectly with the drums.
After that comes Long Live Rock n' Roll. Okay, so it's not the best song on the album, but it grows on you over time. The gradually higher shifting power chords that launch into the intro are great, but nothing beats the chorus line "LONG LIVE ROCK AND ROLL!". Ronnie manages to carry the entire chorus line by himself, it's amazing that a singer can be so talented.
And now, Gates of Babylon, which is another Rainbow classic song. And it is rightfully so, with such a great little atmospheric intro (that reminds me of the later to come Holy Diver intro by Dio), and then the main riff starts. Ritchie has written alot of strange things, but I can't even place the style of guitar playing, it's sounds like it may be some sort of fusion, but it's amazing. Oh, and an amazingly melodic solo that has alot of intense feeling to it.
Then we shift singers to go into the track Since You Been Gone, which happens to have one of the greatest guitar riffs ever. The singing isn't the greatest, but it's an enjoyable track. All Night Long comes next, sounding very much like Man on the Silver Mountain revisited, but also not a horrid track. The singing could be better though. Then comes I Surrender, which is a really strange love song. Too much choir of 'ooohs' in the background, but good keyboards.
Can't Happen Here is a good track though, featuring this little bluesy intro solo and a guitar riff that reminds me alot of Stevie Ray Vaughan's guitar playing. Just the feel of the rhythm and the sound of the playing. This is the first track that has had very noticable bass on it, too.
Jealous Lover is a good track. Joe Lynn Turner does some amazing vocals on this track. Great bass and guitar combo here, and the guitar solo is based mostly in playing lower notes (whereas most solos are about high string and high notes over a riff), and it's a good changeup and it has a sweet bluesy flavor to it. Stone Cold is next, and it starts out with drumming and then it adds guitar and keyboards to that mix. The vocals are good, and it gets alot heavier later too, which I did not expect.
Power comes after that, and it reminds me alot of an AC/DC song with it's main riff. Ritchie completely goes off on this solo, coming in with his guitar screaming. Normally he starts out slow and melodic and builds into crazyness, but instead he just wails all over this song, and it fits perfectly. Can't Let You Go is next... And its great, it starts out with this great music playing on an organ. It's reminiscent of Ozzy's song Mr. Crowley. A very Smoke on the Water riff over the vocals (the arpeggiated power chords with only slight distortion).
The album ends strongly on Street of Dreams, which has keyboards and bass and drums plodding along with this great groove. Then the vocals come in... and you hear Ritchie twanging away in the background. Amazing singing on this track, props again to Joe Lynn Turner. Pretty good for a love song, and a great guitar solo that is completely melodic. I like how Ritchie throws in alot of little fills, which he rarely did on any other tracks on this album. Great way to end this compilation. And the song fades out slowly, which is also kind of cool.
If you want to check out Rainbow, then get this compilation. It is a high quality sampling of all the eras, even though I really think they could've afforded to remaster some tracks on this album, it shows you exactly what you'll get if you buy any of the Rainbow albums these tracks come off of. And with nearly 80 minutes of music, it's a pretty much jam-packed CD. And with the booklet is this awesome "Rainbow Music Tree" that shows the Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath connection with a bunch of bands and musicians. It's amazing how all these bands traded musicans back and forth!
Rainbow is a band that started out strong, got unbelievably awesome, then fell down, down DOWN to such an extent that they became unrecognizable and AORrrrgh terrible. Unfortunately, this album spends far too much time on the uninspired and unremarkable Graham Bonnet and (*shudder*) Joe Lynn Turner years, songs that come off as even more awful when they are stacked up against seven mighty slabs of metallic genius from the Dio years.
To be brief, from Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow you get "The Man on the Silver Mountain" and "Catch the Rainbow". There's no denying that both of these songs should be here, the former Rainbow's most famous song and the latter it's most languidly dreamy and magical. I would argue that "16th Century Greensleeves" and "Black Sheep of the Family" (the song that led to Rainbow's creation!) should be here too, particularly as there's more than enough space for them when you axe total shit like "Jealous Lover" and "I Surrender".
From Rising, one of metal's all time highwater marks, there are only two tracks, and I think they are strange choices myself. "Starstruck" is an amiable rocker that is more like the first album than the progressive power of Rising, and while it is quite good and features one of Ronnie's more tuneful vocal performance (i.e not the usual snarl) it is really a weak track. I think "Tarot Woman" is a much stronger song and also more in line with the album at hand. I'm so exuberantly happy that they put "Stargazer" on the album as it is one of the best songs in the Rainbow catalogue, but it isn't really a "greatest hits" type song. Still, I won't complain. I would've liked to see the albums other serious epic "A Light in the Black" on here too instead of some of the awful later song, but what can you do? Perhaps the theory is that if you put all of the good songs on the greatest hits nobody'll pick up the whole thing. Ah well.
Nothing from On Stage? What are you kidding me? This album features a fine rendition of "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves", an embryonic "Kill the King", a rockin' "Stargazer", and an interesting take on Purple's "Mistreated"(albeit a very long one). I have to respect possible space shortages considering how long many of these tracks are, but again just get rid of some of the chaff (read: JLT stuff) and everything should be rosy.
Good move choosing three tracks from the awesome Long Live Rock'n'Roll record, and also good choices. "Long Live Rock'n'Roll" is just a fun, fun song with a drop-dead anthemic chorus over dour, brooding, and unbelievably awesome verses. Truly one of Dio's finest performances. "Kill the King" is, along with "Stargazer", Rainbow's primary contribution to metal and is one of the cornerstones of power metal. Still, I won't get into it too deep because I'll probably be reviewing this album like the others at some point, and I'll save myself the effort until then. "Gates of Babylon" is not a track I'm overly fond of, but again, more Dio equals higher ratings. Hell, despite the "Mortal Kombat"-ness of the heavy synth lines it still reeks of castle-rock aristocracy and the chorus rules. I'd have liked to see something else from this one too, maybe Dio swansong "Rainbow Eyes" or "The Lady of the Lake".
Here's where the shit takes over. I've heard that Down to Earth is a very good album, but the selections from it are just awful. I despise the fucking clap-rhythm of "Since You've Been Gone", and "All Night Long" seems to last that length of time despite it's relative briefness. I think maybe "Lost in Hollywood" might've been a better selection. Perhaps the only selection from this POS. Oh, and I despise Graham Bonnet's voice, whether it's here or in MSG or even on a Sabbath album. Take a minute to shudder with me.
Still, things could get worse and they do. Joe Lynn Turner has such a horribly bland singing voice, like any AOR act from the 70's, that I cannot say that I could pick him out of a line up. "I Surrender" is terrible, "Can't Happen Here" is bad, "Stone Cold" is boring and overlong at only five minutes, and "Street of Dreams" epitomizes selling out, even if the actual transaction happened right about two seconds after Ritchie fired Ronnie. The only song here that has any life is "Power" based on a really fun, bouncy riff, but Joe Lynn Turner sucks it down a notch, the solo is boring, and it's one of those songs that you despise yourself for humming uncontrollably.
All in all, shoulda just been one disc of the Dio years. Actually, if you can find them the albums are quite cheap and it's worth it to buy all of the Dio records, especially two of metal's most important albums in Rising and Long Live Rock'n'Roll.
Stand-Outs: "Stargazer", "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", "Kill the King"