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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"