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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!