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Rainbow reaches for commercial success - 45%

VIRTUALXI, May 24th, 2018

Ritchie Blackmore admittedly wanted his songs played on the radio. While the first three Rainbow albums with Ronnie James Dio brought the band critical acclaim and a cult following, they weren't being played right beside Foreigner and Journey on AOR radio. Ronnie balked at the idea of this music (he later referred to rainbow as Foreigner Jr) and left the band.

After a failed attempt to get Ian Gillan to join Rainbow, Ritchie reunited with Roger Glover and brought in Graham Bonnet for Down To Earth. Graham didn't last, but the album had brought Ritchie the commercial success he wanted, mainly with the Russ Ballard penned "Since You Been Gone".

In 1980, Ritchie hired Joe Lynn Turner. Joe has a powerful voice, but one lacking in a distinct personality, and basically indistinguishable from other AOR vocalists from the period. Then again, this is exactly what Ritchie was looking for. This wouldn't matter if Turner was a great songwriter, but unfortunately the blandness extends to his lyrics. The two tracks penned by him, "Freedom Fighter" and "Midtown Tunnel Vision" are both so generic it's difficult to remember a word of them after they finish. Not that the other guys were doing much better, "Can't Happen Here" tries to make a political statement about the naivety of those who believed the US was safe from the disasters that affect the rest of the world, but it lacks any real depth.

The biggest hit was another Russ Ballard penned tune, "I Surrender", an absolutely embarrassing number. "Since You Been Gone" worked because it didn't' take itself too seriously, with it's tongue in cheek lyrics and inserted clapping. I Surrender has none of that, it's completely serious in its melodrama, and Turner's way over the top and exaggerated vocals don't do it any favors.

As for the music, Ritchie seems uninspired. His riffs and solos lack any distinct feeling or memorable moments. Even on "Spotlight Kid", easily the best track here due to it's frantic pace and strong lyrics, Ritchie's blistering riffs feel more like a retread of past glories rather than an inspired piece.

This is easily the worst Rainbow album, not only does it never distinguish itself from the other generic AOR of the day, it doesn't even contain catchy riffs or vocal melodies, and without that it actually sinks below what other bands like Survivor and Night Ranger were putting out at the time. But it wasn't meant to be a great album, it was meant to get Rainbow on the radio, therefore I suppose it was more a success than a failure, quality notwithstanding.

More Pop, Less Rock - 60%

MEGANICK89, October 31st, 2008

With the dawn of the 80's came a new Rainbow. Armed with a more accessible sound for the masses and a new, more poppy vocalist in Joe Lynn Turner, the first record to feature this new voice would be their most commercial effort released by the band. The ultra talented drummer Cozy Powell was gone too, and Bobby Rondinelli stepped behind the kit and had some tought shoes to fill. While Turner would be a good vocalist for Rainbow, there are times on this album where he seems a bit off.

The opener is "I Surrender" and right away it is known that this record is not going to blow your mind. The poppy guitar intro and the often reapeated chorus leaves something left to be desired. Luckily, the next track saved me from turning off this album. "Spotlight Kid" is one of the top songs Rainbow has ever done. There is a flashy, fast guitar riff and some nice vocal cuts by Turner, but it is in the solo where this song truly picks up. The back-and-forth soloing from Ritchie to Don Airey is utterly great and mesmerizing. It is like they were trying to outdo each other as the flow and the speed of it is something that just must be heard.

Unfortunately, most of the album does not feature the musicianship as found on "Spotlight Kid." It is widely known that Ritchie could rip some awesome guitar parts and solos, but on this album it seems like he was holding back. A standard little riff followed by a solo which is not memorable or mildy entertaining. "Magic," "No Release," and "Freedom Fighter" are all guilty of this. There is also the awful "Midtown Tunnel Vision" which is a bluesy, mid-paced rocker and Turner cannot sing something resembling the blues.

As I said in the beginning, there are times when Turner sounds a bit off. On "Magic," he is just trying to hard to hit that high note in the chorus and seems a bit forced. In general, his voice is actually just a bit too high. Some of the verse parts "I Surrender" and "No Release" seem like they are supposed to be a bit toned down and lower as Turner's voice control is not there. At other times though, he sounds brilliant, like on "Can't Happen Here" and his voice flows well on "Freedom Fighter" as his voice goes from reserved to full blast and is the highlight of that song.

Thankfully, not everything is bad. "Can't Happen Here" actually has a great riff that sticks in your head and the snappy piano ignite the sound and is something very easy to get into. The closer "Difficult to Cure" is also one hell of an instrumental. It is one of Beethoven's symphonies with the arrangements made by Ritchie. There is where Ritchie truly shines as he totally rules the classical musical and breathing life into it with his guitar and again Don Airey has great works on the keyboard. What a way to close the album.

This album definitly is a Jeckyl and Hyde. The poppy, uninspired songs are really bad, but the good ones are really good and must be heard. Joe Lynn Turner delivers an adequate performance, but he would become better on the next two albums. Ritchie is good as always, though he holds himself back at times. "Difficult to Cure" is worth checking out as it is enjoyable, especially "Spotlight Kid" and is something fans of Ritchie, Rainbow, or AOR would like.

A different Rainbow - 80%

HighwayStar72, May 31st, 2006

The first Joe Lynn Turner album. I remember When I first heard I Surrender, I was like oh man why did Dio have to leave? And its funny how I love that song now. I guess its just a shock when you first hear their stuff without Dio. Its good, but it takes a little time to get used to. The biggest thing for me is that there is no Cozy Powell! I know Bobby Rodinelli is a sick drummer. Its just that in my eyes Cozy Powell is Rainbow's drummer. Rodinelli does an amazing job though. So no real problems about the drumming just a little mental thing. I Surrender has a pop feel to it, but dear god its catchy, and the singer.... I just can't describe Turner's voice. Then Spotlight Kid is a nod to their heavier days. Oh man this is the shining star of the album. No Release is OK I guess. I don't think there is a Rainbow song I full on dislike. Magic is better than the last track, it has a cool beat to it. A little bit on the pop side.
Vielleicht Nachster Zeit(Maybe Next Time) is a mellow instrumental. Can’t Happen Here is awesome! It’s a hard rocker, a bit on the commercial side though, heavily enjoyable! Freedom Fighter is another great heavy track with a cool chorus. Midtown Tunnel Vision is a song that you skip past. Difficult To Cure is a sick version of Beethoven’s 9th. Although the synthesizer makes it a bit cheezy. So Joe Lynn Turner’s first album with Rainbow is rather good. Although not as good as the album to follow it. Although it’s a lot different from their 70s stuff. Down To Earth foreshadowed what was to come. I prefer the Dio days, but this a good album.