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More Insulting Than Anything Else, Really - 63%

DawnoftheShred, December 18th, 2012

Honestly, I had no interest in hearing any of Rainbow’s recorded material after Dio departed for bigger and brighter things. Though the band was known as “Ritchie Blackmore’s” Rainbow, everyone knows that’s only half true: Ronnie had as much a hand in the band’s glory as the man himself. His replacement, Graham Bonnet (later to score some more minor notoriety with Alcatrazz, serving as a bridge between Blackmore and his reincarnation, Yngwie Malmsteen) is a strong, capable singer, but without Dio’s flair for the fantastical, I knew that Rainbow’s future was unsure. Little did I know just how right I would be.

To say that Down to Earth is a swift descent in quality for the band is to state the obvious. Even the album title seems to reconcile this: no longer is Ritchie rising to lofty musical heights…he’s come back down to earth, to the realm of mortal conventions. Pop conventions, in fact. Foreigner’s string of runaway hits must have been the inspiration for miserably cheery pap like “Since You’ve Been Gone,” a song I’ve heard on the radio for years and never once connected it with the band that penned “Gates of Babylon.” The side openers are the worst offenders in this eager beaver department: “All Night Long” is cool post-Purple pomp for about twenty seconds before it nose dives out the fucking window. Horrible, horrible lyrics, and a slightly creepy pre-chorus that serves as teaser between the horrible verses and horrible chorus. Are you catching my drift? This song is horrible. Textbook case of self-parody if I’ve ever heard one, and it’s still not as terrible as “Since You’ve Been Gone” by any stretch of the imagination. I flipped the record and it turned into a Cheap Trick LP, holy shit! Just kidding of course, those guys at least had some tuneful stuff like “Dream Police” in their holster: “Since You’ve Been Gone” makes wimp-rock like “Surrender” sound grisly by comparison.

But the fact that Ritchie sold out his super cool band for Top 40 revelry isn’t the insulting part. What’s insulting is that, nestled between all the hooky, one-dimensional bullshit, are delicate shades of what once was and perhaps what might have been. Besides the occasional glimmers of hope in the average tracks, there are actually some really solid tunes in here. “Eyes of the World” seems to be the one that everybody likes on this album, and what do you know? I like it too. Not exactly the atmospheric metal from the old albums, but close enough for my money. “Making Love” shadows this, as does the bluesy, emotional “Love’s No Friend.” Glimmers here and there of the old Rainbow shine through the muck, such as a few choice moments in “Danger Zone” and “Lost in Hollywood,” but why oh why couldn’t they have been the focus? I don’t get you Ritchie, and I’ve really been trying.

It’s a case of talented musicians performing schizophrenically, trying to balance artistry and accessibility, entertainment and enlightenment, and finding out just how Herculean a task it is. Not as horrible as it perhaps could have been, but at no point during the album’s run was I not reminded of how much better the band was just a few years prior.