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Rainbow's finest hour? - 88%

judasismyguide, December 14th, 2017
Written based on this version: 1986, CD, Polydor (Japan)

This review is the first I've written in nearly a decade, and the reason I'm leading with that is to emphasize how much this album has affected me. I feel a brief background on why this is being written is important to re-assert the power this record has, centered heavily on the sheer surprise I was obliterated by after finally hearing it. The songs collected here will be mentioned later, but if you've found yourself at this point reading one of few reviews for a criminally forgotten and underrated rock album from 1979 then you don't need me to break down the pros and cons of each track in exhaustive detail. You've either already heard them and are looking for validation one way or the other, or you're seconds away from pulling up a playlist on Youtube or Spotify, so I'll let you decide. I've always found it more interesting to hear the journey any given listener has taken toward loving/hating an artist's work, so here's mine....

I've been a very big fan of Dio in every way for over a decade, and he was my gateway to Rainbow like many others. I've played the first 3 Rainbow records over these many years ad nauseam, and marveled at the vocal acrobatics countless times. It led me to a natural frustration that he, Ritchie and the others (not least of all Cozy Powell) couldn't get past petty differences to create more music. Because of this, I exclusively followed the Dio camp because I had already been inundated by the glory that was Holy Diver, and it did not take me long to appreciate the brilliance of his work with Sabbath. I never got into Deep Purple, so I brushed off the path that Ritchie took after this split. I just wasn't interested.... what a mistake.

The moment it began to hit me was when I saw the video for "Since You Been Gone." There was something about the power and raw intensity oozing from Graham Bonnet's delivery and the way he carried himself that came through so well. I realize this was the commercial hit from the record, and not even one that Rainbow had written, but after re-visiting this many times I finally decided to play the album in full. Unfairly, I had very low expectations as I began it for the first time. The opening riff in "All Night Long" is very reminiscent of "Man On the Silver Mountain," which made me feel comfortable and a bit frustrated at the same time. On one hand it hearkens to a sound I've loved and am very familiar with, but part of it felt lazy. As I kept listening over and over again, it seemed fitting that this new era kicked off as if Ritchie was saying "See everybody, Rainbow was more about me the whole time!" Don't misunderstand me, I never had any delusions that Ritchie wasn't primarily at the helm with this band, but there's something about the overwhelming power of Dio that carries a lot of weight. And then we're treated to Bonnet's voice. Holy shit. It's even better on this track than on the hit single. And the song is pretty killer altogether, and I wouldn't even say it's on the stronger half of this album.

Next up is the track that seems to pull in most of the classic Rainbow fans, due to drawing the most comparisons to the "Rising" era sound, "Eyes of the World." It's rad like anything compared to "Rising" should be, but honestly I found myself more impressed as the album continued and it seemed to find it's own voice the further it went along. It became increasingly clear with each song that "Rising Part 2" this was not (a wise choice not to chase Dio's sound, and to instead find a different path). "No Time to Lose" and "Makin' Love" are probably the weakest efforts on here, and what you could fairly call filler, and yet they're still quite solid. Then the second half of the record hits....

Kicking off with the aforementioned "Since You Been Gone" it's a very strong start. From there, the album finishes stronger than damn near any I can think of. From "Love's No Friend" to "Danger Zone" to "Lost in Hollywood," it gets better with each tune. The anchor of this entire side is what makes this album so special. It's impossible to turn off. There's no chance of losing interest in the 30th minute here, which is something that few other records can claim with this kind of intensity. All four songs get a 10/10 from me. I'll say no more, go listen to them and don't say you weren't warned.

This record takes a bit of time to achieve full steam, and for that it must endure the few hits I've thrown at it, but they pale in comparison to the goods it has to offer. I don't wanna blab on much longer here, but I just can't reiterate enough times how surprising the continuing experience of listening to this album has been. I've been heavily involved in listening to metal and rock for most of my life in one form or another, and I've NEVER heard ONE WORD about this album from anyone. Nothing online, nothing from the radio, nothing from a friend. The waters weren't muddied with what I should see coming, which by default seemed to say "Stay away from this one, nothing memorable here." This is an absolute contender for best Rainbow album, and that is not something I ever expected to say, nor do I say it lightly. The fact of the matter is, no matter how legendary tracks like "Stargazer," "A Light in the Black" and "Gates of Babylon" are, in my perfect world they could have all been tighter by removing 2 minutes of Ritchie's overzealous wankery before the big finish (sacrilege!). The only song that comes close to that here is "Eyes of the World," but it still shows more restraint than previous offerings, and the rest are air-tight throughout. I'm not saying Bonnet is better than Dio, but all the Rainbow purists will have to get over themselves and accept that this shit kills. There's more than enough room for one heavenly voice atop the Silver Mountain.