It is funny how hindsight vision 20/20 is clear and precise. Back in time Rainbow and their second full length record Rising did – at first – not garner a lot of heightened attention. It really did not – apart from a tight circle of rock nerds perhaps. The sound was good, damn straight, but not stellar. ‘Yet Another Decent Hard Rock Record’ as we would say today.
It is also true that Rainbow was ever present and blasting out of a multitude of loudspeakers. But so was Status Quo and many others. Yet still, Rising kind of had the nerve to stick itself to your neurons. And somehow followed you around big time until you gave in and got a copy.
So, how come that we have this contradiction in terms? A slow start to what turned out to be a jewel in the history of rock in the eyes of many?
In truth Ritchie Blackmore‘s rough and fast approach to Hard Rock was like rocky mana in a sea of psychedelic, glassy-eyed bands howling away. This ‘new’ tune sailed clear of the weedy remnants of the flower-power movement to a more resolute and passionate approach to rock’n’roll.
The sturdy riffing and soloing together with the vocalist’s high-pitched wails just took the cake. An early sip of that metal potion leading to the rise of the metalhead. And this just at the time UFO hit the market with No Heavy Petting. This was also the year The Eagles released Hotel California and ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) hit the road with A New World Record. As the lore goes, Blackmore also took cello lessons from Hugh McDowell from ELO around this time.
Now, the band mix is somewhat explosive too. Ritchie Blackmore just left Deep Purple in 1975 looking for a new vocation. Then you add one Ronald James Padavona aka Ronnie James Dio into this cocktail. Yes, the guy who later defected to Black Sabbath to raise Heaven and Hell. Just to turn up with Holy Diver and his own gig a short while later. But this is a different story.
Rising really was somewhat of a novel concept. Fast, furious and loud, it kind of pushed the more bluesy, psychedelic folks out of the way. Mind you, Rainbow started out in the psych corner as well. But the band already changed their style considerably by album number two. It is striking that at first the reception of the album in the charts was not all that stellar. Yet, the album gradually made it to UK chart nirvana, going gold in 1979, the same year Down To Earth released.
Now, once Tarot Woman starts you would not think the record would seriously turn towards Hard Rock. Keyboards wheezing away in exactly the psych-laden, woozy way we would expect from a record from the ’70s. But once some real good Hard Rock gallops forward, sprinkled with stellar solos and riffs, things look a bit more lively. Plus an early Dio performance that is difficult to forget.
The next three tracks are not exactly fillers, but no stellar super tracks neither. Run With The Wolf probably gets you the most bang for the buck. So, whilst back in time this was still pretty rocky, today the thrill just ain’t that great anymore and we do expect a tad more spice. And never forget: Rising is a 6-piece affair, no fillers or other duds allowed.
After all this slowing down, Stargazer kind of comes as a surprise. Its trademark, slightly orientally flavored melody will forever be on my good side. And it already sounds way too Dio to still be Rainbow. But at that time, Ronnie was not yet ready to leave. The #1 track at second-before-last position. I love it.
Yet then, A Light in The Black kicks off into space. This was real high-speed, harder-than-thou Hard Rock difficult to find back in the ’70s. Then add the spacey keyboard solo, plus the guitar one following right behind. Holy Cow! This sounds like a structural guitar lesson for Tony Iommy. And besides, it does – again – have a scent of stuff Dio will do a few years later. No doubt about it.
To wrap this up, back in 1976 Rainbow threw one of the sturdiest Hard Rock albums for its era on the market. Rising is one of the stepping stones from Hard Rock to shiny Heavy Metal, yet I would not go as far as calling it that. A forerunner if you will, being ahead of its time with Ritchie Blackmore as the torch bearer.
By being that avant-garde he was able to attract significant talent like Dio, Jimmy Bain or Roger Glover. Yet – quite inevitably – Rainbow managed to alienate people, who either left in disgust of were thrown to the wolves by da master himself.
That said however, the quality of this album is at times otherworldly. Specifically as the chemistry between Blackmore and Dio still seemed to work. If only, they could have spiffed up some of them tracks a bit better, the record would have been irresistible. Yet, make no mistake, Rising still manages to extend this siren call that will make you flock back to the record. Time and time again.
But will this record be a candidate for the next edition of the Old’n’Tasty series? Stay tuned for the update.
[Editor’s note: The record indeed successfully made it on the second installment of the Old’n’Tasty series. Congrats!]