Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975)
Welcome back to YDCS! We’ve got an interesting album on the table this week, the studio debut from the band Rainbow titled Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Rainbow is a group that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, even if they recognize Richie Blackmore’s name. Blackmore was the lead guitarist for Deep Purple through the mid-70s before breaking off to form his own group with members of Deep Purple’s opening act, Elf (of whom Ronnie James Dio was the lead vocalist). Blackmore would go on to record this album with the members of Elf before firing everyone except for Dio, rehiring the rest of the band, and continuing to tour and record as Rainbow. Blackmore was notoriously difficult to please and went so far as to fire band members who he didn’t feel were contributing meaningfully to the band. As a result, he has been the only consistent fixture of Rainbow since the band’s formation.
Rainbow was known for more fantastical lyrics than Deep Purple had been, combining heavy metal and fantasy into a proto-prog metal genre. Rainbow feels like a more grown up version of Deep Purple in a sense, where there’s still plenty of heavy sound but the band got more experimental. Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow is a cool album that has lots of great rock moments. The whole record is a hidden gem in a genre that likes to sing the praises of acts AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Motorhead. If you’ve never listened to Rainbow before but like Deep Purple, Dio, or the early Scorpions then you should definitely check this album out. Enjoy Rainbow’s debut album, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow!
Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown
Man On The Silver Mountain: We start of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow with one of the band’s most popular songs, “Man On The Silver Mountain.” This track is one of the most heavily influenced by Blackmore’s time with Deep Purple. It has a distinctly heavy sound that doesn’t carry through the rest of the album. Dio’s vocals on this track are one of his best performances on the record and show why he was such a good rock vocalist. Really good track. Dad’s Rating 7/10
Self Portrait: “Self Portrait” is the start of something new for Blackmore et al. This is a track that would have never made it with his old group and shows an increased focus on lyricism. “Self Portrait” is could be considered an early power ballad too. It’s got elements of strong vocals, introspective lyrics, and heavy guitar between the verses. It’s not the best song on the album, and I think there’s another ballad that captured the band better, but it’s a decent song. Dad’s Rating 6/10
Black Sheep Of The Family: This is the song that started Rainbow. Blackmore initially pitched “Black Sheep Of The Family” to Deep Purple, but the band didn’t want to record it, so he wet and recorded it himself! I like that “Black Sheep Of The Family” shows that Rainbow was more than power chords and flimsy lyrics; they had the ability to be melodic and do something different than your typical heavy metal group. Musically, I’m actually not a fan of this song, but I do like that they tried something new. Dad’s Rating 5/10
Catch The Rainbow: When I first heard “Catch The Rainbow” I thought I might have started a Pink Floyd song on accident, particularly on the opening instrumental. “Catch The Rainbow” is one of the best ballads that I’ve listened to in a long time. The instrumentation is haunting and the vocals are beautifully smooth. I’m not a big lyrics person, but talking about chasing the rainbow and never catching it makes me wonder if Starcastle was recording in the next studio over. This is a song to sit back to and let it envelop you. You feel the pain and the sadness in the realization that you’ll never get where you wanted to be. It’s a downer, but a top track for sure. Dad’s Rating 8/10
Snake Charmer: We come out of “Catch The Rainbow” unscathed into an upbeat rock track. “Snake Charmer” plays very similarly to “Man On The Silver Mountain;” it’s just a rocking song. I’m a big fan of the wah effect used on the lead guitar to give the song a bit of a funky feeling too. For those more into bass work, check out the bass line during the guitar solo. You have to listen closely but you can hear Craig Gruber getting after it! Dad’s Rating 7/10
The Temple Of The King: Honestly, this is not what I would have expected on a heavy metal album. “The Temple Of The King” sounds like it should have been on a Rush album. It’s so different from the rest of the record because of its primarily acoustic sound, but it has moments where you hear a heavier sound (particularly during the choruses and the solo) that help pull it into the rest of the record. This is a beautiful ballad and another fantastic performance from Ronnie James Dio. Dad’s Rating 8/10
If You Don’t Like Rock N Roll: “If You Don’t Like Rock N Roll” is the weakest song on the album for me. It doesn’t fit with the heavy metal theme of the rest of the album and plays heavily into the traditional 1950s rock sound. I’ll give it credit for one thing though: Songs like this are exactly why Blackmore formed Rainbow. He had more freedom to explore different sounds than he would have with Deep Purple and he had more control over the content creation process. Kudos for trying something different, but it didn’t work for this album. Dad’s Rating 4/10
Sixteenth Century Greensleeves: Were you expecting a traditional rendition of “Greensleeves?” If you were then I hope you were as surprised as I was. Lyrics about medieval battles set to heavy metal?! Yes please! “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” also has the distinction of featuring the best guitar solo on the album. This is a rocking track that demonstrated prog metal in its full glory. Great song! Dad’s Rating 8/10
Still I’m Sad: The drum part for this song combined with the divebomb on guitar during the intro is really cool. Everyone talks about divebombing but no one puts it on their records so it was neat to hear it used practically. “Still I’m Sad” is a funky instrumental that is a very satisfying finish to a rocking album. You get a little bit of the experimentation that you’ve heard all throughout the album in terms of combining funk, metal, and even a bit of surf rock at times (in terms of the chord progressions). “Still I’m Sad” shows what Rainbow could do and where they were headed in the future, bound by no rules except ‘Rock on!’ Dad’s Rating 7/10
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