Rainbow- Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975): 4 May 2020

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

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.

Deep Purple- Machine Head (1972): 13 May 2019

Deep Purple – Machine Head (1972)

Welcome back to Your Dad’s Car Stereo where we’re taking a listen to the best-known album by English band Deep Purple. Originally formed as a progressive rock group, the band shifted to a heavier rock sound in the early 1970’s and are often cited as one of the most influential groups in the formation of heavy metal along with Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. The band shifted lineups as frequently as they shifted sounds, but the personnel on this sixth studio album, Machine Head, was the most popular lineup and produced some of the band’s best work. Machine Head has been cited in many musicians’ “Top 10 Album” lists and included in multiple publications’ “Best Of” lists. The album pulls heavily on classical and blues influences to create a unique medley of sound. “Highway Star” was directly influenced by the work of classical composer Johann Sebastian Bach, and the blues sound permeates through all of the harder rock tracks as the basis for the genre itself, but also specifically on tracks like “Lazy” and “Maybe I’m a Leo.” Machine Head is one of the big ones and directly shaped the way music would sound for decades to come. Think about every heavy rock band you like and they can all trace their heritage back to Deep Purple, and specifically this album. Enjoy this hard-rocking piece of history!

Dad’s Thoughts- The Breakdown

Highway Star: The opening track to Machine Head is a classic rock staple and continues to receive consistent play on the radio. “Highway Star” is basically the granddaddy of heavy rock, and the genre would have been more stunted and fringe without songs like this. The solo on this track has one of the best arpeggiated sections ever conceived and is, overall, an indulgence of a rock track. If you like hard rock then “Highway Star” should be on your list if it isn’t already. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Maybe I’m a Leo: “Maybe I’m a Leo” is a big, bad song and is an awesome deep cut. I had never heard this track before listening to this album, but it’s definitely going into my rotation. It’s very musically similar to the work being created by ZZ Top around the same time, particularly their massively successful album Tres Hombre, despite the fact that the two bands were a world apart. Really good stuff here. Dad’s Rating 8/10

Pictures of Home: This isn’t the best track on the album and isn’t really a deep cut that is a “must listen to song.” If anything, “Pictures of Home” blends into the heavy rock sound that was emerging in the early 1970s without overstating itself. It’s not a bad track, but by the same token, isn’t particularly memorable. Dad’s Rating 6/10

Never Before: If “Pictures of Home” was a lackluster track, “Never Before” is the opposite. The funky opening certainly stands out on this album full of classic rock legends before rolling into a more traditional rock track that includes a spaced-out bridge. The opening is alone is enough to make me happy and rate it above the previous track, but it is a better rock song than “Pictures,” so it’s got that going for it! Dad’s Rating 7/10

Smoke on the Water: DUN DUN DUN, DUN DUN DUN-DUN. You know you were thinking it, I just wrote it. “Smoke on the Water” may be the most instantly recognizable rock song ever recorded with that riff that everyone and their cousin knows. Lyrically, the song is actually a true story about trying to record the album in Montreux and the problems the band faced doing that. Musically, this song is untouchable. The lead guitar, the screaming solo that is oh-so dynamic, this song hits all the marks and was always going to get into the “They Don’t Make Music Like This Anymore Award” club. Dad’s Rating 10/10

Lazy: This is one of the surprise songs on the album that we set out to look for. I’m genuinely impressed with the keyboard work and the bass is very reminiscent of another English bassist by the name of John Entwistle. You might have heard of him, he only played for The Who and is often credited as the best bassist of all time! This whole song actually reminds me of a lot of the things being done by The Who around this time (see the whole Who’s Next album to catch my drift). This track sounds exactly nothing like any of the other songs on this album, which is a credit to the album. “Lazy” helps break up the record, keeping it fresh sounding. Give this one a listen if you’ve never heard it before, I think you might be surprised at the band’s depth like I was. Dad’s Rating 9/10

Space Truckin’: “Space Truckin’” is a return to the heavier sound Deep Purple were known for at the time, and it’s also one of the better examples of that heavy sound. The most stand-out techniques on this song are found in the solo with an interesting scratch effect produced by the guitar and a great drum piece. Outside of that, this is a stereotypical 1970’s heavy rock track, and I find that personal preference is really the only distinguishing factor between average songs. Some people prefer certain riffs and sounds more, so give this one a shot and see if it’s your cup of tea! Dad’s Rating 7/10

The opinion above is protected under the Fair Use provision of United States Copyright Law, 17 U.S.C §107 which allows for the fair use of a copyrighted work for criticism without infringement on the copyright.