by Mott the Dog
After over eight years in the world’s premier hard
rock band Deep Purple, the mercurial Ritchie Blackmore had enough and left
after an emotional European tour. In Blackmore’s view by that time they
had become five egotistical maniacs - not a team.
The final straw for Ritchie was when the rest of the
band refused to record a cover of Qutermass’ ‘Black Sheep of the
Family’. So after recording the song in the studio without the other
members of Purple’s support band ‘Elf’, Blackmore had no hesitation
in handing in his notice playing the final dates, and embarking on his
journey to find hard rocking gold at the end of his rainbow.
Blackmore wasted no time in taking ‘Elf’ into the
studio (apart obviously now redundant lead guitarist Steve Edwards, who
was immediately dropped - a bit of a Pete Best situation here) and
recorded the album of his dreams with his new band mates. The album was
released in August of 1975 and reached the lower reaches of the British
charts, and without ‘Deep Purple’ ‘Moniker’ did not even make a
dent in the vastly important American Charts.
Worse was to follow.
The new band didn’t live up to Blackmore’s
standards as a live unit although they had great songs from the new album
(e.g.: ‘Catch the Rainbow’, ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’, a
cover of the old Yardbirds classic ‘Still I’m Sad’, and the all time
favorite ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’, which is still one of the most
requested songs in Ronnie James Dio’s and Ritchie Blackmore’s set
today, although both play it very different ways). So the first of
Blackmore’s Stalinist like purges in Rainbow began.
Out went drummer Gary Driscoll, never to be heard from
again. Rainbow perhaps being one step too far for this journeyman drummer.
Also cast aside were bassist Craig Gruber, who ended up in Gary Moore’s
band for a while, and keyboard player Mickey Lee Soule, who perhaps
lowered his sights a little and is Deep Purple’s keyboard technician to
Blackmore kept the wonderful pipes of the diminutive
Ronnie James Dio as he had the charisma necessary to pull it off on stage,
and had already forged a writing partnership with Blackmore, matching his
tales of ancient times, wizardry, and magic to Blackmore’s riff’s. (He
only lasted two more studio albums before incurring his master’s wrath,
but that gave him three years in the spotlight. So he left for two
wonderful albums with Black Sabbath, a legacy. He lives off to this day
with his solo career, where his albums often surpass his previous
employer’s in the heavy metal stakes.) To complete the new lineup
Blackmore called upon the services of long time cohort, powerhouse drummer
Cozy Powell. Powell was just coming off a surprising year as a pop star
after a string of drum orientated Top 10 single hits. Before Powell had
been with Britain’s other bad boy guitarist Jeff Beck.
Cozy Powell stayed with Rainbow for five years making
him the second longest lasting member of the band after Blackmore. Perhaps
his time with Beck had forearmed him. Whatever, his spectacular and solid
drumming gave Blackmore the rock on which to build his band.
Tony Carey, an undoubted keyboard genius, was whisked
away from his undistinguished country band from L.A ‘Blessing’, and
gave Blackmore the musical sparring partner he had been missing since
leaving Jon Lord from his Deep Purple days.
Then Ritchie Blackmore went to see his old mate Ricky
Munro (they had played together in a band called ‘Mandrake Root’ in
Germany in 1967 - a bit of trivia for all you Harry Potter fans) at the
Marquee, where he was playing with a band called ‘Harlot’, liked his
bass player and promptly asked him to join ‘Rainbow’. This completed
‘Rainbow’ and finished off ‘Harlot’.
So all back to the studio and this time not only did
they come out with a bunch of great songs, but they sounded like a band.
The band was now just known as ‘Rainbow’, dropping the Blackmore
reference, and simply calling the album ‘Rising’.
Laying down new templates for hard rock the album
starts with ‘Tarot Woman’. First Carey softens you up with a spacey
keyboard intro before Blackmore comes in with one of his customized
battering riffs before Bain and Powell come in on top to hammer the song
into your brain. This all before Dio has a chance to sing the first verse.
Then both Blackmore and Carey get the chance to show their chops on their
solos before dueling out to bring the song to its close.
‘Run with the Wolf’ is a typical Blackmore call to
arms, which would get any Army on its feet. ‘Stargazer’ is the first
real classic in the running order. It literally bounces out of the
speakers and could only be performed with such fine musicians. To hear a
drummer at his absolute best, just have a listen to Cozy Powell on this
album or on any of the two live albums from this lineup (‘On Stage’ or
‘Live in Germany’ from 1977). This is followed by ‘Do you Close Your
Eyes’, here in a 3-minute version, which shows some of Ritchie
Blackmore’s more modern influences. With its Yardbirds type feel, this
song was often extended out to 15 minutes in their live set.
The last two songs go into the category of all time
classic hard rock epics. Especially ‘Stargazer’, clocking in at over 8
minutes in length, won by a country mile as the most popular ‘Rainbow’
song on the ‘Rainbow’ website for fans. The band is allowed full reign
to show off their prowess. Blackmore pulling off a solo that was to
overshadow anything he had ever previously done, and with the Munich
Philharmonic Orchestra in full flow supporting the 5-piece band, the sound
is nothing short of exhilarating.
The climax of the set is brought to a thrilling
conclusion by over eight action packed minutes of ‘A Light in the
Black’ with some sensational dueling between Carey and Blackmore. Some
more powerhouse rhythm work from Bain and Powell while Dio shows us all
the way home.
‘Rising’ remains one of the greatest milestones in