Album of the Week 53-2015: Rainbow – Rising

Before I get into the actual musical brilliance of this mid-seventies masterpiece, just look at that album cover. If that isn’t monumental, I don’t know what is. Luckily the music answers to that as well; Rainbow’s sophomore album is where the band really started coming into its own. Ritchie Blackmore’s mighty riffs exceed anything he did with the already brilliant Deep Purple here, while Ronnie James Dio probably delivers his best performance in a career full of powerhouse performances. This is quite likely the best work eve to balance on the edge of Hardrock and Heavy Metal, released in a time when that border was still a little vague.

What may help is tha Blackmore fully embraced the fact that Rainbow was now his fulltime band. The self-titled debut was an elevated side project of Blackmore with members of Dio’s band Elf, but on ‘Rising’, there’s the first proper line-up, including the legendary Cozy Powell on drums. He makes his performance known here, refusing to be a marionette to Blackmore’s direction. That’s how the album got the best of both worlds: the excellence of the musicians on their instruments and the power of a good song. A perfect match, if you ask me.

Another person who contributes greatly, but is often forgotten is keyboard player Tony Carey. His spacey keyboard work takes over the full intro of the amazing opening track ‘Tarot Woman’, but even more important is what he did on the album’s biggest monument: the orchestration to the mighty ‘Stargazer’. This midtempo, ominous epic is obviously Blackmore’s answer to Led Zeppelin’s inimitable ‘Kashmir’ and Carey’s arrangement for the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra in the finale helps it get to that league. Dio’s overwhelmingly powerful voice and Powell’s big, beefy drums are respectively the icing and the flour to this musical cake.

That’s hardly where the fun ends though. ‘Starstruck’ is a bit lighter and bluesier, but incredibly enjoyable and offers another stellar performance by Dio, the aforementioned ‘Tarot Woman’ is sheer seventies Hardrock euphoria and closer ‘A Light In The Black’ builds upon a repetitive, but incredibly effective riff and has incredible solos by both Blackmore and Carey. ‘Run With The Wolf’ and ‘Do You Close Your Eyes’ seem less interesting by comparison, but are far above the average Hardrock songs of the mid-seventies, while the latter has yet another amazing vocal performance by Dio.

Following the release of ‘Rising’, Blackmore wanted to take Rainbow in an increasingly more commercially viable direction. Most of its direct follow-up ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ was still very enjoyable, but after that, nothing he released was even close to the genius of ‘Rising’. Maybe it didn’t help that Dio left the band in 1979 and Powell not much later. While everyone involved would end up in musically interesting ventures later on, nothing ever quite reached the magic of this monumental Hardrock record. If you ever want to look below the surface of what Rock music was about in the mighty seventies, ‘Rising’ is the perfect place to start. One of the best records ever released.

Recommended tracks: ‘Stargazer’, ‘Starstruck’, ‘Tarot Woman’

  1. This is weird – we’ve been listening to the same albums recently (I know your post isn’t that ‘recent’ but I was listening to this exact album about a month ago). I’d originally been looking for Stargazer as I really love that epic track. Great performance by Dio on the YouTube version I was watching.

    • Hey Carol,
      Call it musical telepathy! ‘Stargazer’ is beyond amazing. When I first heard it, I didn’t know what was happening to me. Ever since hearing Led Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ and Iron Maiden’s ‘Powerslave’ at a young age, I had a weak spot for Eastern mysticism and to hear that with Dio’s powerhouse vocals was just overwhelming. ‘Starstruck’ and ‘Tarot Woman’ on the other hand never fail to cheer me up on a bad day.
      Even though I love just about everything that Dio did, I think that ‘Rising’ is his very finest hour. The same goes for Blackmore and Cozy Powell, by the way.

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