- Ritchie Blackmore - Guitar/Bass
- Ronnie James Dio - Vocals
- Cozy Powell - Drums
- Bob Daisley - Bass
- David Stone - Keyboards
- Produced by Martin Birch
- Direction - Bruce Payne
Very few bands are true supergroups. Some actually start out that way at inception. A group is formed by established name musicians. The classic examples are bands like Blind Faith, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Other supergroups just happen unexpectedly. Jimmy Page hooks up with session bassist John Paul Jones, and plucks Robert Plant and John Bonham out of total obscurity and forms Led Zeppelin. Plant and Bonham were virtual unknowns, but went on to become rock legends unto themselves, and the definitive performers in a whole new stylistic genre. Zeppelin started out as Jimmy Page's new band, but with historical perspective, Zeppelin was a supergroup. The same can be said (albeit on a lesser scale than Zeppelin) about Rainbow. They started out as Ritchie Blackmore's new band, but the early lineups became a rock metal supergroup.
In the early 70s, Ritchie Blackmore was already a Guitar God and known commodity. He was the volatile element in another supergroup, Deep Purple. A band who, along with Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, had defined the hard rock/heavy metal genre. As a songwriter, Blackmore was the riff master behind Smoke on the Water, Highway Star, Woman From Tokyo, Burn, and countless other classics. As a player Blackmore, had a totally unique style and sound, more pure chops than his contemporaries, and he's widely credited for introducing classical music elements into rock. He has been a huge influence on legions of guitarists, including Van Halen and Malmsteen. He's also either directly, or indirectly responsible for discovering some of hard rock's best and most distinctive vocalists.
But with all that going for him, Blackmore was not a happy man in 1974. Deep Purple's classic MKII lineup had gone through upheaval. Ritchie had rid himself of his arch nemesis, Ian Gillan, and bassist Roger Glover, and revamped Purple with then-unknown singer David Coverdale and little known singer/bassist Glenn Hughes (two of the aforementioned best and most distinctive vocalists). While this lineup (MKIII) produced the excellent album Burn, the two newcomers (particularly Hughes, a big fan of funk and soul) were taking Purple in directions away from their past and away from Ritchie's vision. By the time MKIII was recording its second album, Stormbringer, Ritchie had reached the end of his rope. And even before he quit Purple, Ritchie had begun forming his new band.
Blackmore had his eye on Deep Purple's opening act, a band called Elf. More specifically, he had his eye on their singer, Ronnie James Dio. A small man with a huge voice. Ritchie approached Elf, who, after laboring long in obscurity, pretty much leapt at the chance join forces with Blackmore. For convenience, Ritchie simply swallowed Elf whole, spit out their guitarist, and inserted himself. They would call the band Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow -- the prefix designed to capitalize on Ritchie's name recognition, the word Rainbow was probably Dio's idea. Finally free from Purple to work with a bunch of unknowns, Ritchie was able to indulge in a musical direction that was his alone. They began work on their first album. Unlike Purple which had managed to remain a mostly blues-based band, Rainbow would lean more heavily on the classical influence. If you weren't going prog, this was a fairly unique idea in 1975.
The initial Rainbow lineup didn't last long. Even before their first album, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, hit the stores, Ritchie had begun replacing the "elves" (other than Dio) with better musicians who's names would later figure very prominently in the annals of hard rock and metal. Form the Jeff Beck Group, Ritchie added Cozy Powell on drums. Cozy was a monster on drums. An undeniable force in the way very few drummers are. He put his unmistakable stamp on Rainbow with his distinctive and powerful style that frequently drove Rainbow's songs. Cozy later went on to drum for veritable Who's Who of rock and metal performers including The Michael Schenker Group, Graham Bonnet, Whitesnake, Phenomena, Roger Daltrey, Emerson, Lake, & Powell, Gary Moore, Robert Plant, Brian May, Glenn Tipton, Cinderella, Peter Green, Yngwie Malmsteen, and late lineups of Black Sabbath. To say that he was the preeminent Dinosaur Rock drummer of his time, is an understatement. And he was never better than he was in Rainbow. On bass, came Jimmy Bain, who'd later work with (the band) Dio. Then Bob Daisley, who has been almost as prolific as Powell, lending his bass to Ozzy Osbourne, and Gary Moore, among others. Keys were handled by Tony Carey, and later David Stone.
Boy Band --
Dino Rock style
Aparently Ritchie didn't allow smiling.
Blackmore, Daisley, Dio, Stone, Powell
Most important to Rainbow's sound, however, was the musical marriage of Blackmore and Dio. In Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie had found the perfect vocal and lyrical complement for his dramatic musical style. Dio was to Blackmore what Plant was to Page; what Jagger was to Richard. Where Ian Gillan usually sang of loose women, fast cars, and typical rock themes, Dio sang of crossbows in the firelight, wizards, kings, dragons, and rainbows. These themes meshed perfectly with Blackmore's classically-inspired compositions and his burgeoning interest in medieval melodies. And of course, Dio's mighty voice went on to become arguably THE seminal voice of heavy metal.
The Dio-era Rainbow produced three studio albums (and some live albums) before Ritchie pulled the plug to take Rainbow in a more commercial direction. While Rainbow never achieved the mass popularity Deep Purple attained, in my opinion, what you get with the Dio-era Rainbow is Ritchie Blackmore in his purest form; creating his most intricate and classically-influenced compositions, and playing the best lead guitar of his entire career. As great as Ritchie was in Deep Purple, I contend he is an improved guitar player here. All three Dio-era Rainbow are essential, and classic Dinosaur Rock albums. Long Live Rock 'n' Roll is my favorite of the three and IMO, represents the both the band's peak, and Ritchie Blackmore's peak. It also contains some of Dio and Powell's best recorded performances. For example, never before or since, has Dio recorded so many beautiful vocal harmonies. Oddly enough, at the time, Long Live Rock 'n' Roll was called too commercial by some Rainbow fans. I disagree. Beyond (possibly) the title track, there's nothing here even remotely commercial. This album is pure Dinosaur Rock and stomps like a T-Rex on the hunt. So let's listen.
Track By Track (vocal cues in parentheses)
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (4:19) Cozy starts things off with his machine gun snare drum intro. The verse lick bounces a root-octave figure with a few twists and a turnaround lick. This is typical Blackmore fare. Instead of a traditional, chordal, rhythm guitar part, Ritchie frequently plays single notes that mimic the bass line. This is part of what makes him so unique. There are his classic riffs (based on two-note fourths), but he rarely uses full chords! You won't ever hear the standard root 6 bar chord out of Ritchie, you'll hear a root 1 instead. This approach would sound extremely thin if there wasn't a keyboard player thickening things up. But Ritchie has always had keys in his bands. Listen to Cozy's cymbal accent on the note at the end of the verse parts. Chorus is a variation on the verse. Solo part one is a worked-out harmony part that ascends to a crescendo. A bunch of rapid fire licks follow, then Ritchie slows down gets melodic for the end. Dio's vocals are powerful, but very straightforward on this track. He cut some harmonies, but less than on the rest of the album. (I can hear it screaming [in my mind] [through the air] ). Listen to Cozy on the outro choruses. He's playing his ass off.
Lady of the Lake (3:37) This song has a heavy, start-stop feel. The verse is quick lick, again, involving another root-to-octave figure, followed by a three note, descending chromatic chord pattern. It's played pretty much over a straight beat but Cozy accents the descending pattern with his trademark (kick drum and hand-muted cymbal) "hits" that sync up with the chord figure. This is a classic Powell-ism, and this album is full of them. There is a turnaround figure every other verse part. The chorus is a root-fifth-octave figure Dio offers a nice melodic vocal line over the verse and goes into a wonderful two part harmony in the choruses. (I know she waits below . . ). Guitar solo begins with a slow melodic slide part that eventually gets a harmony part. Verse and chorus outro.
L.A. Connection (4:58) Heavily effected guitar riff intro that becomes the verse part over a stomp beat with a high-hat accent. Guitar part sounds fingerpicked. Bass plays quarter notes on the root. Dio's shouting a pretty loud vocal, really going for it. Chorus part one is real quick, (oooo, LA Connection) part two is the verse beat, then it repeats and the verse lick is repeated for emphasis. Verses build tension, choruses release it. Phase shifter on a nice tasty slide guitar solo. Note to anyone who doesn't think Ritchie uses effects: there is phase shifter all over this album. Vocal tracks get denser toward the end of the song. Background vocals are added, and Dio does some call-and-response stuff (with himself.) Complimentary piano parts going on in the background.
Gates of Babylon (6:46) An epic. Very complicated composition. Scored and conducted by Rainer Pietch. Strings by the Bavarian String Ensemble. Eerie, mood-setting keyboard intro, followed by the unmistakable sound of Moog Tarus Pedals (Ritchie's new toy at the time) playing the low notes. Fast, rollicking verse finds guitar, keys, and bass in unison again, creating a intricate, eastern-flavored melody. Complementary vocal melody. Dio holds back a bit on the verses, and goes for more power on the choruses. Vocal harmonies begin building in the second half of the choruses (Sleep with the Devil and then you must pay . . .) Verse and Chorus repeat. The guitar solo is probably Blackmore's best (and longest non-live) recorded solo. It begins slowly over the verse part with Blackmore's trademark staccato notes and snake-charmer scale. The composition then breaks from the verse/chorus parts and becomes a solo section unto itself that takes many different twists and turns. Ritchie moves between the fast and flashy, and the slow and melodic with magnificent grace and ease. You'll hear some quick, muted, sweep arpeggios that would become staples of the neo-classical guitar school. I defy anyone to show me lead work like this in Ritchie's Deep Purple playing. This is a different level. At the end of the solo, a slow melody develops and both the drums and the guitar are phase-shifted. Back to the verse. Vocal harmonies develop as the song ends. Fade out is violin.
Kill The King (4:28) One of the most kick-ass songs ever written. Filled with the best work of Rainbow's big three (Blackmore Dio and Powell) Coincidently, the writing credits on this track go to all three. Powell, in fact, is SO much of this track, that it's hard to imagine what this song would have sounded like, had it been written with another drummer. The song begins with another Blackmore-ism lifted from classical music: arpeggiated triads -- in harmony. Underneath them, a descending chord progression, and Cozy playing some awesome, lead-in fills that are just pure Cozy Powell. The verse is based on one of Ritchie's classic, two-note (diad), 4th-based riffs -- the kind used in Smoke on the Water, Burn, etc. Though this riff is not quite as famous, is easily the equal of those classic riffs. The song takes off like a rocket. Fast and furious. On this one, Dio's using soaring harmonies early and often, on both the verses and choruses. Listen for those Cozy accent hits again in the chorus, right after (tear him down). Verse and chorus repeat a second time and the intro is played again followed by a quick lead-in to the solo section. Ritchie does some his quick, tremolo picking/noodling on one note at a time, and Cozy flattens you with a double bass drum pattern underneath. Bass drops out for effect, then picks up again and Ritchie goes for some less primitive, flashier playing. A worked-out and hamonized, minor arpeggiated triad part closes the solo. Verse kicks off again, but it's modulated up, increasing the tension. Dio's really wailing on it from here on out. Three-part vocal harmonies in places. The song's end is heavy as hell -- it's like they're trying to stop a runaway train. I'm guessing Cozy was responsible for the ending.
The Shed (Subtle) (4:23) Ritchie starts this one with some bluesy licks, phase shifted and heavily echoed. The song kicks off into another raucous, headbanging stomp -- a simple bluesy guitar lick over a bouncing root-octave bass figure. Remarkably effective. Typical Blackmoreish ascending and descending (and often chromatic) turnarounds at the end of the verses and choruses. Drums are straight and heavy. Dio at about half power on the verse. Vocal harmonies kick in in the chorus (so come and try to bend me if you can . . . ). Another melodic slide guitar solo with phase shifter. Funny, when you think of Ritchie Blackmore, slide player isn't the first thing that comes to mind -- for me anyway -- but when you look at his work and start adding things up, he actually plays quite a bit of slide. The song hammers home with another verse, chorus, and verse used as outro.
Sensitive To Light (3:04) A fast, uptempo song with a major scale feel. Simple, repetitive riff played by guitar and bass in unison. Cozy accents the turnaround licks. Chromatic walk up to the chorus (she's a bright and shining star . . .) Dio really propels this song with the vocal delivery and melody. Song breaks down for the bridge and solo section. Another quick, melodic slide guitar solo. No flash here, just some contrast to the busier main riff.
Rainbow Eyes (7:11) This a beautiful song. I marvel at this one. In some ways, it's similar in approach to Soldier of Fortune off of Stormbringer, but it's longer and more worked-out. It's not rock. It's not a ballad in the traditional sense. I don't know what you'd call it, why it works, or how they managed to pull it off. No drums, no bass, no keys, just Ritchie and Ronnie (and the Bavarian String Ensemble again) doing a quiet number. Minor scale feel with a Renaissance flavor that hints of Ritchie's future with Blackmore's Night. Ritchie's got a fairly clean electric sound for this one. Guitar part sounds fingerpicked. Arpeggiated chord progression, enhanced with a few same Little Wing style fills he used on Catch the Rainbow. As pretty as the guitar part is, Dio steals the show on this track. On Rainbow Eyes, we get a glimpse of a side of Dio's voice that he seldom shows. Soft, melodic, full of warmth and character. Brilliant vocal harmonies that build as the song progresses. The song is long and slow -- they don't rush it. There's a good minute and a half of fade out with the string ensemble.
Sadly, nothing this good lasts, and this album would be Rainbow's last hurrah as a true Dinosaur Rock band with the classic Blackmore/Dio/Powell lineup. After Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, Ritchie decide to take the band in a more commercial direction. Dio left and became Ozzy Osbourne's replacement in Black Sabbath -- and his work with Sabbath was equally brilliant. Dio was replaced in Rainbow by Graham Bonnett, a singer who can belt, but who's lyrical content dragged Rainbow back toward mundane rock clichés (I want to love you all night long). Both Bonnett and Powell left after one album and Daisley was soon replaced by Purple bassist, Roger Glover. Rainbow would ride the 80s as a pop rock band, albeit, a good one. Rainbow continued to be a notorious revolving door of highly competent, though largely faceless musicians, who came and went from the lineup. Ritchie discovered yet another talented singer in Joe Lynn Tuner, who remained the band's singer until the band's breakup.
Sadder still, Cozy Powell died in a car crash in 1998, and Ronnie James Dio died of cancer in 2010. There was never a renunion of the classic lineup. Fortunately, the supergroup that was the Dio-era Rainbow left us with a terrific legacy.
Related / Also Recommended:
- Rainbow: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow - V V V V V
- Rainbow: Rising - V V V V V
- Rainbow: Live in Munich - V V V V
By Dinosaur David B. Copyright ©2002 All rights reserved.