Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow is Born
by Jody Haskins for The Laguna Spectator
With all the excitement surrounding Ritchie Blackmore recreating his rock and roll Rainbow, I thought this would be the perfect time to dig into the archives and revisit the original Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow album featuring the one and only Ronnie James Dio on lead vocals.
December 12, 1974 found Ritchie Blackmore taking a ‘break’
from Deep Purple and entering a recording studio in Tampa, Florida. Ritchie Blackmore originally planned to record the solo single “Black Sheep of the Family” and “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves”. Blackmore was very happy with the tracks and made the decision to abruptly leave Deep Purple for the first time and purse a fresh path with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.
Rainbow would become the musical vehicle that Ritchie B
Blackmore and Jon Lord originally envisioned Deep Purple to be. A constant revolving door of supporting band members that would always revolve around Ritchie Blackmore’s unique musical desires. This first incarnation of Rainbow included Ronnie James Dio and the rest of the Elf band, Gary Driskoll on Drums, Craig Gruber on bass and Mickey Lee Soule on keyboards.
There were great expectations placed on Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. The album that was recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, Germany in February and March of 1975 with the legendary Martin “The Wasp” Burch producing. The beautiful marriage of Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar and Ronnie James Dio’s vocals was one of the very best things to happen to classic rock music.
Here is a look at that first album.
Man on The Silver Mountain
The opening track has fantastic lyrics by Dio and equally amazing guitar playing by Blackmore. It even has a nice chorus.
A cowbell leads into a plodding and grinding guitar riff by Ritchie Blackmore quickly followed by Ronnie James Dio demonstrating his supernatural vocal powers. In your mind’s eye you can almost see a paranoid dude outside of an ancient castle trying to hide in the moonlight, his eyes are darting back and forth while his breathing is anxious and labored. You just know he is about to get caught.
Black Sheep of The Family
Here Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow performs the obligatory beer drinking and pool playing rocking blues song. While not my personal favorite, I can still enjoy it for what it is.
Catch The Rainbow
A slow blues rocker with a mellow, laid back groove. Ronnie’s voice and Ritchie’s guitar are a match made in Heaven on this track. Reminds me of ‘Soldier of Fortune’ from Deep Purple’s Stormbringer or ‘Sail Away’ from Burn.
Side Two: Track One
This song is a blatant re-imagining of Stormbringer, the title track from Ritchie Blackmore’s last Deep Purple LP. This song is amusing in that it is more funky than anything on Stormbringer. Ritchie Blackmore is rumored to have left Deep Purple because he was not a fan of the funky direction Glenn Hughes was taking Deep Purple. This song proves that Ritchie Blackmore can be as funky as the next guy. So what was the real reason Ritchie left Deep Purple? Long story short. Both songs rock and are equally great for different reasons. Play them back to back for fun some time.
Temple of the King
I think they should have called this song ‘The Tolling’ or ‘Black Bell’ or even ‘Year of the Fox’. This track is a look into the future musical journey’s of both Blackmore and Dio. This is a fantastic blending of Dio’s mystical lyrics and Blackmore’s affection for medieval music. It is a shame Ronnie James Dio had to die. I do not see any way that Ritchie Blackmore could choose any other vocalists for this new project if Dio was still alive. Ritchie has compared his new vocalist, Lords Of Black singer Ronnie Romero. as a cross between Ronnie James Dio and Freddie Mercury of Queen. That is a mighty high bar to set. I hope he can meet it.
If You Don’t Like Rock & Roll
Skip it. Trust me on this one. This up tempo rocker is out of character for this band and painful to listen to. Dio sings with extra forcefulness, Ritchie plays just a little too nasty and the piano is out of place on this album. This sounds like a blatant attempt to write a radio hit for the happy people who walk around blissfully ignorant of the horrors that surround them. Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio have both been called a lot of things, but no one ever accused either of them of being blissfully ignorant happy people. Not their audience and not their bag. It has been brought to my attention that the reason this song sounds so out of place was that it was originally intended to go on the last Elf album. Filler is the best thing I can call this track.
Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
This is a song about a supernatural world with shadows in the night. It contains a blistering solo by Blackmore and the solid bed of foot-stompin’ music laid down by Gruber and Driskoll. This track is a fantastic look at what this band could have become had they stayed together. Blackmore fired Gruber and Driskoll shortly after the album was recorded. This lineup of Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow never played a single live show together.
Still I’m Sad
Maybe Ritchie Blackmore thought it was time to show Rod Evans that he can be as spacey and psychedelic as Captain Beyond. Then again maybe he was just fresh out of ideas or time and decided to rip off ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ and ‘You Fool No One’ from Deep Purple’s Burn LP. It doesn’t really matter because it I really enjoy this song. It is a shame there are no Ronnie James Dio vocals, but it is a treat to be able to hear Gary Driskoll’s amazing drumming really shine on this track. It is filler track but it is a pretty damn good filler track.
While listening to this album you cannot help but think these guys are on to something. They just haven’t quite figured out how to bottle it. You smile inside because you know that if they stay together there is no way they won’t hit on the magical formula that so many groups strive for and so few bands actually achieve. It is not a top 40 hit or mass popularity, those things are superficial and fleeting and do not matter in the end. What artist like Dio and Blackmore strive for is to spiritually connect their instruments to the soul of the listener while making music for the Gods. Mere mortals are privileged to bask in the musical magic that are classic, timeless songs such as: Child in Time, Voodoo, Heaven and Hell, Highway Star or Stairway to Heaven. While Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow featuring Ronnie James Dio doesn’t quite achieve that on this album, it is fun to listen to them try.
That was then and this is now. 40 years have flown by and Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow has been resurrected once again.
This version will include Ritchie Blackmore alongside Lords Of Black singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith and ex-Blackmore’s Night bassist Bob Curiano. I don’t know if we will ever get anything more than the short list of shows Ritchie has scheduled the band to play in 2016. We can hope that Ritchie Blackmore catches the rock and roll bug one more time and decides to rock out full time for a few more years. If not at least we have one more chance to experience Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.