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Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow – Stranger In Us All

I will always love this album because one time, Scott said the cover art looks like Ritchie’s just out there, off standing at the bottom of his garden… Oh, and the music’s pretty great too, so that’s another reason…. Mike sent me this one. Let’s go!

Wolf To The Moon is a sweet track with excellent guitar work (of course). I like how clear it is. Is that a silly thing to say? It just sounds good. Released in 1995, it sounds like it would perfectly fit in in 1985. And, too boot, there’s something almost regal about it… oh man, there I go again… Cold Hearted Woman is a bluesy rocker with a slinky guitar line. Songs like these are timeless.

Hunting Humans (Insatiable) menacingly stomps along, though it’s a little repetitive. The chorus isn’t a great pay-off either, maybe not the best track here. Stand And Fight is a fun barroom rock song, bluesy and full of energy. Harmonica, even! I like the guitar solo here, it’s simultaneously dirty and slick. Nice! Now, one downside… all you’d have to add is pedal steel and a real twang to these vocals and you’d have one of those New Country approximations of rock and roll that thse people are so fond of making. I can’t unhear it, but I’m trying hard not to think about it.

Ariel has a huge, roomy sound. I am assuming that this is not an ode to the Little Mermaid… c’mon, I’m a stay-at-home Dad with a 2.5 year old daughter. It had to be said. Anyway. This tune goes for menacing again and manages it, except at the chorus bit, where it’s pretty moreso than mean. Also, and I don’t know if this is coincidence or not, but I like the vocals at 4:20. Ahem. They really suit the tune better.

Too Late For Tears is straight-up and faster (I liked it!), because a slower song always needs to followed by a lively rocker. It’s one of the unwritten but generally accepted rules of Making A Rock Album 101. [Disclaimer: Such a thing does not exist, to my knowledge. A]. Black Masquerade has a theatrical feel to it as it rocks along even faster than Too Late… You know, I could actually hear Maiden taking a rip through this one.

Silence, as it turns out, is not a track of silence. Bit of false advertising, that. What it is, though, is yet another cool rock song with a great buzzy guitar line. You know, this record actually getting better as it goes along. He’s getting more adventurous on vocals, and the songs have more energy. Nice! Hall Of The Mountain King is indeed the Greig thing, with lyrics by Blackmore’s wife, and it rocks along quite nicely. And finally, Still I’m Sad is a cover of the old Yardbirds tune, with a pretty guitar instrumental intro that becomes another full-on rock track at full speed. I hear Maiden again, which is not a bad thing. It’s quite nice to have such an energetic, lovely rock and roll track go for 5 minutes to end an album!

But wait!

See, Mike has this habit of buying the bonus tracks off iTunes or wherever he gets them, then putting them on a CD-R. He then puts the original album and the CD-R in a double CD case to keep it all together. And this copy he gave me is one such example. The CD-R contains the entire album again, plus one bonus track that’s been tacked onto the end…

Emotional Crime is a great barroom blues rocker, with an excellent guitar solo. Lucky Japan, for getting this track domestically!

In sum, I really liked this record. A lot. It’s very, very solid. Thanks heaps, Mike!

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Rainbow – Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

This album was part of the stack of stuff Mike gave me, innocuous-seeming, at the time…

I don’t swear much, generally, and hardly ever in these pages. But after hearing this record today, all I can say is HOLY SHIT! THIS WAS SO FRIGGIN’ GOOD!

Seriously, why have I not had this album in my life forever? Oh man, this one blew me away.

There follows my field notes, written as things occurred to me while I listened…

The title track, as album opener, is a full-on blues rocker. Holy crap, that was awesome, just a monster of a song. The guitar solo, the drums throughout (and yes this time I shout-out Cozy Powell, as I should have last time), you’ve got Dio’s vocals… the works.

Lady Of The Lake keeps up the rawk assault, this time a heavier start-stop riff that was built for headbanging. The chorus gets more melodic yet it still fits. Great instrumental bit in the middle. And, as testimony to what a geek I am, I did not immediately think of Arthurian legend here. No, I thought of Monty Python’s bit about “just because some watery tart threw a sword at you…” Incrongruous with the might of the song, I know, I know.

L.A. Connection is a bluesy stomper with Dio in full wail. This is fully drenched in that heavy blues rock that only a few bands ever mastered. An excellent track.

Gates Of Babylon, once past its synth intro, takes off at a good clip with a slinky riff. It has the feel of a proper rock epic track. “The devil will take you away!” Of course he will! Glorious track.

Kill The King is a track I heard (for the first time) recently, on the On Stage live album (see review). The studio version here ups the ante… it make me want to just go really fast and yell and revel in the release of it all. So great. Am I wrong for hearing Maiden in the instrumental bit, here? (1:45 – 3:06) Ah who cares, this is a gigantic track.

The Shed (Subtle) isn’t all that subtle, is it? Another straight-up blues rock stomper that’s actually pretty in-your-face. “Out of my way!… Streetwalkin’… Nightstalkin’…” Oooo yeah. And I love Blackmore’s slide guitar solo, here.

Sensitive To Light ramps it up again with another sweaty barroom blues rocker that is just unrelenting. I just loved this.

… and as if all of that wasn’t enough…

Rainbow Eyes is seven minutes of gentleness, beautiful and melodic. Flutes! It’s all proof that our man Ronnie James Dio could really do it all, vocally. Damn. Despite being the only quiet track here, this totally fits. A superb closer.

In sum? It’s clear to me that the band was swinging for the fences, with this record. All killer, no filler. An instant place-of-honour favourite.

My HUGE thanks to Mike for bringing this incredible collection of songs into my life.

Rainbow – On Stage

I know more OF Rainbow than I have heard their songs, so when Mike sent me a couple of their records I was very excited indeed. You see, I love Dio. His vocals are just superb. So any band he hung around has to be alright in my books. And then I find out Blackmore was involved… oh baby. Anyway, all of this to say that sometimes a live album can be a great introduction to a band. And this one? HOLY HELL THIS ROCKED!

Kill The King has a funny Somewhere Over The Rainbow teaser intro (haha). Then the band just takes right off with a great driving beat. The whole thing is one helluva intro. Imagine being there for this! Mind. Blown. The keys really stand out here, for me. Right around the 3:20 mark is incredible stuff. Damn.

Then we have a medley track, kicking off with Man On The Silver Mountain, which is a great classic rock track. The soloing really stands out here. There’s a bit of a pause and then we move into the simply-titled Blues, which is a cool jam session. It’s the sound of a band stretching out, unwinding a bit, being playful. Loved it. There’s some handclaps which lead into Starstruck, another great rawk track. Stand-out vocal section in the middle. A massive song. What a collection!

Catch The Rainbow is next, a beautiful slow song with great bottom end. It just builds and builds into a full band rock-out before coming back down again, then building back up… Really plays on energy and emotion. Huge solos, the works. At 15 and a half minutes, this is a tour de force.

Mistreated’s beautiful guitar intro becomes a slicing rawk buzzsaw. What a brilliant slow blues stomper of a tune. Total showcase for the guitar that just goes on for minutes in the most beautiful way. Talk about dynamics, bringing things way down and letting the mood shift… Dio probably went for a beer haha! I love the way it picks up to full gallop before the guitar and vocals noodle us on out of there…

Sixteenth Century Greensleeves is a really unfortunate title for a rock song, but hey it’s Dio. Whaddaya gonna do? This one’s two and a half minute intro was too long, but it leads into a lovely rawk organ tune. This one, like the others, sounds like a pure classic rock tune, all the trimmings, top to bottom. I found myself getting lost in the tale as the song tromped along. Truly fun!

Still I’m Sad takes off right out of the gates. The organ features again, here. Love the instrumental sections, showing off that these are superlative players. Stunning once again – this album is full of those!

And that’s it. A short set list, but all the songs were so long it was a full concert regardless. 

Two final points:

1) Everyone on that stage played their asses off to achieve a stellar gig, but I do have to give a shout-out to Ronnie James Dio for the fantastic vocals (as ever). That guy could WAIL! Hot damn. And,

2) I tried to imagine myself in the crowd for this show… I can only think that I’d have achieved lift-off to have been there to witness such prowess and sheer powerful rawk. Wow.

Huge thanks to Mike for getting this record in my ears. This was awesome!

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