‘Rising’ was not predestined to become the 70s metal monster it became. Hell, Rainbow wasn’t even supposed to be a band.
Ritchie Blackmore was in the process of leaving Deep Purple in the early months of 1975. Deep Purple seemed to have developed a revolving door line-up, attracting stray musicians like a black hole sucking in passing planets. His initial intention was to record a solo album. In the process, he recorded a song with Ronnie James Dio and his band Elf. The result so impressed Blackmore he decided to make a band of it. Combining forces into a band called Purple Elf would have been career suicide, so Rainbow was born, the name inspired by the legendary Rainbow Bar and Grill venue. The album ‘Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow’ followed.
Blackmore reckoned the band could be better, so he sacked all the elves except Ronnie, which turned out to be an inspired move. What to do for a rhythm section? Just pull in Cozy Powell and Jimmy Bain. And what about that 70s rock staple, the keyboards? Blackmore and bassist Bain were busy auditioning possible band members while a band called Blessings was rehearsing in the studio next door. Blackmore was impressed with Blessings’ keyboard player Tony Carey, so asked him to audition. Since his own band was going nowhere fast, he joined Rainbow, and the rest, as the hoary old cliché goes, was history!
So what did the Ritchie and Ronnie collaboration come up with? Six tracks of essential 70s metal, and one of the most iconic albums in all of metal and rock, that’s what. The mists of time may have faded the impact of this album somewhat. It’s not going to blow the socks off a teenage Bring Me The Horizon fan. However, anyone with an interest in the history of metal, a love for guitar wizardry, or an ear for soaring rock vocals will love ‘Rising’.
‘Rising’ may seem a bit short, at only six tracks, and just over the half hour mark, but there is a lot packed into that space. Carey’s keyboards swirl in from the silence as an intro to “Tarot Woman”. Blackmore offers a sharp, almost industrial reply, and then Powell and Bain thunder in, and the song takes off. Dio tells his tale of fairground witchcraft. There really isn’t much more to say. The recipe is made to sound simple, but there are hidden depths, proving the execution has been anything but simple. It is vintage metal, made for metal fans, while avoiding the worst excesses of 70s progressive rock.
The introduction to “Starstruck” has had air guitarists fiddling away at nothing, and real guitarists throwing their hands up in frustration, ever since 1976. The song has a groove which was once the exclusive preserve of Deep Purple, but had been commandeered by Rainbow, and put to great use.
“Run With The Wolf” and “Do You Close Your Eyes” both have memorable metallic riffs and almost pop-metal hooks, punctuated with guitar magic and sing-along choruses.
Powell’s intro to “Stargazer” would have had drummers the world over scratching their heads as to how he did it. The song has an epic main riff, like Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, only more mystical. Dio’s fantastical lyrics and clarion call vocals soar over the mythic miasma. Blackmore also lets rip, releasing all shackles, a six string maestro at the height of his powers. His solos are technically impressive, and seethe with vitality. The song takes on further dimensions still, with the backing of the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra.
And then to finally nail this album to the wall, closing track "A Light in the Black" basically wrote the blueprint for power metal. Up-tempo, and hard driving, the song is also a melodic masterpiece. Keyboardist Carey and Blackmore trade licks through the song. Cozy’s kickdrums underpin the whole thing.
The pairing of Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio sounds like a match made in heaven on paper (and a bit of a mangled metaphor!), and there was no better combo at the time. However, the age old problem of creative differences reared its ugly head, leaving “Rising” as a one-off for this line-up. Dio joined Black Sabbath, and the enjoyed a lengthy solo career. Blackmore and Rainbow found commercial success with the singles “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “I Surrender”, and headlined the first Donnington Monsters of Rock festival. However, Rainbow never maintained a steady line-up, and has had periods of hiatus when Blackmore’s interests have been elsewhere.
No matter. Just be thankful “Rising” exists, as a snapshot of one of the great combos of all time.