Way back over thirty years ago, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple guitarist fame united with Dio's band Elf (at first, as a side project; for this album he would replace the rest of the musicians accept for Dio) to form a new group Rainbow that would revolutionize the world of metal, especially Rainbow's sophomore effort, Rising. This album in many ways has achieved historical merit regarding it's influence on the direction hard rock and metal would take in the future, and that influence reverberates throughout the metal community today, especially with power metal and prog metal acts. So exactly what about it made it so influential?
Well, nothing like it had really been done before. And it still sounds remarkably unique and well aged all the way to the incoming another decade of the millennium. Blackmore's guitar work is some of the best (if not the best) he had and has ever recorded, at least in the sense of how he'd progressed out of the blues style into what would help define hard rock/heavy metal guitar playing, with heavy hitting riffs, sweeping (guitar pun not intended) solos, and even hints at what would be the basis for power metal guitar playing (especially in A Light in the Black). The synth work is a big thing that separates this from your standard rock album as well. There is also an overall slight complexity to the composition, though not that it's nearly enough to considered progressive. Dio's vocals fit the music remarkably well, adding the the wholesome and almost mystic feel the album has. The drumming is interesting enough, and I think it could have been made very cluttered had Powell had a more complicated playing style, thus rhythm patterns he plays only contribute to the solidity and heaviness of the album. All of the instruments just fit so well together, like a puzzle that just fits nearly perfectly.
What surprises me most is just how catchy all the tracks are without loosing hardly any musical integrity whatsoever. This is definitely an album that wasn't created just to make money, these guys are writing exactly the music they want without compromise, and it well paid off as that mentality created an album that has endured the test of time. Unfortunately I can't say the same for pretty much any of the group's following albums. Had they kept on the role they were on with this album, they could have easily been my favorite band, as this is definitely one of my favorite hard rock (or on this site, traditional metal) albums. Head banging hard rock, to the level of awesomeness as Uriah Heep, some Rush, and obviously Deep Purple.
As far as the actual tracks go, it's pretty hard to determine the best, for all are so powerful and splendid in their own ways, but I think Stargazer takes the cake. It seems as though in the main chorus, at the part of the lyrics "I see a Rainbow Rising," a magical aura falls around the band, a feeling caused by the introduction of the moving string lines that add to the already magical feeling the song presents, especially with the male choruses (I'm pretty sure they're keyboard settings...). It is seriously and literally epic. "I'm goin' home, Oooooh!!!" Everyone who listens to rock, especially metal should hear this epic track at some point in their lives. My least favorite tracks are actually the first and last, though for relatively minor reasons, as they're both still amazing.
Essential for any self-respecting metal head out there. If you like ANY hard rock or early metal AT ALL, especially bands like Deep Purple, Scorpions, Savatage, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, etc., this is an album you MUST buy, period. Oh, and the remastered version (or at least the one I bought) tweaked some things and added effects where they weren't really appropriate, especially with the cymbal crashes; just a fair warning to any of you that actually decide to buy the CD version of this remarkable piece of work.