RAINBOW — Difficult to Cure (review)

RAINBOW — Difficult to Cure album cover Album · 1981 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
Ritchie Blackmore has long been known as a difficult personality to work with and when one looks back at his band RAINBOW and its ever rotating cast of team members, it all reads like one of those horrible 1980s soap operas but yet somehow he sallied forth and released eight albums. After three albums with Ronnie James Dio as lead vocalist, RAINBOW earned its heavy metal creds as one of the leading pioneers of the power metal genre with excellent songwriting, tight-knit instrumental interplay and fantasy fueled themes that reverberate into the modern world of metal music however mainstream success eschewed the band and Blackmore was getting a little weary of the cashless notoriety and therefore steered the band into a more commercial sound.

The decision caused Ronnie James Dio to jump ship who was replaced by ex-The Marbles singer Graham Bonnet. “Down To Earth” did a fine job streamlining the RAINBOW sound into the zeitgeist of the late 70s hard rock scene without sacrificing the powerful drive that the first three albums had. It proved to send RAINBOW onto the album charts but still wasn’t good enough for Blackmore who wanted to be the next Boston i guess. Despite Bonnet doing a stellar job of belting out all those boogie fueled hard rock tunes, his forte was in the world of R&B so he felt like a fish out of water and jumped ship leaving Blackmore with the position of replacing the vocalist one more time. In the meantime Blackmore had zeroed in as Foreigner as the band that he wanted to emulate and in Bonnet’s stead arrived the newbie singer from New Jersey named Joe Lynn Turner who indeed sounded a lot like Lou Gramm.

Turner proved to be the lead singer RAINBOW needed to take the band’s sound into the commercial arenas of AOR infused hard rock and he would record three albums with the band before Blackmore scrapped it all and rejoined Deep Purple. DIFFICULT TO CURE was the first Turner album which came out in early 1981 and showcased an even more commercialized sound for RAINBOW. The former Argent guitar and singer Russ Ballard vaults were raided again after the success of “Since You’ve Been Gone” and the lead singer “I Surrender” quickly raced up the charts and hit the #3 position on the UK charts but the big time success Blackmore was shooting for in the US still eluded him. Being a bit cheesier filled with those tinny 80s keyboards and high register vocals, DOWN TO EARTH indeed sounded like a long lost Foreigner album, well, at least some of the time. Another interesting fact is that the album cover was originally supposed to appear on Black Sabbath’s 1978 album “Never Say Die!”

Truth be told, DIFFICULT TO CURE was a shaky start for Turner who performed his vocal duties well but the album was riddled with inconsistencies. While some tracks like “No Release” and “Can’t Happen Here” evoked the past with bluesy heavy and Deep Purple infused keyboards, other tracks were just plain silly including the hit single. “Spotlight Kid” although an OK track with the same boogie rock swagger featured a very strange sort of keyboard wizardry hoedown towards the end. “Magic” was anything but with an insufferable mix and sounds like a reject from one of those 80s Survivor albums. The AOR aspects were clearly a desperate attempt to cash in on the band’s by then legendary status. Nothing against AOR pop rock ballads but as with every musical genre, it requires the right elements in the right places in order to work and at this point RAINBOW sounds a bit lost.

Other tracks like “Freedom Fighter” and “Midtown Tunnel Vision” also skate in between the bluesy rock of the past and the more commercial sounds of the present but ultimately come off as Bad Company rejects. The cream of the crop for those who missed the Dio days was the closing instrumental title track with was in fact a modern interpretation of Ludwig van Beehthoven’s “Ninth” which sort of sounded like an old version of Deep Purple trying to emulate 1960s The Nice by rockin’ the classics. The track is probably the best on this one. As far as i’m concerned and speaking as someone who actually loves the AOR 80s version of RAINBOW, DIFFICULT TO CURE is the weakest album of RAINBOW’s eight album run. Not only is the material mostly mediocre but Blackmore was clearly indecisive as to exactly move the band with some tracks emulating Foreigner, others sounding like Whitesnake and yet others latching onto RAINBOW’s own Dio years. While not a horrible album by any means, this is my personal least favorite of this band’s existence.
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