RAINBOW — Down to Earth (review)

RAINBOW — Down to Earth album cover Album · 1979 · Hard Rock Buy this album from MMA partners
4/5 ·
siLLy puPPy
It’s amazing to think how quickly things moved in the 1970s in comparison to the first two decades of the 21st century. It’s nothing for bands to wait five years between albums these days but back then things were set to jet speed. Ritchie Blackmore started the 1970s with Deep Purple rising to the top and then going through several changes in the band before going solo with RAINBOW in 1975 but even with his own band never managed to keep the same lineup for any album. Luckily his prize vocalist Ronnie James Dio stuck around for the first three albums but then one day Blackmore decided to drop the swords and sorcery themes and steer the band into a more commercial arena and Dio jumped ship.

While a true blow to the band’s overall sound, Blackmore was accustomed to auditioning new members and it seems in retrospect that half of RAINBOW’s time was spent recruiting new members rather than actually playing! Before Dio split, both bassist Bob Daisley and keyboardist David Stone were fired and replaced by Clive Chaman and Don Airey but soon after Chaman didn’t workout and former Deep Purple bandmate, bassist and producer of the previous albums finally stepped up to fill in as an actual musician. The task of replacing Dio was met sensibly by finding somebody would fit in with the band’s new slicker hard rock style that was more akin to bands like Styx, Foreigner and Whitesnake. Graham Bonnet formerly of The Marbles was chosen to fit the bill and while he did a remarkable job on the band’s fourth album DOWN TO EARTH, he wouldn’t last long. This was also the last album to feature drummer Cozy Powell.

DOWN TO EARTH is very much a product of the late 1970s timeline when fantasy infused prog had all but surrendered to more immediate hard rock with more DOWN TO EARTH themes and less subterfuge in interpretation. While heavy metal would soon regain all those dark fantasy and occult themes, this speed bump in history favored songs about love, life and other banalities that resulted in partying and having a great time with your friends. For the hardcore Dio fans, this move was a slap in the face and RAINBOW lost much of its devoted fanbase but where one door closes another opens and DOWN TO EARTH did indeed to prove to be the ticket to more radio airplay and charting singles which led to the expected uptick in sales. The group’s popularity was also boosted by RAINBOW headlining the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington in England.

Stylisitcally, DOWN TO EARTH fit right in with the nascent New Wave of British Heavy Metal with catchy bass grooves, infectious guitar riffs and melodic sing-along lyrics. The opening track and single “All Night Long” sounded somewhat like KISS meets Bad Company with a more pounding bass and drum drive but addictively composed with lots of catchy twists and turns. Bonnet’s vocal style proved to be the perfect answer to this new pop infused heavy rock. The other single was a cover of Russ Ballard’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” and proved to be one of RAINBOW’s biggest hits hitting the top 10 in England. Same with “All Night Long.” While no other singles were released, DOWN TO EARTH doesn’t really have any bad tracks. The diverse tracks includes a reprise of the dramatic keyboard symphonic opening on “Eyes Of The World” which also is quality single material as well as the familiar boogie shuffle on “No Time To Lose” although without Dio sounding a bit more like AC/DC or Foreigner.

“Makin’ Love” also featured exotic music scales in the vein of earlier songs like “Gates Of Babylon” only eschewing the arcane subject matter. The final three tracks are also of equal caliber thus making DOWN TO EARTH a really good specimen of heavy bluesy rock with classical crossover elements. Yeah Dio was gone but so what. Those first three albums were already about 85% the same as what is presented here only without dungeons and dragons themes and more focused on blue collar worker subject matter. Whatever the case i’m in it for the music not the poetry recitals and DOWN TO EARTH delivers the goods in the vein of many of the contemporary hard rock bands from Aerosmith and Thin Lizzy to Uriah Heep and the Scorpions only with the extra touches of keyboards. While RAINBOW may not have been reinventing the wheel in any way, Blackmore sure knew how to craft a competent collection of hard rockers that ticked off all of the boxes that made hard rock so popular during this era and while many may disagree, i really like Graham Bonnet’s vocal contributions. This is one of those i find under-appreciated by the majority.
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