Rainbow: A Light In The Black 1975-84

Ritchie Blackmore’s ever-changing rock monsters’ glory years in a box.

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Rainbow’s star appears to be back in the ascendant: this five-CD compilation of alternative versions, live recordings and hits follows a vinyl reissue of the studio albums. Fans would say it’s overdue, and it’s perhaps only the relentless changes that the band went through that has made their career seem less significant than it was.

No two Rainbow studio albums featured the same line-up, and the only constant was the enigma himself, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Throughout his career, his muse has always been stimulated by the thrill of the new./o:p

There are three distinct eras and three distinct sounds, each marked by a different singer: first Ronnie James Dio, about to enter his spectacular prime; the maverick soul boy Graham Bonnet; and the consummate AOR stylist Joe Lynn Turner. While Bonnet and Turner had the hits, it’s the Dio era that resonates. It was a perfect match of sensibilities (much of Dio’s melodic sense and lyrical subject matter are present even now – albeit quietly – in Blackmore’s Night) and it blossomed quickly.

The first record, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975) was almost understated given what was to follow. Temple Of The King was a simple idea, effortlessly carried off. But here, only the power riff of Sixteenth Century Greensleeves suggested Rainbow’s future; a future immediately realised by 1976’s Rising, a towering landmark of hard rock music.

Fans of that record will delight in the rough mixes of Tarot Woman, and there are live versions of Mistreated and Man On The Silver Mountain that capture the band’s vast stage sound. Bassist Bob Daisley’s rehearsal tapes from 1978’s Long Live Rock N Roll era (ironically short-lived) feature Still I’m Sad and Do You Close Your Eyes, and there’s a marvellous January 1978 live recording of Catch The Rainbow.

Graham Bonnet is perhaps over-represented, given that he only appeared on 1979’s Down To Earth, but that’s partly because the bonus DVD is the full show from 1980’s first Monsters Of Rock festival, an unlikely triumph that marked his last gig. Striding in through the out door, Joe Lynn Turner made the most of his chance, the glorious high camp of the hit single I Surrender testament to his vocal power.

The compiler dwells too long on material from 1983’s Bent Out Of Shape, but that’s a minor cavil. This is a lovingly chosen alternate view of a unique band, and the perfect addition to any devoted fan’s collection./o:p

Jon Hotten

Jon Hotten is an English author and journalist. He is best known for the books Muscle: A Writer's Trip Through a Sport with No Boundaries and The Years of the Locust. In June 2015 he published a novel, My Life And The Beautiful Music (Cape), based on his time in LA in the late 80s reporting on the heavy metal scene. He was a contributor to Kerrang! magazine from 1987–92 and currently contributes to Classic Rock. Hotten is the author of the popular cricket blog, The Old Batsman, and since February 2013 is a frequent contributor to The Cordon cricket blog at Cricinfo. His most recent book, Bat, Ball & Field, was published in 2022.