Rainbow - Boston 1981 album review

A reissue of the Live King Biscuit Flower Hour recording

Rainbow Boston 1981 album cover

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Superficially, there are resemblances in the Rainbow of 1981 to Spinal Tap, in terms of their instrumental line-up, with Deep Purple’s Roger Glover and Ritchie Blackmore on bass and guitar, and Don Airey on keyboards. There’s even the occasional Tap-ism on display here – the Bach-like keyboard flourishes that announce I Surrender are but one example, as is the conceptual conceit of beginning with a version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.

That said, Rainbow don’t seem to take themselves quite so seriously as Tap, and neither are they remotely guilty of any of that combo’s lyrical gaffes. And, of course, Rainbow had Ritchie Blackmore, whose chops are indisputable, displayed particularly on the epic Catch TheRainbow, on which he ascends with liquid, lightning virtuosity. He can play all right, but he’s playful, teasing the crowd by seeming to be about to launch into an old Purple chestnut, before finally doing so after a few false starts with Smoke On The Water.

Graham Bonnet had just been sacked from the band but Joe Lynn Turner steps ably into his shows as frontman, delivering thunderously reliable pomp/pop/rock vocals on the likes of Love’s No Friend in particular.

Rainbow were a Top 30 chart fixture, and quite happy to embrace some of the garish daftness that entails, with none of Zep’s lofty airs. Kick the tyres of their songs, however, and they stand up pretty well.

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David Stubbs

David Stubbs is a music, film, TV and football journalist. He has written for The Guardian, NME, The Wire and Uncut, and has written books on Jimi Hendrix, Eminem, Electronic Music and the footballer Charlie Nicholas.