REVIEW: Rainbow – Down To Earth (deluxe edition)

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RAINBOW – Down To Earth (1979, 2011 Universal deluxe edition)

I was a little surprised (in a good way) that Down To Earth by Rainbow was given the deluxe treatment.  I really only expected the Dio albums to be re-released in such grand fashion, but here we are with the sole Graham Bonnet offering.  (To date, the debut album Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow has yet to be issued in deluxe form.)

The brand new liner notes reveal that Cozy Powell was not happy with the commercialization of Rainbow’s sound, and that’s why he quit the band. Indeed, Down To Earth sounds like a very different band from that who recorded Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll. (And in fact only Cozy and Ritchie Blackmore remain from that album.)

Having said that, Down To Earth is a damn near perfect confection of Blackmore’s sublime riffing and commercial rock. Yes, many of these songs could have been on the radio at the time, but the guitars are cranked, and Graham Bonnet has grit and power to spare. In short, this is a fantastic album, majestic and grand, with all the hallmarks that make Ritchie Blackmore one of the most important guitarists in history.

From the opener “All Night Long” to the manic closer “Lost In Hollywood” and everything in between, there is not a weak track on this album. Everybody knows the hit, “Since You Been Gone,” which still gets played on rock radio today. In a way I like to compare this album to Seventh Star by Black Sabbath — a shift, but the elements are still in place. Except Down To Earth is still heavier than Seventh Star, it just lacks Dio’s mysticism.

My personal favourites, aside from the above tracks, include the mid-tempo and sublime “Making Love”, and the manic “Danger Zone”.  None of the eight tracks are skip-worthy though.

The new lineup included future Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey, and Ritchie’s old Purple bassist Roger Glover.  Glover had built quite a career producing bands like Nazareth, and he also produced Down To Earth.  He did a great job of it too, in particular with Cozy’s smashing drum sounds.

Two bonus tracks on disc one are “Weiss Heim”, the instrumental, and the B-side “Bad Girl”. Both songs were previously available on Finyl Vinyl and other compilations, but it is nice to have the sum total of the Graham Bonnet studio recordings here in one place.

The second disc contains a series of instrumental demos, which really highlight Cozy’s incredibly solid drumming and Ritchie’s picking. You can hear all the subtleties of Blackmore’s playing, every note and every stroke of the pick ringing clear. If you’re the type who can listen to a record and learn to play a song by ear, then you will love this disc. You’ve never heard Blackmore’s playing so bare. And Cozy? Well, his cymbal work is to die for, and of course his snare drumming is metronomic. It’s incredible that even if he wasn’t inspired by the songwriting, he was still playing this good. There are also a few tracks with embryonic lyrics such as “Spark Don’t Mean A Fire” (which became “No Time To Lose”). A “Cozy Powell Mix” of “All Night Long” is an annoying remix with the vocals mixed way way back, the guitar almost inaudible, and the drums upfront. Interesting from an analytical point of view, but not very enjoyable to listen to. The demos do a much nicer job of highlighting Cozy’s work.

Missing: “Since You Been Gone” live Monsters Of Rock Festival, Castle Donnington, England 1980. Also previously released on Finyl Vinyl, no idea why it’s not here. There was plenty of room.   Also missing is “All Night Long” from the same show, which was released on a compilation called All Night Long – An Introduction To Rainbow, and another just called Anthology.   It would have been nice to every Bonnet related recording in one place, but maybe they are planning on a Donnington live album at some point, who knows?

As with all deluxe editions, there are photos and great liner notes. This little-known period of Rainbow is illuminated by a lot of facts and stories of which I was previous unaware. A good read to go with some great music.

Now let’s get a deluxe going of Blackmore’s Rainbow, already!

4/5 stars

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38 comments

  1. Great review, Mike! Cool photos too. I really like your comparison with Seventh Star! You’re missing another Donington track too… the version of Stagazer that is on my Monsters of Rock LP! It must have been difficult for Bonnet, having to do the Dio stuff live.

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        1. Bonnet’s rough for sure. For whatever reason, Blackmore must have thought he fit his vision for the band. Of course then they went with Joe, and that was night & day from Dio! They may as well have changed the new of the band!

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        2. I think they could probably have done with changing the band name by that point. Although I love Difficult to Cure, it’s so far removed from the earlier albums. Then again, I like a lot of bands that have massively varied careers…

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        3. Exactly. I really understand it, I’d get bored doing the same style all the time if I was in a band. I always really respected Queensryche for their restlesness… although latterly there was way too many misses and not enough hits.

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        4. Everything up to Promised Land for me. And Promised Land was vastly removed from the EP! This goes for many great bands…The Beatles…Kiss as you mentioned…Alice Cooper…AC/DC…(just kidding)

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        5. Yeah everything up to and including Promised Land was just hard to argue with. So much progression from the EP to that album! Any other band would have stuck with the Op. Mindcrime sound from there on.

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        6. I respect that the last thing they wanted to do was repeat Mindcrime. And look what happened? Multi-platinum success. Impressive stuff.

          Empire is a bit too simple for me, both lyrically and musically, but it sure worked for them.

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        7. That’s what I loved about Promised Land…I think they took that direction to a logical conclusion.

          They say that they recorded that album in a cabin in the woods smoking a lot of pot and drinking a lot of wine, and I like the vibe that resulted. That album is very special and they did capture their surroundings on tape.

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        8. It’s an amazing album, the first tour I saw them on and those songs worked really well live too.

          I read Chris DeGarmo saying that they tried to make Empire sound like Seattle. I was all about that album for ages but I don’t listen to it very often now, to be honest.

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        9. Nor do I. I own it in a two-disc edition with a live album, but it’s seldom played now.

          I will always come back to Rage For Order and Promised Land, though. Oh to have a live album from the Promised Land tour. They played the entire album live when I saw them in Toronto.

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  2. Didn’t Bonnet only do 1 live show which was Donnington and than get punted for being a drunk? Having said that check out Bonnets vocals/work on MSG Asaault Attack(1982)that album is classic produced by Martin Birch before Maiden gagged him for working with other artists.

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    1. Deke, I heard as well that he only did one gig before he was sacked. Luckily they seemed to record that gig.

      I have one MSG single with Bonnet — called “Dancer”. Would still like to get some MSG albums though!

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  3. Yep that’s the one Mike…actually I heard the bootleg demos and Powell was on them and than he quit over money and the next guy Ted Mckenna just played what Powell had put down on the demos….

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    1. Cool! Where did you hear the bootleg demos? Are they available on a CD?

      Cozy was always one of my favourite drummers. They say that if Cozy hadn’t passed away, there might have been a full Rainbow reunion with Ronnie a long time ago.

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  4. I downloaded it after someone had posted it online,it was rough sounding but it was cool to hear..Powells drumming on the MSG album and the One Night At the Budokan is awesome stuff of course along with Slide It In…

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    1. I love the drums on Slide It In. Might be my favourite things of Cozy’s. Of course it is so hard to pick, he has been on so many great albums.

      MSG is one that I will admit I haven’t delved into deeply enough yet. Amazon only want $14 for Assault Attack, so I just did the wishlist thing.

      Oh! And Deke, you will appreciate this. Look for a ZZ Top La Futura review very soon.

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