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!