RATINGS: A = must own B = buy it C= average D = yawn F = puke

Rainbow - Down To Earth Tour 1979 
Purple Pyramid Records
http://cleorecs.com/home/

Rating: C

Rainbow. Or as I always remember it, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. Just mentioning the name brings up amazing memories. With great nostalgia I remember 1978, my friend Daniel and I driving from Sacramento to San Francisco to spend an entire day sitting on the sidewalk in front of the legendary Bill Graham’s Winterland just so we could be in the front row of a crushing crowd for a Dio-fronted Blackmore’s Rainbow performance! Man, that was when rock ‘n’ roll was everything! No sacrifice too great, no distance too far to see a great show. Blackmore was one of our all-time heroes and he was in our neck of the woods. I would’ve walked over molten lava rocks to watch him perform!

Fast forward to 2015, and I now have a chance to relive one of those glorious concerts recorded just one year later in 1979. I’m seventeen again! True, Dio had been replaced by Graham Bonnet, but it’s still Rainbow. I was really excited to have Rainbow: Down To Earth Tour 1979 arrive. However, upon receiving it I was immediately confused. As much of a fan that I am, I didn’t know why there were three different versions of the same songs packaged together. There must be some amazing spontaneous variations between the tracks, otherwise why would they include the same songs three times?

It turns out there really isn’t. So what’s up here?

Well, unfortunately, I have to start with the disappointing stuff. It’s a bootleg-style album, and due to the excessive high end present on most tracks I had to turn the volume down to listen to it even reasonably comfortably. That’s simply not done! Rainbow: Down To Earth Tour 1979 really should have been remixed (I’m hoping it wasn’t). I’m willing to endure pain for the sake of great rock ‘n’ roll, but I want it to hurt my way. If I’m going to live with tinnitus I want it to be because I cranked up the volume so loud I can’t hear my neighbors complain. I can’t do that with this set - even after radically adjusting my equalizer. That’s hard to take.

Having said that about the quality of the recording, the musical content of Rainbow Rainbow: Down To Earth 1979 is brilliant. This really was a classic rock tour. You don’t hear stuff like this anymore. This is badass, vintage 1970‘s rock ‘n’ roll concert music at its finest. Rainbow knew how to put on a show, and it’s in full display on these tracks. Blackmore sounds like, well, Blackmore! The guitarist who once declared Deep Purple to be his solo group is in true form laying down his iconic style that has become one of the bedrock references for rock guitarists through to the present day.

The song list is almost exclusively from the Down To Earth album, obviously, but there are also versions of “Man On The Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock ‘n‘ Roll”, as well as the typical Blackmore tendency to throw in some Purple licks here and there for good measure. Two discs feature twenty-plus minute extended renditions of “Lost In Hollywood” (or as I refer to it, Ritchie’s time to down a few Heinekens backstage). These feature the grand over the top solo work we came to love during that era. Here Rainbow does its best to give the crowd their money’s worth. They go as far as integrating Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”, Beethoven’s “Ode To Joy”, and even the “Star Spangled Banner” into the piece, with keyboardist Don Airey using that uniquely wonderful Jon Lord distorted Hammond sound for much of it. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up! Have drummer Cozy Powell end the piece by soloing to a classical recording of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” and you have the consummate absurdly cool 70’s rock concert experience. Fantastic!

Rainbow: Down To Earth Tour 1979 can be purchased as a three disc box set that includes all kinds of swag goodies. It gives you a lot of music, but much of it may just end up taking space on your hard drive. Honesty, in these days of customized listening that’s what will to happen with me. I will create a playlist for it. Two-thirds of these tracks I will never listen to again. That seems a bit odd to me.

If you’re a Rainbow fan who is willing to get past the dodgy sound quality you will love this album. The performances are classic and it’s great to hear “new” old material. But be forewarned, you will have to seriously alter your customized EQ settings. If that’s not a problem then get this album.

Track List:

Disc 1: Denver 1979
1. Eyes of the World
2. Love’s No Friend
3. Since You Been Gone
4. All Night Long
5. Lost in Hollywood
6. Man on the Silver Mountain
7. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

Disc 2: Long Island 1979
1. Eyes of the World
2. Love’s No Friend
3. Since You Been Gone
4. All Night Long
5. Lost in Hollywood
6. Man on the Silver Mountain
|7. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
 

Disc 3: Chicago 1979
1. Eyes of the World
2. Love’s No Friend
3. All Night Long
4. Lost in Hollywood
5. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll

By Roy Rahl

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