While watching VH1's Metal Evolution documentary over the weekend I noticed two different musicians being interviewed wearing t-shirts featuring the cover art to Rainbow's album Rising, which is what sparked me to give it a spin. I wasn't into metal growing up, so Rainbow is a band I've never paid much attention to. I've never heard a Dio album, but I do have a soft spot for Ronnie James Dio's vocals on Black Sabbath's Mob Rules (especially the overdramatic "The Sign of the Southern Cross"). In the past few years I've finally gone beyond the Deep Purple hits and checked out full albums, so I'm pretty familiar with Ritchie Blackmore's work.
Rising came out in 1976, the band's second album, recorded with a new lineup after Blackmore sacked everyone but Dio. Hearing this album for the first time 35 years after it's released, it's hard to separate what might have been original back then from what's cliche now. It's over-the-top and stone faced serious, which makes it seem ridiculous on the surface. But there are some fantastically strong riffs and stellar playing from an incredibly tight band - which make the outright goofy lyrics seem a bit charming. Dio delivers his vocals with such passion and sincerity it's hard not go along for the ride, even though part of me thinks Rainbow had a least a small influence on Spinal Tap's lyrics. And the keyboards - those are Viv Savage keyboards.
"Run With the Wolf" is exactly the type of song I've made fun of Dio for for years - a tale of beasts and evil, but it's got a strong groove and the second half of the song builds around Blackmore's excellent soloing. The song about an obsessive fan, "Starstruck", is a solid boogie blues number with a killer hook that could have come off of a Deep Purple record. The shortest song on the album, "Do You Close Your Eyes", clocks in under three minutes and starts out like early Queen and Quadrophenia era Who, which had me quite excited, but it quickly fell into more generic metal pop. "Stargazer" is the big prog rock epic, complete with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, that I'm a little ashamed to admit how much I enjoyed. The album closes with another eight plus minute number, a faster rocker that dips into Judas Priest territory and has an ending that reminded me of Blotto's "Metal Head".
If I heard this when I was younger I never would have given it a chance, but now it's an album I surprisingly enjoyed enough to buy and it makes me check out some other Rainbow records. I never thought I'd like an album with lyrics as unintentionally silly as "There's no sun in the shadow of the wizard" and "Ride the carousel and cast a magic spell, you can fly".
FINAL VERDICT: Solid record I was wrong for avoiding. Glad I heard it enough to buy it and plan to give it more spins in the future.