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Rainbow - Down To Earth CD (album) cover




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2.69 | 167 ratings

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1 stars In the late 60s while all of my guitar-playing buddies were touting (as they should've) the awesome fret board theatrics of Hendrix, Clapton, Page and Beck I was the strange one who would chime in with 'Hey, don't overlook the weird-looking, snobby guy in Deep Purple. He's a monster.' Ritchie Blackmore didn't get the stateside press coverage that the other axe gods received but those among us who could discern the pretenders from the virtuosos acknowledged that he was amazing. His work on Deep Purple's early and extremely prog-minded LPs is still remarkably unique to this day. In 1970 when that band decided to put all their eggs in the hard rock basket with their earth-shaking 'In Rock,' Ritchie unleashed his full metal jacket side and proceeded to blaze a trail for hundreds of thousands of Strat-toting, Marshall-toasting rockers to tread into the rest of the decade. Deep Purple went on to become one of the most popular groups in the world as Blackmore consistently churned out many of that era's most readily identifiable riff-based anthems. I followed them religiously through the fiery album that symbolizes their apex, 74's 'Burn,' but after that my tastes changed due principally to the emergence of the exciting jazz/rock fusion movement and I lost track of what the rowdy boys in DP were doing. So when I heard that Ritchie had left them and formed his own combo in '75 I paid little notice.

A while back I came across this Rainbow record and decided it was high time I got around to checking out what Mr. Blackmore conjured up on his own. Now I'm sure there are plenty of this ensemble's aficionados who'll chastise me severely for picking out this particular disc to sample but my feeling has always been that if one releases an album of songs they should be willing to stand behind it as representative of their best effort at that particular stage of their existence. 'Down to Earth' came out in July of '79, a good four years into the band's career so in my opinion they have no legitimate excuse if the material it contains is subpar. I'm aware that the undersized powerhouse known as Ronnie James Dio had abruptly flown the Rainbow coop and had been replaced by some B-list dude named Graham Bonnet but usually the first record to hit the bins after a substantial roster alteration packs a lot of kinetic energy that makes up for whatever the group may have lost in overall cohesiveness. Not so with this flat platter. It's DOA. The feeling I get is that Ritchie was so full of himself by that point he thought he could hoodwink the buying public into thinking he was still a genius by simply throwing together some chord patterns over Cozy Powell's dull drum tracks and then layer some screaming vocals on top. To me it appears that Blackmore had lost all touch with reality, unfairly blamed Dio for the band's decline and was desperately trying to regain the adulation he'd garnered as a founding member of Deep Purple by tapping into the mainstream's good graces. He figured all he needed was a Top 40 hit single or two. History has shown time and again that those who pursue fame and fortune over expressing their aural art honestly and with integrity usually end up looking inept and pitiful. That's what I consider 'Down to Earth' to be.

They open with 'All Night Long.' Ritchie blasts out one of his trademark catchy guitar riffs and things ain't so bad until Bonnet starts singing and the downward slide begins in earnest. The tune comes off as being intentionally contrived to achieve maximum commercial appeal and therefore it contains no balls whatsoever. It reeks of abject phoniness. 'Eyes of the World' is next and its initial onset sports a cheesy, 'mysterious' atmosphere that's about as intriguing as an elementary school Halloween carnival's haunted house. Having said that, however, it beats the corduroys off of the preceding cut. Yet, other than Blackmore's half-decent guitar solo, this is an absolute waste of analog recording tape. It runs about two minutes too long, as well. 'No Time to Lose' is the first track containing even a vague semblance of a groove but it's not nearly strong enough to save this odorous turd from its own banality. It's hard to imagine that Ritchie and his bassist/producer Roger Glover listened to the playback of this dreck in the studio control room and exclaimed 'Holy cow! We're gonna be rich! This is the kind of happenin' stuff the kids'll go ape for!' It's like they were wearing earplugs while doing nothing more than going through the same old unadventurous motions. 'Makin' Love' (Yikes! Even the song titles are lame as snakes!) follows. I've never been much of a Cozy Powell fan and his lack of imagination and drive is exemplified here as he fails to be able to lay down even the most basic of beats with authority. This anemic tune gives me the impression they were imitating Styx or Foreigner instead of just being themselves and letting the fur fly. Pedestrian is too regal a word for it.

If climbing into the upper regions of the charts was their central aim then their cover of Russ Ballard's 'Since You Been Gone' was undoubtedly their crown jewel. I recall hearing this pop rock ditty on the radio back then but never in my craziest dreams would I have associated it with RB's Rainbow because it most assuredly could've been the product of any number of marginally- talented 'rawk' outfits hoping to be promoted into hometown heroes with a hit single in that day. I guess congratulations are in order for reaching their goal. Whoopee. 'Love's No Friend' is next, a bluesy but lumbering road-grader of a number that doesn't exactly break new ground in the annals of rock & roll. By the end of the 70s this brand of plodding faux metal had become extremely tiresome and unwanted but utile as cheap filler. Color this crap recessive rock. 'Danger Zone' follows and it has all the markings of a tune born out of a drunken jam session. The fact that the vocals were added after the initial tracks were formulated and recorded tells you volumes about why so many of these songs sound like they came rolling off an assembly line. (I'm reminded of that corny scene in the so-bad-it's-great movie 'Rock Star' wherein the egotistic, grease-bag leader of 'Steel Dragon' informs Mark Wahlberg's character that he's just the front man with a mike while he's the mastermind who writes all the songs and collects the fat royalty checks, thank you very much. That's probably akin to the snarky reception that Graham got when he arrived in Rainbowland.) They end this fiasco with 'Lost in Hollywood.' This cut displays what happens when someone gets in a rut and starts repeating himself to the extent that he becomes a self- parody. It's embarrassingly average fare and a stupendously predictable piece of useless garbage.

If this is the low-rent kind of music that Rainbow specialized in then I'll spare myself more misery and forego sitting through any more of their non-progressive junk. 'Down to Earth' tells me all I need to know. The shame is that Ritchie Blackmore once had the potential to evolve and develop into one of the finest guitarists of all time had his bloated pride not convinced him that all he had to do was show up. As it is, he's now looked upon as a minor leaguer guitar ace that displayed flashes of brilliance but was also prone to indulge in mediocrity. I've heard worse but rarely.

Chicapah | 1/5 |


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