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Rainbow (1975-1984, 1993-1997, 2015-present): a Heavy Metal band from Hertford, Hertfordshire, UK.


he story of Rainbow starts in 1975 with former Deep Purple guitar hero Ritchie Blackmore when he recruited New York based Elf in its entirety, including vocalist Ronnie James Dio as part of the package. While Deep Purple continued to lumber toward an implosion, he took their idea of mammoth lumbering mystical hard rock to new heights to release their self-titled debut under the moniker of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow with fellow band mates Mickey Lee Soule (keyboards), Craig Gruber (bass) and Gary Driscoll (drums).

Man On The Silver Mountain was the track of notoriety on their debut self-named platter that got them notice. The album, unfortunately remained only a cult classic, however, for it failed to receive charting, so Blackmore sacked the whole band except Dio and started again with Cozy Powell (drums), Tony Carey (keyboards) and Jimmy Bain (bass) to release the second effort Rainbow Rising (1976) that finally saw them just make the top 50 in the US at 48, and miss to UK top 10 at 11. The album yielded some of the most cohesive music of the guitarist's career with popular tracks like Tarot Woman, Stargazer and A Light In The Black.

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Now clipping the name to just Rainbow, Rainbow On Stage, a live effort, would represent their 1977 repertoire. It proved to be an album that fared better in the UK than it did in the US Blackmore, however, was restless and another wholesale membership change commenced with Mark Clarke (ex-Colosseum; bass), Bob Dailsey (ex-Widowmaker (UK)/ex-Chicken Shack; bass) and David Stone (ex-Symphonic Slam; keyboards). Although the follow-up album Long Live Rock 'n' Roll (1978) was a solid hard rock album it would be after the next line-up change that the act had their most successful period. This time it would be Dio who departed for Black Sabbath and was replaced by Graham Bonnet (ex-Marbles/ex-soloist; vocals), not to mention the replacements of Don Airey (keyboards) and all-star Roger Glover (ex-Deep Purple; bass/vocals), as well as maintaining the employment of himself with Cozy Powell. Blackmore had asked Ian Gillan (also formerly of Deep Purple), to replace Dio but Gillan turned him down. The band's early work primarily featured mystical lyrics with a neoclassical heavy metal style, then went in a more pop-rock oriented direction following Dio's departure from the group.

Down to Earth (1979) saw Rainbow close the decade on a beautifully crafted melodic rock note with the two top ten UK tracks Since You Been Gone and All Night Long. Ritchie Blackmore's act would be the founders of the Castle Donnington Monsters of Rock outdoor Metal festival, whose debut 1980 showing featured themselves with April Wine, Judas Priest, Touch, Saxonand German rising stars Scorpions. The first episode of this saga saw the aforementioned bands perform in pouring rain while the fans stood in a giant swamp from the water soaked grounds, and to top it all off there was that incident with Touch's vocalist becoming the highlight of their career. To add insult to injury the reviewers universally hated the event! But every year since (and with better planning) it has routinely received 60,000-100,000 heavy metal fans. It would soon after exceed Reading's numbers to become the premier rock event in the UK.

But soon after the band had some more membership changes on the go with the Joe Lynn Turner (vocals) to replace Bonnet while Bobby Rondenelli replaced Powell who left to join ELP. The resulting follow-up Difficult to Cure (1981) was an excellent effort landing at an even 50 in the US, but making 3 in the UK The album did so well because of the opening track I Surrender, which as a single soared up to 3 in the UK on its own; the track proving to be an epic of American influenced rock that stood among Metal's greatest moments. The album overall took a more commercial stance and the gamble paid off.

With Dave Rosenthal taking over keyboards from the departing Airey so he could join Ozzy Osbourne, the band would release Straight Between the Eyes (1982) to an even higher chart position in the U.S at 30, and a 5 UK But Blackmore must have been playing poker (and winning lately) for his hand was stacked with some heavy playing cards of members and decided to try out Chuck Burgi (ex-Brand-X) on drums instead of Rondenelli. Bent Out of Shape (1983) would be the last effort of the original act because Gloverand Blackmore would attempt to reform Deep Purple. With a star member missing and hard to replace, the stuDio went silent.

The act was defunct for 10 years before Stranger in Us All came about in 1995 under the original name of Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow to no significant charting under the membership of Paul Morris (keyboards), Greg Smith (bass), Doogie White (vocals) and Blackmore himself. The album was designed for the Blackmore diehards and sported a lot of traditional sounds. It was followed only by sets of "best of..." and out-take compilations like Rock Profile Vol. 1 & 2 (1989 & 1991 respectively), Session Man (1994), Stranger in Us All (1995; a new stuDio effort with Greg Smith, Paul Morris, John O'Reilly replacing Glover, Rosenthal and Burgi respectively), Take ITI - Sessions 63-68 (1994) and The Very Best Of Rainbow (1997). But his next effort was a completely different matter for on Shadow Of The Moon (1998) he collaborated with Candice Night (with Ian Anderson making a guest appearance) under the name Blackmore Night. The album explored renaissance era music with modern overtones of Rock, Funk, New Age and Folk. Violet Moon followed it in 1999 with the anticipation of a full tour using acoustic guitar, the Blackmore of old now quickly fading into history.

In 2015, Blackmore announced that he would play "all rock" concerts in the summer of 2016 as "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow". The new line-up would be Lords of Black singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, Blackmore's Night drummer David Keith, and bassist Bob Nouveau (Bob Curiano). Blackmore's Night being a side-project by ex-members to perform past tracks live and have released two albums.

Rainbow released the live album Memories in Rock II (2018), chronicling a live show in Germany. However, the final track, Waiting For A Sign, would be a stuDio track recorded with the current band lineup.

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Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore in Rainbow, Chateau Neuf, Oslo, Norway.
Photo by: Helge Øverås
(CC BY 3.0)

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