At nine years old I was going through my father's record collection when I saw the album "Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow". Upon my first glance at the cover, I thought it was a record for "little kids" (at that ripe old age I'd already assumed I was past that designation). But the fact that it was in his collection intrigued me, so I ran upstairs to my slap the vinyl on my Emerson turntable. First song up was of course "Man on the Silver Mountain", and my life changed. The quasi-religious lyrics, Bach-ian pre-chorus, and moving solo completely obsessed me, and I was weeks playing that song in both my head and turntable. Naturally, I grew to love the album as a whole, and that was my initiation into Rainbow.
I ended up grabbing Long Live Rock 'N Roll and Down to Earth in the years proceeding and actually grew to love those albums even more than the first. But it wasn't until several years later that I first discovered Rainbow Rising, an album which led to another musical revelation.
Allow me to digress: things were so different before the internet came along. These days if you like a band, you can just look them up on Wiki and find their whole discography, bio, everything. But in 1986, though I'd been a huge fan of Rainbow, loved Ronnie-era Sabbath, and admired the solo Dio, I had never heard of Rainbow Rising. Today I wonder if the delay was simply fate: Rising came into my life at a very young, receptive point in my life, after two years of playing guitar.
At the time I was living on the streets homeless, kicked out of college with nothing but my guitar and the clothes on my back. I saw the cassette for Rainbow Rising on my friend's desktop, and was shocked to see that it really was that Rainbow. My friend played me Stargazer and A Light in the Black, and I was devastated. I couldn't believe Stargazer! Before this my favorite Rock song had been Eyes Of the World. But Stargazer, from my very first listen, sounded like the best song I'd ever heard, period. I remember being amazed that I'd gone so long without hearing that song.
I'd been listening to (and enjoying) Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force albums previous to hearing Rainbow Rising, but songs like Stargazer and A Light in the Black sounded as though Rainbow invented the genre and basic guitar style that Malmsteen and his countless followers dwelt within. In fact, Rainbow Rising sounded like the basis for the entire Power Metal genre as a whole. The whole album struck me as being profoundly musical, while maintaining that hard, blues-based edge that originally attracted me to heavy rock/metal.
At the time of Rainbow's heyday, many critics and rock music fans considered them to be an inferior version of Deep Purple, but I always gave the nod to the former. Rainbow had that mystical side to them, not to mention the best guitar playing and singing in Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie Dio's respective careers.
To this day I proudly proclaim Rainbow to be my all time favorite rock band and a massive influence on my own music and playing.
Let's all hail the true masters and trailblazers of neo-classical rock and metal!