If you’re a fan of Ritchie Blackmore you get used to band members coming and going. But for fans of Rainbow, the departure of Ronnie James Dio in 1978 was a tough pill to swallow. The mighty castle metal of the Dio years was replaced with the AOR hit Since You’ve Been Gone and the proto-Miami Vice vision of new vocalist Graham Bonnet.
But don’t pull your drawbridge up just yet. 1979’s Down To Earth is one of Rainbow’s best albums. Since You’ve Been Gone might be too slick for some, but it’s a classic rock track: deceptively sophisticated and impeccably delivered with a Blackmore guitar solo made out of sheer joy. And if the new frontman was more James Dean than James Dio, his powerful and versatile lungs allow the band to get raunchier and bluesier, bringing to mind revered Deep Purple albums like Machine Head and Burn. The driving All Night Long has brilliant Smoke On The Water style riffs and Love’s No Friend is a superbly moody sequel to Mistreated. Better still, the grandiose proto-power metal of the previous Rainbow remains in the thumping Eyes Of The World and the medieval tinges of Makin’ Love. The closest the album comes to filler is the generic No Time To Lose but even that adds some welcome up-tempo energy, as does the lively closing track Lost In Hollywood.
Inevitably, the coming and going continued with the departure of both Bonnet and drummer Cozy Powell. Which means Down To Earth becomes a transitional album in the Rainbow catalogue: steering the band from Ye Olde Rainbow to the slicker Joe Lynn Turner era. But with shades of both styles and a timeless hue of Deep Purple too, it’s a stone-cold classic in its own right. Could I be wrong? No.