Rainbow - Down to Earth
Hard Rock
8 songs (36:21)
Release year: 1979
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Coming smack-dab between the earlier epic fantasy rock of Dio-fronted classics Rising and Long Live Rock 'n' Roll and the later, Joe Lynn Turner era of commercial pop-rock success, Rainbow put out what may not be one of their best albums but is certainly one of their more enjoyable listens. It was a fractious time in the band, Ronnie James Dio departing to front Black Sabbath and Ritchie Blackmore subsequently firing the rest of the band before hiring old Deep Purple bandmate Roger Glover to handle bass and production. The duo would end up writing most of the album while searching for a singer to front the band, and the results were solid enough, even before pop/R&B singer Graham Bonnet was hired in what would surely be the highlight of his career (later milestones would include starting Alcatrazz which gave a young Yngwie Malmsteen his break, and erm, being fired from the Michael Schenker Group one album in after he drunkenly exposed himself during a concert). He's hardly a technical wizard as far as vocals go yet did a terrific job on this recording in fairness, leading the band through an undoubtedly commercial-leaning yet still hard-rocking enough set of songs that heralded the eighties.

Sure, Blackmore himself has dismissed much of the album as 'rubbish' and 'a waste of time', but you can't doubt the solid songwriting craft that produced an opener as good as All Night Long. That opening infectious riff, the claps, the anthemic vocals; it's about as good as commercial rock of the era gets, and although the downright creepy lyrics about seducing concert-goers ("You're sorta young/But you're over age") are cringy in retrospect and especially in comparison to earlier albums, it's a terrific opener and catchy as hell. And it's not even the best single on the album, which must go to Since You've Been Gone, the sort of eternal rock hit that still enjoys radio play nowadays and even serves as an introduction to heavier fare for newcomers. The wistful lyrics actually sound great when sung by Bonnet and backed by Blackmore's guitars, like some lost Queen anthem, and at just over three minutes' length it's about as perfect as a classic rock song can get with this much pop in its DNA.

Elsewhere, the epic Eyes of the World sounds like a lesser Stargazer, a survivor from the Dio days with plenty of guitar widdling between synth-drenched groove. Bonnet belts his heart out consistently and is actually a strength that elevates otherwise fairly stock material like No Time to Lose or Makin' Love, but neither are as good as the bluesy Love's No Friend which is closer to Uriah Heep territory, or the near-Middle-Eastern melodies of Danger Zone, like a strangely proggy cross between Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin. The original closing track was Lost In Hollywood, your typical fast Rainbow track dominated by a nearly New Wave-esque synthline with an uneasily shoehorned-in neoclassical segment, and it still comes over as a weird attempt to balance the eras of the band that doesn't quite work. Fortunately the reissue comes with two bonus tracks, Bad Girl (originally a b-side from the Since You've Been Gone single) that's a step back towards Purple-by-numbers with some fun soloing, and Weiss Heim, a slow instrumental that's all about some rather beautiful guitar playing from Blackmore. They're enough to push the album over into the positive section if you're willing to see some good in Rainbow moving away from the Dio era, something certain fans are unable to forgive. Certainly not the best record the band have produced but with a few high points and probably better than you remember it being, Down to Earth showed the pop-rock side of Rainbow off well without completely giving into the oncoming decline.

Killing Songs :
All Night Long, Eyes of the World, Since You've Been Gone, Love's No Friend
Goat quoted 70 / 100
Other albums by Rainbow that we have reviewed:
Rainbow - Live In Munich 1977 (DVD/CD) reviewed by Marty and quoted no quote
Rainbow - Rising reviewed by Marty and quoted CLASSIC
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