Down To Earth Tour 1979
Rainbow's Down To Earth Tour 1979 is a three-CD box set that, in addition to the music, comes with the "extras" that boxsets all seem to have these days. This box includes a 27-page booklet, a metal bottle opener, an embroidered cloth patch, a button and a Ritchie Blackmore guitar pick. Fair enough, but the real reason fans buy these boxsets are not for the trinkets, but the music. Often the big attraction is rarities such as previously unreleased tracks, demos and alternate versions of well-known songs and live recordings. So let's dive into it.
The three discs are live recordings of Rainbow concerts in 1979. Disc 1 is Denver, Disc 2 is Long Island and Disc 3 is Chicago. Somewhat surprising is that the first two discs have the same tracks, in the same order: "Eyes Of The World," "Love's No Friend," "Since You've Been Gone," "All Night Long," "Lost In Hollywood," "Man On The Silver Mountain" and "Long Live Rock 'N Roll." Disc 3 has a mere five tracks: "Eyes Of The World," "Love's No Friend," "All Night Long," "Lost In Hollywood" and Long Live Rock 'N Roll."
Before we get to the music itself, anyone who is a fan of Blackmore and Rainbow will know that these CDs comprise two eras of Rainbow: First with Ronnie James Dio and then later with Graham Bonnet. Bonnet does a very good job covering the two Dio tracks, but he also has a well-deserved reputation as a screamer, and there are a few cringe-worthy moments in this collection where his off-key howls are like nails on chalkboard. That said, the band is tight and the players other than Blackmore and Bonnet (bassist Roger Glover, keyboardist Don Airy/keyboards and drummer Cozy Powell) hit their marks without fail.
These days, bands in concert pretty much play their hits close to the recorded version, but it wasn't always the case. One reminder of the excess of the 70s is "Lost In Hollywood," which clocks in at a mind-numbing 26:52 on the second disc. A five minute rambling, disjointed improvised keyboard solo followed by a drum solo of similar length might have sounded killer when you were blitzed out of your mind at the arena, but sitting at home 36 years later it gets real old real quick.
There is a lot of buzz on Blackmore, Deep Purple and Rainbow online discussion forums about this collection. The general consensus is that they are official releases of bootleg recordings (soundboard captures and/or radio broadcasts) that have been traded unofficially for years. Many complaints are that since these have been now released officially, the quality should have been cleaned up, but still there are songs that start abruptly with no intro, as if this album was sloppily pieced together. The Chicago disc in particular is the worst of the three, sounding as if a fan smuggled a tape recorder in under their coat. Bottom line: Down To Earth Tour 1979 may not be everyone's idea of a great Rainbow live set unless you're a fanatical collector who needs to have everything Ritchie Blackmore's ever done.
~ Richard Rosenthal