Rainbow • Down To Earth Live
Rainbow – Down To Earth Tour 1979 (3CD box set / 2LP). Aug 2015
What a strange release. Coming from L.A.-based Purple Pyramid Records (actually a division of long time West Coast label Cleopatra) this all kicked off with the Denver 1979 show pressed on vinyl in three different colours of vinyl (red, green, or blue) in a holographic foil gatefold jacket! This was the precursor to the triple CD box set issued this August (which also included the Long Island, and Chicago shows), and this also pushed out the boat in packaging terms. Quite why they felt the need to dress this lot up so much when most Rainbow fans would be pleased with them anyway seems a mystery. However it looks as if the label have not gone back to the original radio broadcast masters but used official (or pirate – it’s often hard to tell the difference) radio albums to master from. I’ve certainly got some of these shows in vinyl bootleg form tucked away, though haven’t dug them out in a while.
Obviously the Down To Earth period of Rainbow is one which divided fans at the time. The ‘classic’ Rainbow with Ronnie were a very difficult act to follow, and while Graham Bonnet certainly had what it takes physically, he did suffer from insecurities and a lack of confidence when it came to writing. He was also moving over from a world of solo albums, associations with The Bee Gees and MOR cover versions (and had never even heard of Rainbow before his audition.) So it was left to Roger Glover to get most of the lyrics together, and Graham had to make the best of it. Today Down To Earth is not a bad Rainbow album, it’s just that the commercial edge which had crept in with tracks like Long Live Rock’n Roll were now central to the band’s future and rather diluted any impact they might have had if they’d stuck to their guns. If we put the hits to one side, then there is only really Eyes Of The World and Lost In Hollywood to remind us what Rainbow should be.
The album tour is not especially well documented beyond a few tracks from the band’s show at Donington, and some from New York which turned up on that last big box set, so in terms of adding to the archive these shows do a job. And within Rainbow’s history this was certainly a period spent hammering away at America, nearly a year of solid touring with lots of support slots and a few headlining shows between August and December 1979. It is from this latter slot that the recordings originate, all done within six weeks of each other.
The tour then moved to Europe and we caught shows in March on the tour which saw the band with chart hits under their belt headlining some of the early UK stadium venues. In all honesty I don’t recall these shows too well, largely because we were disorientated by the huge venues and restless crowds, which were a feature of most Rainbow gigs here from then on. The majesty of the 76 days was long gone.
The DTE line-up came to a dramatic close with a firework and explosives laden show at Donington, and Cozy was off with Graham not far behind. It would with hindsight have been good to see Graham and Ritchie persevere with the project but without some sort of rapport it wasn’t going to happen. When you find your singer setting fire to a pile of your shirts in a hotel garden then the message is fairly clear!
Track wise the CDs are all the same, except Chicago which drops two of the songs, and it’s all based on the new album with a couple of oldies, Long Live and Man On The Silver Mountain. Packaging wise there are a few nice live pics on a couple of the CD covers, but otherwise it’s all a little bit too garish and Poundshoppy for me, though the studio LP sleeve itself was always a bit low-budget. Simon Robinson
Review • Quite possibly in a moment of madness I bought the new Rainbow box-set thingy, with three live radio broadcasts from 1979. Of course I had the music already as all three shows have been bootlegged before – several time in the case of at least one of them (‘Roger’s Birthday Party’). But here they are again, properly pressed up onto CDs (1 per broadcast), boxed up in a nice velvet-lined snazzy outer case, with individual picture sleeves, a booklet that reproduces the ’79 UK tour programme (amongst other stuff), plus a badge, a patch, a plectrum and even a Rainbow bottle opener/keyring..!
Whether or not they found the ‘definitive’ versions of the boots to use as source material is open to debate, and it will take someone with more patience/better ears/less of a life than me to provide the answer.
What I can tell you is that some of Bonnet’s between song chat has been cut – is this a great loss? “On my left, or on my right, or on any side of me – is a young man who can’t play keyboards very well – no, he plays keyboards very well, Don Air-eeeey-ah!” being one example of a disappeared introduction.
Audio-wise the recordings sound like the kind of off-air recordings I used to get using my Dad’s cassette/radio player back in the early ‘80s – so the whole thing has a bit of a bootleggy feel to it, albeit a high-end Japanese bootleg maybe.
So, hardly essential perhaps, but if you happen to have 30-odd quid burning a Rainbow-shaped hole in your pocket…
I wonder if there’ll be any follow-up box sets? An ’81 set featuring 3 JLT era radio broadcasts, with free Rainbow shoe-horn, tea towel and hair tonic/saucer of milk? Chances are…
Others including John Tucker have pointed out that some of the reprinted pages in the tour programme are very hard to read (a shame for all Steve Gett fans), and that they’ve reproduced the cover of Record Mirror back to front in the booklet. And did we know that ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ “single-handedly invented the power ballad.”? Incidentally on this set they spell the title different ways on different discs.
This period of Graham’s career is covered in his upcoming biography. You can read more details here.