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Rainbow - 'A Light In The Black 1975 - 1984' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/43/7d/e0/rainbow-a-light-in-the-black-75-84-54-1432928271.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     May 29, 2015    
 
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While hugely enjoyable, 'A Light In The Black' makes for a very disjointed, stop-start listen.

Polydor are, it would seem, searching once more for that pot of gold at the end of the Rainbow. 'The Polydor Years' vinyl box-set (reviewed in the re-issues section) recently slammed onto the shelves and now 'A Light In The Black' offers "rare tracks, demos, live versions and alternate mixes" from throughout the Rainbow canon. As expected, that isn't quite the case; the underrated Doogie White-led and RCA released 'Stranger In Us All' remains once more beyond reach. However in fairness that still leaves a host of Ritchie Blackmore-infused goodies to discover.

Yet this is a confused box-set, right from the fact that the title track doesn't actually feature, to a running order which switches from tape-hiss demos to full on album cuts via live takes and b-sides. Split into two discs covering the Ronnie James Dio era, one from Graham Bonnet's time with the band and two more which handle Joe Lynn Turner's three releases as front-man, it's hard to get away from the feeling that the many, full, finished and already released cuts from the studio albums have been included simply to pad this set out to five discs, when, in truth, four or possibly even three would have sufficed.

Those negatives aside, the early and "rough mixes" of 'Tarot Woman', 'Stargazer' and 'Run With The Wolf' from the 'Rising' album allude to the creative process the band went through, while the fuzzy but hugely interesting "Bob Daisley" tapes offer a similar insight into the creation of 'Long Live Rock 'N' Roll'. 'Do You Close Your Eyes' is run through without Blackmore, while the album's title track finds Dio ad-libbing the vocals; some of which would stick and some which wouldn't. From this early era you also get an embryonic 'Sensitive To Light' with Blackmore on bass and selection of (previously available) live cuts including the rarely played 'L.A. Connection' and a medley of 'Blues/Man On The Silver Mountain/Starstruck' which features snatches of 'Purple Haze', 'Lazy' and 'White Christmas'!

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Disc three is Bonnet time; an early instrumental version of 'Eyes Of The World' offering little difference to what would end up on the record (although without vocals it does feel much more connected to the Dio era it followed), while 'Ain't A Lot Of Love In The Heart Of Me' is a clunky, alternate vocal of 'Love's No Friend'. A couple of b-sides round out the studio selections, although the interest comes in the shape of "King Biscuit Hour" live tracks, where Bonnet ably handles '...Friend' and '...World'. Although listening to him forget the words to 'Stargazer' at Donington in 1980 (which doesn't feature on the DVD of that set) is more than a little uncomfortable.

Coming off worst are the Turner discs, where a glut of album cuts make up the bulk of the content, while most of the live tracks come from videos released back in the 1980s. That said 'Spotlight Kid' and 'Death Valley Driver' from Hammersmith in 1981 and 'Stranded' from Cardiff in 1984 are great examples of what a superb live performer Turner is. Interestingly, the set closes with a slow, unusual live version of 'Smoke On The Water' which hinted at what was to come for Blackmore, Turner and of course Deep Purple.

As is often the case these days, the promo pack for this release doesn't contain the DVD or booklet, so I can't really comment on them; other than to say that the DVD does appear to be the incomplete version of the previously available VHS tape of Rainbow's 1980 Donington appearance. In truth, a complete CD version of that show, or indeed any full Bonnet or Turner live recording would have made for a more engaging addition to (or indeed complete replacement of) this package and as such feels like a missed opportunity.

While hugely enjoyable, 'A Light In The Black' makes for a very disjointed, stop-start listen, especially for casual fans, as it simply doesn't know if it's a best of, live album or demo set. There are a few gems scattered throughout (although mainly early on), but most of this material is available elsewhere, meaning hardened Rainbow followers will probably own it all already. Leaving the question of exactly who this release is aimed at, definitely lost somewhere in the black.

Steven Reid

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