Down To Earth

1979 | POLD 5023 | Polydor Deluxe

Down To Earth, POLD 5023, Polydor

Album information/credits:

Recorded: February-April 1979, Château Pelly-de-Cornfeld, France
Production: Roger Glover
Cover illustration: Ron Walalotsky

Personnel:

Ritchie Blackmore – guitar
Cozy Powell – drums
Roger Glover – bass
Don Airey – keyboards
Graham Bonnet – vocals

Track listing (Side 1):

1. All Night Long
2. Eyes Of The World
3. No Time To Lose
4. Makin’ Love

Track listing (Side 2):

1. Since You Been Gone
2. Love’s No Friend
3. Danger Zone
4. Lost In Hollywood

Album review:

Ronnie James Dio had become more disillusioned with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, namely that it was still Ritchie’s band and not more of a group ‘thing’. Dio had stated in interviews that he’d become fed up with all the songs starting with a Blackmore solo, then a guitar solo midway through, and ending with yet another Blackmore solo. On the other side, Blackmore was wanting to hear Rainbow songs on the radio (particularly in the USA) and that wasn’t going to happen with Dio suggesting Rainbow should actually go ‘harder and heavier’ in direction. The two mutually agreed they were now looking for different things, although Blackmore would apportion some of the ‘blame’ for the split on Dio’s manager and wife, Wendy. Wendy Dio was pushing for Dio to have more of the limelight and credit, according to Blackmore. Despite this, the original founding partnership left on good terms with each other. Dio officially left in January 1979.

Blackmore was now on the lookout for a new singer. Bizarrely, Blackmore actually approached his old Deep Purple adversary, Ian Gillan, turning up at the singer’s house one snowy winter night. The two talked, drank, socialised and effectively invited each other to their respective bands. Both offers were respectively declined and Blackmore seemed to confirm the ‘burying of the hatchet’ by jamming with Gillan’s band at a Marquee gig encore.

It seems that only Cozy Powell’s services were to be retained as a search was also underway for a keyboard player and bassist with both David Stone and Bob Daisley being fired at the end of the USA tour in August 1978. Cozy contacted well-respected keyboard session man Don Airey. He joined Blackmore and Powell for jamming/writing/rehearsal sessions for three weeks in December and was offered the gig as an early Christmas present.

Blackmore had been back in touch with another former Deep Purple bandmate, Roger Glover, since the autumn of 1978 with a view to contributing to the songwriting creative process and actually producing the next Rainbow album.  Despite this decision, Blackmore would claim that Glover ‘wouldn’t know how to get a good sound’. Whether he was being ironic or serious is not known.

Sessions commenced at yet another French château in early 1979, a different one from the demonically interrupted ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ sessions this time. So, with Glover on production duties, Powell on drums, Airey on keyboards and Blackmore obviously on guitar, that still left the bass guitar and vocal duties to be filled. Several bass players had been auditioned but none proved suitable. In order to keep the expensive recording time fruitful, Glover took over bass guitar responsibilities to get some backing tracks down whilst the elusive singer was found. Don Airey and then Cozy Powell eventually persuading Blackmore (and Glover himself) that Glover was the natural choice for bass guitar.

By April 1979, Rainbow had a new singer. A virtual unknown who ironically claimed to have never heard of Rainbow, Graham Bonnet had recorded a single in the late 60’s as lead vocalist with The Marbles. Cozy Powell had been playing random snippets of songs during the recording sessions as a ‘guess the singer’ game. Everyone had perked up at hearing Bonnet’s voice. He’d had a modest career but nothing of real note, mainly singing on pop tunes, which should have set some alarm bells ringing…

Glover and Blackmore had pretty much written all the songs, so Bonnet was pretty much a ‘hired-hand’ with regards to vocal duties. He performed admirably in front of the mic (rumours were rife of microphones set up 25 feet away from Bonnet due to his vocal power), but would only record in a bona-fide recording studio, claiming the vibe was all wrong at the chateau. This rankled with Blackmore and again should have set alarm bells ringing.

Blackmore was very keen to record a cover version of a song he’d heard some years earlier, claiming ‘it was a hit’. He would prove to be correct upon the release of Rainbow’s version of ‘Since You Been Gone’. Its poppy, commercial sound though was precisely the opposite of what Cozy Powell wanted to be part of and by the end of the 1980 tour, he resigned from Rainbow. By the middle of the year, during sessions in Denmark for the next album Bonnet resigned.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Notes:

The original release included a Rainbow official merchandise mail order flyer. There was also a limited edition clear vinyl version with a stickered sleeve:

 

 

 

 

A ‘free’ poster was included in an edition of ‘Sounds’ magazine (no date known) circa 1980

 

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