20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Rainbow

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The broad roster of artists under the Universal Music umbrella -- thanks to record company merger mania -- has enabled a slew of mid-line-priced 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection titles. In some cases, such as Steve Winwood's, it's a unique volume. For others, such as Rainbow, it's a sensible purchase for budget-minded casual fans, but more complete one-CD retrospectives exist. Deep Purple hasn't truly received the widespread critical respect it deserves as a pioneering heavy metal band, so it's no surprise that guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow isn't fully appreciated either. No consecutive studio albums bore the same lineup, so continuity can't be considered one of Rainbow's virtues. But from the progressive heavy metal, mid-'70s Ronnie James Dio era to the calculated, radio-friendly, early-'80s Joe Lynn Turner era, the band created many excellent songs and foreshadowed the mid-'80s pop/metal boom. Rainbow's three best-known songs -- "Since You Been Gone" (with Graham Bonnet's throat-bursting vocals), "Stone Cold," and "Street of Dreams" -- are featured on 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection. All three were modest hit singles, but only "Stone Cold" made the Top 40. "Man on the Silver Mountain" should also be recognizable to fans of "classic rock" radio. The beautifully hypnotic "Catch the Rainbow" and bombastic, strings-enriched epic "Stargazer" are other highlights. The menacing "Kill the King," supple "Rainbow Eyes," 13-minute live version of Deep Purple's blues showcase "Mistreated," and catchy "I Surrender" are treats too. ("Since You Been Gone" and "I Surrender" were both penned by Argent veteran Russ Ballard.) Although 1997's stunning The Very Best of Rainbow is the definitive compilation, the generous 11-song, 66-minute 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection certainly has its own virtues.

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