48. Rainbow, 'Rising' (1976)
Unhappy with Deep Purple's increasingly funk-oriented direction, Ritchie Blackmore left his band in 1974 and formed Rainbow with Ronnie James Dio. And with Rising, Rainbow's second LP, they produced an album that rivalled (some would even say surpassed) Purple's finest work. "Everybody who's heard it thinks it's my best playing in a long time, which I suppose is a compliment," the famously testy guitarist remarked in 1976, at the time of the album's release. "Then again, what do they know?" But it didn't take a musicologist to appreciate the quasi-mystical power of "Tarot Woman" (which featured an unexpectedly futuristic-sounding synth intro from Tony Carey), the arena-ready boogie of "Starstruck," the twin Tolkein-esque epics "Stargazer" and "A Light in the Black," or the fiery, dynamic fashion in which Blackmore and Co. dished them out. Sadly, Rising would mark Rainbow's artistic peak, as Blackmore would soon steer the band in more commercially oriented directions. "He was perturbed that he wasn't being played on the radio, and decided to go a different route," bassist Jimmy Bain lamented to Classic Rock in 2014. "He didn't think we were going to get successful, because Rising was too heavy." D.E.