Rainbow Canyon

Anthology (www.rainbowcanyon.net)

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Die Another Day

Onetime soul drummer and vocalist Buddy Maver wanted a rock band consisting entirely of lead singers. Rainbow Canyon, the pyrotechnic Cleveland five-piece he brought together in 1972, was that and then some.

Quickly garnering a rep for their onstage exuberance and showmanship (most often at the old Agora), Maver and bandmates Chester Florence (bass), Greg Grandillo (guitar), Billy Hanna (guitar), and Norm Cottone (keyboards) parlayed their capable singing voices into a powerful group sound that separated them from the local competition. The band flirted with the big time, signing with Capitol Records in 1973 and recording two albums for the label -- the second of which never saw the light of day. This self-released three-disc anthology includes those albums, plus demos, outtakes, and live recordings, making it a comprehensive tribute to one of Cleveland's best-ever lineups.

On Rainbow Canyon's debut, Rollin' in the Rockies, which was lavishly produced by the James Gang's Jimmy Fox, the band proved it could stand toe to toe with such vocally strong contemporaries as the Doobie Brothers. If the lyrical themes shifted direction from time to time, the band's overall prowess and confidence was clear. The lecherous protagonist of Grandillo's "Invisible Song" evokes the twisted playfulness of the Flo & Eddie-fronted edition of the Mothers of Invention, while tracks such as Hanna's "Suzy" proved that the Raspberries weren't the only North Coasters who knew about pretty pop.

Whatever the business issues were that shelved Rainbow Canyon's self-produced second album, it was worthy of release and could have taken things up a notch nationally for the band. The group's focus was sharpened, and its rock instincts prevailed. The vocal dazzle was used more economically, and the brawnier-voiced Grandillo took a more central role. In short: Rainbow Canyon deserved a better fate than what the biz dealt it.

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