I was listening to The Man on the Silver Mountain by Rainbow (my latest musical obsession), when I noticed that I heard something bass-like in the right channel (that wasn’t playing the same notes, nor did it have the same timbre as the bass guitar panned to the center). I shifted all my focus there for the rest of the song, and I couldn’t quite figure out what the instrument was.
It had similar qualities to that of a Fender Bass VI or maybe a baritone guitar, but also had similarities to a harpsichord.
Every time I listened to the song after that, I focused intently on that instrument in the right channel. Could it be a guitar with some weird flange-finagling?; it couldn’t be, it sounds an octave lower. A harpsichord? A Fender VI? It couldn’t possibly be another normal bass – that would be absurd in 1975!
I ended up asking some other people to listen to the song and everyone else said the same thing: “It just sounds like a bass.”. I wasn’t satisfied with this answer, but it really did sound like a bass. Maybe it was something like a Höfner Violin Bass ran through a Hiwatt DR103?
Generally speaking, I can do a decent job at getting somewhere near Butler’s bass tone with my own bass, so I decided to grab that and start hecking around with it. Eventually I came to this tone, which sounds pretty close (to my ear), although not perfect, as I’m playing a Music Man StingRay through an amp sim.
I have – the active EQ on my bass – the bass knob all the way at 0%, and the treble knob at ≈190%. It’s running through a simulated Hiwatt DR103 with the gain ≈40%, bass at ≈30%, mids at ≈85%, and the highs at ≈65%, and then a simulated plate reverb. I’m not willing to say it’s a just a secondary P- or J-bass, but since it’s entirely playable on a normal bass, it’s very unlikely to be a Fender VI. So, I think I’m going to settle on: it’s probably a Höfner Violin Bass played through a Hiwatt DR103 – for whatever crazy reason in 1975.
After having come to this final decision, I noticed that the same right-channel bass was in every song on the album. It wasn’t just a one-off to get the right sound for the song, but a stylistic choice made for the entire album.
Although it would be cool if I could hear that particular track in isolation, or ask Blackmore himself, if I ever get my hands on a Höfner Violin Bass, I will definitely test the theory.
On The Temple of the King, I noticed I heard the same timbre on the right channel as always, but in the same octave as the normal guitar. Then my brain came to the decision – I was so focused on electric instruments that I forgot about the acoustic ones – it’s a bass lute or a theorbo. It would make sense for the style they were going for, and seems like the kind of weird decision I would expect from Blackmore.
Rainbow’s music was partly inspired by classical music since Blackmore started playing cello to help him construct interesting chord progressions, and Dio wrote lyrics about medieval themes.en.Wikipedia
But then I saw, staring me in the face on the Album’s Wikipedia page:
Micky Lee Soule – piano, mellotron, clavinet, organ
What I’m hearing… is a clavinet. It sounds really damn close to what I expect a clavinet to sound like – albeit a bit less harsh. But I swear I can hear the sound of the fingers against the strings; I really can’t tell if that finger-noise is all coming from the classical guitar or not.
I guess the only way to find out for sure at this point would be to ask Blackmore himself.