How on earth did Ritchie Blackmore ever think that three live shows in the UK (four if you include Stone Free festival) would satisfy his legions of fans? Starved of Rainbow for over twenty years, all the shows sold out easily. Add to that, the Deep Purple, and Blackmore’s Night fans, and there’s no way he can please them all. So due to obvious popular demand, a live double CD ‘Memories In Rock II’ was inevitable, not only for those that missed the shows, but for the ones who were lucky enough to be there. Released on 6th April as a 2CD/DVD, and titled ‘Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow’, it’s actually a whole lot more than it says on the cover.
Also included in the pack is over an hours worth of video interviews and live clips with the man himself, the rest of the band, his management and the crew. And there’s even another little bonus for Rainbow fans in the form of a brand new single, written by Ritchie and Candice Night.
So, let’s get down to the music, this is an unusual review for me, as I’m used to doing new material, and apart from one track on these CDs, I’ve been listening to these songs for forty years! Just think for a moment, who is not on this album? Cozy Powell, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, Ian Gillan, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, Jon Lord, and Don Airey. All these artists were perfectionists and masters of their respected trade, so who’s going to fill their boots? I can only assume that most of the above musicians either weren’t asked, or weren’t interested in teaming up with Blackmore again, which is why he stuck with the core of Blackmore’s Night; David Keith on drums, and Bassist Bob Nouveau. Add to that the keyboard player from Sweden’s Stratovarius, Jens Johansson, and Ritchie’s wife, Candice Night, on backing vocals, and we’re left with one big vacancy to fill at the front.
Looking back, Rainbow were always a showcase for new singers, and this time round is no exception. Plucking Ronnie Romero from relatively unknown band Lords of Black was an inspired choice. Ronnie somehow manages to do justice to all the tracks, and put his own stamp on them, which will do nothing but good for his career, and earned Lords of Black a deal with Frontier Records, and a second album.
The album opens with a short blast of ‘Over the Rainbow’ from The Wizard of Oz, before bursting into the energetic ‘Spotlight Kid’. This gives Blackmore his first chance to show he’s not lost any speed or agility in his fingers despite him picking up his bus pass over five years previous. Straight after, and we’re into ‘I surrender’, and apart from a slight accent on the vocals, close your eyes and you’d be wondering if JLT had made a guest appearance.
Hard enough as it is to sing Rainbows hits, Romero has to do a bit of Gillan and Coverdale, from the Purple era, including the classic ‘Mistreated’ which extends to over 10 minutes as Blackmore takes over and teases everyone with some gentle fret work, before resurging into a screaming, heart wrenching soul sucking blues.
Rainbows back catalogue is too good to ignore, so out comes ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ and the epic Dio track ‘Man on The Silver Mountain’ which is perhaps the only song Romero can’t quite do the full justice to, but who could? So with a quick salute to Dio, they sneak in a bit of ‘Woman from Tokyo’, before coming down off the mountain.
Staying in the seventies, or is it the ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’? Another track from the first Rainbow album, and a hint of the route Blackmore would take in the future with his medieval excursion with Candice Night. Also from the seventies comes an acoustic duet with Romero and Blackmore doing a tear jerking performance of ‘Soldier of Fortune’, assisted by backing vocals from Night, and an appreciative audience.
One more Purple hit from their golden era, ‘Perfect Strangers’, before we get back into a couple of Rainbows finest. The title track from ‘Difficult to Cure’, which incorporates Beethoven’s ninth symphony on electric guitar, and extends to fifteen minutes with solos from Blackmore and Johansson. Then the Bonnet classic ‘All Night Long’, definitely a crowd favourite, and again brilliantly taken on by Romero who certainly can hit all the high notes, and he even encourages the audience to join in.
The CD seems to be almost 50/50 Purple Rainbow, and it must be hard for Blackmore to choose the set list to keep everyone happy. Certainly the crowd seem to be equally enthusiastic for both back catalogues, as ‘Child in Time’ and ‘Stargazer’ are given the full extended versions.
After a needless introduction from Romero, Blackmore teases the audience into ‘Long Live Rock and Roll’ one of my all-time favourite Dio tracks, which again Romero does well to cover, and the audience seem to appreciate. Which leads me to the question, have the audience come here to see Ritchie Blackmore perform his hits, or have they come to see Rainbow and Purple, which were so much more than just Blackmore back in the day? Either way, this CD is a bit of a compromise for both.
As we draw to the end of the show, ‘Catch the Rainbow’, allows Blackmore to again display his control of the six string beast he has mastered over the decades, gently caressing the frets and proving speed isn’t everything in rock. Blackmore must be able to play ‘Black Night’ in his sleep by now, but again, he slows the notes down slightly rather than just rush through the solo, leaving a nice big gap for Keith to fill with his drum solo.
Blackmore has never been a big story teller on stage, and unless it was cut from the footage, an introduction to his tribute to former band mate and keyboard player Jon Lord ‘Carry on Jon’ would certainly have been appropriate. A beautiful instrumental track that allowed Blackmore to sit down and play his heart out. It also gives Romero a chance to catch his breath before the final classic Rainbow track, because it’s another Dio effort, ‘Temple of the King’. Again, this version is slightly toned down and subdued, maybe because of what’s to follow, as they would never have got out alive if they hadn’t played ‘Smoke on the Water’, and this time it’s played as loud and powerful as it should be, with Romero tearing his lungs out to wail and scream with as much energy as a young Gillan.
To finish the album, is new studio track ‘Waiting for a Sign’, with a great bassline, and a bluesy guitar, this is a brand new sound for a brand new line up, that would be good to hear more of, but that all depends on Mr Blackmore’s next project!
Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow are:
Ritchie Blackmore (Guitar)
Ronnie Romero (Vocals)
David Keith (Drums)
Bob Nouveau (Bass)
Jens Johanssen (Keyboards)
Candice Night (Backing Vocals)
Lady Lynn (Backing Vocals)
Over The Rainbow
Since You've Been Gone
Man on the Silver Mountain/Woman from Tokyo
16th Century Greensleeves
Soldier Of Fortune
Difficult To Cure
All Night Long
Child in Time
Long Live Rock'n'Roll/Lazy
Catch The Rainbow
Carry On Jon
Temple of the King
Smoke on the Water
Waiting for a Sign
Ritchie Blackmore Interview
Ronnie Romero Interview
Jens Johansson Interview
Bob Nouveau Interview
David Keith Interview
Candice Night Interview
Lady Lynn Interview
Dave David Interview
Andreas Bock Interview
Michael Bockmühl Interview
Bonus Backstage Clip
Surrender 2017 Backstage Clip
Released in 3 formats:
A 2CD+DVD set, a 180g 3LP Gatefold vinyl & a 140g 3LP limited edition gatefold blue vinyl, a 180g 3LP Gatefold vinyl & a 140g 3LP limited edition gatefold blue vinyl and in digital format.