By: Octavio Ramos Jr.
In 2015, rumors finally coalesced and it was confirmed that Ritchie Blackmore, long separated from the heavy rock genre, would at last return, reforming his band Rainbow for several powerhouse shows, two of which would take place at Monsters of Rock on June 17 and 18,
2016. These two key shows have been captured in their glory in Eagle Rock Entertainment’s “Memories in Rock” compilation titled “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Live in Germany.”
There’s no denying that Blackmore is one of heavy rock’s signature icons, having helped mastermind the genre of heavy metal with the proto-metal band Deep Purple, the early power- and classic-metal vibes of Rainbow when fronted by the mighty Ronnie James Dio, and even
after his departure from heavy rock to delve into the sound of the Renaissance and the medieval with Candice Night under Blackmore’s Night. But Blackmore had not set down his distinct blend of heavy riffs and melodic chops in a while, and there were some who doubted he could do so
As demonstrated in this three-disc set, two audio CDs and one DVD, all doubt has been
decimated and thrown asunder, as Blackmore and his worthy reincarnation of Rainbow rip
through an array of classics that will leave hardcore fans satiated and new ears wanting to
explore this rich genre that has been forgotten. Up front of course is Blackmore himself, Fender
always at the ready, orchestrated his fellow musicians through tracks such as Deep Purple’s
“Highway Star” and the classics “Perfect Strangers,” “Child in Time” (a personal favorite), and
“Smoke on the Water,” and even a snippet from “Woman from Tokyo.” With these tracks,
Stratovarius’ keyboardist Jens Johansson makes for a respectable Jon Lord, setting down classic
organ riffs that battle and concurrently complement the chords of Blackmore. These classic give-and-take wars are what made Deep Purple majestic, and it is great to hear them once again.
Standing apart from the Deep Purple material is the music of Rainbow. These vibes in turn are
separated once again from Dio’s epic lyrics and the later, more AOR-oriented material that has
more of a pop vibe. There is little doubt that Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black) prefers the
Dio-driven material, as he strains his already powerful voice to channel Dio on tracks such as
“Man of the Silver Mountain,” “Catch the Rainbow,” “16th Century Greensleeves,” the
rip-roaring “Long Live Rock and Roll,” and the epic “Stargazer.” Helping Romero to attain the
stratosphere are background vocalists Candice Night (lead vocals on Blackmore’s Night and
Lady Lynn (also of Blackmore’s Night). Romero delivers the melody lines just like Dio, and his
register comes close to the base Dio snarl, but he does not have Dio’s range and majestic
delivery. However, Romero absolutely kills with other Rainbow tracks, such as “Spotlight Kid”
and “Since You’ve Been Gone.” Romero also pays homage to Dio, declaring him as the Man on
the Silver Mountain. A fitting tribute that makes Romero even more of a standout frontman.
Another welcome component on this CD is the obligatory drum solo, courtesy of skinsman
David Keith, as part of the track “Difficult to Cure (Beethoven’s Ninth).” After the solo, bassist
Bob Nouveau (ex-Blackmore’s Night) throws down a solo of his own, and then Jens Johansson
chimes in, building an instrumental that is completed with the return of Blackmore.
Eagle Rock Entertainment has a knack for creating iconic packages in various genres of music,
and this one is no exception. The production and direction of the DVD and CDs are amazing,
with the DVD in particular capturing the very essence of a classic concert experience. The DVD
covers one Monsters of Rock performance, with parts of a second concert thrown in as a bonus
feature. The same is true of the CDs, which mirror the DVD performances. The sound has a bit
or boost, but the raw performances come through, as well as the audience, which is never
subdued. Veteran fans of Ritchie Blackmore will not be disappointed and newcomers will at last
understand what all the fuss about Blackmore, Rainbow, and Deep Purple is all about.
Photo Credits (Live Images)
Fabrice Demessence (used with permission)