Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow Shines Once Again!

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Richie Blackmore Rainbow

In June of this year, something incredible happened. After almost 20 years, Ritchie Blackmore reformed Rainbow for a trio of shows that rocked the Heavy Metal world, proving that while time and tide wait for no man, when it comes to playing great rock and roll, age doesn’t matter a hill o’ beans!

With a new frontman in Ronnie Romero (who sounds oddly in many ways like an amalgam of all of the Rainbow front men through the years) and playing music from Rainbow as well as Deep Purple, these three shows brought it to the audience full on. And now, thanks once again to Eagle Rock Entertainment, this 2CD / Single DVD set captures the best of all three shows and brings them into your living room.

I have long been a fan of Rainbow, and even longer of Ritchie Blackmore. And for me, while I have always enjoyed his commercial success songs, I have always found the rarely played on the radio tracks to be my favorites because those are the tracks that Ritchie really shines on. The trouble with commercially played songs such as “Highway Star,” “Since You’ve Been Gone,” and “Perfect Strangers” is that, while they have good melodies and catchy lyrics, they don’t let Ritchie really cut loose.

Here on this set we do have our cake and get to eat it too. With a mix of classics and lesser known songs from both Rainbow and Deep Purple, there is more than enough to whet your appetite and let you walk away satiated.

Blackmore is a virtuoso by every stretch of the imagination, and in the songs here you get to hear him take classical songs and arrange them in ways that left me gobsmacked. He may not play as fast as he did twenty or thirty years ago, but, my gosh, a man 71 years old has no right to be able to play this well! I mean, it can’t be fair to those 20 and 30 year olds out there who think they are great guitar players to be revealed to the current music press that they will never be as good as this man is in his seventies.

To hear such finely crafted and arranged songs like “16th Century Greensleeves” and “Difficult To Cure (Beethoven’s Ninth)” was a pleasure journey; the songs were not constrained by time or lyrical boundaries. Ritchie just kept taking music in different directions and then weaving them all back together. Sometimes it was just a solo to a mostly vocal song. It didn’t matter; he played and I just kept saying “Wow!”

You may not like that I say this, but I really don’t care. I will go on record now to say there is not a handful of guitar player living today who can compose and play the guitar the way Ritchie Blackmore does. People will hear him play guitar and say he sounds like this one or sounds like that one, and they are wrong: they are the ones who sound like him. Everyone needs to remember all those great leading riffs that every aspiring guitar player yearns to play first were created by Ritchie Blackmore.

And make no mistake about it, even though he has not played this sort of music in nigh on 20 years since forming Blackmore’s Night with his partner Candice Night (who also sings backup vocals here), he stepped right back into it as if he had never stopped--much the same way Eric Clapton did when he reunited with Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to reform Cream for several shows.

Now, I will say that up until now I had never heard of Ronnie Romero, but he did a decent job of singing lead; although starting off shaky in the first couple songs, he found his stride and settled in nicely, singing solid interpretations of all the songs. My only wish would have been to hear a little less talking to the audience; his accent then coming through made him sound a little bit like the singer of a cover band--and not to downplay his talents, but as good as he did sing, I just kept focusing on Blackmore’s playing. I was engaged in every song, and the mix was very well recorded, as all of Eagle Rock’s shows have been that I have heard.

The concert overall was extremely enjoyable. The mix of classic rock, metal, and yes even classical and renaissance, was woven together in a tapestry that will satisfy whichever style of Blackmore’s music appeals the most to you, and as a whole.

The CDs were also recorded well, with a wide soundstage that allowed space between the musicians. Soundstage depth was not as deep as I would have liked, putting the drummer almost on the same plane as the other musicians, but the overall mix was recorded well in that they all sounded like part of the band.

The beauty of this set is that, after listening to it and saying to myself how much I wish I could have seen it, I popped the DVD into the player and did! Although my TV music playback system is not of the same caliber as my dedicated music system, it is still good and allowed me to get much of the feel that I got from the CDs.

The video, like the CD, starts off with us hearing Judy Garland from THE WIZARD OF OZ saying “We’re not in Kansas anymore. We must be somewhere over the rainbow.”

Impeccably filmed with images of the band and the surrounding venue outdoors--alongside a river at twilight (why does it always seem to be at twilight?)--the video is almost two hours in length, giving us ample portions of Rainbow to fill our bellies.

While the camera naturally follows Ronnie more frequently because he is the singer and most animated on the stage, it is when the camera focuses on Ritchie where I can see him weave his magic that blew me away the most.

The audience is decidedly of the “older headbanger crowd” with lots of grey beards and balding heads on the guys, and a few extra wrinkles on some of the ladies (girl headbangers always seem to hold up better than us guys, I don’t know why). It’s good to see that, given enough aspirin for our sore knees and legs, we’ll come out in numbers to hear great rock and roll once again.

While Ronnie does a good job of singing, he does not work a crowd all that well. I don’t know if it was because the crowd just didn’t know enough about him, or if he looked just too young to be fronting such a legendary band. In any case, the audience was not that responsive to him. It could be because at this stage of the game for us, we don’t want to hear talk at a concert. We know the songs, we want to hear music; sort of like, well, “Shut up and sing.”

Blackmore is not flamboyant at this stage of the game; he just stands and plays. And plays. And plays unlike any other, on a tried, true, and well worn Fender guitar.

Watching the video, as Ritchie Blackmore plays it appears as if he tunes out everything going on, like there is not even a concert taking place around him. It’s like he’s just there playing his guitar and a concert is formed around him.

Set display is minimal, mostly just lighting effects, and that is just fine since the camera work focuses very closely on the band members--and when Ritchie plays, almost exclusively on him and close up of his playing.

This set goes so well together because you can take the CDs with you to listen in your car or intuitively at home, and with the DVD you can watch the show at home and be a concert goer as well!

Yes, this is another of those Eagle Rock Entertainment sets that I am going to tell you that you must have. You must have it if you’re a fan of Rainbow, of Deep Purple, but most importantly of Ritchie Blackmore. That man still has it, and you need to get you some. You won’t be sorry for a second as Eagle Rock has hit another one out of the park!

Songs included in this CD/DVD set:

CD1

  1. Highway Star
  2. Spotlight Kid
  3. Mistreated
  4. 16th Century Greensleeves
  5. Since You’ve Been Gone
  6. Man On The Silver Mountain
  7. Catch The Rainbow
  8. Difficult To Cure (Beethoven’s Ninth)
  9. Perfect Strangers
  10. Stargazer

CD2

  1. Long Live Rock And Roll
  2. Child In Time
  3. Black Night
  4. Smoke On The Water
Grade: 
4.5 / 5.0