RAINBOW

"Memories in Rock - Live in Germany" (Eagle Vision/Universal; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

In June of 2016, Ritchie Blackmore did what so many hoped he'd do. He put aside his folk music for a few short moments and returned to rock'n'roll. Rainbow played three concerts in Europe, two in Germany and one in England. The shows consisted of not only classic rock from Rainbow, but also legendary tracks by Deep Purple.

This 2 CD/1 DVD set contains fourteen tracks from the Germany nights, plus four tracks from an "alternative night," which I think probably means the England night, no?

As seems to be its history, Rainbow boasts yet another line-up on this CD. Here, you've got new Rainbow vocalist Ronnie Romero who may, in fact, be the perfect choice for this particular band. He's got nearly the range of Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan, and he can belt out the Ronnie James Dio tunes, too. For most of the tracks, Romero does the song justice.

The CD begins with a shambling version of the classic Deep Purple tune, "Highway Star," that you kind of wished they had left in its original form and came bursting out of the gate with. It settles into the tune we all know and love after a moment, and serves as a reminder that Ritchie Blackmore is famous for doing his own thing.

Most of the tracks are fairly standard run-throughs of their classic originals. Occasionally, though, Blackmore and crew shake things up. The most notable here being the uber-classic "Smoke on the Water," which starts out not with its iconic three or four notes but with an almost casual clock-like riff. It's weird, but it's Blackmore, and by the time the track's over, you're kinda glad they did things the way they did. The audience singing most of the chorus here can easily give you goose bumps.

The audio quality is amazing, the band sounds great and if there was ever any doubt that Ritchie Blackmore is one of guitar's greatest heroes (there wasn't), it's certainly put to rest here. Blackmore's guitar is the shining star on "Memories in Rock," with his razor-sharp guitar tone and flowing leads.

The included DVD (assuming you buy the CD/DVD combo) features all eighteen tracks from the CD, including the four tracks from the "alternative night." As you might expect, it's exceptionally well-produced, and the opportunity to see these concerts that never made it to the U.S. (at least so far) is well worth the purchase price.

I also should mention the packaging here. Although it's perhaps the last thing that matters with a rock'n'roll release, the pacakaging for this collection is impressive. It's a glorious, full-color fold-out case that opens first to a full shot of the band performing live and then then next to expose the enclosed discs. The CD insert is also worth mentioning with its fascinating liner notes and color photos.

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow: Ritchie Blackmore - guitar; Ronnie Romero - Vocals; David Keith - drums; Bob Nouveau - bass; Jens Johansson - keyboards; Candice Night - backing vocals; Lady Lynn - backing vocals.

For more information, check out http://www.blackmoresnight.com/.

"Boston 1981" (Purple Pyramid Records; 2016)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

And yet another fantastic live recording of the legendary Rainbow, this one apparently from the "Difficult to Cure" tour and featuring Joe Lynn Turner on vocals. Fantastic sound quality, the unmatched fretwork of Ritchie Blackmore (sounding terrific here) and an energy level throughout the band that makes this recording as vibrant as the day it was originally performed.

It's amazing to me that these live Rainbow recordings continue to be released and that they continue to shine with this kind of quality - both in the way the sound and in the performances captured herein.

Yeah, it's a little weird to hear Joe Lynn Turner on songs that Ronnie James Dio originally sang on. "Man on the Silver Mountain," for example, and "Long Live Rock'n'Roll," for example. But Turner is a vocalist with nearly the same legendary status as Dio (I said nearly) and his vocal performance on this CD is nothing short of awe-inspiring.

And, as mentioned briefly above, Blackmore's guitar playing is mind-blowing here, and is captured perfectly. As everyone knows, Blackmore has a trademark tone and sound and it's all here in "Boston 1981."

The CD closes out with an energetic cover(?) of Deep Purple's classic "Smoke on the Water," opening with riffs from other Deep Purple songs, and it rocks hard.

Rainbow fans, especially those of the Joe Lynn Turner era, will be thrilled with "Boston 1981."

For more information, check out http://www.blackmoresnight.com/.

"Live in Germany 1976" (Eagle Records; 2011)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This double live CD should be required listening as much for its incredible music content as for its historic value.

Musically, it's the awesome Cozy Powell on drums, the legendary Ritchie Blackmore on guitar and the immortal Ronnie James Dio on vocals. Not much more really needs be said. Featured are eight live versions of classic Rainbow tracks, including the iconic "Man on the Silver Mountain," "Kill the King," "Stargazer" and "Mistreated," performed in the era's popular free-flow style (we'd probably call it "jam-style" today). Getting to hear these incredible musicians riff and jab live on stage is really worth the purchase price alone and, with an average running time of just over 14 minutes each, I believe these are unedited performances.

Historically, it's a document of what rock'n'roll shows were like in the mid-70s. First, there's the aforementioned free-flow style. The band play classic songs here that we all know and love but these are live performances of these songs and, as such, no two live performances are the same. The bandmembers, especially guitarist Blackmore (of course, it was his band), have the freedom to play and explore the songs, making them something different, something more than their studio versions. There are moments of almost complete silence on these discs, and you can almost hear the cogs of Blackmore's creativity as he muses over what to play next. Then, there's the audience: Unlike the roaring beast that is the live audience on albums like KISS's "Alive!", the audience in the 70s was almost laidback, applauding politely at the appropriate intervals, cheering occasionally, but -- for the most part -- just sitting and enjoying the music. It's a fascinating juxtaposition of then to now.

The sound quality is excellent, although you are aware throughout that you're listening to recordings made almost 35 years ago. There is some argument amongst purists about the apparent re-issue of some tracks here but, two discs with nearly two hours of music is a little hard to complain about.

"Live in Germany 1976" is a fascinating hard rock listen.

For more information, check out http://www.blackmoresnight.com/.

"Live in Munich 1977" (Eagle Records; 2006)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Although may fans argue that, like Deep Purple, Rainbow continue to issue a seemingly endless line of live performances taken from their perhaps unmatchable, extensive career history), "Live in Munich 1977" is perhaps evidence as to why this isn't a bad thing. 

Recorded live at the Munich Olympiahall in Germany on October 20th, 1977, "Live in Munich 1977" is two discs featuring the legendary band with one of its most impressive line-ups. As you might expect, considering his reputation, this CD is mostly about guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Although there are nearly 100 minutes of music here, there are also only eight tracks, once of which runs over 25 minutes alone. Blackmore is famous for turning a 4-minute radio hit into a 20-minute onstage extravaganza and that is certainly the case here. The good news is that it sounds great. Blackmore is truly one of rock's greatest musicians and listening to him do his thing on "Live in Munich 1977" is nothing short of riveting.

Of course, you've also got Ronnie James Dio on vocals, as well as Cozy Powell, Bob Daisley and Dave Stone rounding out the band. That's one killer line-up and they definitely deliver here.

The sound quality is amazing. "Live in Munich 1977" doesn't sound as slickly produced as, say, "Kiss Alive!", but instead has a rawer live sound that puts the listener in the middle of the show.

It's highly unlikely that we'll ever see any new music from Rainbow and it's nigh impossible that we'll ever see this line-up perform again so it's nice to have a record of their brilliance, even if it is almost thirty years old.

Rainbow: Ritchie Blackmore; Ronnie James Dio; Cozy Powell; Bob Daisley; Dave Stone.

For more information, check out http://www.blackmoresnight.com/.

Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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Copyright 2016 by R. Scott Bolton. All rights reserved.
Revised: 08 Oct 2017 14:06:07 -0400 .