Tag Archives: Rainbow

Rainbow – Genting Arena

The announcement that Ritchie Blackmore was to perform a handful of shows with a new incarnation of Rainbow came as a complete surprise. With the exception of power-metal stalwart Jens Johansson on keys, the band was made up of relative unknowns, including Ronnie Romero on vocals. In recent year Blackmore has devoted his creative energies to the medieval folk-pop of Blackmore’s Night, and it’s been many, many years since he last played a hard rock gig on a major stage. So there was much anticipation and speculation as to what to expect. Would the shows be a triumph, or turn out to be a complete car crash? Enough people were willing to take a risk that the sixteen-thousand capacity Genting Arena in Birmingham sold out within 24 hours of going on general sale.

Opening the show, for one of the biggest gigs of their career, was Mostly Autumn. To be strictly accurate is was four-sevenths of Mostly Autumn; the restricted space available on the stage meant there was only room for a cut-down foursome comprising Bryan Josh, Olivia Sparnenn, Alex Cromarty and Iain Jennings, covering the bass on keys. Bryan told us how he’s been a fan of Blackmore since he was 10, and never expected to be the opening act for Rainbow in an arena.

A fusillade of drums and Bryan’s Blackmore-like spiralling guitar figure of “In for the bite” opened their six-song set, which included the standards “Evergreen” and “Heroes Never Die”, more recent hard rockers “Drops of the Sun” and “Deep in Borrowdale”, and a spine-tingling “Silhouettes of Stolen Ghosts”. Even though the arrangements lost the layers of the full band, the songs chosen still worked remarkably well in cut-down format, and there was plenty of Bryan Josh’s soaring lead guitar. Aside from an unfortunate pause when a string came loose mid-song, it came over well and the band deserve to have won over new fans with that one.

Rainbow began with that familiar opening from the classic 1977 live album; the intro tape of Judy Garland from the Wizard of Oz and Blackmore playing the main theme from “Over the Rainbow”. Then he launched into the intro of “Highway Star” with Ronnie Romero repeating the opening line over the intro before Blackmore hit the opening riff and launched into the song proper.

Over the next two hours it was greatest hits from across the Rainbow and Deep Purple songbook. “Spotlight Kid” and “Mistreated” early in the set didn’t quite catch fire, but from then on things got steadily better as the show went on and Blackmore loosened up. At 71 years of age he doesn’t have the speed of decades past, for example “Catch the Rainbow” had a slower more melodic solo rather than the blur of notes of his 1970s performances. But that distinctive classical phrasing is still there.

Ronnie Romero proved to have a fine voice, and came over best on Ronnie Dio and David Coverdale songs, though his dark take of “Perfect Strangers” impressed a lot, and he succeeded in projecting himself to the crowd as a frontman. Two backing singers including Blackmore’s other half Candace Night filled out the sound.

Once or twice things faltered; in particular the somewhat butchered version of “Since You’ve Been Gone” didn’t quite come off. In contrast, the acoustic version of “Soldier of Fortune” was a delight. The rocked-out version of Beethoven’s ninth, “Difficult to Cure” became a vehicle for solos, first a drum solo that was short enough not to outstay its welcome, then, horror of horrors, a bass solo, and finally an interminable keyboard solo. It actually started out well with jazz flavoured Hammond, but lost its way with an overlong classical style piano section and blasts of every differed keyboard effect from 70s parps to pipe organ. It’s Blackmore the audience paid to see, and this sort of thing should have been left in the 70s where it belonged.

The best came towards the end. After an impressive “Child in Time” with the two backing singers adding another dimension came a truly monstrous take on what has to be the definitive Rainbow song, “Stargazer”. Romero nailed the vocal and Blackmore himself was on fire for the solo. They finished the main set with the early Purple hit “Black Night” tailing off with the audience singing the riff over and over as the band left the stage.

Any worries that Blackmore would throw one his legendary strops and refuse to do an encore proved groundless; they were back with a rendition of “Burn” as monstrous as Stargazer before it. But still they weren’t quite done. Romero led the audience through an a capella first verse of “Smoke on the Water” before Blackmore came in for That Riff after the first chorus.

Despite a slightly shaky start this ended as a triumphal gig; the power and intensity of the last few songs in particular sent the audience away feeling they’d had their money’s worth. Here were songs few thought they’d ever hear played live by anything other than tribute bands a year ago, and for some, Stargazer alone was worth the price of the ticket. These shows were initially going to be one-offs, but Blackmore has since hinted that they may be further shows next year.

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RIP Jimmy Bain

We lost another one, with Metal Hammer reporting the death of Jimmy Bain. Best remembered as the bassist for Rainbow and later with Dio.  He played on what many consider to be Rainbow’s best album, “Rainbow Rising”, as well as the classic live album “On Stage”. He played on seven Dio album including the classic début “Holy Diver”. Between Dio and Rainbow he was also part of the short-lived Wild Horses with former Thin Lizzy guitarist Brian Robertson.

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Ritchie Blackmore’s new Rainbow

Rainbow Poster

Classic Rock are reporting Ritchie Blackmore’s touring lineup for the recently announced live dates in Germany and Birmingham next June.

Aside from Blackmore himself, the band will include, Lords Of Black singer Ronnie Romero, Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson, Blackmore’s Night drummer David Keith and bassist Bob Nouveau.

I have seen some disappointment voiced on Twtter that former singer Joe Lynn Turner will not be part of the band. While there’s got to be a question mark over how a relatively unknown singer might handle being thrust into arena-level gigs, we may still have dodged a bullet. The singer might have been Doogie White (have you heard Black Masquerade?), or Dio forbid, Graham Bonnet.

The Birmingham show is sold out, and tickets are already appearing on tout sites at vastly inflated prices. One does wonder exactly what proportion of the better seats actually went to genuine fans.

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Ritchie Blackmore – 10 of the best

The Guardian have just published my piece on Ritchie Blackmore for their “10 of the best” series.

Like some of my previous entries in this series, reducing the essence of a major artist’s career down to just ten songs is never easy. As on my earlier Black Sabbath piece I wanted to avoid a list containing ten obvious standards and nothing else, so I missed out very well-known songs such as “Smoke on the Water” to make room for a couple of lesser known and often overlooked gems.

There were a few songs that picked themselves. “Eyes of the World” was one of those songs that changed my life, so it had to be there. Likewise, the towering “Stargazer” could not be omitted. I did consider including representatives from his 1960s session work, and from the more recent Blackmores Night so as to cover his entire career. But in the end I decided to focus entirely on his prime years from 1970 to 1984.

Quite a few of the alternative suggestions in the comments did actually appear in earlier drafts of my list, including “Child in Time” which I eventually left out in place of “Speed King”, and the live version of “Catch the Rainbow” which one commenter described as the nearest thing rock guitar ever came to Coltraine.

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Ritchie Blackmore, 70 today

Guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore turns 70 today. To celebrate, here’s one of his finest hours, Stargazer, featuring the vocals of the late, great Ronnie Dio and the drums of the late and equally late Cozy Powell.

The album Rainbow Rising, released in 1976 is an acknowledged classic. It would be one of my desert island disks without question.

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Metallica covering Stargazer on a Ronnie James Dio tribute album is a Thing That Should Not Be.  It should be avenged by Blackmores Night recording a hey-nonny-nonny version of Master of Puppets.

Posted on by Tim Hall | 2 Comments

Rainbow – Singles 1975-1986 Box Set

Rainbow Box Set The Rainbow Singles Box set is a reissue of all the singles released by Rainbow from the years 1975 to 1986 on nineteen CDs in reproductions of the sleeves of the original 7″ singles. Over that period the band went through many lineups and changes in style, with the mercurial guitarist Ritchie Blackmore the sole constant factor.

The first incarnation of Rainbow with the late Ronnie James Dio was a classy hard rock act. The Dungeons and Dragons imagery of songs like “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” launched a thousand Scandinavian power-metal bands, but musically they were way ahead their time, and you can hear their influence right across hard rock and metal three decades later. The way Ronnie Dio takes Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” and makes it his own shows what a class act he was as a vocalist.

At the end of the 70s Rainbow headed in a more commercial direction, now fronted by Graham Bonnet. They scored two big hits in the UK, the Russ Ballard-penned “Since You’ve Been Gone”, and dreadfully sexist “All Night Long” with that infamous toe-curlingly bad line “Don’t know about your brain but you look alright”. The B-side, though, is an absolute gem, the sublime neo-classical instrumental “Weiss Heim”.

The 80s material with Joe Lynn Turner on vocals hasn’t aged quite as well as the music from the Dio years. Although it has its moments, especially the final flourish of “Street of Dreams”, much of the American-style AOR now sounds very dated, with Blackmore seemingly intent on creating a poor man’s Foreigner. Possibly the nadir of the whole collection is “Difficult to Cure”, the cod-classical rock version of Beethoven’s ninth, which simply sounds embarrassing.

The boxed set includes all the singles released across different territories, so we get a lot of duplication where different countries got different B-sides for the same single. The same version of some songs appear two or even three times, and there no fewer than four versions of “Man on a Silver Mountain”. Rainbow only ever recorded three non-album B-sides, all of which were included on the still-available odds-and-sods compilation “Final Vinyl”, so there is little here for completists. As far as I can tell, the only tracks not available elsewhere are a couple of bootleg-quality live recordings from the Joe Lynn Turner era.

While it’s nice as a physical artefact, it does leave you wondering quite what the point is, especially given the very hefty price tag. As a Rainbow retrospective it’s missing too many of the obvious album highlights; no Stargazer, no Eyes of the World, no Gates of Babylon. You’re left with the conclusion that the whole thing is really targeting the “Birthday Present for Dad” market far more than that of the discerning music fan, and if you listen very carefully, you might hear the sound of a barrel being scraped. If you have fond memories of Rainbow from the 70s and 80s and only owned the records on vinyl, the relatively recent remasters of the original albums represent far better value for money.

In short, at £65 (Amazon UK’s pre-order price) for three-and-a-half hours of actual music is a complete rip-off. The whole thing stinks of a cynical record-company cash-in that the band most likely had no say in.

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RIP Ronnie Dio

As announced on his website, Ronnie Dio passed away this morning.

There were premature rumours about his death circulating yesterday, but it’s now confirmed he died early this morning, after a long battle with cancer.

The little man with the big voice, he was perhaps one of the greatest hard rock/metal singers of all time, fronting Rainbow, putting his own mark on Black Sabbath, and followed this with a lengthy and successful solo career. Few people have managed to produce all time classic albums with three completely different bands, but with “Rainbow Rising”, “Heaven and Hell” and “Holy Diver”, Dio is one of those few. He was a true legend, one of my biggest heroes in my formative years.

It’s worth noting that 90% of the Facebook updates in my timeline tonight are about Dio. That says something about how much he was loved.

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