Memories In Rock
Live In Germany
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow
Back in the 1997, when guitarist Ritchie Blackmore turned his back on hard rock and started playing an intriguing strain of medieval folk music, speculation ran high as to whether or not he would ever come back to rock. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, nearly 20 years later, he scheduled three shows — two in Germany and one in England — for the summer of 2016 under the Rainbow moniker. Speculation then turned to who the other members of Rainbow were going to be. To everyone's surprise, Blackmore went with a whole new cast of players. Together, they turned in sets filled with Rainbow nuggets, plus a few Deep Purple classics thrown in for good measure. Memories In Rock - Live In Germany captures it all in glorious high-definition and DTS-HD stereo sound.
Over the course of an hour and a half, Blackmore and company slay the Loreley and Bietigheim crowds with "Highway Star" to "Man On The Silver Mountain" to "Spotlight Kid" to pretty much everything you can imagine. At first, the playing comes across as lethargic and slow, certainly not as big and boisterous as it was with Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell. Eventually, the momentum picks up and many of the songs snap into place. From the outset, you notice Blackmore isn't the flashy and mischievous speed king of the 70s (he's now in his 70s), but his chops and technique are as brilliant and unblemished as ever.
Much of the spotlight falls on singer Ronnie Romero, a native of Chile and now settled in Madrid, Spain. He may not sport the long locks and pomposity of his predecessors (save for Graham Bonnet), but he's got the pipes and presence to handle the role. The four Dio songs — "16th Century Greensleeves," "Man on the Silver Mountain," "Catch The Rainbow" and "Stargazed" — are Romero at his strongest. He also pretty much kills it on "Mistreated," originally recorded with David Coverdale, yet one Dio made his own on the live circuit with Rainbow in the 70s. Unfortunately, the vocals, even with backing from Candice Night and Lady Lynn, on the Deep Purple material, especially on "Child In Time," aren't quite as smooth. Still, the thrill of seeing and hearing Ritchie Blackmore play these songs trumps any and all misgivings.
As for the rest of the band, each player steps up and fills their part as well as can be expected. During the "Difficult To Cure" instrumental (essentially Beethoven's Ninth Symphony), drummer David Keith, bassist Bob Nouveau, and keyboardist Jens Johansson, each get an extended solo and they rise to the occasion. Johansson, who's played with Yngwie Malmsteen (who, in turn, has often cited Blackmore as one of his greatest influences), is an obvious prodigy and engages effectively with Blackmore at several points during the performance. How and why the guitarist handpicked these particular musicians for the reunited Rainbow is as mysterious as the man himself. Nevertheless, they ably provide Blackmore with everything he needs to present a fluid and invigorating display of his greatest musical achievements.
Memories In Rock - Live In Germany is available in a number of configurations — a double CD set with either a DVD or Blu-ray Disc, digitally, a three-LP version, and a deluxe version with a DVD, Blu-ray Disc, and two CDs in a 48-page hardback book. Along with a full set, presumably spread across the two shows in Germany, are four bonus tracks from an "alternative" night. Once again, it's a mystery as to which night is which, but that's the way it goes. Just as it's a mystery as to whether or not we can expect to see Rainbow rise once again. As with everything he's ever done as a musician, Ritchie Blackmore will let the muse and his own moody mind dictate his next move.
~ Shawn Perry