When most of us think about Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, the names that first come to mind are guitarist Blackmore, drummer Cozy Powell, and powerhouse vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Rightly so. But the legacy of the ever-changing Rainbow line-ups also include lead singers Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, and, in the mid-1990s incarnation, Scottish singer Doogie White.
White fronted the version of Rainbow that recorded the 1995 Stranger in Us All, Blackmore’s last studio hard rock release. This was the band Blackmore took on the road in between his final farewell to Deep Purple and his eventual turn to Renaissance music with Blackmore’s Night. Before all that, the Blackmore/White Rainbow enjoyed a successful, lengthy tour that included a 1995 gig on Germany’s Rockpalast TV program. Long bootlegged, that newly restored concert is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, a two CD set, Digital Audio, AND Digital Video. Few fans of Blackmore and his various congregations are going to want to miss this release in whatever format you prefer.
Along with Blackmore and White, this version of Rainbow was a first-class live band including Paul Morris (keyboards), Greg Smith (bass), and Chuck Burgi (drums). Candice Night, soon to become Mrs. Blackmore and the “Night” of Blackmore’s Night, also provided harmony vocals on songs like “Temple Of The King” and “Ariel.”
Like “Ariel,” not surprisingly, a healthy chunk of the selections performed on that night in Dusseldorf drew from Stranger in Us All, for which White wasn’t only the main pipes, he was also the principal co-writer with Blackmore. These songs included “Too Late For Tears,” “Black Masquerade,” “Wolf To The Moon” (which segues into “Difficult To Cure”) and one of Blackmore’s many draws from classical music, Edvard Grieg’s “Hall Of The Mountain King.” Stranger also had a new interpretation of The Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad,” which was a Rainbow staple back in Dio days. Here, it sets up a thunderous Burgi drum solo on the new live rendition. Likewise, “Hunting Humans” from the same album turns into a Morris showpiece as it segues into passages from Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” which leads into an extended piano and synthesizer Solo evocative of Rick Wakeman’s Yes work.
Reaching back into the Rainbow catalogue, the songlist also featured “Man On The Silver Mountain” (far from a definitive version), a short bit from the poppy “Since You’ve Been Gone,” and, of course, “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves.” Audience participation was in full cry for “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” with the crowd singing along to the bits where White and Blackmore reprised the old Ian Gillam/Blackmore guitar and vocals back-and-forth from Deep Purple days. Speaking of Purple, we get “Perfect Strangers” and the encores for the show, “Burn,” and—what else?—”Smoke on the Water.” I sometimes think Edith Bunker or Sonny Bono could sing that one, and the audience would still enthusiastically join in. I’m not, not complaining about White’s rendition, I’ve just always thought there are better and fuller Purple anthems. But I digress.
Black Masquerade is one of the last recordings of Blackmore’s guitar pyrotechnics, and for that reason alone, this concert is worth the price of admission. In addition, Blackmore was always more than particular about choosing his sidemen, and the 1995 ensemble was certainly worthy of the Rainbow brand as a performing unit. The 103 minutes of the Rockplast gig also demonstrated the Blackmore/White Rainbow clearly knew how to keep an audience energized from the first note to the final chord.
The main weakness is that the songs from Stranger in Us All weren’t and aren’t especially memorable. While the picture quality is passable, the strobe lighting suffers either from age or not being captured clearly to begin with. Yes, there are going to be viewers and listeners a tad disconcerted to hear someone other than Dio delivering the vocals, but that’s just part of the traditions of both Deep Purple and Rainbow. Like Purple, Rainbow too had its Mark I, II,III and IV lineups, or more depending on how you count the changes. On its own terms, the last Rainbow didn’t supersede the Dio era, but it was a more than worthy continuation, especially on stage. Thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment for revitalizing a show that deserved a new life.