'Boston 1981' (CD, coloured vinyl LP)
Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow produced a fine string of albums in the late 70s and early 80s, moving in a more commercial direction with a constantly revolving line-up and again one in the mid 90s, and there have been a number of strong (and not so strong) retrospective live releases along the way. And since the band split and Ritchie left a reformed Deep Purple in 1993, he has recorded a number of medieval folk albums with Blackmore's Night alongside vocalist and partner Candice Night.
Ritchie Blackmore, guitar legend and former Deep Purple guitarist and founder member, recently announced his return to rock music with some Rainbow live shows, albeit with no other previous Rainbow members, and this album serves as a timely reminder of just how good the material is, on record and on stage.
After forming Deep Purple and a number of scene defining songs - 'Smoke On The Water', 'Child In Time', 'Fireball', 'Burn' to name but a few - and albums that top any classic rock list, Ritchie formed Rainbow in 1975 as an outlet to cover a Quatermass song that Purple objected too.
Initially using American rock band Elf, Blackmore formed a strong relationship with vocalist Ronnie Dio and the band's first three albums were classic hard rock that saw established heavy rockers such as Jimmy Bain, Cozy Powell and Bob Daisley pass through the ranks.
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With vocalist Graham Bonnet, bassist Roger Glover and pianist Don Airey, 1979s 'Down To Earth' would be a much more commercial affair; less castles and rainbows, more hit singles. The commercial direction was on the wall, the conquest of American radio on the cards and 1981s 'Difficult To Cure' saw drummer Bobby Rondinelli and vocalist Joe Lynn Turner join the fold and it was that album that spawned this live show. Originally a radio broadcast, it's a decent recording (editing aside).
'Difficult To Cure''s 'Spotlight Kid' opens the show, as it would do for a couple of years, and it's a bright energetic rocker with a very distinctive guitar solo. This album and tour would be JLT's big break and he certainly made the most of it, clearly on form here and not only relishing the moment but putting his stamp on Rainbow. Replacing Graham Bonnet with JLT was, in terms of voice, performance and song writing, a deliberate move in the commercial rock direction.
'Love's No Friend', from 'Down To Earth', is far from an obvious choice, but it is good to see the band vary the set-list. The song does build into a crescendo with some furious drumming, a bit of a jam with some excellent guitar work extending it to over seven minutes although some of that is Turner's inability to finish a song without a bit of a vocal workout. 'Spotlight Kid' indeed.
Some neat keyboard noodling from Airey before the hit single 'I Surrender' comes in. The slight distortion of the bass aside, it's again a very decent recording with JLT adding plenty of power and range. 'Man On The Silver Mountain' is another cracker, this one from Rainbow's debut and here the original arrangement is kept (it was extended considerably by earlier line-ups) and there's some excellent guitar and keyboard interplay.
Also from the debut is 'Catch The Rainbow' and this one is extended to a little under 15 minutes. Much as JLT's vocals are excellent, I'm not sure about his extended workout at the end. The song is much more Dio suited, but in terms of musicianship it shows just how well Airey and Glover fit in with Blackmore in the live setting. Again, such an arrangement showcases Ritchie's guitar well.
The second single from 'Difficult To Cure', 'Can't Happen Here', is included here and both live and studio it's a superior offering to 'I Surrender'; power, melody, a decent message and the performance rocks too.
Another 'Down To Earth' offering is 'Lost In Hollywood', this one a real rocker and a bit of a thrash. The bass and keyboards make this song, while Blackmore's guitar is the ever present firebrand. And the song closes with Airey blasting a few bars of 'A Light In The Black' (by far, head and shoulders, Rainbow's musical Zenith, no question, and a shame it wasn't played more).
This leads into 'Difficult To Cure''s title track, a take on Beethoven's Ninth (the first thing Airey jammed with Ritchie when he joined a couple of years' previous). As a lover of classical music's influence on Heavy Metal, I've always loved 'Difficult To Cure' and this is one performance I will be returning to.
'Long Live Rock N' Roll' is a great track and this one is very different to the original as the band had changed so much, both in personnel and direction, so if you're an early Rainbow fan only it may take a bit of getting used to.
To close the show, Ritchie teases the crowd with a few bars of 'Lazy' and 'Woman From Tokyo' before launching into 'Smoke On The Water'. Classic rock indeed.
Lovely show, great performance and totally solid. I'll leave the change of direction up for debate but as a snapshot of the band live in 1981 this is more than worth checking out. It's a lot less grandiose than earlier years, but equally it's (certainly for the American market) more accessible too.
Rainbow split two years later when Deep Purple reformed, with one more studio album and line-up ('Stranger In Us All' with Doogie White on vocals) in the mid 90s. JLT has been a star and vocalist for hire in his own right, while Glover and Airey are both rocking with aplomb together back in Purple. And there's a lot more similar in the archive, I hope they get similar treatment.