1981 was a big year for me. I finished grammar school at a small west country seaside town and then moved to do my degree in Wolverhampton, living in a city for the very first time (to say it was a shock to the system is something of an understatement). Between these two events, I traveled for a gig for the first time, having previously only seen some bands who played locally. On 20thJuly 1981 I traveled down to the Cornwall Coliseum in St Austell to see the one and only Rainbow. Having survived the support band, Rose Tattoo, who this day I say was only booked to make the headline act seem even better than they were, I bumped into a mate of mine at the merchandise stall. Geoff was somewhat large in every way, and when he asked if I wanted to go to the very front I agreed and just followed close behind in his wake. We got to the prime position center stage just as the dry ice started, the band came on to the sounds of “Over The Rainbow”, then Ritchie kicked out the chords to “Spotlight Kid” and Joe Lynn Turner arrived on stage as a bundle of energy and the show was on.
Fast forward quite a few years, including some “interesting” times with Deep Purple and Ritchie seemed to turn his back on everything electric and started a very different musical career with his (then) girlfriend (now wife) Candice Night. So many people were incredibly surprised, including me, when it was announced that there were going to be some Rainbow gigs. Except they weren’t. This is Ritchie with some hired hands, and it seems to have been forgotten that although the very first album also came out under the name Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, the band Elf had been together for some years with Ritchie coming in as the new boy, so it was no surprise that they were tight. As the band changed in the Seventies it was still a band, with ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ showing a complete unit at the height of their powers. True, there were shifts over the years, but even when I saw them, that line-up had been together for a year and some of the guys had been there longer while Roger Glover had been playing with Ritchie on and off since 1969! But this isn’t a band, Ritchie hasn’t been immersing himself in hard rock for many years, and the result is somewhat disappointing, to say the least.
The version of “All Night Long” is ropable, and while Ronnie Romero is a great singer, he isn’t JLT, he isn’t even Graham Bonnet, and he certainly isn’t the almighty Ronnie James Dio. Given that there are also some Purple songs in here, it hurts to try to and compare him with Gillan and Coverdale/Hughes, it’s just not in the same league. Ritchie just doesn’t have the power and presence that he once had, and the arrangements don’t always work the way they used to, and overall it just feels like a group of musicians going through the paces to earn some money, as opposed to bringing back to life one of our great rock bands. If you want a Rainbow in concert album, then look no further than the series of bootlegs that came out of the Japan tours in 1976. There was a band on fire, Dio was making his presence felt on a world stage, while Ritchie was forty years younger and the master when it came to wielding his white Stratocaster and making incredible music. Sadly this album doesn’t represent the Rainbow I know and love, that band and that time are long gone with both Ronnie and Cozy no longer with us. Ritchie is adding real musical value with his work with Blackmore’s Night and it is time to let the old dogs lie and continue with that.
6/10 by Kev Rowland