Cut Ritchie Blackmore a little slack if he wants to spend a little time reminiscing.
One of the reigning kings of the hard rock guitar riff, Blackmore powered Deep Purple to success in the late ‘60s before setting off for that proverbial pot o’ gold in his own group, Rainbow, whose baroque-inspired metal set the standard for late ‘70s guitar heroes and early ‘80s hair bands.
But Blackmore had tired of electric mayhem by the mid-1990s. So—in another trailblazing move by the fret board wizard—he founded Renaissance folk group Blackmore’s Night with wife Candice Night and released the elegant, pastoral Shadow of the Moon. The popular husband / wife-fronted acoustic ensemble just tied the bow on its second decade with the best-of compilation To the Moon and Back.
Still, Ritchie hadn’t completely cooled his amplifiers. By 2015 Blackmore was ready to indulge fan requests with a handful of Rainbow reunion shows. A couple stops in Europe yielded the live hits collections Memories in Rock: Live in Germany and Live in Birmingham 2016.
Now it’s time for Memories in Rock II.
Recorded on tour in England in 2017, Memories II captures Blackmore’s revamped Rainbow live in concert in Glasgow, Birmingham, and London, where the guys (and gals) stomped through some of the band’s biggest hits…and a few Deep Purple classics for good measure.
The first of two discs commences with Ritchie and friends easing into things with instrumental Wizard of Oz fanfare “Over the Rainbow” before they dip back to 1981’s Difficult to Cure for “Spotlight Kid” and “I Surrender.” Ritchie revs up his signature Stratocaster guitar (with oversize headstock) on “Mistreated” (from 1982’s Right Between the Eyes) and “Since You’ve Been Gone” (1979’s Down to Earth), then backpedals to Rainbow’s Ronnie James Dio era for smash “Man On the Silver Mountain” (which is followed by a rambunctious run through DP classic “Woman From Tokyo”). “16th Century Greensleeves” likewise harkens to Rainbow’s 1975 debut LP.
Speaking of Dio: Vocally, Ronnie Romero is a dead-ringer for the departed Elf / Black Sabbath icon. The newcomer is able to cop the departed dynamo’s range, pitch, and passion with respect (and relative ease). Drafted by Blackmore after scouring the Chilean singer’s YouTube videos, he makes an effective Rainbow ringleader—and a convincing David Coverdale / Ian Gillan doppelganger on “Perfect Strangers” and “Soldier of Fortune.”
Also joining Blackmore are longtime pals Jens Johansson (keys), Bob Nouveau (bass), David Keith (drums), and Lady Lynn and Candice Night on background vocals.
Second act highlights include “Stargazer” (from 1976 opus Rising), “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” (which starts with the audience singing the chorus to the band), “Catch the Rainbow,” and 1970 Deep Purple single “Black Night.” The tender, stripped-down “Carry on Jon” (from Blackmore’s Night effort Dancer & The Moon) comprises an elegant contrast to the loud, barreling rock insanity…and showcases Ritchie’s refined classical guitar skills. The Memories conclude with Rainbow treasure “Temple of the King” and Purple perennial favorite “Smoke on the Water.”
2018 studio single “Waiting for a Sign” furthers Blackmore’s musical mythos while providing a tantalizing taste of what a new Rainbow album might sound like with Romero on mic.
Shot by fans Michael Sturzenberger and Peter Stickler, the bonus Memories DVD includes backstage interviews with Ritchie and all his 2017 Rainbow band members.