The Brightest Rainbow

Ritchie's early 80's: live in Texas plus 'greatest hits' videos

Although the reincarnations of Ritchie Blackmore as a faux-medieval minstrel has caused many to question his sanity, there can be no doubt that at the end of the 70's the Man in Black was as shrewd as they come. Ditching vocalist Ronnie James Dio and 'castle rock', he reinvented Rainbow as the sleek, rqadio-friendly, 80's-spec rock machine featured on this two-disc set.

Part one, Live Between The Eyes, finds Rainbow in San Antonio on a 1982 US tour. Vocalist Joe Lynn Turner fronts the band in a fetching outfit of white tassled leatehr jacket, black spandex and girly Japanese motif T-shirt, but Ritchie is of course the star of the show, pulling funny faces, shooting moody glances, dropping to his knees to throttle his Stratocaster, firing off blistering riffs and solos with a mixture of nonchalance and cold fury: a real old-fashioned guitar hero.

The San Antonio set-list is heavy on post-Dio Rainbow material - "Spotlight Kid", "Can't Happen Here", "All Night Long"- but Ritchie isn't in denial of the past. He teases the baseball-shirted crowd with snatches of Deep Purple classics "Lazy", "Woman From Tokyo" and "Child In Time" before giving them exactly what they want: an encore of Purple's immortal "Smoke On The Water". This he plays on a substitute Strat, after the first has been tossed in the air, dropped, kicked around the stage and finally smashed into pieces. He even uses a frisbee as a plectrum - genius!

Disc two, The Final Cut, collects promo videos dating from 1979 to 1984, all of which have a certain low-budget charm. "Since You Been Gone", one of the great rock singles, has Dio's controversial (ie, shorthaired) replacement Graham Bonnet playing the wronged rough guy in aviator shades and Hawaiian shirt.

"I Surrender", another classic single, has Turner in all his pleading, doe-eyed and, erm, 'big-haired' pomp. "Can't Let you Go" is a Hammer-inspired horror spoof as hilarious as the movie "Young Frankenstein", and Ritchie's parting smile suggest he rather enjoyed his role as master of dark arts. Well, of course he would.

What price a Rainbow reunion? It'll never happen. Not while the mystic allure of the lute holds Ritchie spellbound.

Paul Elliott, Classic Rock Magazine December 2006