RAINBOW ON STAGE (Polydor 2678 142)

Smashing Your Skull In Style...

RITCHIE BLACKMORE has said he's been a guitarist for 21 years, which probably makes him old enough to be Johnny Rotten's Dad. And yet, if you compare the energy output of the New Wave with Blackmore's Rainbow, you might think the generation gap was reversed.

The aim of Blackmore's music is to overwhelm his audience. If you can stay under whelmed by this double live set, you'd be better off switching to Neil Diamond. Only one album has come close to making the same impact, and that was "Deep Purple In Japan", but Blackmore has sharpened up his act a good deal since then.

This guy is the only one of the tax exile axemen to consistently deliver the goods. No way is he gonna do a Clapton, warbling along to limp pop songs. No way is he about to go the way of Page, putting his music through a liquidizer along with his food.

Of course, along with the riffs, you buy Blackmore's own brand of outlaw mystique. But few people question the credibility of his image. He really is a hard-bitten guitar-slinger. A man who is obsessive, alienated, and aggressive. You can hear it in the music, because it's no pose.

Don't be fooled by the twee extract from "Over The Rainbow" that precedes the Rainbow stage act. The band power straight into "Kill The Kings", a riff ferocious enough to wipe out an entire dynasty. It hurtles along at a furious rate, making The Ramones seem like pedantic plodders in contrast.

Ronnie Dio is one of the few Americans who can sing heavy metal with conviction. He never ever gets shrill and girlish in an effort to keep up. And while many horses stamping in the stable Cozy Powell leaves his rivals at the starting gate.

Next up is "Man On The Silver Mountain", equally unrelenting. On "Blues", which follows, Blackmore shows he can be equally eloquent in a more soft-spoken manner. But that's mainly for added dramatic effect, making "Starstruck", the side one closer, even more of an assault on your central nervous system.

The whole of side two is devoted to "Catch The Rainbow", in which Blackmore confronts his major dilemma: how to play sophisticated music for head-bangers. Get too tasteful, and you end up with no audience. This cut just about strikes the balance. For each sensitive solo, there's a chunk of blasting riff. It's a risky business, though.

But there need be no qualms about "Mistreated", Rainbow's version of the last Deep Purple classic. No wonder Blackmore was discontented with the original. This is in a different universe. The song starts with a sound not unlike an incoming shell. An abrasively pitched, high decibel hum. Imagine Ted Nugent with a million volts up his plectrum, and you get the idea. Then the shells land, as Blackmore hits that majestic riff and Dio gives the lyrics a grandeur they never seemed to possess before. A moment to savour, as is the pneumatic. Blackmore solo that follows. It begins with wrenching, shuddering, high-energy Ali mocking an opponent. But the quieter segment rapidly gives way to Dio's emphatic vocals, as Powell kicks the song back in to life.

The start of side four reflects Blackmore's avowed interest in medieval music. "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" is the title, though what it's got to do with the original song is by no means clear. Certainly, Blackmore plays the familiar theme as a prelude, but a totally different brain-damage riff follows. Ah well, if he wants to think it's medieval, let him. From here, it just sounds like flat-out 20th Century heavy metal. The new dark ages, rather than the old.

The albums's final cut is in many ways its finest. "Still I'm Sad" used to be an old Yardbirds's hit single, based on a monkish chant. But the brothers are safely locked in the crypt for his rendition, as Blackmore's barbarians rampage over hallowed ground. The original gets the sort of treatment Vanilla Fudge gave to "You Keep Me Hanging On", except Rainbow can really play. This is a truly gross performance.

Ritchie Blackmore has never been fashionable among the more effete poseurs in the rock biz. But this is an album to cut through the hype that bolsters trendier acts with fleeting reputations. Put this week's latest exquisite sensation up against Blackmore's Rainbow, and you just won't believe the carnage. Ritchie Rules. No question of it.

Bob Edmands, New Musical Express - July 16, 1977


Rainbow are a heavy band. You remember heavy bands? Plenty of bass, thunderous drums, yards of lead guitar? Of course you remember, my little spiky head. Well, Rainbow had no real trouble getting gigs and at one of them they took along a mobile recording studio and captured in realistic stereo everything that went on, and here it is, a record that is so successful in America that the band has just blown out a whole series of British concerts to go over there for some gigs. As a heavy band the guitarist was looked on as a hero, an electric wizard, and Ritchie Blackmore (you have heard of Deep Purple?) was reckoned to be one of the best.

Certainly while these concerts were being recorded, there were times when Mr. Blackmore was almost subtle. The tumultuously received blitzkrieg of "Man On The Silver Mountain" slips oh-so-cleverly into a restrained blues, and Ritchie's own "Mistreated" works through influences from mediaeval to jazz. Alongside Mr Blackmore was Ronnie James Dio, a young singer among the lustier tonsils of his generation. To his credit his singing was distinctive in a field not renowned for individualism. Although the audience loved every minute, there are a few numbers that stood out that night as better than others. "Catch The Rainbow" moved from a slinky intro into passages that built in mood and power, giving the band's two main instrumentalists a chance to demonstrate their prowess, despite a facile and repetitive keyboard riff.

"16th Century Greensleeves" was a piece with a mock medieval guitar start that slams rapidly into heavy metal. The rather tiresome "Still I'm Sad" went in headfirst and never surfaced. An odd thing about this album, my little razor-bladed chum, is that apart from it lasting less than an hour - and there are four sides, remember? - the engineer got a reasonable recorded sound on the guitar, vocals and keyboard, but the bass falls flat, and the drums of Mr Cozy Powell, never a man to hold back on power, sound empty and weak.

If you listen to this album, you will understand more clearly why you turned to the frantic pace of punk-power - you might also get an idea why so many of those boring old farts still like to wallow back and let a guitarist take them away. Me? Well, I found the whole thing a big, repetitious yawn; but that is, you understand, a purely PERSONAL point of view.

John Orme, Melody Maker - July 20, 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Oyster OY-2-1801)

Headbangers of the world unite, this one's for you. Four mind battering sides of Blackmore and the lads captured live. Feverishly paced rock owing more than a little Blackmore to the dear departed Deco Purple. Take the opening track 'Kill The King' that sounds somewhat like the classic Purple track 'Burn'.

Ronnie Dio also has similar vocal chords to the likes of Coverdale or Ian Gillen. And then there's the drumming of Cozy Powell who stands on equal footing with the likes of Bonham for shear top gear power. The whirling guitar of Blackmore may sound dated, but for getting audience involvement there's never been anything better. This has got to be one of the few records that captures the full excitement of live performances.

Robin Smith, Record Mirror - July 9, 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Polydor 2678 142)

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow live, huh? Geez, I remember when I caught 'em in concert a while back. Swore off heavy metal for life (would you believe a week and a half?). Not that they weren't 'good' whatever that means. Yeah, they were "heavy" and "together" and "loud." And pointless. No brain to the band, not much heart. Mainly fingers and Ronnie James Dio's lungs blastings away.

A technical band then, but one with a few peculiarities. Like their medieval fetishes. Dio's come out in the form of his pop-Tolkien toke-down lyrics - nightmares of strange powers, deranged castle dwellers, etc. But Ritchie speaks only through his axe and it's kinda difficult to figure out if any of his licks are transcribed lute lines or not. What is evident is that the most interesting on this album come when he inserts a few moments of delicacy into the banshee bombast.

Like on "Catch The Rainbow." A stereotypical Hendrix ballad ("Little Wing," "May This Be Love") through two verses, the tune then builds strongly from gentle picked notes to the fast ferocity Blackmore's known for and back down again with nice control and restraint. Then, of course, Cozy Powell goes thunk! and we're back to the chord progression repeated endlessly as Ritchie goes apeshit, up the scales, down the scales, in and out every which way, getting everything he can out of the stale structure he's locked himself into. Why? Because there's no way out. That's rock'n'roll '77, kid, at least for superstars who've been at it ten years like Blackmore.

Usually he takes the easy way out. He doesn't even try to tie the gentle intro to "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" into the body of the song, jut flips a switch and starts pulling out the power chords. An exception is "Still I'm Sad" which contains some impressive improvs based on the melody, both from Blackmore and Tony Carey's keyboards.

Then there's the out and out dogshit. The old Purple puke - "Mistreated" wastes all of side three; Dio steps out of his heavy metal munchkin role to ill effect as the whole mess swaggers/staggers to a standstill. Definitive dinosaur rock. But the pillar of pointlessness is reached by Carey's synthesizer blues solo on side one, perhaps the silliest piece of technoflash I've ever heard.

Nobody's saying these guys can't play their instruments: the problem is what to do with all that technique. Most of the old guard guitarists have changed their tune somewhere along the line - Beck has opted for an all-instrumental approach, Clapton has settled for a slow fade, and Jimi... well, he always was in a class by himself. But Ritchie remains in a time warp, slinging his riffs across the years, seemingly unable to make a major shift in direction. Will the recent addition of ex-Uriah Heep/Tempest bassist Mark Clarke help matters? Does a Rainbow ever change it stripes? I dunno; ask Judy Garland.

Michael Davies, Creem Magazine - September 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Polydor 2678 142)

I propose now to debunk the myth of Ritchie Blackmore being a superior guitarist by telling the interested reader exactly how to play all of those sharp little licks that populate this album.

First, we have the machine-gun stutter, which is accomplished by picking any given string as fast as you possibly can and sliding your finger dramatically up and down the guitar neck until the audience gasps.

Then, there's the banshee wail, for which your guitar must have a vibrato bar. Simply hit any given high note real loud and manhandle the bar in all directions with manic frenzy.

Finally, the erudite scale, which might even require a modicum of practice. Instead of playing the blues scale straight, insert some skips at regular intervals. A good pattern is one note up, two notes down, one up, two down, and so forth, until you run out of neck. If these techniques don't work by themselves, just remember to bash the bejesus out of the open strings once in a while, or even step on the guitar. Soon, you'll have all the groupies you can stand - and we could even be writing lead reviews about you. take it from em, it works - even if it results in boring music.

In addition to having him pegged as a feeble guitarist, I find Blackmore an irresponsible brat. He claims contempt for most other guitarists because they're so obvious, while his own catalog of stunts - which I'm not about to dignify by calling a style - is the most obvious empty flash in the industry.

His incessant tantrums are well-documented and hardly the behavior of a professional. The other members of Rainbow are kids, probably because nobody his age will play with him any more. Lastly, he once had the ignorance and gall to claim that the organ was a rhythm instrument.

Tell that one to Bach - or to Rick Wakeman or Keith Emerson - and watch Blackmore get his useless face smashed in, hopefully real soon.

About On Stage: it exists solely to make suckers out of the Deep Purple Loyalists. Jon Lord and Roger Glover were decidedly the brains of the operation. Accept no substitutes. Next.

Michael Bloom, Circus Magazine 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Oyster OY-2-1801)

Rainbow's On Stage is hotter rock & roll, but it will not pull heavy metal out of the doldrums, as Miles Davis periodically does with jazz. Once the angriest and most agressive genre of music, heavy metal no longer has anything to sing about. Where Kiss tramples on sexual taboos that were ground to dust in the last decade, Rainbow resorts to personal mythology that won't do much for you unless you think Robert Plant-style mysticism is poetry on the level of Lord Byron.

Ritchie Blackmore remains a master of playing boring slow stuff and then plunging into your brain with a murderous riff that can be removed only through surgery. But I just can't care when Ronnie Dio screams about being the Man on the Silver Mountain and becoming "holy" again.

Rolling Stone Magazine USA - 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Oyster OY-2-1801)

The story with this one is timing. Is the world ready for two albums worth of live music from a group that has only two previous albums to their credit? Loved in Europe and Japan, Ritchie and the Boys have never really caught on over here. Besides, Blackmore is already one of the worlds most frequently recorded live guitarists. With over ¾'s of the album made up of overextended solo material, Rainbow might better have spared the trouble that went into this album.

No stone is left unturned in their quest to fill out two albums of music, with even a bit of the old Deep Purple surfacing on side threes' marathon "Mistreated". Remember the good old days when a live album lasted an hour and a half? Forget it here, even with Dorothy and Toto doing the intros Rainbow barely breaks an hour of music.

Divide that by the eight songs that On Stage is comprised of, and you have one boring mess. Besides, we heard Blackmore do it all five years ago on Made in Japan or maybe the rumor is true, Rainbow really is the mid-seventies Deep Purple.

The Racquette (Potsdam NY - USA Newspaper) - September 8, 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Oyster OY-2-1801)

All right, class, let's run through a little history lesson before we get down to current events. Former Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore stormily broke away from that act and (taking Purple, opening group, Elf) evolved the hybrid into Blackmore's Rainbow. After the first LP, he dismissed three members (retaining lead vocalist Ronnie James Dio) and then recruited bassist Jimmy Bain, keyboardist Tony Carey and drummer extra ordinaire Cozy Powell as their replacements.

Now that we're all caught up to the present, let's begin our evaluation of ON STAGE. Rainbow's third (and first in-concert) LP. The initial problem is that of most double presentations: quality and quantity get mixed up on the priority chart. Not only would the pruning down to two sides have helped but, with the exception of "Kill The King," all this album's material has been done by Blackmore in his previous studio ventures. And you remember that adage about familiarity breeding contempt.

On the plus side, just as Jefferson Airplane used the original KING KONG ending to start BLESS ITS POINTED LITTLE HEAD, a film dip from THE WIZARD OF OZ leads Rainbow into a heavy 30-second "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" riff to introduce "Kill The King." The sequence is done so well that it makes points all the way through "Man On The Silver Mountain," where the band does a screeching halt and breaks into a blues tune before cranking back up to end the medley with "Starstruck."

The weakening of the side's continuity by the abrupt shifts are held to a minimum, because of Rainbow's ability to musically churnalong like a rhythmic cement mixer once they get started. Much credit for this unholy drive has to go to ex-Jeff Beck stick handler Cozy Powell.

Powell, one of the most underrated and underpublicized drummers in rock, shines here as his relentless work and meteoric pace push Rainbow well past what's expected by most. The group goes to great pains on the back of ON STAGE to list what equipment they use but don't furnish the info of how many snare and bass drum heads Cozy Powell broke while on this world tour. Probably no one wanted to take off his shoes to come up with a total.

Remaining members Carey and Bain (the latter was replaced after this album by ex-Uriah Heep and Natural Gas bassist Mark Clarke) hold up their ends well, but Ronnie James Dio is another story. While he is of fine voice and range. Dio goes out of his way to show he was infected by the "rock 'n' roll singer" rabies. Shouting to the balconies and other inane maneuvers are forgiven, though, once Dio opens his ivories to cut loose his lungs.

Sides 2, 3 and 4 of ON STAGE contain four protracted pieces, including "Mistreated" (first seen on Deep Purple's BURN) and the old Yardbirds' hit "Still I'm Sad." While the former actually improves on the original, the latter misses, and the superfluity of all four goes to show why single live sets like Tke Hollies' new one can be so effective.

Some say that heavy metal rock, like the dinosaur, is of an age left to our memories and best forgotten. On the other hand, after listening to saccharine-flavored crap like The Captain & Tennille (I wouldn't doubt a report they cause cancer in laboratory rats), I come more and more to appreciate acts like Rainbow who can still grind away and not dilute their basic instincts just to please the masses. It's a bold statement, but I can only hope and pray Ritchie Blackmore's secret fantasies in life don't include his face on the cover of People.

D.B. Cooper, Cleveland Scene - July 21, 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Oyster/Polydor)

Ritchie Blackmore is the only ex-Deep Purple member who really did it all. Coverdale and Lord are quite successful, but their music is no less because of it.

The LP 'On Stage' was recorded at the time of Rainbow's world tour that has just ended. Recordings were made in Japan, Germany, Sweden, France, England and Australia. The best mobile equipment in the world, including the Rolling Stones Mobile and its crew, has been used.

The double LP in a luxury flip cover lasts over an hour and contains just about all the highlights from Rainbow's lightning-fast career. Two long songs, namely the extended versions of 'Catch The Rainbow' and 'Mistreated', fill two LP sides. The rest, including 'Starstruck' and 'Man On The Silver Mountain' is processed in excellent medleys of about fifteen minutes each.

The nice atmosphere during Rainbow's concerts is fully reflected on the album. Ronnie Dio's deafening voice is well recorded and Ritchie swings like never before. I always hate live albums because of the almost always worse quality than the studio recordings. This is not the case at all with 'On Stage'.

On the cover of the LP an extensive list of all the used musical instruments, technical matters and the entire construction of the colossal Rainbow-rainbow. This will certainly interest the technicians among you.

Best songs'Starstruck', 'Man On The Silver Mountain' en 'Kill The King'.

Alfred Lagarde, Hitkrant - July 6, 1977

RAINBOW ON STAGE (Polydor 2675 142)


Ritchie 'Black Sheep Of The Family' Blackmore is the only ex-Deep Purple member who proved capable of appropriately continuing the musical direction Deep Purple had taken with Deep Purple In Rock in 1971 and brought the group world fame. That did not seem so clearly the case with the first album 'Ritchie Blackmore Rainbow' due to the somewhat calmer songs such as Man On The Silver Mountain, Catch The Rainbow and Temple Of The King, the qualities of the composer duo Ronnie James Dio / Ritchie Blackmore left nothing to guess. This duo managed to hold their own, but the other gentlemen were forced to leave the field.

On the second album 'Rainbow Rising' we see that veteran Cozy Powell handles the drumsticks and that makes Rainbow's music definitely heavier. On keyboards we see Tony Carey and on bass Jimmy Bain and that line-up is also responsible for this live double album.

What immediately struck me when listening to it was the excellent sound (during the concert in The Hague Blackmore's solos often disappeared into a maze of sound) and the lack of the more than excellent songs 'Stargazer' and 'A Light In The Black' from 'Rainbow Rising'.

What do we get? Successively 'Kill The King', 'Man On The Silver Mountain', 'Blues', 'Starstruck', 'Catch The Rainbow', 'Mistreated', 'Sixteenth Century Greensleeves' and 'Still I'm Sad'.

What shouldn't have been on it? Successively 'Blues' (that Blackmore is an excellent guitarist, he does not have to prove for me in a blues improvisation), the largest part of 'Mistreated' (lasts more than thirteen minutes and therefore takes up an entire side of the disc and that would take up to if the song weren't for the most part made up of long guitar and synthesizer solos, which we can already hear in the song 'Catch The Rainbow', which also has a disc side) and 'Still I'm Sad '(that would have been my very last choice of the Rainbow songs). In short, what is on this double album is well placed and performed well, but the choice of songs could have been much, much better.

Finally, special thanks to Cozy Powell, without whom Rainbow would never have become what it is today. Dio is in a very good shape across the board and proves to be one of the better singers in this genre. Jimmy Bain has now, forcibly or otherwise, turned his back on Rainbow. The 'Rainbow Equipment' list mentioned on the cover shows dozens of mistakes. Blackmore is God.

Kees Baars, Muziekkrant Oor - July 27, 1977