Memories in Rock - Live in Germany


If Ritchie Blackmore's arena comeback this summer is a one-off, an estimated 60,000 fans will have been left happy men (or women). Even better now they have a 2-CD souvenir, plus DVD and Bluray versions.

Once we got over the presence (and perhaps unlikely choice) of vocalist Ronnie Romero and the slight worry that Ritchie himself might not be the "speed king" of yore, the audience could settle down into a metronomic trawl through the standard back catalogue.

It's plainly evident when Blackmore's guitar solo cuts in on 'Highway Star' that this is a more stately version of the old trooper. Some might also question Romero. By all accounts he acquitted himself well and certainly engaged the crowd but in truth his voice lacks the warmth and sonority of a Joe Lynn Turner. In the cold light of day he merely seems like a good singer fronting a damn good covers band, although admittedly better on the Dio-era stuff.

Blackmore's band are essentially the guys (and girls) he has worked with for several years in Blackmore's Night although keyboard player Jens Johansson (moonlighting from Finnish power metallers Stratovarius) is particularly impressive.

This leaves the setlist. Even in a two-hour show It would be difficult to fully reflect the Blackmore canon and inevitably the gig centres around the tried and tested old faithfuls. When you add in the set-pieces of 'Catch The Rainbow' and 'Difficult To Cure' (drum solo alert) frankly there's a lot of noodling. But then wasn't it always like that?

Even that sacred of sacreds 'Smoke On The Water' is given perfunctory treatment with a slighty different build-up/intro and Romero's enthusiastic holler a definite spoiler. And with an absence of pumping bass and hi-hat fizz that's an integral part of that classic opening riff. This is less an authentic rendition for the aficionado than a chance for celebration and crowd interaction. It works well in the live context but not on a recording, unless of course you were there.

The Rainbow/Ritchie cognoscenti will pore over the whys and the wherefores but 'Since You Been Gone' is similarly disappointing (and plodding) and chronologically it all stops with Deep Purple's 'Perfect Strangers' in 1984.

The second CD adds "bonus tracks" from an alternative night but they are merely duplicates. 'Soldier Of Fortune' and 'Burn' were missing from the German sets so are absent here but I assume they would have been recorded in Birmingham and so could have been included for completism?

There are better versions available of all these tracks. As a souvenir of one of the more intriguing comebacks of recent times, an essential purchase – but only for those of a certain persuasion.

David Randall, Get Ready to Rock! 2016


The brief return of Ritchie Blackmore as a rock guitarist for three shows last summer having spent 20 years renouncing his former glories in favour of the renaissance stylings of Blackmore's Night – to whom he returned immediately afterwards – was hailed as the Second Coming by all who witnessed it.

But shorn of the awe, the lights and the smoke this live album of the first gig (plus four bonus tracks from the second) reveals that Blackmore skilfully devised a show that packed in all the great riffs and solos while staying firmly within his comfort zone.

A wise move. It was always naοve to think that, at 71, Blackmore could recreate the fiery temperament that characterised his playing 40 years ago and more. The important thing was that he didn't disappoint, and he doesn't. So the issue of whether the rhythm section from Blackmore's Night challenges him hard enough is irrelevant. These shows were not about breaking boundaries, they were about giving his fans what they expected.

Blackmore's genius move was to find little known singer Ronnie Romero from Spanish band Lords Of Black whose voice copes effortlessly with the illustrious range of vocalists that adorn Blackmore's career. He's closest to Ronnie James Dio – who he namechecks during Man On A Silver Mountain to roars of approval – but he's confident and in command from the first line of the opening Highway Star. He struggles a bit with Child In Time but then so does Gillan these days. Fortunately help is at hand from the backing vocalists who include Candice Night, aka Mrs B. It's hard to believe Romero won't be performing regularly at this level before long.

Likewise keyboard player Jens Johansson from Finnish band Stratovarius should reap the rewards of his short stint in Rainbow. Like Romero he is standing on the shoulders of giants but shows respect without ever being intimidated.

Blackmore divides his greatest hits show pretty evenly between Deep Purple and Rainbow but it's noticeable that he takes his Rainbow heritage more seriously – toughening up Since You Been Gone until it sounds like You Really Got Me and peaking with an epic Stargazer – while the Purple anthems tend to be offered up as crowd singalong treats.

The clue is in the title. These are memories come to life. If you want what the memories are made of you can find them; Blackmore's career is well documented. Memories In Rock is Blackmore live in the summer of 2016.

Hugh Fielder, Louder Sound 2016


When word spread that Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow was going to perform a series of shows in Europe, the rock 'n' roll world went 'bananas.' Blackmore had turned his back on the world of rock 'n' roll several years ago to focus on his love for renaissance music. Over the years, Blackmore has released several records with his renaissance band, Blackmore's Night. However, the audiences paled in comparison to that generated by Deep Purple and/or Rainbow.

Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow circa 2016 doesn't feature any of the familiar names that have graced the history of the band. Blackmore raised many eyebrows when he revealed the cast of characters that would perform the string of European dates. Rainbow's 2016 line-up features singer Ronnie Romero (who was born in Chile but resides in Spain), bassist Bob Nouveau, drummer David Keith and keyboardist Jens Johanssen (Yngwie Malmsteen, Dio). There's a vast back catalog of songs to choose from since there are numerous Rainbow records. Blackmore could in fact have just elected to perform Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow and/or the Rising album and fans would have most likely been okay with that.

Instead, what we got on the newly released Memories In Rock: Live In Germany Blu Ray and double CD set is Rainbow with some Deep Purple. Frankly, I could have lived without "Smoke On The Water" and "Child In Time/Woman from Tokyo." The screeching on this latter song has me hitting the off button no matter who is singing it. "Highway Star" has been done to death as well; killer track but enough already. I did enjoy the inclusion of Deep Purple classics "Perfect Strangers," "Black Night" and "Mistreated" which are spectacular. Featured prominently are Rainbow staples "Since You Been Gone," "Man On The Silver Mountain," "Catch The Rainbow," "Stargazer," and "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll."

Memories In Rock: Live In Germany doesn't exactly capture Blackmore at his creative peak. In fact, Blackmore has lost a step, perhaps two. Never known to be one to show much emotion if any on stage, it's hard to assess if Blackmore was tickled by new Rainbow or if he was reconsidering the thing altogether. Ronnie Romero is by no means Ronnie James Dio. That begin said, he doesn't try to be which makes you respect the guy that much more. He's clearly influenced by Dio though he's not trying to mimic him. Romero's presumably Spanish accent adds a little flavor to his delivery of the songs. Memories In Rock: Live In Germany doesn't knock it out of the park. There's rust there but it's still a good trip down memory lane or a good 'Ritchie Blackmore, this is your musical life' kind of moment, if you will.

Ruben Mosqueda, Sleaze Roxx - November 2016


It was the comeback that few thought would ever happen. When Ritchie Blackmore disbanded Rainbow in the late 90s to launch Blackmore's Night, in which he and his sweet-voiced wife Candice performed Renaissanceinspired folk music while dressed like extras from Robin Hood: Men In Tights, it seemed as though the legendary guitar hero had left his own past behind.

Not so. In 2016 he resurrected Rainbow with a new line-up, fronted by the young and largely unknown Chilean singer Ronnie Romero. And in the three shows they played that summer, the patience of Blackmore's fans was rewarded. The set was filled with classic songs from the 70s and 80s that Blackmore created with Deep Purple and Rainbow, and his masterful playing was undiminished. And while Romero was always destined to be the lesser of the two Ronnies in the Rainbow story, he had the power and range to justify Blackmore's confidence in him.

Recorded over two nights in Germany, Memories In Rock, originally released in 2016, is now reissued as a heavyweight triple-vinyl set. It could never equal the glory of Rainbow's monumental 1977 live album On Stage, with Ronnie James Dio in full cry, but it proved that Blackmore, when the mood took him, could still kick ass.

© Paul Elliott, Classic Rock Magazine 2021 (issue 284)

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