Memories in Rock II


Longing for days gone by is especially heartfelt in hard rock and heavy metal music, the genre's diehards pining for substance in a music climate growing characterless. More so, they cling to familiarity like syrup to peaches. The mere suggestion of paying to watch a Freddie Mercury hologram, much less Ronnie James Dio in a live revival setting, is proof positive and, imo, frankly tacky.

Further evidence is in the form of a startling Ronnie James Dio vocal doppelganger, LORDS OF BLACK singer Ronnie Romero, hired by guitar maestro Ritchie Blackmore to lead an idealized recreation of RAINBOW. The appointment was instantaneous after Romero, who prefers the Joe Lynn Turner and Graham Bonnet periods of RAINBOW, nailed "Man On the Silver Mountain" in his audition. Whether you appreciate him or not, Romero weaves reverential magic on "Stargazer".

The newly dubbed RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW is fortified by transplants from Blackmore's polyphonic medieval company, BLACKMORE'S NIGHT. Transitioning to Ritchie's rock theatre is his wife, Candice Night, along with second backing vocalist, Lady Lynn, and drummer David Keith. Added to this ensemble is iconic keyboardist Jens Johansson and bassist Bob Nouveau, who previously played with Blackmore for six years.

The soon-to-be-73 Blackmore looks ever much the electric wizard with his astonishing agility, and Jens Johansson's classy presentation is more than a match. Thus, Ritchie's new illusion band does a firm job recreating RAINBOW and Mark II and III era DEEP PURPLE songs on the "Memories in Rock II" live album. Quickly on the heels of 2016's "Memories in Rock: Live in Germany", this is essentially the same set, but it's more confident in execution. The double-album sequel also contains a video portion with interviews, a backdrop re-recording of "I Surrender", and a new RAINBOW song, "Waiting for a Sign".

After Candice discovered Ronnie Romero via YouTube, Ritchie Blackmore became inspired to return to RAINBOW's music following more than a 20-year break and sparked by an opportunity to "have a blast on the Strat." Blackmore affirms he is still dedicated to BLACKMORE'S NIGHT, appearing interested only in now and then RAINBOW celebration gigs. Nostalgia rules here, period. Just listen to the parallel-aged audience wailing along in remembrance on "Long Live Rock ‘n' Roll".

"Memories in Rock II" is RAINBOW by name, though it leans heavily on DEEP PURPLE selections: "Smoke On the Water", "Child In Time", "Lazy", "Woman From Tokyo", "Mistreated"", "Soldier of Fortune" and "Black Night". 1984's "Perfect Strangers", cited as Ritchie's favorite DEEP PURPLE song, also gets dialed up.

Ritchie is still clad in his BLACKMORE'S NIGHT troubadour's garb here instead of traditional rocker's wear but make no mistake: his playing is still tremendous. Bob Nouveau refers to Ritchie as "The Methuselah of rock 'n' roll," and his apparent immortality is all but preordained. The set opens not with selections from the Dio era of RAINBOW, but Joe Lynn Turner's. It launches into a rousing rendition of "Spotlight Kid" and "I Surrender" from "Difficult to Cure", with the title track appearing later in the set. Ritchie and Jens are superb during their exchanged solos on "Spotlight Kid".

From the Dio period comes "Stargazer", "Man On the Silver Mountain", "Sixteenth Century Greensleeves", "Catch the Rainbow", "The Temple of the King" and "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll", with Graham Bonnet's tenure on "Down to Earth" represented by "Since You've Been Gone" and "All Night Long". Ronnie Romero borrows only enough from Bonnet to whirl the crowd into an expectant singalong on "Since You've Been Gone". The performances on "Memories in Rock II" are nimble and tight instead of bombastic and prog-heavy. Candice Night and her younger counterpart, Lady Lynn, supply a faint yet elegant texture to the Dio-era RAINBOW songs in particular. The set's gorgeous instrumental, "Carry On Jon", gives Ritchie a chance to mingle some BLACKMORE'S NIGHT into his rock retrospection to sensuous delight.

The freewheeling new song "Waiting for a Sign" carries a blues hump, showing Ritchie Blackmore is still plenty capable of a shake or two. The riff is as snappy as the vocal sections and Ritchie's soloing is both discerning and vivid. There's a sensible jarring of the groove to "Waiting for a Sign", indicating a leeway for more RAINBOW should Blackmore want it.

Many will snipe at the inclusion of so much DEEP PURPLE material in a set billed as RAINBOW, yet if Ritchie Blackmore is guilty of anything, it's trying to coddle all of his fans in one fell swoop. This, and unabashedly inviting his surviving bandmates from the archetypal Mark II period for a final one-off, "…just to prove that we're not all hating each other."

In the video interview section of the package, Ritchie whimsically discusses his love-hate relationship with Ian Gillan, recounting their notorious spaghetti fights, and he cites Bob Dylan as the only musician in the business he truly admires. Perhaps the most impactful message Ritchie Blackmore conveys speaks of his younger, temper-flared years: "Rock 'n' Roll is about anger and suppression...it's about pushing a certain urgency about life... I was kind of pleased in a sadistic way...I knew what I was playing onstage had a force behind it, but it wasn't a happy force...it was an angry punch force."

Need we say it, then? Long live...

Ray Van Horn Jr, Blabbermouth 2018


Ritchie Blackmore performed three live concerts in 2017 as the band Rainbow. They were released separately, but now they have all been culled together in one collection titled Memories in Rock II.

In addition to the concerts, the release will also include a DVD of interviews with the band…including Blackmore. As if this were not cool enough, there will also be one new song called "Waiting for a Sign." Spoiler Alert: The song is good! It is awesome to hear new Rainbow music.

The three concerts are all different…which is cool. This makes for no repeats along the way. The track listing is a mix of Rainbow and Deep Purple.

There are some killer tunes here, as one might expect. "Spotlight Kid," "I Surrender," "Mistreated," "Man On The Silver Mountain / Women From Tokyo," "Perfect Strangers," "Black Night," and "Smoke On The Water" all sound good.

Vocalist Ronnie Romero does his best Ronnie Dio impersonation. He actually pulls off the Rainbow tunes extremely well. He holds his own on the Deep Purple tracks, as well. He is a talented vocalist and was hired to impress. One wishes we could get The Man in Black to record an entire new album of songs with Ronnie!

The band Rainbow has had a ton of members over the years. Today's Rainbow consists of Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie Romero, Jens Johansson (keyboards), Bob Nouveau (bass), Dave Keith (drums), Lady Lynn (backing vocals) and Candice Night (backing vocals). As a treat, the entire band listed here are all interviewed to discuss their Rainbow experiences on the bonus DVD.

At the end of the day, this is Ritchie with a new batch of Rainbow players and they do a fine job. The music is presented well and Blackmore still impresses on guitar.

Oddly, there is no "Stone Cold," "Street of Dreams" or "Death Alley Driver" on these concerts…those songs would have made this more sought after. As it is, however, is just fine. It is exciting to hear Blackmore on the electric, playing the songs that are the reason we know who he is. One can only hope this will continue to some more new Rainbow material.

Ritchie should be happy with this release. He will make a few bucks…pay off a few bills and then…we will see what happens. He will possibly retreat back to lutes and castles…but…then again, maybe he will bring this to the USA and play a few dates.

We can only hope! Until then, we still have these Memories in Rock to tide us over.

Jeb "Stone Cold" Wright, Classic Rock Revisited 2018


A new live album by Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow will no doubt make the purists and traditionalists upset, but for the rest of us this is a good revisit of Rainbow's back catalogue as well as some Deep Purple goodies. Plus a brand new Rainbow song!

"Memories in Rock II" is a follow up to 2016's "Memories in Rock". The new album was recorded during Rainbow's UK tour in June 2017.

When Ritchie Blackmore decided to return to rock and put together a new version of Rainbow, we all knew it would be controversial. Too many fans have too many opinions and the word "blasphemy" is always around the corner. Instead of bringing back some of his old band mates from Rainbow's various line-ups in the 70s, 80s and 90s, Blackmore decided to create a completely new band with only himself left from previous versions of the band. If we disregard what Rainbow is supposed to be and who is supposed to be in the band and just focus on the music played by the current version of Rainbow, I must say that it is bloody good. New vocalist Ronnie Romero (Lords of Black) is not only a top lad, he also has the pipes to do justice to Rainbow's classic material.

We get treated to Rainbow classics such as "I Surrender", "Spotlight Kid", "Man on the Silver Mountain", "All Night Long", "Stargazer", "Catch the Rainbow" and "Long Live Rock'n'Roll". We also get a few Deep Purple classics as well, including "Mistreated", "Burn", "Child in Time", "Perfect Strangers" and "Smoke on the Water". The band seems to not only be on form, they're also playful and many of the songs turn into mini jams.

In the current Rainbow, Blackmore and Romero are joined by Jens Johansson (Stratovarius, Cain's Offering, Dio, Yngwie Malmsteen's Rising Force, Silver Mountain) on keyboards, David Keith (Blackmore's Night) on drums and Bob Noveau (Mink DeVille, Blackmore's Night) on bass plus background singers Candice Night (Blackmore's Night) and Lady Lynn (and yes, she too is from Blackmore's Night). With the bulk of the band having played together in their previous band, they gel and they get on with it.

Take this for what it is: a great musician revisiting his old hits with a new version of his band. Sure, Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet, Joe Lynn Turner, Doogie White, Roger Glover, Don Airey, Jimmy Bain, Cozy Powell, Bob Daisley, Bobby Rondinelli, etc. are not there, but Blackmore is playing rock again and he has a more than capable band to do justice to his back catalogue. And he has Ronnie Romero, what a find!

On this album (the triple CD version), in addition to the previously released studio tracks "Land of Hope and Glory" and a re-recording of "I Surrender", we get one brand new studio track in the form of "Waiting for a Sign". It is a great blues-based song where Ronnie Romero gets to shine in his own right as he's not filling anyone's shoes on this one. It's a fab track that gives us hope that we may get more new Rainbow material in the near future.

Sit back and enjoy the past and present Rainbow on this collection. Ritchie Blackmore has still got it.

Stefan Nilsson, Roppongi Rocks 2018


In 2017 Ritchie Blackmore returned with his harder rock hat on to a series of arena shows in the UK. Evidently buoyed up by the successful summer sojourn a year before and no doubt to bolster the pension pot.

The 2016 CD/DVD was somewhat lacklustre and perhaps with a question mark over Ronnie Romero. Adequate enough – especially on the Dio material – if not totally convincing on the Joe Lynn Turner or Graham Bonnet period.

Now comes Part 2 and a handsome CD/DVD package, the DVD given over to a series of interviews with Ritchie and his band members.

As with the previous release, this souvenir set is just that, a memento of the second series of UK dates. The overall impression is that this outing is just as pedestrian – and Ritchie just as restrained – as the first, although there is no doubting the musicianship on display especially Jens Johansson who again excels on keyboards.

As GRTR!'s Andy Nathan said of the London gig (when they headlined Stone Free Festival) "the band were a rather plodding shadow of the great musicians that originally built these songs. With not one but two of the best catalogues in rock, it could have been so much better had Ritchie picked a band to really stretch and challenge him."

There are some typically effusive liner notes which stress that a criticism of the 2016 gigs was the preponderance of Purple tracks which was addressed in the 2017 setlists. Given that 8 of the 19 tracks are Purple originals (and there were 8 in 2016) this still seems a bit disingenuous, whilst the remaining Rainbow songs had largely been featured first time round.

However, we do get re-arranged versions of the hits ‘I Surrender' and ‘All Night Long' which were omitted from the early setlists. The Jon Lord-tribute ‘Carry On Jon' and ‘Temple Of the King' are also added. ‘Smoke On The Water' still suffers from an extended Romero intro and is a shadow of prime-time Purple.

As you might expect there's a fair amount of noodling – ‘Mistreated' for example breaks down half way through with Blackmore's reflective touches. Ditto ‘Difficult To Cure', a showcase for Johansson and ‘Black Night' drummer David Keith's spotlight. As we have reported previously, perhaps best witnessed live when a natural break may have nevertheless proved essential.

The "bonus" new song – ‘Waiting For A Sign' gives a tantalising suggestion that further new material might be in the offing. However, it merely apes Bad Company's ‘Burning Sky' (and Free's ‘Wishing Well') and so falls at this first hurdle.

With more gigs lined up for 2018 perhaps Ritchie will dig deeper into the back catalogue but don't hold your breath. And, as he says in his interview, Blackmore's Night remains his first love whilst – Gillan feud and spaghetti fights notwithstanding – not ruling out a one-off reunion show with Deep Purple.

David Randall, Get Ready to Rock! 2018


Much like both Eagle Rock series, the vintage '76/'77 German shows and the first Memories Of Rock compilation (also from Deutsche shows: Loreley and Bietigheim), not to mention the full Birmingham, England gig, (likewise in the summer of 2016, that setlist repeated here, almost verbatim), this latest two audio discs, plus one interview DVD, merely offers a repackaging of previously heard material, culled from a trio of UK dates, a year later. The major difference being Ritchie Blackmore apparently heard the gripes about too much Deep Purple material (under a rejuvenated/reactivated Rainbow banner) and dug out a couple of nuggets instead: "Temple Of The King" and Graham Bonnet era "All Night Long". As a complete career retrospective, there's also the Blackmore's Night composition "Carry On Jon", a tribute to the late Deep Purple keyboardist Jon Lord. While it does include "Waiting For A Sign", the first single Blackmore has issued under the Rainbow moniker since 1996, the lone "must see/hear" element is the collection of ten interviews, beginning with a half hour for Blackmore and then decreasing length segments with all the band members (10 minutes with singer Ronnie Romero) down to less essential chats with back-up singers, road hands and the tour manager.

A year on, Romero seems a little more comfortable (less pressure?) with the material, although anyone listening to the Ronnie James Dio renditions for 40+ years can't get that trademark out of their ears. Cherry-picking the best rendition from each of the three concerts, "Spotlight Kid" gives Stratovarius keyboardist Jens Johansson a chance to strut his stuff, prominently in the mix. Quixotically, the Joe Lynn Turner era output (the aforementioned, plus female vocals backed "I Surrender") is over, straight out of the gate. Odd, given the success of "Stone Cold" and "Street Of Dreams", not to mention a worthy inclusion in the more upbeat "Death Alley Driver". As a live show, slotting the sedate Purple classic "Mistreated" after the bouncy start just kills all the momentum, only enlivened by the short "Since You've Been Gone" follow-up.

Unsure how to feel about the additional backing voices, especially for "Man On A Silver Mountain", one of the definitive Dio tunes. There's a joke in there somewhere: "How many singers does it take to replace Dio?" After the guitarist struts his stuff on "16th Century Greensleeves," acoustic rendition of "Soldier Of Fortune" is one of the better moments. The extensive 15:48 "Difficult To Cure" becomes a full band jam, with separate keyboard/piano solo midsection. Still minimal interaction with the crowd by Romero (but that might be down to editing, given the time constraints across two CDs). Following minimalist "Child Of Time", apart from recreated Gillian screams, Disc #2 begins with a chance for Ritchie to go off, "Stargazer". The two Ronnies only sounding more similar on "Catch The Rainbow", which is just a song away. Another Dio gem, "Long Live Rock N Roll" is begun by crowd singing the chorus and once the band joins in, is ultimately augmented with a bit of Purple's "Lazy". Always loved "Temple Of The King" and its inclusion here, even cut short and with unnecessary female accompaniment (alongside aforementioned "Catch The Rainbow") makes it the highlights of the second disc, if not the whole set. "Black Night" breaks into a drum solo. As for the new song, feels sort of like a mid-tempo rocking Blackmore Night's selection (could it be that tambourine?).

At times, this comes across like a Broadway rendition of Blackmore's greatest hits. For completists only. Anyone looking to start their investigation of Blackmore and/or Rainbow is advised to look elsewhere (their '77 On Stage album, instead?). Hardly essential, but these tunes remain some of the best ever written.

Mark Gromen, Brave Words 2018