Ritchie Blackmore

Rainbow lightens its sound

"I really don't hold much hope for the future of mankind," guitar legend Ritchie Blackmore stated as his stoic features broke into a sly grin. "Any society that can revere a group like the Bee Gees is doomed as far as I'm concerned."

Since 1968, when he burst upon the music scene as lead guitarist for the hard-rocking supergroup Deep Purple, Ritchie Blackmore has ranked among the most gifted and imaginative instrumentalists that rock 'n' roll has ever produced. As the driving force behind Purple's rise to international stardom, he became one of the most imitated heavy-metal guitarists around. His fiercely tremoloed style, filled with kamikaze-blitz feedback outbursts and faster-than-light solos (best evident on such Purple classics as "Smoke On The Water," "Highway Star," and "Speed King") helped Purple create an unmistakable sound that mixed AM-radio accessibility with FM-styled progressivism. But true to the mercurial nature that has become his trademark, just as Purple reached the peak of their popularity in 1975, he decided to leave the band's commercial security and form a band of his own Rainbow.

The group will appear with Pat Travers at 8 p.m. Friday at the Capitol Theatre, 326 Monroe St., Passaic. Tickets are $8.50 and $9.50.

"Purple had become an incredible bore to me," he said as he stuffed his tall, thin frame behind a small New York restaurant table. "Everybody had become so lazy after the success of Machine Head and Made in Japan that nobody wanted to rehearse anymore. The hand had become a business instead of a musical group, anti that's something I just couldn't put up with. I knew I had to leave, and once we finished our commitments, which included things like the California Jam where we played in front of over 500,000 people, I said, 'Good bye, it's been nice.' I knew what I wanted to do with Rainbow, and that was to return to playing music that had some degree of artistic integrity. I didn't think that was too much to ask."

He quickly found out, however, that "artistic integrity" was not necessarily the ideal replacement for the metallic accessibility that had distinguished the best of Purple's work. On such albums as "Rainbow Rising" and "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll," Rainbow created a dense, often impenetrable melange of mystical lyrics, cataclysmic caterwaulings and thunderous guitar overtures that proved too intense for long-time Purple devotees. While the band garnered a strong and dedicated following throughout Europe, in America, where Deep Purple had always enjoyed their greatest success. Rainbow was a virtual nonentity. Now, however, with the band's newest album, "Difficult to Cure," proving to be Rainbow's most listenable and successful album yet, Blackmore finds himself once again cast into the American rock 'n' roll spotlight.

"Yes, I do understand those who felt that the first Rainbow albums were a little too heavy." he said. "We were trying to explore certain areas where I thought there was potential, but we were often too demanding on ourselves and on our audience. We tended to he too dramatic on stage and on record, and it became very difficult to maintain that level of intensity for long. I had always believed that audiences in the States needed more commercial sound to latch on to, and the failure of Rainbow to make it here proved that. There was definitely a problem," he added with a twinkle in his eye, "and I knew that either I could take the blame, which I saw no reason to do, or I could just sack the entire band."

Thus emerges what is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Rainbow story Blackmore's seemingly unquenchable lust for firing and hiring new hand members. Over the group's seven-year history, an incredible total of 14 different musicians have come, and then almost instantly departed, from Rainbow's ever-changing lineup. On "Difficult to Cure," for instance, vocalist Joe Lynn Turner and drummer Bon Rondinelli have been summoned to replace Graham Bonnet and Cozy Powell (who appeared on the hand's Last album, "Down To Earth") who, in turn, replaced Ronnie James Dio and Gary Driscoll. Now. Blackmore hopes, with Turner and Rondinelli joining holdovers Don Airey (keyboards) and ex-Deep Purple member Roger Glover (bass and production), Rainbow has finally found a permanent lineup, but even he admits. "Don't count on it."

© Asbury Park Press - May 3, 1981