Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rainbow - 1977 - On Stage

On Stage

101. Intro: Over The Rainbow / Kill The King - Live
102. Medley: Man On The Silver Mountain / Blues / Starstruck
103. Catch The Rainbow
104. Mistreated
105. Sixteen Century Greensleeves
106. Still I'm Sad

Live At Osaka 9th December 1976
201. Kill The King
202. Mistreated
203. Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
204. Catch The Rainbow
205. Medley: Man On The Silver Mountain / Blues / Starstruck
206. Do You Close Your Eyes

Ritchie Blackmore - guitar
Ronnie James Dio - vocals
Jimmy Bain - bass
Tony Carey - keyboards
Cozy Powell - drums

I don’t know why, but I remember buying this on vinyl around '80/'81 and it was the most expensive album I had bought at that moment in my life, and remained so for many a year.  It was never in the sales!!

Whilst I'm not a huge fan of live albums as they generally fall short of the live experience, ‘On Stage’ however did not and showed Rainbow at their very best;  a moving, haunting beast of a band, expanding on originals in the best prog rock sense,  with great jamming capabilities. Then there's Blackmore, let loose in a way that Deep Purple never really let him. No duelling with Jon Lord, it was Blackmore getting totally immersed in his music, turning already great songs into masterpieces. Don’t believe me, check out his playing on ‘Catch The Rainbow’, and ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’ in particular and tell me this isn’t a man at the very peak of his game with the audience hanging on his every single note

 ‘On Stage’ was rare in the 70s, as Rainbow had just two albums under their belt. The third studio album was due for release late Summer 1977, but after the departures of Carey and Bain, ‘LLRNR’ didn’t surface until 1978. ‘On Stage’ bought Rainbow some valuable time. So to do ‘On Stage’ took some balls. It took years for Purple to come up with the legendary ‘Live in Japan’, yet Rainbow just two! This typified Blackmore's confidence; in his band, and particularly in his playing.

The concert begins with a sound recording (extract) from the film, The Wizard of Ozz, where Dorothy says "Toto, it looks like wer´re not in Kansas anymore!" Straight after that spoken sentence, the whole band bombard us with the first opening chords to "Somewhere over the rainbow" A thunderous roar from the crowd makes the listener feel that they are actually there!

Suddenly the band break into "Kill the king" and it is interesting to note that Cozy Powell never plays exactly on the beat, but just before the beat, pushing the band like a highly charged freight train! Keyboardist, Tony Carey, and guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore play a melodic solo in unison, Blackmore´s guitar heard in the left speaker, while Carey´s keyboards copy the same pattern as the guitar in the right hand speaker. (Blackmore always stood on the left hand side of the stage)

The Medley, consisting of a speeded up version of "Man on the silver mountain", going into "Blues", and then "Starstruck" keeps the sound interesting as the band chop and change with different time signatures. "Blues" is an interplay of call and respond, between Carey and Blackmore, with the keyboard mimicking the guitar sound. Blackmore´s tone is perfect! (In an interview he once said he would like to make a blues album one day) Ronnie James Dio shows just why he is considered one of the greatest vocalists ever, when he sings "You´re the man" with the audience shouting back their approval, finally building up to "We´re all the maaaan!!!" as the band launches back into "Man on the silver mountain"

"Catch the Rainbow" which is over fifteen minutes, begins softly, slowly building up to the guitar solo which comes in around the six minute mark. Blackmore was never an "in your face" guitarist, so one has to listen carefully for all the hidden details in this unbelievable solo. Definitely my favourite Blackmore solo ever! Ronnie James Dio also shines on this track with some of the most powerful singing in rock history. The song ends with some delicate , soft playing from Blackmore.

"Mistreated" (which appears on the Deep Purple album, Burn) is up next, with another of Ritchie´s classic solos. With Dio´s powerful vocals, Rainbow actually upstage Deep Purple´s version on "Made in Europe"

"Sixteenth Century Greensleeves" begins with beautiful slow playing from Blackmore. The sound he is able to get out of his Stratocaster is packed with emotion and longing. Eventually the entire band come in and the song takes off in a driving hard rhythm, once again show casing Dio´s incredible vocals.

"Still I´m sad" is the final track, with a well structured , clever solo from Tony Carey. This is the only track on the album that doesn´t have Blackmore´s name on the song credits. It would also appear years later on the album "Stranger in us all" A fine closing number to one of the best live albums ever.

As a massive Rainbow fan, you may feel a little disappointed as the then staples of ‘A Light In The Black’, and ‘Stargazer’ are missing from the bonus section. There are valid reasons for this as the original tapes are hidden away as securely as Jimmy Savile's diaries. Only one of the eight shows recorded (four in Germany, and four in Japan) captured ‘ALITB’, but ‘Stargazer’ was played at almost every gig during this period.  Bugger!

The original ‘On Stage’ was (due to vinyl constraints) moved around from a commercial standpoint, and proves that Martin Birch was a genius, as the quality is impeccable and his editing skills in removing Powell's thunderous 1812 drum solo, and he even spliced parts of songs from different shows, resulting in an album that stands tall against any of the studio releases.

The extended versions of ‘Mistreated’, ‘Still I'm Sad’, ‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’, and ‘Catch The Rainbow’ are truly phenomenal versions, to the point where it’s difficult for me to dig out the originals as they are poles apart from the live versions.

If you're buying this, then you're in it for the bonus disc as ‘On Stage’ requires little critique. Apart from the loud hiss still present (16th C in particular). As a live album, it’s up there with the very best.  Disc 2 is taken from a show in Osaka on 9/12/76 (Ah, I was 9!) so I'm assuming that the sequence of this disc is more in line with the original running order. What it does show is that Rainbow was an organic experience, growing and developing all the time, with every passing gig, with Blackmore improvising to his heart’s content, pulling the rest of the band with him in wild abandonment. ‘Catch The Rainbow’ and the ‘Medley’ being  particular examples with Ritchie showing his classical chops, and throwing in his love for ‘Lazy’ as a part of the medley as well as lots of toying with the audience, and is a good 14 mins longer than the vinyl version.

The only real addition from the original is Do You Close Your Eyes expanded and with some added welly. Despite the lack of ‘Stargazer’, ‘On Stage’ is still an album to behold and to get your mitts upon. Ritchie and Ronnie (and Rainbow) never sounded better live!

As Yngwie Malmsteen once quoted: "There wasn´t a guitarist in the seventies that could touch Blackmore" This album bears testimony to that quote.

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