CD Review: Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow -- Black Masquerade

The final hard rock outing for Ritchie Blackmore?
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In 1995, having left Deep Purple for good, Ritchie Blackmore took a band of unknowns out on the road in support of Stranger In Us All -- the final album by his other legendary group, Rainbow. The album and tour featured Doogie White on lead vocals, a man who had the unenviable task of filling the vocal shoes of Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner. The band also included a young Candice Night, now the lead singer in Blackmore's Night and Ritchie Blackmore's wife and songwriting partner. Rainbow was recorded live on a stop on the German television program, Rockpalast. That show makes up the new CD, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow -- Black Masquerade.

The show opens with a ferocious "Spotlight Kid," with Blackmore offering up lightning-fast guitar leads and White doing his best to match Turner's original vocal. The song is a fine opening cut and leads nicely into the riff-heavy "Too Late For Tears," one of many Stranger In Us All cuts featured during the show.

Several Dio-era tracks also feature throughout the show, including an inspired "Man On The Silver Mountain." The band plays the song faster than its studio counterpart and, while not Dio -- who is? -- White delivers a strong vocal all the same. Slightly less successful is "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll," where the key needed to be lowered to accommodate White's vocal range.

The new material fits in well with the classics presented here. "Wolf To The Moon" is Blackmore at his neo-classical best, combining the song with Beethoven, as well as his own instrumental, "Difficult To Cure." He and the band, which includes Paul Morris on keyboards and Chuck Burgi on drums, drive this track, and make it a true highlight of the show. Less blistering, but no less intense, is "Hunting Humans," a haunting track with eerie guitars and vocals.

Closing the show is the Deep Purple gem, "Smoke On The Water." Blackmore offers up some bluesy licks as an intro to this old favorite while bassist Greg Smith tackles the vocals on the song's second verse. Blackmore breathes new life into the song with his melodic lead playing that expands on the themes of the studio version.

Not long after this show, Blackmore and Night formed Blackmore's Night and Blackmore effectively gave up the hard rock world for Renaissance music. Whether he will make another rock album remains to be seen, but Black Masquerade is an excellent reminder of what a powerful force Blackmore is in the rock world when he chooses to be.