DVD Review: The Ritchie Blackmore Story

This legendary guitarist's story is told here for the first time.
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To say Ritchie Blackmore is one of the giants of rock guitar would be an understatement yet; only this year did he finally receive the honor of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of his former band, Deep Purple. He is a virtuoso, yet remains a musician's musician. He has played on some of the most memorable rock tracks of all time, both with Deep Purple and with Rainbow and has fused Renaissance music with rock as a member of Blackmore's Night. While much has been said of his many bands (and the squabbles he had with them), Blackmore's personal story has never really been told in documentary form until now. The Ritchie Blackmore Story is a comprehensive look at this musical giant's legendary career.

Blackmore started music lessons at age 11 and, like many musicians of his era, made a name for himself doing session work before joining a proper band. He formed a group with Chris Curtis from the Searchers that included Jon Lord on keyboards. It wasn't long before Curtis was out and Rod Evans, Ian Paice and Nick Simper were in, thus completing the first lineup of Deep Purple. The band scored a hit with their cover of "Hush," but after seeing Led Zeppelin perform, Blackmore decided he needed a powerhouse vocalist too. Exit Evans and Simper and enter Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. This lineup would prove to be the band's most famous, producing classic rock staples such as "Highway Star," "Woman From Tokyo" and, of course, "Smoke On The Water." It wasn't long before Blackmore butted heads with Gillan though, criticizing his singing style, and the pair stopped speaking to each other, eventually splitting up at seemingly the height of the band's powers.

While that may have been the end for lesser bands, the group soldiered on with David Coverdale on vocals and Glenn Hughes on bass, recording two albums before Blackmore split the group for good. It was during this time that Blackmore secretly recorded with the band Elf and their own powerful singer, Ronnie James Dio, eventually forming Rainbow. It's at this point where the casual fan needs a scorecard to tell the players. Blackmore split with Dio after three albums when he wanted to go more commercial and got Graham Bonnet to sing, only to boot him because he didn't like his short hair. Then he got Joe Lynn Turner, only to boot him to rejoin Deep Purple. Then he got Turner back after two records with Deep Purple, only to boot him again when the record company wanted Gillan back. He finally had enough and played his last show with Deep Purple in 1993, doing one more Rainbow album before committing fully to Blackmore's Night with his wife Candice.

Though he seems considerably mellower these days, Blackmore's legendary temper is discussed at some length during the documentary. From asking his mother why she needed a picture of him at age five to hiding in a road case after kicking a security guard who had roughed up a fan to trashing the stage at the California Jam to food fights with Ian Gillan on the final Deep Purple tour, the fire that gives Blackmore's playing so much edge has also caused him a lot of problems in his bands.

In addition to interviews with Blackmore and Night, several former band mates, including Bonnet, Lord, Turner and Coverdale, are interviewed for the project. Several of Blackmore's musical peers such as Ian Anderson and Brian May, as well as guitarists he influenced such as Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Gene Simmons and Phil Collen are also interviewed for the documentary. Simmons comments how the track "Burn" is every bit as vital as anything Blackmore had done before while Collen mentions that "Highway Star" was the first solo he really wrapped his head around.

The DVD is filmed in 16:9 widescreen and looks great. The archival footage looks fairly clean for its age as well. Audio options include DTS Surround Sound, Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo. A number of bonus interview clips are included as well.

Ritchie Blackmore is one of rock's most influential guitarists. The Ritchie Blackmore Story serves as a good introduction to fans just acquainting themselves with his music, but even long-time fans will learn a few things from the documentary. Well worth watching for Blackmore and classic rock fans.