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

Ritchie Blackmore's final hard rock DVD?
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The mid-1990s were a period of major change for Ritchie Blackmore. In 1993, he left the reformed Deep Purple -- a band with which he had a love-hate relationship for some time -- for good and set out to record a solo album. The album featured largely unknown musicians and record company pressure forced Blackmore's hand by insisting he call this lineup Rainbow to sell more records. The lineup turned out to be the group's final to date and the album, Stranger In Us All, featured Doogie White on lead vocals and Blackmore's future wife and musical partner, Candice Night, on background vocals. The band hit the road, and a 1995 visit to Germany was broadcast on Rockpalast. Long available as a bootleg, the show is finally getting an official release as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow -- Black Masquerade.

The show opens with the blistering "Spotlight Kid" from 1981's Difficult To Cure album. Blackmore's playing is spot-on from the onset, as he delivers his classically influenced leads. White offers a powerful vocal over this excellent opening track. "Too Late For Tears," one of several tracks featured from Stranger In Us All, follows and is a driving rocker that recalls the energy of "Can't Happen Here." Blackmore is in the moment, eyes closed, during his memorable solo on the track.

Besides Blackmore's trademark guitar work, Rainbow is best known for its vocalists, particularly Ronnie James Dio and Joe Lynn Turner. White had big shoes to fill for sure and while he doesn't quite hit the high water marks of his predecessors, he does an admirable job on material that can be quite challenging to sing. This challenge is evident on "Long Live Rock 'N' Roll," which includes a snippet of the Deep Purple classic, "Black Night." While White's vocals are respectable, the song's key needed to be lowered from the Dio version, taking away some of its energy.

Still, there was only one Dio, so White is not to be faulted. New songs such as "Hunting Humans," with its melodic, haunting music and vocals don't seem out of place next to the equally menacing "Perfect Strangers," from Blackmore's time in Deep Purple. The band even tackles the Mk III era of Deep Purple with a version of "Burn" that lives up to its name. Bassist Greg Smith handles the vocal interlude originally done by his bass-playing counterpart in Deep Purple, Glenn Hughes.

While this show has been available in the underground world for some time, it is nice to have it with as clear a picture as possible and better sound. The DVD is filmed in 4:3 and thankfully hasn't been re-edited to fake widescreen. Audio options for the show include Dolby Digital Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS Surround Sound. Being an older show, it comes from the time when people still knew how to film concerts. Instead of cuts every half second, the camera actually lingers on certain shots longer than today's concert DVDs, making for a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Not too long after this performance, Blackmore and Night released the first Blackmore's Night album, which combined Renaissance music with a modern flair. While the pair have, on occasion, covered Rainbow and Deep Purple songs, they haven't looked back either. Stranger In Us All was Blackmore's apparent farewell to the hard rock world. It's a shame as the performance on Black Masquerade reminds viewers what all the fuss was about in the first place.