Minstrel Hall [Release date 06.04.18] 2-CD/DVD
In 2017 Ritchie Blackmore returned with his harder rock hat on to a series of arena shows in the UK. Evidently buoyed up by the successful summer sojourn a year before and no doubt to bolster the pension pot.
The 2016 CD/DVD was somewhat lacklustre and perhaps with a question mark over Ronnie Romero. Adequate enough – especially on the Dio material – if not totally convincing on the Joe Lynn Turner or Graham Bonnet period.
Now comes Part 2 and a handsome CD/DVD package, the DVD given over to a series of interviews with Ritchie and his band members.
As with the previous release, this souvenir set is just that, a memento of the second series of UK dates. The overall impression is that this outing is just as pedestrian – and Ritchie just as restrained – as the first, although there is no doubting the musicianship on display especially Jens Johansson who again excels on keyboards.
As GRTR!’s Andy Nathan said of the London gig (when they headlined Stone Free Festival) “the band were a rather plodding shadow of the great musicians that originally built these songs. With not one but two of the best catalogues in rock, it could have been so much better had Ritchie picked a band to really stretch and challenge him.”
There are some typically effusive liner notes which stress that a criticism of the 2016 gigs was the preponderance of Purple tracks which was addressed in the 2017 setlists. Given that 8 of the 19 tracks are Purple originals (and there were 8 in 2016) this still seems a bit disingenuous, whilst the remaining Rainbow songs had largely been featured first time round.
However, we do get re-arranged versions of the hits ‘I Surrender’ and ‘All Night Long’ which were omitted from the early setlists. The Jon Lord-tribute ‘Carry On Jon’ and ‘Temple Of the King’ are also added. ‘Smoke On The Water’ still suffers from an extended Romero intro and is a shadow of prime-time Purple.
As you might expect there’s a fair amount of noodling – ‘Mistreated’ for example breaks down half way through with Blackmore’s reflective touches. Ditto ‘Difficult To Cure’, a showcase for Johansson and ‘Black Night’ drummer David Keith’s spotlight. As we have reported previously, perhaps best witnessed live when a natural break may have nevertheless proved essential.
The “bonus” new song – ‘Waiting For A Sign’ gives a tantalising suggestion that further new material might be in the offing. However, it merely apes Bad Company’s ‘Burning Sky’ (and Free’s ‘Wishing Well’) and so falls at this first hurdle.
With more gigs lined up for 2018 perhaps Ritchie will dig deeper into the back catalogue but don’t hold your breath. And, as he says in his interview, Blackmore’s Night remains his first love whilst – Gillan feud and spaghetti fights notwithstanding – not ruling out a one-off reunion show with Deep Purple. ***1/2
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
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