Review Summary: Blackmore attempts recreating Made in Japan, but ends up closer to Made in Europe instead.
Apparently, Ritchie Blackmore saw it already fit to release a live record with his new band Rainbow after only releasing a mere two studio albums. Recorded on different shows in Germany and Japan during the Rising
tour, the material found in On Stage
was put together from all loose performances, and features the still intact formation of the band’s second album, before Blackmore would fire some more members to make place for new players he thought more competent.
In some ways, On Stage
is quite similar to Deep Purple’s classic live album Made in Japan
. Both were a double LP at their time, both contain stretched-out performances of original songs, both were not created from one show, but from several performances at different shows, and, looking back on them now, it could perhaps even be said On Stage
was already recorded with Rainbow’s classic formation. Blackmore had known the success of Made in Japan
, and it is quite possible his frustration with the band he co-founded still lingered. Perhaps he had wanted to equal the success of Made in Japan
for a second time, boosting his ego a little further.
Be this true or not, it is impossible not to compare the two, also considering Blackmore’s dominant position on both albums. For Deep Purple, all the pieces had been in place. They had just created a streak of classic hard rock albums, and were creatively and ability-wise at their prime. From that, they put together an excellent set list, containing virtually all their essential work up to that point, and they executed it with skill and great improvisational creativity.
For Rainbow, things were quite different. While Blackmore had arguably the best formation of the band’s career together had that point, they had only released two albums, one just alright and one very impressive. Strangely enough, 4 out of 6 songs featured in On Stage
are from the first and weaker record. The only appearance from Rising
, one of its lesser moments, which is even only shortly performed in a medley of Man on the Silver Mountain
. The remaining two tracks are Kill the King
, a yet unreleased track that would appear on Rainbow’s next album Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll
, and Mistreated
, a Deep Purple cover off Burn
which Blackmore had co-written with now-Whitesnake
David Coverdale at the time. You cannot help but wonder what the guitarist was thinking when he put the list together.
That said, the performances in themselves are solid, but still far from perfect. Kill the King
, which contains the least amount of improvisation, does not sound powerful or convincing enough, and when compared to its later appearance on Rainbow’s third studio album, it most definitely lacks a sense of vigour. It feels underdeveloped.
The other tracks, being not as new to the band’s set list at the time, do not suffer from this issue, but have their own to deal with. Except for Sixteenth Century Greensleaves
, they all run at 11 minutes or longer. Ironically, the 15:35 Catch the Rainbow
, the longest track on the record, is least dragged down by its length, as the improvisation session it contains actually keeps things interesting, and continues building the dreamy atmosphere of the original. About the Mistreated
cover, the same cannot be said. At 13 minutes, too many of them contain Blackmore toying around with his guitar, to little amazement on the listener’s side, but Dio does a good job handling the bluesly song even though Coverdale's voice was better fit for it. The medley Man on the Silver Mountain/Blues/Startstruck
is decent enough, but like most of the other cuts, you can’t listen to it over and over again.
In short, it is quite difficult to see On Stage
’s real sense of lasting appeal. Were it containing a more potent collection of live cuts and less soon-to-grow-boring improvisational sessions, it could have made its mark like Blackmore’s earlier and far superior live album. Despite that, the talent and performance skill of the five musicians from the Rising formation can’t be denied, and the performances aren’t necessarily sub-par either. It’s just doubtful if you’d keep playing this album after a few plays.
On Stage’s Rainbow was:
- Richard Hugh Blackmore ~ Lead Guitar
- Ronald James ‘Dio’ Padanova ~ Vocals
- James Stewart ‘Jimmy’ Bain ~ Bass Guitar
- Colin ‘Cozy Powell’ Flooks ~ Drums
- Antony Laurence Carey ~ Keyboards