In 1975, guitar virtuoso Ritchie Blackmore left his cozy spot in Deep Purple and split off to form his own band that would be fronted by none other than Ronnie James Dio who had just left his earlier band, Elf. The result, after a few introductory line-up changes, once drummer Cozy Powell, keyboardist David Powell and bassist Bob Daisley would be Rainbow. While the influence of Blackmore's time with Deep Purple can be felt throughout Rainbow's discography, the band would stand on their own and gather quite a following for some time to come.
Two years after they formed, Rainbow was starting to get big. While they weren't as huge in the North American market as they wanted to be, in Europe they were selling boatloads of records and packing concert halls. Two nights before they were to be filmed live for the German music show Rockpalast, Blackmore found himself in trouble with the cops for starting trouble with a security guard at that evening's performance. The original date for the show was missed but thankfully both the band and the television crew were able to get things rescheduled for the next day when Blackmore was no longer in custody and the results are, in short, excellent. Whether it was the tension from almost missing out on the opportunity or the excitement from playing in front of a packed crowd of excited fans, Rainbow was on fire when this material was shot. Unfortunately this document is the only full video concert recording of this line up, but at least what we're left with is a great performance.
Rainbow would change line-ups a few times shortly after this was recorded but here it's obvious that Dio and Blackmore are having a great time. Blackmore's guitar is heavy but slick and it's nicely complimented by the keyboards, the bass, and especially the drums. What Blackmore's face after Powell does the drum solo and you'll not the happiness in his eyes, as the man is obviously having a blast on stage and he knows that, at least for this part of his career, he's surrounded by the right people. There's a lot of energy here, you'll see a few of the band members dancing and strutting along to the music as they play, and the crowd eats it all up.
Of course, as important as Blackmore is to Rainbow, it is 'his' band after all, they wouldn't have had their distinctive sound without Ronnie James Dio on vocals. Say what you will about his solo projects or his work with Black Sabbath but his completely melodramatic and operatic vocals fit Rainbow's sound perfectly. When Dio left the band, things didn't work out so well but here he is really quite excellent.
The track listing for the concert is as follows:
Kill The King
Sixteenth Century Greensleeves
Catch The Rainbow
Long Live Rock 'n' Roll
Man On The Silver Mountain
Still I'm Sad
Do You Close Your Eyes
A quick look through that set list shows that they perform racks off of the first record, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, Rising, and the (at the time unreleased but upcoming) Long Live Rock N Roll - that trilogy being the three records that make up the best releases of the band's career. Couple that with the fact that the players are in their prime and completely into their work the night this was shot and you've got yourself a winner.
For a concert fast approaching its thirtieth birthday, Rainbow – Live In Munich 1977 looks pretty good. There's some obvious fading to the fullframe source material throughout but colors remain fairly strong and there's not much to contend with in terms of print damage or debris. Mpeg compression artifacts are a problem in some scenes in that they show up and you can see them but they don't bury the image thankfully even if they are a little distracting. Aside from the compression artifacts, there's also a bit of motion blurring that looks to have been caused by the stage lighting more than by anything else as there seem to be some trails coming from them in spots. Overall though, for an older made for TV presentation, this doesn't look too bad.
This concert was probably originally broadcast in mono but it's presented here in your choice of 5.1 Surround Sound tracks in Dolby Digital and DTS formats and in Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo which means that the original audio has not been included. That being said, both of the surround mixes are quite good. The rears are used primarily for crowd noise with the music coming at you out of the three channels up front and the subwoofer. Bass response is fairly tight though it could have been stronger in spots. Between song dialogue is clean enough and the vocals sound pretty tight.
Aside from the concert, Eagle Vision has also supplied vintage promotional videos for three songs: Long Live Rock N Roll, Gates Of Babylon, and L. A. Connection. Additionally there's a commentary track over top of a lengthy slideshow that goes on for over thirty minutes with Roy Davies that covers the history of Rainbow up to and including this point in their career. Look for interviews with Colin Hart and Bob Daisley (they play out as one featurette that clocks in at over half an hour) in which they discuss the history of the band, the specific performance captured here, and the rise and fall of Rainbow. Contained inside the keepcase is a nice set of liner notes that provide a decent biography of the band and a reproduction of the original concert program from the concert.
While the audio and video quality isn't perfect, they're good considering the age and obvious limitations of the source material and the included extras do a good job of making up for those minor shortcomings. Rainbow – Live In Munich 1977 is a fantastic snapshot of an influential hard rock band at their peak and it comes recommended.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.