Do You Feel Alright ?
– First Live In America-
Beacon Theatre New York City, NY – Wednesday November 12th, 1975
Disc 1 (43:35) Monitor Check, Start / Guitar Solo, Do You Close Your Eyes, Self Portrait, Greensleeves, 16th Century Greensleeves, Ronnie’s Announcement, Catch The Rainbow, Band Introduction, Man On The Silver Mountain
Disc 2 (47:56) Tony Carey Keyboard Solo, Stargazer, A Light In The Black, Still I’m Sad, Cozy Powell Drum Solo, 1812 Overture, Still I’m Sad. Special Track; 1975 BBC Radio Interview With Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio
The demise of Deep Purple Mark III and the formation of Rainbow all happened in the span of one year, 1975.
Disillusioned with Purple, Ritchie Blackmore found a kindred spirit in a way with singer Ronnie James Dio who’s band Elf was a frequent opening band for Deep Purple. The collaboration between the two flourished when they began working on doing a cover of Black Sheep Of The Family by the band Quartermass and the project expanded to a full length LP that was recorded in Feb – March 1975 during a tour break. The band Elf was used as a backing band for the record but would never perform live, Blackmore was a perfectionist and would bring in outside players to flesh out a touring unit who would play a handful of dates late in the year.
The band that played the 14 date United States tour was what many consider the bands “classic” line up of Jimmy Bain on Bass, Tony Carey on Keyboards, and Drummer Cozy Powell who joined Blackmore and Dio.
The tour started in Montreal, Canada and the bands American debut was two days latter at the Beacon Theatre in New York City, since no recording has surfaced for the Montreal gig this is the first live recording of the band. The show has been released before as Heavy Portrait (RIsing Arrow), a title I do not own and this is my first experience listening to this concert. The audience recording is good to very good, slightly distant but all instruments come through clearly and there are occasional sound fluctuations but nothing that could interfere with ones enjoyment or listening experience. The band wisely chose small theatres to play during the tour and the recording picks up the intimate atmosphere well.
The band is in its infancy as a live act and after delving deep into the bands tours of 1976 and 1978 this recording is much welcomed to my ears. The Dorothy Gale introduction is not yet being used yet, the recording starts with the band tuning and much anticipation from the rowdy NYC audience. The bands starts off with a jam similar to later tours but Blackmore quickly breaks free and plays a short blues solo over the screams of the crowd before playing the riff from Do You Close Your Eyes. The song would become the encore for latter tours and works well as an opener, more of a good time rocker versus the speed metal aggression of Kill The King. Blackmore plays a nice slide solo on the song and Ronnie’s voice is incredible shape.
The curiosity of these early shows is the inclusion of Self Portrait in the set, there is much to be enjoyed and the song is very strong when played live and one can wonder why it was not played on latter tours. The song is close to the recorded version, a highlight is listening to Cozy Powell play the hell out of this song, his fill punctuate the song and its twists and turns and is remarkable, his playing brought so much to the band. I also came to notice during this song and Ronnie shouting “DOWN..DOWN” that the band managed to work parts of this song into the 1978 versions of 16th Century Greensleeves.
That is the next song to be played, Ronnie introduces the song as coming from a letter from King Henry VIII telling them to write a song about his lady love Greensleeves. Ritchie plays a beautiful prelude featuring the melodic music that Henry wrote that is wonderfully highlighted by Tony Carey keyboards. Of course this is where Blackmore excels as he understands the subtle grace of the music and how to interpret it to the concert stage and the dramatic nature of very soft segueing into the heavy riff that is 16th Century Greensleeves.
The song is what one could consider the beginning of Ronnie’s medieval theme lyrics of tyranny and the revolt that follows and of course is another musical step for Ritchie as he fuses Renaissance themes with hard rock. Ronnie thanks the crowd and tells them that this is the first gig in the US and they wanted to play it in NYC, of course that is not entirely true and the tour was supposed to start in Pittsburgh was the date was rescheduled for mid November. He shouts many times “Do You Feel Alright ? ” and works the crowd into a frenzy before introducing the next song.
Catch The Rainbow was originally intended and recorded as a ballad of sorts that would take on another life on the concert stage. Another of the true Dio penned classics, the song holds a special place for me as it is one of my favorite of pieces. These early versions are short by latter standards clocking in at just over 10 minutes and not as intense as those versions, they keep it more melancholy and have not developed the intense sections where Blackmore would take it to the stratosphere. This version is more of a showcase for Ronnie to vocally improvise and shows is ability to blend emotion filled melodic vocals over the music. The audience give the band a huge ovation at its ending and Jimmy Bain says “Ronnie James Dio on vocals”.
Man On The Silver Mountain has the crowd shouting as it is the records main song for radio airplay, the song is played pretty much standard until about 5 minutes in Blackmore just lets loose. He starts shredding the notes much to the delight of the audience, Ronnie says “that’s Ritchie Blackmore isn’t it” and the crowd can only agree. He then goes into some vocal improvisation while using some great echo on his voice to great effect all the while Powell is punctuating his “THE MAN” lyric.
The second disc begins with Ronnie introducing Tony Carey and the promise of wind and rain from the latter,
he gets a short 2 minute spot as sort of a prelude to the as yet to be recorded Stargazer. Out of the keyboard solo Cozy hit the bass drum to count in the song. Slower tempo and heavier than the version than the record version, it is obvious that the band has been working a lot on the song and it, even in this early stage, is the center piece of the set. Ronnie has the lyrics in place and wonderfully weaves the tale of the once proud wizard. Blackmore uses the slide for his solo and the entire band locks into him and provides the foundation onto which he weaves snake like through in very dramatic fashion. The solo in long in form and is nicley accentuated by Carey’s keyboards that further add the middle eastern flare.
The transition between Stargazer and A Light In The Black is uneven with the band kind of just stopping as Blackmore plays a quick blues and then they just hammer into the song in erratic fashion, but it works ! Kind of like Highway Star on steroids the song is a natural for the live stage and the band bash the hell out of their instruments. Carey takes the first solo and is followed by Blackmore would lays down a boisterous furry of notes that gives the listening the feeling of being on the edge of a cliff. The true star of the song are the feet of Cozy Powell, the structure of the songs rests on his double bass drum skills and he does not let down in an incredible display of talent and the whole thing ends amid Ronnie’s shouts of “I’m a Stargazer” in dramatic fashion. The bands reward is a huge ovation from the audience.
The band finish the concert with Still I’m Sad, there seem to be some gremlins around and the beginning has the band noodling around until everyone it set and the go into the song. I love the bands interpretation of the Yardbirds classic, they add the dramatic feel to the song and make it their own. The song is short in length after they start it and is more of a vehicle for Cozy Powell to again display his formidable skills, beginning first with a drum solo followed by his passe resistance of the 1812 Overture, he pounds the living hell out of his kit in incredible fashion and gets a huge cheer and the band rolls into the Still I’m Sad reprise to finish the concert. While not as tight or structurally sound as the band would be on latter tours they exhibit a high level of musicianship that fans had come to expect from Blackmore and the concert is a fun and great listen.
There is a bonus interview done by BBC radio with Ritchie and Ronnie. The sound quality is in decent mono with a fair amount of hiss but is clear and audible and is just over 6 minutes in length. They discuss the formation of the project as well as the bands name before breaking for a song from the record that is not included. They then talk about 16th century Greensleeves and Ronnie talks about the lyric storyline. Another song break and they briefly talk about Still I’m Sad before the interview ends. I am a sucker for this kind of stuff and found it to be a wonderful addition to the set.
The packaging is typical Tarantura for its Rainbow releases, a gatefold sleeve with a fantastic shot of Blackmore on the cover looking at a telescope, a great live shot of Ritchie on the back and in the middle is a shot of Blackmore on his amps intending his guitar to the balcony and looks as if it may be from the actual concert. The recording is from tape archivist Silver Train and there is the following also inscribed “One day I saw a mountain…” – Ronnie. The cds have pictures on them as usual a very nice package. Tarantura does not disappoint with their Rainbow releases, I was thinking on this subject a few days ago about how Tarantura used to be know for their Zeppelin releases and now have become, for this collector, the premier label for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)