Roger’s Birthday Party ( Tarantura TCDRAINBOW-13)
Calderone Theater, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – November 30, 1979 (Radio Broadcast)
(79:10) Se, Monitor Check, Count Down, Over The Rainbow, Eyes Of The World, Love’s No Friend, Since You’ve Been Gone, Over The Rainbow, All Night Long, Roger’s Birthday Party, All Night Long, Keyboard Solo, Guitar Solo, Lost In Hollywood, Guitar Solo, Beethoven Sinfonie Nr. 9 d-mill op. 125, Keyboard Solo, Drum Solo, 1812 Overture, Lost In Hollywood, Guitar Solo, Lazy includes White Christmas, Man On The Silver Mountain, Blues, Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, Over The Rainbow
After cleaning house of the lineup that gave us Long Live Rock n Roll, Ritchie was down to just drummer Cozy Powell and producer Roger Glover. After having many songs in progress Ritchie coerced Glover to also join the band as they shopped for a singer. After hearing and auditioning singer Graham Bonett and getting Don Airey on keyboards the new line up was set. The album, Down To Earth, was more of a return to form so to speak as the fantasy based metal of the previous couple records was brought down to earth and certainly the goal was to make more of an in roads in the lucrative American touring market.
The record was released in August 1979 followed by an American Tour beginning mid September running all the way to mid December with a set list focusing on mainly new material plus a couple of Dio era jems.
The FM broadcast of the Calderone Hall has been the subject of bootleggers beginning with the vinyl days with Rogers Birthday Party (RA2100) and on compact disc as Down To Frontier (Darker Than Blue 110/111/112). The recording used here is credited to HEP-Floydie’s Master and is a very good stereo recording made from the FM broadcast. It is well balanced and does not have a lot of noise (although there is a little static here and there) attributed to a lot of recordings from radio broadcasts and there is no station banter in the recording which makes it a very nice listen.
After a couple tune ups and the introductions from both Dorothy Gale and the countdown segment Ritchie does some doodling around on the guitar and plays a quick snipped of Spotlight Kid before beginning of Eyes of the World, the albums closing song and the concerts opener for the tour. Blackmore and Airey both tune in some great player and there’s much more to follow.
After a short introduction the band rolls into Love’s No Friend takes the spot for a blues tinged piece that is much more dramatic, heavy and slow with some great vocals by Bonnett who sings in some different ranges to great effect and Ritchie plays a great solo as the song movers into the faster section.
The band does their radio friendly songs beginning with Since You Been Gone, a song Ritchie has dedicated to a a friend named Barry. The simple song is something that just works, a lot of it can be attributed to Grahams vocals. He can take something kind of flimsy and make it sound tough. Instead of a typical ending Ritchie and Don play a little piece of medieval style music, Airey doing his best to imitate a harpsichord sound before Blackmore leads them in a slide guitar version of Over The Rainbow.
At its conclusion the band go right into All Night Long, every time I listen to the song I marvel it its lyrics and how they can almost have a double meaning. They break in the middle and Graham announces that its Rogers birthday and has the crowd help the band sing him Happy Birthday, after all he is, as Graham tells the crowd 21 years old !
A joke at Don Airey’s expenses opens the solo portion of the evening, Lost In Hollywood. Blackmore takes the first solo, it is a showcase for his virtuosity not theatrics, after a quick Hollywood reprise there is a tape cut that is handled very smoothly and does not sound like anything is lost but when the tape picks back up Blackmore is doing a great Hendrix impersonation and at first I thought of his Band Of Gypsies concerts from late 69. He quietly moves into Beethoven’s 9th with Don’s help and is the whole things has an epic kinda vibe. The man Don Airey is up next, he goes through a series of movements with his typical for the era outer space themes and the star spangled banner.
Cozy Powell beats the hell out of his kit before doing is passé resistance the 1812 Overture and the band hits with a fast and furious Hollywood reprise to end the main portion of the set. They do not keep the crowd or radio audience waiting as Blackmore gets into a solo of a thousand notes and leads the band into a snippet of Lazy as the audience goes bonkers before ending the piece with a quick White Christmas.
They encore with Man On The Silver Mountain and Long Live Rock n Roll, both of which have the crowd on their feet and listener too. I like Bonnett’s singing on both, he is faith full to Ronnie’s vocals and gives them allot of balls and a certain amount of swagger, something the songs would lose over the next few years and Joe Lynn Turner would handle the vocal duties. The recording ends with a complete Over The Rainbow outro, I like how crowds cheer the last part of Dorothy’s vocals, something that happens in most parts of the world and I always like hearing it.
The packaging is a simple gatefold but the picture is a priceless shot of one Ritchie Blackmore staining in nothing but his tighty whiteys, a picture taken by Ross Halfin, who is credited on the inside cover. There is also some cool live pics and one of the master cassette and the release is limited to 300 numbered copies.
I like the 1979-80 period of this line up of Rainbow and couple with cool packaging and great sound quality make this a fun and recommended release.