The Crazy Ballroom Party (Tarantura TCDRAINBOW-20-1,2)
Aragon Ballroom, Chicago, IL, USA – Friday, June 25, 1976
Disc 1 (52:28) Monitor Checking, Over The Rainbow, Start, Kill The King, Guitar Solo, Mistreated, Greensleeves, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves, Guitar Solo, Catch The Rainbow, Guitar Solo, Man On The Silver Mountain
Disc 2 (56:45) Keyboard Solo, Stargazer, A Light In The Black, Still I’m Sad, Drum Solo, 1812 Overture, Still I’m Sad, Do You Close Your Eyes, Over The Rainbow – Outro
Rainbow’s tour to support the Rising album (released May 1976) would be broken down into four legs, beginning with a two month American leg. This was followed by a UK / European leg, a trip down under to Australia before ending the tour with a brilliant tour of Japan. Tarantura has covered the Japanese tour in full and has even touched upon the European leg, they have not given us a release from the American leg, until now. The band’s stop in the Windy City, Chicago, was their eleventh concert on the American trek, the opening bands were stellar, Heart and Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, and they would be playing the 4,500 seat Aragon Ballroom.
Thankfully an enterprising fan recorded the concert, it is a clear and atmospheric, very good audience recording, slightly distant as you can hear some of the venue echo. All instruments can be clearly heard, the recording does focus on the middle frequencies as it has a somewhat flat sound to it. There is a loudmouth near the taper who is screaming for Ritchie but thankfully he limits his cries between songs. The recording is pretty much free from hiss and is an excellent document of the early part of the tour as is best heard at loud volumes. There has been a prior release of this gig before, Rising Kingdom (Rising Arrow-028), for this reviewer it is my first taste of this exciting concert.
There is some equipment checking to begin the concert, drums, keyboards and guitar before the opening strains of Dorothy are played over the PA and the band ravage the audience with the high tempo opener Kill The King. Blackmore and Tony Carey’s harmonizing interplay is superb but Ritchie’s solo is somewhat subdued, nonetheless the song receives a huge ovation at its conclusion. Ronnie tells the audience that they have been playing here as long as they have and introduces a “great song”, Mistreated, thankfully our friend in the audience confirms that it is in fact, a Deep Purple. I have listened to so many of the Japanese recordings and quite a few of the European gigs, but this is so early in the tour that the band had not settled into a routine so to speak. Ritchie simply noodles around with his pre Mistreated solo, one thing is for certain, Cozy Powell makes his presence know and really makes this song, his drumming punctuates the proceedings and is as important as the vocals and guitar in setting the mood of this heavy English blues. Blackmore does not force the issue and seems to be content to let the music come, his solo is again mellow but the crowd listens intently, Ronnie lets a wonderful wail at the solos conclusion as the band break back into the song and there is a nice bluesy call and response between Dio and Blackmore to finish the song very reminiscent of the old Purple days.
Ronnie gives a brief explanation of the inner workings of the Rainbow before introducing Greensleeves, the audience is pretty respectful and lets the guitarist paint the picture, he rewards them with a pummeling in the form of Sixteenth Century Greensleeves. Blackmore has not yet developed a long intro for Catch The Rainbow, the song is however most gentle sounding in this recording. The keyboards of Tony Carey blend wonderfully with Ronnie’s vocals until Blackmore breaks his “silence” by ripping into a blistering solo that has him scorching his fret board to great effect as he simply flies to the stratosphere in a musical sense. The band gets a nice ovation for their efforts and they are equally as happy to hear Man On The Silver Mountain, Blackmore does a prelude to the piece that is short but excellent as he conjures up some Hendrix type sounds from his Stratocaster. The song has a faster tempo in the live environment and Ritchie plays the solo with a slide that is great to hear, always a master of improvisation. Blackmore again lets loose mid song at a furious pace but soon slows it down for a welcome blues interlude, a real strong version of the classic song, Jimmy Bain gives Ronnie props at its conclusion.
The second disc starts with Ronnie asking of they like the second LP Rising, he gets a great response so he introduces Tony Carey and Stargazer. It must of had the crowd on their feet and the loudmouth near the taper shouts “Sit Down…Sit Down”, thankfully they do and we can hear Tony’s solo in all its glory. The beginning is very nice as it has a most gothic feel to it, almost like music from an ancient Cathedral. The audience is virtually silent throughout, saving their screams and whistles prior to the band breaking into Stargazer. It sounds very muscular as the keys seem to be low in the mix, making more room for Ritchie’s iconic riff to be heard, clear and powerful. The sound does drop a notch but soon clears as if the taper adjusted his position, again Ritchie uses a slide for his solo, this time he works through the Arabic scales that gives the song its epic feel, the rest of the band are locked into the rhythm as if in a trance like state.
What is most certainly the highlight of this recording is a storming version of A Light In The Black, the song is linked non stop with Stargazer via Cozy announcing their intentions via his double bass drum, the audience is in awe and use the song as their own vehicle for sonic destruction in the form of fireworks as a couple loud blasts can clearly be heard. Nothing disrupts the band’s focus as they settle into the groove and put the hammer down, after the 10 minute duration of the song, one does not wonder why the band would drop the song as Cozy would complain that he would pound his drums so hard his fingers would bleed!
The audience is at a fever pitch by now, what does Blackmore do? Goes into a melancholy almost somber guitar interlude that leads into the Yardbirds classic, Still I’m Sad, although this version is heavier that the Birds ever could have imagined. The song differs from the versions from latter in the tour, Blackmore stays onstage longer and does some jamming with just the band, it segues via Tony Carey into a Cozy Powell drum solo. Since he is the only one playing his solo comes through crystal clear and is very powerful sounding. It leads to the 1812 Overture, the tubular bells and chimes are clearly heard in the mix but as soon as his double bass drums kicks in he drowns out the orchestration as only Cozy can. The band return to the stage to reprise Still I’m Sad in a very aggressive fashion that serves to grind the audience to a pulp. As they leave the stage the audience erupts and chants of “Rainbow..Rainbow” fill the ballroom. Ronnie comes back onstage and asks “Do you close your eyes?”, he knows the answer and the band break into the standard encore for the tour. The song starts off somewhat restrained, the further Ritchie gets in his solo the more it devolves into chaos and the end of his Strat, all the while the band plays on as if nothing is wrong. Ritchie soon gets a replacement and enters back into the fray soloing effortlessly and moves the band back into a reprise of sorts. The recording captures Ms. Gale singing Over The Rainbow and some after concert comments that finds the tapers looking for parts of the guitar and someone exclaims “this is unforgettable”, one can only agree.
The packaging is a simple gatefold sleeve, adorned with pictures, I believe, are from the actual gig. There is an interesting photo of Blackmore sitting in a chair and playing a bass guitar that is quite nice. The Cd’s have pictures on them, the first has the cover of the sleeve, the second has a shot of Blackmore up in an alcove abusing his guitar. For those looking for an excellent version of this recording, look no farther as this is a very welcome addition to my Rainbow collection.