What with legendary and perennially influential guitarist Ritchie Blackmore returning to his roots to perform Deep Purple and Rainbow songs at a small number of European shows next year that have been billed as Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, this DVD release of 'The Ritchie Blackmore Story' is a well-timed release. The central documentary on the disc is 90 minutes in length, although a whole load of bonus interview snippets, each accessible individually from a separate menu, add another three quarters of an hour to the overall running time. So, effectively, you have over two hours of meaty music history to feast upon here. And, interposed with vintage performance footage, there are an impressive roster of interviewees discussing Blackmore, his work, and influence, including David Coverdale; Lars Ulrich; Brian May; Gene Simmons; Steve Vai; Joe Satriani; Steve Lukather; Joe Lynn Turner; Glenn Hughes; Roger Glover; Phil Collen; Ian Anderson; and, of course his longtime partner/wife Candice Night. Then, there are contributions from the likes of famed rock/metal journalists Malcolm Dome and Chris Welch, and producer Martin Birch. The real draw here, though, for Blackmore enthusiasts, are the various newly filmed interviews with the rarely interviewed man himself, in various rooms around his home (and always with a beer close to hand), who chats away openly, candidly, yet often humbly, and in a thoroughly engaging way.
He begins his story by chatting about the guitar lessons he had, at the insistence of his father, at the age of eleven, which he had to cycle 2 miles to reach, although often fell off his bike, as well as his obstinate attitude that he claims was always an innate part of his personality by recounting a tale of when he refused to smile for the camera as a kid when his mum wanted to take his photo for posterity. Then, there's brief mention of his session work for Screaming Lord Sutch, Gene Vincent and Jerry Lee Lewis before covering the origins and formation of Deep Purple; then Rainbow; Deep Purple's reformation; an ephemeral Rainbow resurgence; and his long running Blackmore's Night. It's all mightily fascinating stuff, from both Blackmore's very own perspective, and the opinions/stories of others.
Early on in the documentary, of particular interest is May's assertion that he was "an originator and creator of the wild electric guitar... pre-Hendrix" and Coverdale describing him as "a Caucasian Hendrix". It's something of an enigma (just like the man himself, some might say) that Hendrix's legend overshadows the persistence of Blackmore's pioneering influence. This is addressed in further comments by May, where he questions just why more people don't talk about Blackmore's fretboard talents and ongoing inspiration. Too true, squire, too true. And, with the eulogistic nature of everyone's words, with an incessant flow of sincere commendations, it becomes evident just how important Blackmore's contributions in the evolution of both the rock and metal genres, and beyond, has been. I mean, for Vai to sit there and say that Purple's 'Machine Head' was the second album he bought and "to have a guitarist like Ritchie... what would my life have been like without that?", really hammers home the creatively inspirational affects he's had on different generations of players.
As I've already asserted, though, the genuine joy of this documentary is listening to Blackmore's stories, opinions, and general comments about moments, both pivotal and random, from his life and career. However, there are times when it's unclear just how serious the man's being, particularly when he describes in a perfectly deadpan manner that the clock in his bar as haunted and "only chimes when it's happy"... although this is followed by Coverdale talking about Blackmore's penchant for a good old prank. Judge for yourself, I guess. As the documentary draws to a close and a montage of the various contributors offer up their final comments, Queen's guitarist speculates, with a cheeky grin and a degree of discernible reverence, that Blackmore will remain "wild and untamed to the end of his days". The same's been said of Ginger Baker, which is made all too obvious through the fascinating 2012 documentary 'Beware of Mr. Baker'. However, whereas Baker comes across as irredeemably arrogant, aloof and hardhearted, Blackmore seems to be everything the former Cream sticksman is not. So, "wild and untamed" is, most definitely, a palpable trait of Blackmore's creative being that's been channelled positively through decades of innovative and influential music. The man, himself, seems like a throroughly likeable person. An all-round, fantastic documentary.
THE RITCHIE BLACKMORE STORY
Review by Mark Holmes
20th November 2015
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...with the eulogistic nature of everyone's words, with an incessant flow of sincere commendations, it becomes evident just how important Blackmore's contributions in the evolution of both the rock and metal genres, and beyond, has been."