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Whiff of the Arthurian

Music Radar celebrates Ritchie Blackmore’s legacy with 5 of his songs guitarists need to hear that aren’t Smoke on the Water. And even perhaps each of us would list 5 different ones, it’s not the worst way to entertain yourselves during a holiday lockdown (like it is in this heck of the woods).

Best of 2020: The explosive genius of the Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist is spread far and wide across a stellar catalogue. Five best tracks? Surely it’s mission impossible…

Where do you start with Richard Hugh Blackmore, a man so preternaturally gifted with the electric guitar that one suspects he was not so much born but summoned onto our earthly plane?

There’s a whiff of the Arthurian about the erstwhile Deep Purple and Rainbow guitarist; the enormodome his Camelot, the Fender Stratocaster his Excalibur.

Nonetheless, the Ritchie Blackmore legend was built on earthly pleasures – rock ’n’ roll, Marshall stacks, treble boosters, riffs… Y’know, the good stuff, and it assumes the form of one of rock’s most formidable discographies from one of its most combustible protagonists.

Maybe we should start with Smoke On The Water, a song Deep Purple wrote as they watched their studio burn down in Switzerland. It’s a classic in the Deep Purple fashion, with a righteously groovy 70’s rock verse supporting the Blackmore’s stark monolith intro/chorus riff. But most of us already know that one.

That’s the first thing you learn on guitar, right? And if you work in a guitar store, there are very few treatments to disentangle that genius riff from the post-traumatic association with a long Saturday afternoon on the shop floor.

To that end, we have not included Smoke In The Water here. That’s the first disclaimer. Second is to note that with Deep Purple and Rainbow, Blackmore recorded dozens of tracks that should be listened to, studied, celebrated, and played loud of a Friday night, and we can’t get to them all. Five is the rule… mostly.

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21 Comments to “Whiff of the Arthurian”:

  1. 1
    MacGregor says:

    Nice to see the classic Rainbow get much deserved attention here. Those tracks & a few others went much ‘deeper’ than Purple ever did, no pun intended, ok it was intended! Stargazer, Catch the Rainbow & the stunning Rainbow Eyes, Blackmore & Dio worked so well together. Magical. Cheers.

  2. 2
    aireight says:

    Listening to MIJ’s Space Trucking, I think the best part is from Jon Lord. After all, the music had a hell of a lot to do with his organ.

  3. 3
    MacGregor says:

    The article mentions Speed King, not sure if they are implying that that is a Blackmore riff or not?
    I read somewhere that Glover came up with that riff & a couple of others also no doubt. Cheers.

  4. 4
    Uwe Hornung says:

    I guess my five choice riffs (I’m not talking solos or even songs as such) would be (I’m leaving SOTW out, because that is a given on everyone’s list):

    – Woman From Tokyo (simple, but effective und catchy),

    – Burn (tricky, idosyncratic and elegant, danke schön Herr Gershwin!)

    – Sail Away (really the best version of Stevie Wonder’s Superstition, extremely powerful in its slow groove),

    – Man On The Silver Mountain (the studio version, with Cozy it was live always rushed, that riff is majestic, the chord structure following it unusually complex for Ritchie),

    – Knocking On Your Back Door (again majestic, Ritchie’s last gargantuan riff; when I heard the first few bars of it in 1984, I knew the reunion would be worthwhile).

    Since it’s mentioned in the article (and always said): I don’t know where that “Rainbow’s version of Mistreated was better than Deep Purple’s”-adage comes from. Dio was a lovely man and vocalist, a credible singer of “sex’n’luv” lyrics he was not. We know who excels at that stuff (if lyrically at very little else!) – Coverdale roared and cried that song like a wounded animal, convincingly hurt in his machismo by a woman who DARED to leave him; Dio OTOH might as well have been singing about the demise of his pet dragon! And if you listen closely: No Jimmy Bain, Bob Daisley or Roger Glover could ever emulate the subtle funk Glenn laid down with this song on, say, Live in London, California Jam or Made in Europe.

    Neil Murray could with early Whitesnake though. But then he is one of the most underrated musicians of all DP split groups.

  5. 5
    Uwe Hornung says:

    Speed King? I thought (Razama)Nazareth wrote that! ; – )

  6. 6
    Andres says:

    Really tough… Almost impossible. I’d choose:

    Child in time
    Highway star
    Gates of Babylon

  7. 7
    stoffer says:

    VERY hard decisions:
    Highway Star
    Child In Time
    A Light In The Black
    Still I’m Sad

  8. 8
    WillemPurplefan says:

    My favourites can change from time to time: Top 5 guitar Blackmore for now (all studio versions):
    -Rat bat blue
    -Man on the silver mountain
    -Catch the rainbow

  9. 9
    Steven Johnston says:

    When i listened to a Purple or Rainbow album back in the day i was always drawn towards the album tracks and not especially the standout tracks so my five in no particular order are.
    1 Rat Bat Blue.
    2 Rainbow Eyes.
    3 Lost In Hollywood.
    4 Eyes Of Fire.
    5 A200.

  10. 10
    ivica says:

    It’s hard…only five
    1.Child in Time 2.Highway Star 3.Burn 4.Pictures of Home 5.Eyes of the World

  11. 11
    Coverdian says:

    Anyway, very good written reflection of RB genius on “Radar”. I pick ´em up from another point of view (with full respect to Burn, Gates, Stargazer, Burn, Highway etc etc).
    My FIVES:

    RUN WITH THE WOLF (for clarity of expression, simple… but stunning… idea of rhythm… and of course for collaboration with another genius besides Lordy… RJD

    LADY OF THE LAKE (SOOOO simple… but you must be THAT guitarist/composer to feel at once that less is more. And vocals of THAT caliber rise the thing up to heavens!

    YOU CAN DO IT RIGHT (another example that good riff is evelated to higher quality with good singers)

    STARSTRUCK (yes, another pick from helluva Rising album… in this case for breataking technicity of riff… ask some guitarists!)

    SPOTLIGHT KID (are you kidding me? It´s heavy rock ultimate sin! Excellent… both from “Difficult…” LP and from San Antonio gig…)

    thousand of thanx Ritchie, you´re making my life in esthetic hard rock feelings.

  12. 12
    Renato Marschall Torres says:

    1 – Flight of The Rat.
    2 – Burn.
    3 – Stormbringer.
    4 – Man on The Silver Mountain
    5 – Knocking at Your Back Door

  13. 13
    MacGregor says:

    I would never have Child in Time in my top 50, let alone as an ‘honourable’ mention. Still as they say, ‘each to their own’! The song isn’t a guitar song, take out the solo & well, enough said! A tough take on creating a favourite 5, maybe 10, even attempting that is really impossible, maybe a 20? Oh sod it, make it a 50, with Child in Time 51st! Now to work out in which order, forget it, there are too many classics.
    The Man in Black, Brilliant. Cheers.

  14. 14
    ivica says:

    “The song isn’t a guitar song, take out the solo & well”

    An eagle that has no wings is not an eagle …more chickens


  15. 15
    MacGregor says:

    ivica @ 14 – back in the day as a young impressionable lad, Deep Purple in Rock was the album that did it. As we grow & meet other people who have similar tastes in music, the guitarists of certain loud rock bands were the influence & talking point on many occasions. Child in Time was never mentioned as a great guitar ‘song’ as so many others were. As we know it has other elements to it & because it is rarely if ever covered as a tune in an attempt to play or jam on, well that could be another reason. Just look at the In Rock album song list, every other track is a killer for guitar & there is a ‘top’ 5 there, well actually a top 6 or even a top 7 if we include Black Night. However no Child in Time, a song that has been skipped on my play list for many decades. Not because it is a bad song, just because it is different & maybe the falsetto vocal wears a little over time. A superb guitar solo from the Man in Black though. Each to their own & I notice other people here are not placing it into their top 5 either, it is all good though. It is all great rock music. Cheers.

  16. 16
    Andres says:

    Five more:

    A light in the black
    Eyes of the world
    Maybe next time
    Tearin’ out my heart
    A gypsy’s kiss

  17. 17
    Dr. Bob says:

    Chronological order:
    Child in Time
    Highway Star
    Rat Bat Blue

  18. 18
    Uwe Hornung says:

    My brethren, the late Vince Wallace, a renowned American jazz tenor saxophonist, would like to know why his original composition (at 01:50)


    is suddenly credited here to some Brit no-name guitarist he never met?!!!

    Child in Time is not a Blackmore composition, not even a Jon Lord one (as regards the keyboard intro; some creative input came at least from Gillan’s vocal lines to put credit where credit is due), it’s based on an arrangement by It’s A Beautiful Day


    who in turn had picked up the original idea from Herr Wallace (which they conveniently chose to forget) and put it on their first album.

    Prior to recording In Rock, the Purps had It’s A Beautiful Day’s successful 1969 debut on heavy rotation, they all dug it, and at one In Rock session, Jon impromtu fooled around with it in a Vanilla Fudge (another DP role model) slow-motion manner, Ian G improvised a vocal line over it, and the rest, as they say, is history, albeit of a grand theft! ; – )

    So Ritchie had very little to do with Child in Time as a composition, he just played a cracker of a solo with his beloved cherry Gibson ES-335 over a fast one chord (!) shuffle he had insisted on sticking in the middle of the song to give him something to do. Thus he played

    – a memorable improvisation to a song

    – Purple had second generation purloined from a bunch of

    – Yank first generation purloiners who had apprehended it from

    -some poor guy that never got any credit (or saw money) for it.

    Not sure that qualifies it as a Blackmore song or even as one of his trademark riff. If so, then Since You’ve Been Gone is another one. : – )

    I still like the song. : – ) In all three versions, Vince Wallace’s original jazz composition with its Indian feel is well worth a listen, it’s Ethno before Ethno.

    With current DP, unfortunately, the signature song has become the band’s Lord Voldemort, “the song that may not be named or played”. Which I think is a pity; no one is reasonably expecting Ian G to still do those passagio-falsetto screams today, I’d be fine hearing him sing the lyric part with the screamed melody being played by instruments.

    The importance of ChiT for early Mk 2 cannot be overestimated. It was the song off the album people would play to Purple sceptics to impress them (and it worked everytime, guess why Purple played it ahead of the ’69 Concerto?) and it is the reason why DP were initially perceived as at least part-“Prog” and “underground” and not just as another guitar-based heavy blues combo.

    I’ll never forget playing In Rock on our living room turntable while my father was sitting there reading a newspaper. He little more than endured it at first … my dad (born ’31) didn’t even like 50ies rock’n’roll. But as the last notes of Child in Time rang though our living room, he rose, folded his newspaper and said: “Das konnte man sich zur Abwechslung ja sogar einmal anhören …” ( = That was even listenable for a change …). : – )

  19. 19
    getahed says:

    “STARSTRUCK (yes, another pick from helluva Rising album… in this case for breathtaking technicity of riff… ask some guitarists!)”

    Mmmh: The riff is not that technical: If fact is pretty easy to play to be honest. RB has does far more technical riffs: “Can’t do it right” for one, The “Hard Loving Man” riff sounds easy but its a harder technique to get the ‘chug-chuging’ spot on.

  20. 20
    rockdoch says:

    Why didn’t Rosemary !

    The whole song is one never ending guitar solo.

  21. 21
    Andres says:

    And five more…

    Pictures of home
    Woman from Tokyo
    Catch the rainbow
    Kill the king
    Fire in the basement

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