I know I'm jumping in very late in the procedings... But being the Blackmore nut that I am (I was pretty much raised on RB's Rainbow), I thought I'd voice my opinion anyway...
First of all, I think the guys in Deep Purple made a very wise decision with Morse - hell, the guy's been in Purple longer than Blackmore by now! I have seen Purple on every tour from Perfect Strangers and on... and was actually in Esbjerg when they played with Satch. IMHO Satch was terrible at that show and he seriously strengthened my belief that there was, indeed, no life after Blackmore. However, then came Purpendicular (an excellent album) and a string of GREAT concerts with Morse and here we are 13 years after Blackmore's departure with Purple still going strong (yet sadly, also missing Jon Lord).
Secondly, Blackmore was one of the biggest rock stars in the world in the '70's and early '80's - hence, calling him a "forgotten hero" might be pushing it a bit. Yet, it is very obvious that guys like Page, Clapton and Iommi are receiving much more recognition for their work than old Blackers is these days.
My favourite Blacmore moments are from watching him live with Rainbow, both in the early '80's and the mid '90's... Believe it or not, Blackmore's playing was STELLAR on the tour he did for Stranger in Us All, right after his terrible performances on the Battle Rages On tour - the concert he did in Copenhagen with Doogie White on vocals is the most spine tingling live experience I've ever had... the amazing extended solos of old were back, as was the intensity, feel and creativity that we all know and love.
Sadly, I was too young to catch the Rainbow (sic!) with Dio, but I would kill for tickets to a reunion concert... even with the "golden oldies" tag bound to be hung on the shoulders of the two gentlemen.
For recorded Blackmore, my suggestions are:
Deep Purple: Fireball - IMHO Purple's best album
Rainbow: Rising - just about the best record ever made... goosebumps at the outro of Stargazer anyone?
For live recordings of Blackmore you absolutely need to own Made in Japan... and the amazing double live CD from Rainbow's '76 German tour.
If you like DVDs, Rainbow's show from Munich '77 is not a bad choice.
P.s.: Blackmore is the reason I started playing guitar in the first place, and my love of Strats undoubtedly has a lot to do with the man in black.
"Do be do be do" - Frank Sinatra