Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Rainbow - 1978 - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll

Long Live Rock 'N' Roll

101. Long Live Rock'N'Roll
102. Lady Of The Lake
103. L. A. Connection
104. Gates Of Babylon
105. Kill The King
106. The Shed (Subtle)
107. Sensitive To Light
108. Rainbow Eyes

Rough Mixes, 4th July 1977
201. Lady Of The Lake
202. Sensitive To Light
203. L.A. Connection
204. Kill The King
205. The Shed (Subtle)
206. Long Live Rock'N'Roll
207. Rainbow Eyes
Shepperton Film Studios Rehersal, August 1977
208. Long Live Rock'N'Roll (Take 1)
209. Kill The King
Don Kirshner's Rock Concert With Alternative Vocals, Aired 6th October 1978
210. Long Live Rock'N'Roll
211. L.A. Connection
212. Gates Of Babylon
213. L.A. Connection (Outtake Version)
214. Gates Of Babylon (Outtake Version)

- Ronnie James Dio / lead vocals
- Ritchie Blackmore / guitar, bass
- David Stone / keyboards (4-6), piano outro (3)
- Bob Daisley / bass (4,5,7)
- Cozy Powell / drums, percussion

- Bavarian String Ensemble (4)
- Rainer Pietsch / strings orchestration & conducting (4,8)
- Ferenc Kiss / concertmaster (4), violin (8)
- Nico Nicolic / violin (8)
- Ottmar Machan / viola (8)
- Karl Heinz Feit / cello (8)
- Rudi Risavy / flute (8)

"Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" is one of the greatest hard rock albums ever released by a British band. This classic was the final Ronnie James Dio-fronted recording by RAINBOW, and truly deserved a Deluxe Edition with extra material. This Japanese Edition on SHM-CD sounds fantastic, and as it was requested by one of you and used copies are above $100 on eBay, here it is.

After this album, Ronnie James Dio would go on to front Black Sabbath, while guitarist Richie Blackmore hired a new singer in Graham Bonnet. But "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" remains as more a than brilliant swan song for this excellent Rainbow line-up.
The title track is a fan favorite and one of the strongest tunes from this era - a heavy rockin' cracker written for arenas. "Lady of the Lake" is a kick ass number featuring haunting background vocals, and still sound fresh today, even more with this pristine remaster.

"L.A. Connection" has great keyboard tinglings from David Stone and 'that' atmosphere, then "Gates of Babylon" is a mammoth track featuring the Bavarian String Ensemble, as synthesizer and strings combine for a symphonic big-rock sound. Another standout is "Kill the King," a speedy, full force tune with Mr. Blackmore doing what he does best.
Blackmore opens the thunderous "The Shed (Subtle)" with a fluid, effects-laden bluesy solo, and then the album ends with the jewel "Rainbow Eyes", a seven-minute epic that features a string quartet, flute, and Dio's euphonic balladry.

This digitally remastered and expanded Deluxe 2-CD Edition features a whole CD of bonus material with the album in a Rough Mix form as well as rehearsals and outtakes.
The main album remastered has a more top-end clarity, while the bonus CD of previously unheard material is really good. The rough mix of "Rainbow Eyes" alone worth the purchase of this pack. This version, without the overdubs it's very 'alone' and poignant sounding which has extra significance with the passing of Ronnie James Dio.

 This is one of those albums that was probably more impressive due to its timing than its actual content. That being said, the tracks here are all works that stand the test of time rather well.
The album was released on the heels of ‘Rainbow Rising’ and the powerful ‘On Stage’ live release that documented the supporting tour. The band still had the lethal trio of Ritchie Blackmore, Cozy Powell, and incomparable voice of Ronnie James Dio behind the microphone. That combined with the band’s popularity at the time made this a hard album to screw up, but the band delivered eight killer tracks anyway just to make sure.

I was in my late teens at the time and still screaming around the countryside in my V8- powered muscle car whenever I had the chance, and this was some great music to accompany such an activity I must say. I can’t really point to a bad track, and in my opinion several of them should be considered timeless metal classics.

The title track is a sort of headbanger’s anthem, very tight with power chords and piercing drums and just the right touch on cymbals to make you stand up and take notice. Kind of frivolous lyrics, but like the rest of the album this song was made for the live stage and for radio, and it accomplished its goals quite well.

Dio starts to warm up his pipes with “Lady of the Lake”, a pseudo-mystic kind of tune that still pops into my head like a tripping seventies flashback almost any time I’m driving with plenty of gas in my car’s tank and an open road in front of me. “L.A. Connection” is kind of the same, except just slightly more restrained and with Dio’s vocals not quite into the dog-whistle range.

The showcase pieces on this album are “Gates of Babylon” and “Kill the King”. The first one is another mystical-metal song with Dio in prime form and Blackmore laying down some absolutely nasty guitar licks and Dave Stone’s keyboards really sounding eerie like a good fantasy metal tune should. The latter was played on the band’s ‘Rising’ tour, but here it gets a little studio discipline applied to it which serves to highlight Blackmore’s incredible speed on the six-strings. Dio has the exact same vocal timbre he would use on Kansas alumni Kerry Livgren’s ‘Seeds of Change’ solo album a couple years later, and I kind of wonder if this is where Livgren got the idea to use Dio as the demonic symbol for his basically Christian rock album in 1980. Perhaps.

“The Shed” is another tune that was probably intended to be a live tour staple with its sweeping arrangements and rather simple rhythm, but it’s also another one that sticks in your head even years after you’ve first heard it, and you have to admire a song that does that.

Dio’s vocal peak comes with “Sensitive to Light” with a shrieking refrain and more torrid guitar by Blackmore. Frankly I think this one is too short and that the band could have developed it a bit with some of the keyboard/orchestral dressage that they put into the closing track “Rainbow Eyes”. I seem to recall a video of that last tune back in the seventies, or maybe it was a medley from this album – can’t quite recall. Anyway, this is a nicely complex arrangement with lots of percussion, keyboards and other fluff, but maybe could have had a minute of two trimmed from it. A minor quibble in any case.

I wore out both an 8-track and a vinyl version of this album back in the late seventies, but still have an aging Maxell cassette that I made from the old vinyl before it gave out. Many of these songs still pop into my head from time to time, and I can still get a rush from listening to this nearly thirty years later. I think the addition of Stone added the most to the band for this album, as he brought just a bit of studio discipline and some classical training that helps give the album a kind of timeless feel. But most of all fans of Blackmore or Dio should have this record because it showcases both of them at what may have been the peak of their creativity and technical skills. A truly great album

I don’t know if I’ve stated this before (probably!), but I’m a huge, nay massive, Rainbow fan. None more so than the Blackmore/Dio pairing. Especially the period where they could do no wrong (Rising & LLRNR). For me, the Blackmore-Dio writing partnership was, and still is the best in the business ('Tarot Woman', 'Stargazer', 'Kill The King', 'LLRNR', 'Gates of Babylon etc).Forget Lennon & McCartney, Iommi & Butler, Plant & Page, this was a (brief) partnership that delivered unparalleled quality, and should have had the chance to develop further if it wasn’t for Blackmore’s desire to polish things up a little and disband this quality team. My only real criticism of Ritchie was this loss, and ultimately Sabbaths gain.

I’m also a big, big fan of this ‘Deluxe’ CD format. There’s been the Dio / Sabbath / Lizzy / Rainbow reissues which truly deserve a listen, as some of the extras are truly superb for the discerning rock/metal fan. The layout is superb, with liner notes to die for.

Keeping up this tradition is the newly released Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. Dare I say it, but 'LLRNR' has a better flow than Rising, and the quality of songs still hold strong today, some 34 years after its original release. You get a rather nice gatefold sleeve, complete with liner notes, and lyrics which the album never had.

The jewel for me is the bonus disc, choc full of Rainbow rough mixes, a couple of songs from the (then new) band’s rehearsal’s at Shepperton Studios, including a jam-tastic version of 'LLRNR', and a clutch of songs from a US appearance on Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert. The latter is the last recorded vocals of Dio on a Rainbow recording, as two months later, Ronnie had also departed, leaving Blackmore and Powell as sole custodians

With the rough mixes the changes are subtle except for the barnstorming ‘The Shed (Subtle)’ much heavier than the original, and I must admit, a contender as being better than the original! It is minus the Blackmore intro, but kicks off in full force going straight for the goolies, with a bass driven section (this probably being the main reason it was dropped). The main other, being one of my all time fave Dio songs, 'Rainbow Eyes', is quite similar, but with a different phrasing. It’s minus the string section, and it’s a slightly haunting piece with Carey's keyboards simmering in the background along with Blackmore.  It’s truly a pleasure to hear these alternate versions of long loved classics.

The rehearsal pieces again are wonderful. Showing Rainbow at their most creative, a 7 minute rearranged version of LLRNR (Take 1), more typical of Rainbow's live performances, and RJD improvising as only he did, inter-playing with guitar and keys. 'Kill The King' has Daisley's playing right at fore front.

The Don Kirshner Rock Concert is Ritchie's stab at the US market. Utilising the studio backing tracks, Dio sung new vocal lines over the top, and his performance is just....Ronnie!!

I won’t really comment on the original other to say it’s one of Rock's finest from the 70s or any other era. Blackmore/Dio/Powell were on fire and the 8 songs they laid down continue to inspire and please bands and fans 35 years down the line

However, it was all soon to change to a more radio FM chasing Rainbow, but this is a mighty fine testament to one of Rock's finest bands, and one that Blackmore would never ever get near to again. I know it's what he wanted, but this is by far the greatest era in Rainbow and Blackmore's history. Ignore all previous releases (except your beloved vinyl) and embrace the wonder that is 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll'.

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