Long Live Rock And Roll

Rainbow

Polydor, 1978

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_(band)

REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/12/2010

In 1998 I received my first CD player as a Christmas gift, and at last began to upgrade my music library from cassettes to compact discs.  At the time, I was in the midst of discovering classic rock, with Led Zeppelin being my band of choice at fourteen years of age.  The first two albums I added to my CD collection, in the form of accompanying stocking-stuffers, were Aerosmith’s Done With Mirrors and Rainbow’s Long Live Rock And Roll.  The Aerosmith disc was relegated to being a coaster substitute after a few spins -- but Long Live Rock And Roll was an instant favorite.  Ten-plus years later, it still holds up well, with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, vocalist Ronnie James Dio and drummer Cozy Powell offering a high-energy riff-fest without a single throwaway track in this album’s 40-minute running time.

In some ways, Long Live Rock And Roll was a return to the more meat-and-potatoes songwriting approach of Rainbow’s debut album.  With the success of 1976’s Rising and 1977’s live effort, On Stage,  the band quickly gained a reputation for the grandiose scale of songs like “Stargazer” and their twenty-minute live renditions of “Catch The Rainbow,” vaulting Blackmore and company into borderline progressive rock territory.  Long Live Rock And Roll sees them scale things down considerably.  The title track in particular, with its banal lyrics and anthemic chorus, hint at the commercial direction that Blackmore would take the band following Dio’s departure.  That said, it is an ideal single.  Cozy lays down a solid groove, Dio’s bellowing voice is as powerful as ever, and Ritchie offers a delightful, trademark solo. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The majority of the songs though, still bear Dio’s stamp, despite Ritchie’s efforts to push the band into radio-friendly territory.  “Lady Of The Lake” is something of a forgotten gem in the band’s catalogue.  In most cases, a verse such as “There’s a magical sound slidin’ over the ground / Making it shiver and shake / And a permanent cry fallin’ out of the sky / Slippery and sly like a snake” would inspire snickers. Coming from Dio though, it sounds majestic.  The man was at his peak, vocally, and he shines on a number of these tracks.

A surprise star of the album is drummer Cozy Powell.  The average fan will make reference to his introductory solo to “Stargazer,” but what about some of the great performances on this album?  From his blistering take on “Kill The King” to the heavy beat of “L.A. Connection” or “The Shed (Subtle),” Cozy is a perfect foil to Blackmore on Long Live Rock And Roll, showing that there’s plenty of room to decorate a song with tasteful fills in four minutes as opposed to eight.

It’s difficult to pick a highlight as far as Blackmore’s playing goes on this album, as he has ample room to tear it up on every song.  But a review of Long Live Rock And Roll would not be complete without mention of “Gates Of Babylon,” the closest that Ritchie would ever get to recording a successor to “Stargazer.” With a full-out string ensemble in tow, the band takes the Eastern motif to a new level.  The song is a fine example of the chemistry this lineup had, with its fantastic lyrical imagery, exotic guitar solo and sheer atmosphere. Who needs Led Zep’s “Kashmir” when you have a song like this?

Long Live Rock And Roll would prove to be the final collaboration between Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio -- a short, if outstanding, partnership that produced a trio of classic albums.  While none of the songs here had quite the same staying power as “Man On The Silver Mountain,” it is arguably their most polished and satisfying work, devoid of filler or drawn-out epics.  Blackmore, in particular, would never recapture the sheer fire he had on this record, traveling a woeful path through radio rock and half-baked Deep Purple reunions before settling on a life as a minstrel.  Dio, on the other hand, would move on to better things, with Long Live Rock And Roll proving to be but a dress rehearsal for his classic debut with Black Sabbath in 1980’s Heaven And Hell.

Rating: B+

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