The artistic success of Rainbow’s first two albums had emboldened an army of bootleggers to try and capture the live thrills Ritchie Blackmore’s quintet of hard rockers. This had in turn prompted Blackmore himself to make the rather questionable decision to release an official live album, effectively to scupper the bootleg market for Rainbow live recordings.
The trouble was, for all each individual band member’s virtuosity, with just two studio albums under their belt, Rainbow just didn’t have the depth of material to justify a single live album, never mind the double that the rather plainly titled On Stage. This resulted in On Stage consisting of tracks dragged out to extraordinary lengths, and even a side long version of “Mistreated”, a Blackmore penned number that he had originally recorded as a member of Deep Purple, whose legacy he was otherwise trying to distance himself from.
Despite being a little bit premature, Rainbow’s official live album did benefit from featuring “Kill the King”, easily the most dynamic number on the album, and tantalisingly a preview of the material that would feature on the following year’s Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll was therefore anticipated, despite the habitual Rainbow line up shake up, which had seen bass player Jimmy Bain and keyboard man Tony Carey replaced by Bob Daisley and David Stone respectively. Sensibly Blackmore had retained the services of iconic Heavy Metal vocalist Ronnie James Dio, who had already done so much to write to the book on how to be a Heavy Metal frontman, and Cozy Powell, any Hard Rock / Heavy Metal act’s first call when needing to replace a departing drummer. With a solid backbeat, Dio’s diminutive, yet charismatic presence, and his own technical virtuosity on an ornately scalloped stratocaster fretboard, Blackmore must have felt confident in Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll continuing to establish Rainbow as one of the key Heavy Metal acts of the late 70s.
Listening to both over 40 years after their release, it’s still a bit of a toss up as to whether Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll or the preceding studio effort Rising that is the definitive Rainbow album. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll is slightly (very slightly) lighter on the sword and sourcery elements that Dio was so fond of, and in general the songs are slightly more economical, however on the flip side, there are a couple of filler tracks and closer “Rainbow Eyes” is the prime period Rainbow number which splits the option of the fanbase like no other. There’s also the odd decision to have “Kill the King” open the second half of the album rather than just kick off the whole album with it, as it is easily the song Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll which gets the blood pumping fastest. In retrospect, perhaps the call should have been made to switch the the title track and “Kill the King” in the sequence.
For many fans Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll is the final Rainbow album which they bother with, as it is the last one fronted by Dio, as he would walk away from the band to be replaced by Graham Bonnet, who would only remain for a single album, albeit one that featured the band’s well deserved breakout hit single “Since You Been Gone”. Bonnet himself would be replaced by the infinitely less interesting Joe Lynn Turner and Rainbow went full on AOR, and in the process of doing so lost a lot of what had made them such a thrilling prospect in the first place, despite the constant presence of Blackmore, who was still considered one of the finest guitar players of his generation.
By 1984 the Deep Purple Mk2 reunion was inevitable.