Hey, I'm a wild cat Don't need to prove that I'm always howlin' prowlin' Stalkin' my prey It could be your night To feel the dog bite And hear the slashin', crashin' Tearin' inside of you 'The Shed (Subtle)'
‘Abandon subtlety* all ye who dare enter here‘ should be emblazoned in 32pt gothic script on the inner sleeve of Rainbow Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll. Ronnie James Dio’s 1978 last hurrah with the band which raised him from a washed-up Elf, to a leather-lunged colossus bestriding the world of rock**.
Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll was a cheap purchase about five years ago, one of those under-£5-I-have-no-burning-desire-but-it-will-fill-a-gap type of Tuesday lunchtime buys. The positives really stack up. It was Rainbow era Dio! It featured Cozy Powell! The title track was a real belter! I liked the crap biro drawing on the (textured) cover that made Ritchie Blackmore look a bit like Richard III, but in a comedy Blackadder-style! Need I add any more exclamation marks?!
So, as you need to when Dio-ing, you need to pass through the irony airlock, crank the portentometer up to 9, raise the portcullis and embrace some full-on castle rock.
It is fitting that the first sounds you hear on Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll are Cozy Powell’s machine-gunning-drumming and RJD exclaiming ‘All right!’. If you have a millilitre of rock in your bloodstream you simply have to love the title track. It just has that perfect Rainbow/Deep Purple bouncing mid-tempo strut going down. It’s a song built solely to accommodate a great chorus and a good bit of soloing from Mr Blackmore, who needs any of that subtlety shit? this is just perfectly designed to wedge itself in your hyper-tunal cortex and AM radio. Perfect.
Next up a track about some mythical watery bint, as Monty Python would have it, as the titular lady rises ‘with a delicate move kind of shifty and smooth / A shadow has covered the light‘. Again there is a bouncy, almost funky edge to the tune, bassist Bob Daisley really brings it here to this fanciful tale. In contrast ‘L.A Connection’ is a menacing hard stomp, with a chorus that softens it a bit and some excellent barrelhouse piano playing almost hidden in the mix, courtesy of David Stone.
The majestic ‘Gates Of Babylon’ follows, Ritchie B gives it some serious welly on the guitar front and I like the slight suggestion of the east in the music but tonight it just misses a gear for me. ‘Kill The King’ is much more my thing, uncoiling from the instrumental intro like a vaselined^ cobra, I just love the concentrated blast of this one. It rattles along at a terrific rate in a much more focused manner than a lot of the tracks here and administers a harder ass-kicking as a result.
The mysteriously-titled ‘The Shed (Subtle)’^^ is up next and again I love this one, bluesy intro and all. It is a lot of fun to hear Dio play the tough street guy, I bet all the dragons trembled when they first heard this one. ‘Sensitive To Light’ is a bit of a placeholder, nothing wrong with it, but nothing too right either. Still, it does set up epic closer ‘Rainbow Eyes’ a treat – pastoral balladation and all. I really enjoy Dio singing something softer here, but it does go on a bit.
To my jaded 2019 ears^* there is something agreeably old school about listening to Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll today. Devoid of gimmicks, anything too flash other than the playing and the odd flight of fancy aside, it is all rather blokey and happy. You can hear the very beginning of Rainbow’s transition to a far more slick operation here too in the likes of ‘L.A Connection’ as Blackmore sought to wrestle his band onto the airwaves, albeit at the cost of a few more band members.
The playing is great throughout the LP, the rhythm section stand out even more than Blackmore, but Cozy Powell never did play on an album without pushing himself to the front of the sound.
My favourite non-‘Kill The King’ thing about this LP is the black clad legion of fans that adorn the gatefold with their big Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll banner. Apparently all lifted and airbrushed from a Rush gig – all logos removed! Lord knows what was on the original banner, potentially a learned treatise on the Temples of Syrinx or a picture of both By-Tor and the snow dog; we’ll never know.
Now I will bid you adieu before with a swivel of my hips I leave the room with a ‘delicate move kind of shifty and smooth’, as always. Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll!!
PS: Just becauss.
PPS: CD and streaming folk get a better deal here via a bunch of rough mixes on the rereleases. I prefer these versions of ‘Lady Of the Lake’ and ‘Sensitive To Light’, both sound tougher and, umm, rougher.
*and g’s on verbs.
**well as much bestriding as you can do at 5’4″. Cestriding? Destriding?
^is ‘vaselined’ a real word? it should be.
^^anyone know the story here? I have two sheds, love them both dearly and all that, but I have yet to pen a song to them.
^*that’s a lot of ears.