There could be a whole discussion on the credibility of repeated album reissues with bonus tracks of rough mixes, studio out-takes, interviews and live tracks from the period. For the aficionado of the band in question, reissues such as this are an important historical document giving the consumer insight and context, and, as is often the case, extensive and trustworthy sleeve notes. These factors are very often a major selling point. There is obviously a market for extensive reissue packages (witness the recent gargantuan King Crimson “Larks Tongues in Aspic” box), and readers of this piece could be argued to be the demographic.
“Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”, featuring Ronnie James Dio, Ritchie Blackmore and Cozy Powell, will be a familiar body of work to the devoted and this particular release will not disappoint. The opening ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ will be familiar to most anyone who has even a passing interest in music, it is still a joy to hear, and sing along to and is the epitome of the classic album opening track. ‘Lady of the Lake’ features dark and foreboding guitar riffs and restrained soloing from Blackmore, and a intelligent change of mood from moody verse to stirring chorus. Another tune familiar to those involved is ‘L.A. Connection’, riding on unhurried, solemn and imposing percussion cut through with towering guitar lines. For many, the axis of the album is ‘Gates of Babylon’ with its opening Eastern flavoured synthesiser salute, dynamic verse and chorus structure, angular guitar solos and baleful cries of “The devil will take you away!”. Regular concert opener “Kill the King” is as exhilarating now as when it was first heard on the original release, with Blackmore’s soloing doubtless to induce an army of bedroom air guitarists to pick up their axe. The ending few moments of ‘Kill the King’ may inspire a discussion on the most momentous ending to a metal tune in history.
The overall pace of the album meanders gently to an end on the last three tracks, produced in the halcyon days when track sequencing was still a major consideration, it could be argued. ‘The Shed’ still retains the general momentum with hammering percussion and subtly repeating guitar motifs, whilst ‘Sensitive to Light’ loses an element of the heaviness of previous tracks, but gains integrity through being amusing to play and croon along to, “Sensitive to light…ah!”. The sensitive ‘Rainbow Eyes’, augmented with flute and strings and stirring arpeggios, may bring a tear to the eye of even the most unsentimental old music enthusiast.
There has been some discussion around the fact that “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” was possibly trying too hard to reach a wider audience, and in doing so, lost some of the vitality that was inherent in previous releases. However much the discourse may have moved on, the album continues to be evocative of many youthful memories and experiences. Disc two features five reasonably coherent live tracks from Don Kirschner’s Show, and a superbly raw seven minute rehearsal version of ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’. Access to this material can only enhance the overall experience of hearing the album again in a new century, and the well trodden argument as to whether or not these additional tracks, including numerous recurring versions, will benefit from repeated play is irrelevant for those wishing to dissect their music a little more deeply.