The third release from Rainbow, “On Stage” could have been argued to have been a courageous move so early in their recorded output. It could also be seen as a confident move, or an endeavour to buy further time before the release of “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll”. Whatever the reasons, they are purely academic, and this reissue allows newcomers and enthusiasts the opportunity to revisit the splendour that was Rainbow at this moment in time. Whatever one’s opinion on taped introductions, the dialogue from “The Wizard of Oz” is pure theatrics and is the perfect preamble.
Like many Rainbow performances of the time this set begins with the invigorating ‘Kill the King’. Another brave move as this song was yet to be released on the follow up “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” album. This version will not disappoint with it breathtaking speed and vitality. Dio’s voice is on fine form and appears self-assured and authoritative. The solos burst out of the tune in rapid succession and the stall is set out. ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ has an urgency that was never evident on the album version, and features an extended ‘Blues Starstruck’ which showcases some intricate guitar and organ based blues and what sounds remarkably like a duck adding a few choice phrases.
Another extended piece augmented by some searing guitar soloing is the ballad ‘Catch the Rainbow’ which, at over fifteen minutes, may for some be outstaying its welcome, but for the Rainbow devotee is a treat for the ears. Testing the patience of the casual listener again ‘Mistreated’, the Deep Purple song, is characterised by lengthy guitar workouts, which symbolize the Rainbow live experience, and should possibly be seen from that perspective. The vocals are, however, overflowing with passion and taken together, the experience of hearing it here is not objectionable.
‘Sixteenth Century Greensleeves’ next, from “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”, gives an indication as to where Blackmore’s career would in due course be heading. Opening with a dramatic guitar adaptation of ‘Greensleeves’, the piece then moves into overdrive with a plethora of medieval metaphors. Closing the original album release is a version of The Yardbirds‘ ‘Still I’m Sad’ from the first album, which provides a vehicle for each band member to solo to extremity. For the dedicated Rainbow collector, the second disc of this deluxe reissue will be of particular interest. Featuring tracks recorded at a show in Osaka in December 1976, the running order may be truer to the original show, but the music featured is of comparable content to the first disc.‘Mistreated’, ‘Catch the Rainbow’ and ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ reappear in extended form, with the only addition being ‘Do Close Your Eyes’, another example of the showmanship and theatricality that characterised a Rainbow show of the time.
The tracks that make up the original release of “On Stage” were taken from recordings made in Germany and Japan in 1976 during the “Rising” world tour, and are comprised of various song segments splices together by producer Martin Birch. There appears to be much discussion online as to what could have been included on the original album, and this reissue, and, as Frank Zappa did with many of his recordings, the splicing together of the best segments to produce what is essentially a fake representation of events. However the criticisms are levelled, these recordings are pleasurable and inspiring pieces of work.