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Rainbow: Long Live Rock 'N' Roll - Album Of The Week Club review

Ronnie James Dio's swansong with Rainbow contained hints of what was to come, but still delivered swords 'n' sorcery aplenty

Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll cover art
(Image: © Polydor)
Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll

Rainbow - Long Live Rock 'N' Roll cover art

(Image credit: Polydor)

Long Live Rock 'N' Roll
Lady of the Lake
L.A. Connection
Gates of Babylon
Kill the King
The Shed (Subtle)
Sensitive to Light
Rainbow Eyes

The partnership between former Deep Purple wiz Ritchie Blackmore and Ronnie James Dio was never better than on Rising. And although they gave it everything they had on Long Live Rock ’N’ Roll, the lyrics for this album’s title track proved strangely prescient. 

Dio sang of “writing on the wall”, and so it was. Long Live Rock’N’Roll would be Dio’s swansong for Rainbow, and he went out as he came in, throwing the horns and singing like a messenger of the gods. Gates Of Babylon was this album’s Stargazer, another of Dio’s desert-themed epic tales. Kill The King had him crying treason as Blackmore drove the band at top speed. 

While there were new additions to the group, the album continued in the ‘castle rock’ style of the first two records. Kill The King was all blood and thunder, a precursor to battle metal. Gates Of Babylon was another dusty, Arabic-themed set piece. And the triumphant title track would become an anthem – for Rainbow, and also for Dio in his later career.

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Other albums released in April 1978

  • Double Platinum - Kiss
  • For You - Prince
  • Hermit of Mink Hollow - Todd Rundgren
  • The Last Waltz - The Band
  • Saga - Saga
  • Long Live Rock 'N' Roll - Rainbow
  • Heavy Horses - Jethro Tull
  • Mutiny Up My Sleeve - Max Webster
  • Bad Boy - Ringo Starr
  • Heaven Tonight - Cheap Trick
  • Adventure - Television
  • Cats Under The Stars - Jerry Garcia Band
  • A Live Record - Camel
  • The Only Ones - The Only Ones
  • Please Don't Touch - Steve Hackett
  • Rainbow Takeaway - Kevin Ayers
  • V2 - The Vibrators

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What they said...

"While the material is not quite as strong as on the previous studio effort, Rising, Long Live Rock 'N' Roll maintains the momentum the band had built up. Kill The King had been previously heard on the live On Stage record, but here it sounds more fully realised. Also, the title track from the album stands as one of the best songs the band did, not to mention a noble sentiment. (AllMusic)

"Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll is mystical, melodic English heavy metal at its best (despite the newdutch Dio), dancing with the dark spirits as only the English can do. It has Arthurian legend (Lady Of The Lake), demonology (Gates Of Babylon), medieval intrigue (Kill The King) and an affinity for darkness (Sensitive To Light). Judas Priest were selling the same sermon, but their star was still rising. Rainbow had risen to its logical height; in the absence of Sabbath and Zeppelin, here was the Devil’s Captain leading the charge." (Progrography)

"This may have been the final Rainbow studio album with Ronnie James Dio at the vocal helm, but what a way to bow out; from anthemic tracks such as the title track, through the Middle Eastern-flavoured Gates of Babylon and the heavy metal track Kill the King where Ritchie Blackmore plays a guitar solo which is well ahead of its time, Rainbow truly were the kings of rock n’ roll at this time." (Metal Digest)

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What you said...

Greg Schwepe: Last Rainbow album with Ronnie James Dio. One of my favourite hard rock/metal vocalists. Having not listened to this one in awhile and giving it the full attention it deserved… a lot better than I had previously thought.

Ritchie Blackmore leaves Deep Purple. He’s sitting at home with his pocket knife scalloping the fretboard on one of his Strats; “Hmmm… I need a new band… what to do… what to do… Oh, I’ll call the singer in the band that opened for Purple!”

Since I always feel the need to provide the background of “where I was and what I was listening to at the time” for each week’s selection, here’s the Rainbow update! Had seen Rainbow albums at the local record store, knew it was Blackmore’s project, knew Ronnie James Dio and the band came from Elf, and was probably familiar with the one or two songs that got played on the radio where I lived. Guy in our dorm had a copy of On Stage that got played a lot. It wasn’t until 10-15 years ago that I bought all the Rainbow catalogue and really began to digest them all with the various lineups.

So, Long Live Rock 'N' Roll, I don’t know whether to review it or rank it against the other two Dio Rainbow albums. As much as I like the songs, the title track, Kill The King, the Middle East-flavoured Gates of Babylon, I keep going back to “it’s really good, but not quite as good as Rising or their debut…” Or something to that effect.

Having listened in detail to this one again, my opinion of it are the songs are a lot better than I originally thought. The consistent parts of this are Blackmore’s guitar and Ronnie’s voice. And Martin Birch has pretty much produced every hard rock album like this under the sun. You get a little of the mystery and “Castle Rock” style lyrics but the rest flat out rock styles. A hint of what’s to come in the later editions of Rainbow?

Back to the idea of comparing this to the other two Dio fronted Rainbow albums. I just feel like I need to say “Man, really good, but…” And it is really good, an “8” in my books, but just slightly behind Rising. If you’re a Rainbow fan, you’ll like this one. If Rainbow is a new find for you, check this one out after the first two albums.

Gino Sigismondi: Poor Long Live Rock 'N' Roll! Destined to live in the shadow of Rising (one of the top 10 greatest metal discs of all time), yet still a classic in its own right and the second-best of their catalog. In his never-ending quest to sabotage his own success, Ritchie was already starting to screw with the formula here- most notably replacing bassist Jimmy Bain with Bob Daisley. 

Ultimately, though, it isn't the bass-player swap that's the issue, but the slight shift towards a more pop metal sound. It's little wonder that this was bound to be Ronnie James Dio's final album with them (see L.A. Connection and the cheesy lyrics of Sensitive to Light). Still, Gates of Babylon rises to the epic level of Rising, and Kill The King is killer proto-speed metal. Martin Birch's production is as clear and snappy as ever, and the classy band portrait is easily Rainbow's best cover art (shades of Heaven and Hell to come, yes?). 9 out of 10 dragons.

Alex Hayes: Given the nature of the man, I highly doubt that Ritchie Blackmore has ever sat back, taken stock, and ruefully reflected on just how great the band that he managed to both assemble and then rip apart during those exciting early days of Rainbow in the late 70s really were.

With a line-up including no less than the legendary (and much missed) Ronnie James Dio and Cozy Powell, the still relatively fledgling band managed to hit the jackpot in 1976 with the seminal Rising, one of the finest rock albums of its era. What a colossal achievement that album still is. When judged as an overall package, album sleeve and all, Rising is damn near perfect. By 1981's Difficult To Cure album, every musician featured on Rising, bar Blackmore himself, was long gone. More than that, unfortunately, so too was Rainbow's early musical identity.

1978's Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is Rising's follow up, and the last Rainbow album to feature Dio. It's not as strong an album as Rising, and probably would always have struggled to live up to its illustrious predecessor. It's not as well balanced, and it also found the group stood at that infamous crossroads in their career. However, in places, Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is still excellent, and has more than enough quality to stand tall as a 'sequel'.

Quite apart from Long Live Rock 'N' Roll's superb, rollicking title track, that triple whammy of Gates Of Babylon, Kill The King and Blackmore's blistering opening to The Shed constitute 12 or so minutes of some of the finest music of Rainbow's entire career. Although still good, the rest of The Shed doesn't quite live up to that shit hot intro. Similarly, the rest of Long Live Rock 'N' Roll can't maintain the same gold standard as those previously mentioned tracks. Album closer Rainbow Eyes is quite tedious by comparison. It's a song that probably sounded a lot better on paper.

Really though, one of the most telling differences here from Rising is one of a changing mentality. Blackmore had recently been seduced by AOR, and was just starting out on his relentless mission for 'the hits'. It was a mission that Blackmore did succeed in all told, but God help anyone that got in his way in trying to achieve it.

I differ from a lot of fans in that I still quite enjoy Rainbow's successive Down To Earth and Difficult To Cure albums. This is despite the 'revolving door' band personnel and more mainstream feel to the music. Both albums are a different kind of Rainbow for sure, but still enjoyable enough. It's just that they don't measure up to the brilliance of Rising. Neither does Long Live Rock 'N' Roll to be honest, even though it gets bloody close at times.

It's certainly frustrating that Ritchie Blackmore managed to put almost the perfect musical package together in 1976, only for it to then quickly slip from his grasp. The worst part is, I don't think he ever fully understood that himself. And so, Rainbow went from being potentially one of the all-time great bands to merely a damn good one.

Uli Hassinger: Every Rainbow/Dio album is a stone cold classic. I would have a hard time if I would be forced to rank the three studio albums because they are all timeless rock gems.

Long Live Rock 'N' Roll contains only brilliant songs. Gates Of Babylon is the most outstanding because of its oriental touch. It's also the song Blackmore's guitar playing shines the most. Rainbow Eyes is one of the most sentimental ballad ever. A song to dream away. Dio's voice is just fabulous, mysterious like a fairytale. Kill The King is a brilliant rocker, same with the title song. The other four songs are more common but still great songs.

To me it's a 10/10 without any doubts.

Richard Slee: This and Rising were their peak by a mile. No filler. Even a great ballad.

Andrew Bramah: The title track is average at best. How on earth did it replace Stargazer in the live set list?

Adam Ranger: Dio was fired after this album for not writing commercial enough songs, and you can see the direction Ritchie wanted to take the band. Dio was a great vocalist, but sounds a bit awkward on a few of the shorter rockers, LA Connection, The Shed and Sensitive To Light. Still good though. But it's with the more fantasy style lyrics that he again shines: Gates Of Babylon, Kill The King and Lady Of The Lake are superb, both Dio and Blackmore in fine form. That said, the anthemic Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is as good a track of its type you will ever hear.

The letdown for me is Rainbow Eyes at over seven minute long. Seems like filler and should have been half as long. If the shorter songs show the direction Ritchie wanted to go after this album, Rainbow Eyes shows the direction he ultimately took with Blackmore's Knight. But apart from the last track it is a great rock'n'roll album.

Robert Dunn: I don't get the hate for Rainbow Eyes, one of my top ballads of all time. A beautiful song, beautifully sung by Ronnie and with a beautiful arrangement. An ex of mine suggested that it would be better without the guitar, but such heresy was swiftly dealt with.

I love this album. It shows an evolution from the out-and-out hard rock of Rising, and surprisingly, for a man who turned Deep Purple towards In Rock after The Concerto, there are some very orchestral arrangements on some of these tracks. Some people call LA Connection filler, but I like the groove. It was certainly a nod towards the kind of song Blackmore was wanting to write. 

Kill The King (the answer to the clue 'Rainbow commit regicide' in an old Kerrang! crossword) rattles along but I have to confess that during the solo it's Cozy Powell's bass drums that grab my attention. The standout track for me is Gates Of Babylon, some of the music in that is just crazy and the way it dances and weaves around before that chorus kicks in. Enough variety to have something for (almost) everyone, executed flawlessly. Not many bands have two 10/10 albums in a row, but Rainbow did.

Chris Elliott: I loved this album 40 years ago. It's a decent album but it's not as good as Rising. It has its moments, but it's never easy following a classic. The Deluxe version is a decent album accompanied by the same stuff all over again but not as good.

Rod Smith: Great album, but the worst of the Dio/Blackmore collaborations. Wonder what would have happened with the next one. Can’t see Dio singing any of the Joe Lynn Turner stuff.

Mike Canoe: A solid and enjoyable hard rock album. Dio and Blackmore were a formidable team, both as musicians and songwriters. The only thing I would have done differently is swap Gates Of Babylon with Rainbow Eyes in the running order. Kill The King" would sound all the harder for following the softest song on the album, and the epic Gates... would put a majestic finish to things.

Also, kudos to the late Martin Birch on what is at least his seventh appearance in the club as producer and/or engineer. That man knew how to make a rock 'n' roll record!

Gary Claydon: I've always thought it a shame that Rainbow are remembered as much for their more mainstream later output as they were for that truly glorious period in the 70s when they were as good as any heavy rock group on the planet - and far better than most.

Any band containing Blackmore, Dio and Powell – all three true giants of the heavy rock universe – would have to try really hard to make a mess of an album, particularly if you also add the production talent of Martin Birch, another great in his own right. And they clearly didn't make a mess of it. In terms of quality, Long Live Rock 'N' Roll sits squarely between the debut (good) and Rising (brilliant). So, a very good album then, but not an essential one. In among the genuinely superb (the title track, Lady Of The Lake, Gates Of Babylon, Kill The King) there is just enough of the 'ordinary' to keep it from being so (The Shed, Sensitive to Light, Rainbow Eyes).

Personally, I'd re-jig the track listing slightly. I'm tempted to say just swop L.A. Connection with Kill The King in the running order which would give the album a nigh-on perfect first side. It's not that L.A.Connection is a bad track as such but I think it suffers by comparison with the material that surrounds it (unsurprisingly). I also think it it needs to be a little bit quicker, as it is it plods ever-so-slightly. What I'd actually do, though is make Kill The King the closing track on the tried and trusted principle of "always leave 'em wanting more", which the over-long and lumpen Rainbow Eyes certainly doesn't.

There are clear pointers to the direction the post-Dio Rainbow would take but, overall, this was a helluva way for Ronnie James Dio to round off his stint with the band. 8/10.

Keith Jenkin: Not quite as good as Rising but not far short, but we always flipped the album back over to side one again long before Rainbow Eyes had run its course.

Elad Winberg: A masterpiece, and one of the best albums of all time! I like almost everything on here from the title track to more epic stuff such as Gates Of Babylon, Kill the King and Rainbow Eyes. My only complaint is usually about the song L.A Connection, which seemed very uninspired to me, but other than that, it's a classic metal/hard rock album, and a must have for any fan of Ritchie Blackmore, as well as any rocker and metalhead out there

Anthony Latz: Side one starts strong with the title song and finishes with one of the greatest opuses in Gates Of Babylon. Side two does not disappoint, with Kill The King and a couple of screamers before ending with a softer song in Rainbow Eyes. A great album, yet Blackmore was already scheming for a change of direction.

Dale Munday: Always going to be difficult to follow something as outstanding as Rising. And so it proved. This was the start of Blackmore's move to a more commercial sound. Nevertheless, still a great album ,but drops points for the drivel that is Rainbow Eyes.

John Davidson: Much has been made of Blackmore's image as a bit of a grumpy bastard and the revolving door policy on band members in Rainbow certainly supports that.

As a project Rainbow was never really a band as much as a backdrop for Blackmore's guitar work though Powell and Dio provided much need technical ability and character (as subsequent releases after they left would demonstrate)

This is his last collaboration with Ronnie James Dio, and in all honesty its Rainbow's last great hard rock album. Side one is flawless, with Lady Of The Lake and Gates Of Babylon providing the obligatory heavy metal fantasy .

Side two opens with the equally excellent Kill The King (first heard on On Stage) but then takes a bit of a dip with The Shed, Sensitive To Light and the ill-favoured ballad Rainbow Eyes.

The first five tracks are still on regular rotation in my car and I wouldn't skip the last 3 if they popped up. 8.5/10

Neil Wilson: Trying to top Rising was a big ask and to their credit, they almost did it as Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is an excellent follow-up, but the cringeworthy ballad Rainbow Eyes stopped it from being just as good. Almost, but not quite!

Philip Qvist: In my opinion, Ronnie James Dio was the greatest hard rock vocalist of all time - and between 1975 and 1985, with three different bands, he produced an unprecedented run of eight great studio records in a row; starting with Rainbow's debut and ending with Dio's Sacred Heart.

Three of those albums, Rising, Heaven & Hell and Holy Diver, are 10/10 perfect classics, but what about the other 5? Well, they score between 8 and 9 on my rankings, and Long Live Rock 'N' Roll is an easy 9.

The title track is one of my favourite Rainbow songs (my anthem in fact), Kill The King rocks hard, while Gates Of Babylon is another Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore epic. Lady Of The Lake and The Shed also stand out, but are there any weak points? Well it's a potential yes; Sensitive To Light and LA Connection are just about on the right side of being filler tracks, and while I like the closing ballad Rainbow Eyes, it almost sounds like an anomaly on Long Live Rock 'N' Roll.

But those are moot points; this is a great album, not as good as Rising (very few albums are) but not too far behind either. A great way for this amazing singer and songwriter to end his Rainbow career. Black Sabbath was next and the rest is history.

Richard Cardenas: To me, this album had two sides. Ronnie’s and Ritchie’s.

The songs that are heavily influenced by Dio are exceptional. Gates Of Babylon and Kill The King are my favourites. Great lyrics with some beautiful playing by Blackmore.

Others, while quite good, point to the direction Blackmore was aiming for. Songs with more commercial appeal. Some were great and some were good. Overall, a great record and one I visit regularly. A nine for me.

Mark Herrington: Bought this LP when released in 1978. A truly great album, which I play more than Rising. The usual fantasy Lyrics just made the music even better as a teenager, dovetailing all the fantasy and sci-fi novels I was gobbling up at the time. Very consistent throughout in my opinion. The openers on side A and B are equally good: Long Live Rock 'N' Roll  and Kill the King. Gates Of Babylon was just amazing at full blast on my dad's Marantz stereo back in the day .

I saw Dio five times over the years, and very few come close to his power and range. His stage presence and theatrical posturing just complemented his music perfectly. And when Blackmore is on form it’s just aural poetry. Personally, I love the way Rainbow Eyes ends the album on a bittersweet note. 10/10 for me.

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Final Score: 8.54 (272 votes cast, total score 2325)

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