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Flawed But Essential - 89%

pinpals, May 18th, 2010

Rainbow's live shows were certainly an event. Over the stage ran an electronic rainbow that was so expensive to maintain and transport that it almost made the tour unprofitable. On the stage was a band that put on shows that were, depending on how you look at it, either mindblowing or bombastic and a showcase for mindless ego-stroking. Songs that were 3-5 minutes long in the studio were stretched out exponentially with solos, jams and the occasional foray into another song.

For many bands from the 70's, the live stage was an opportunity for a band to show what they were really made of. The lifeless production jobs that bogged down so many bands from that era (including this one) were replaced by microphones that captured the band in the raw. The guitars were heavy and the keyboards mean and dirty, the drummers did far more than just keep the beat. All of this was taken to an extreme by Richie Blackmore. Even though bands like Cream had done something similar, I can't think of a band that allowed so much time for one member to take the spotlight.

The band is at its best when it's amping up and improving upon the relatively punch-less studio versions of their songs. "16th Century Greensleeves" in particular is just so superior live that there is no comparison. "Kill The King" has a greater intensity as well, turning the tune into a speed metal anthem. The absolute best part of the album is hearing Richie and Dio rip it up playing Deep Purple's "Mistreated." In all honesty, I'd take this version over the Deep Purple counterpart any day. I can't tell which affects me more, Dio's unbelievably powerful singing throughout the song, or Blackmore's heavy yet bluesy guitar playing. Cozy Powell is superb on drums as well in this song and throughout the album. He really was one of the top drummers in the 70s because he could play so fast (check out his footwork) yet play with so much feeling that is lacking in many of today's drummers, which sound more like metronomes than anything else.

Granted, some songs go on for too long. "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll" is a fine tune if we exclude the several minutes where Dio interacts with the crowd in the middle; it really ruins the momentum of the song as well as the effectiveness of the climax at the end. "Catch The Rainbow" would have been better if trimmed to 12-14 minutes rather than the full 17+ minutes; the song is a definite improvement over the original, but there are too many dull moments where there isn't much going on.

"Man On The Silver Mountain," much like "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll," is great while the band plays the actual song, but then everything sort of tails off while Blackmore noodles around on his guitar for a while and they segue into "Starstruck" for a few minutes before going back and finishing the original song. "Still I'm Sad" barely resembles the original and has a jaw-dropping drum solo from Cozy Powell, although to be perfectly honest I usually skip past it since, much like Led Zeppelin's "Moby Dick," hearing the same long drum solo more than several times gets boring after a while. Sadly, they chose to finish with "Do You Close Your Eyes." Let's just say that not even this awesome band in a live setting can salvage this dreadful song.

The greatest thing about "Live in Munich" is how incredibly well the band's sound and energy are captured. The sound is a definite improvement over "On Stage" and all of the instruments can be heard clearly. One must also credit the makers of this album because they presented a full Rainbow concert, flaws and all. Do I wish that perhaps "Tarot Woman" and "Stargazer" had been included instead of some of the longer sections and "Do You Close Your Eyes"? Sure! However, this is what a Rainbow concert in 1977 consisted of; the fact that it's on a CD format allows the listener to skip through any unwanted excess. Even though there are flaws on this album, this is a must own. There is no better way out there to experience what made Rainbow so great, especially as we mourn the loss of one of heavy metal and even rock's greatest icons.