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This, Rainbow's first live foray onto vinyl, is a mixed bag of sorts. Recorded after Rainbow had released only two albums, On Stage indeed captures some, but not all of the power and majesty that was Rainbow, 1977.
The barnstorming rocker Kill The King first appeared here, before the studio version on Long Live Rock and Roll. The keyboards are a nice touch, and the drums totally kick your ass, but at times there's no guitar! The guitar is buried deep within the mix, only appearing prominently during certain times and during solos. Nevertheless, an essential tune.
Next we have a medley of Man on the Silver Mountain (solid), a "Blues" (okay, kind of pointless), and Starstruck, again not bad but I wish they would have included the other "Star" song, namely Stargazer.
Catch the Rainbow and Mistreated, a Rainbow and Coverdale-era-Purple song respectively, are both long and self-indugent. This can be good or bad, depending on how much you like hearing Ritchie Blackmore play guitar solos. Personally I wish they would have trimmed these down a bit.
Then, from the debut album Sixteenth Century Greensleeves and Still I'm Sad (Yardbirds cover), two songs I always kinda liked, but I mean, come on! A cover tune on a live album, when there's a handful of other killer tunes they could have included? Eh.
Anyway, this really is a fairly decent live platter. However, if you aren't familiar with Rainbow I would recommend the first album or Rising.
I usually dislike live albums. Why? Because the production is usually worse than on the studio albums, the band plays the same songs the same way, so what you usually get is the same as on the studio albums but worse. There are exceptions of course. This is one of the best live albums ever recorded. The production is very good (mine has the words 'Rainbow remasters' printed on it). Produced by Martin Birch. Sounds familiar? Martin Birch was responsible for much of Maiden's production.
So why should you have this record? The song Catch The Rainbow, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves and Still I'm Sad are better than the versions found on the Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow. That's one reason. Another is the song Mistreated. That song can't be found on the other albums. Let's take a closer look on the album. While it only has 6 songs it plays for more than one hour.
It begins with a cool intro, a small portion from the movie "Wizard Of Oz" which is merged with the song Kill The King (later released on the 3rd studio album). While it's a great song, it's not better live, I prefer the studio version.
Continues an excellent 11:15 long medley with the songs Man On The Silver Mountain and Starstruck, another two classics with other words. Between the songs there's a nice blues section that adds to the feeling, the songs and the blues part is merged in a perfect way, with a short pause between the blues and Starstruck, which by the way is very different from the original, due to some parts with more or less only the vocals.
Follows an upgraded version of Catch The Rainbow. The song is 15:36 compared to the originals' 6:36. Some might think that this is just a prolonged version of the same song. Truth is that the live version builds up the atmosphere a lot with long calm guitar parts. I never feel that it would become boring. While it's basically the same song, the original is more compact. Here it feels like the song has the room to become what it was meant to be, an epic masterpiece.
Mistreated is the next song in line. A classic heavy ballad with long calm parts building up the atmosphere. Pure excellence for 13:07! I don't think there even exists any release with this song not performed live.
Sixteenth Century Greensleeves is almost like another song, if you compare this with the version found on the debut. 3:29 has become 7:37. So, what's the difference? First of all, it has a calm two and a half minute long guitar intro. There's so much more emotions here than in the debut!
Still I'm Sad is the last song on the album. It plays for 11:05 compared to the originals' 3:53. More of the great stuff by Blackmore and Dio with other words!
Highlights: Catch The Rainbow, Mistreated, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves and Still I'm Sad