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Rainbow, ‘Live in Germany 1976′ – Album Review

When it comes to pioneering jam metal bands, few artists can compete with Rainbow and their legendary penchant for stretching out straightforward rock songs into exercises in instrumental abandon.

The 35th anniversary reissue of ‘Live in Germany 1976′ — an unsung companion piece to the band’s better known 1977 double concert album ‘On Stage’ — showcases guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, singer Ronnie James Dio, keyboard player Tony Carey, bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Cozy Powell nearing their creative peak.

Album opener ‘Kill The King’ explodes with compact muscularity and clocks in at 5:30, the shortest cut on the affair. From there, both the strengths and weaknesses of ‘Live in Germany’ are glaringly apparent.

Stretching out 99 minutes of music over eight songs is a feat that few metal bands beyond the most progressive ones could achieve. Studio material that was originally three or four minutes clocks in around the mid teens on ‘Live in Germany.’ That means how much you’ll enjoy the double-disc has a lot to do with how patient you can be.

For those who can take the journey, ‘Live in Germany’ offers another chance to hear a cast of veteran metal all-stars considered by many to be the definitive Rainbow lineup — even though the band would go on to greater commercial victories with later incarnations.

‘Live in Germany’ offers only two songs above and beyond what you can find on ‘On Stage.’ But those two alone — the epic ‘Stargazer’ and the more straightforward ‘Do You Close Your Eyes’ — make this a worthy listen.

Carey’s extended keyboard solo during the intro to ‘Stargazer’ nearly rivals any of Blackmore’s amazing fret-board wizardry. It’s a song within a song, opening with psychedelic effects and moving on to a lighthearted melody around the three-minute mark that’s uncommon in Rainbow’s early work. The bulk of the tune itself checks in at a full 17:00 and highlights a heavy prog-rock influence.

‘Do You Close Your Eyes,’ meanwhile, is a straightforward rocker that is improbably stretched out to more than three times its normal album length at over 10 minutes. It’s the most unpretentious song in the bunch, with lyrics that leave behind the demons-and-wizards references in favor of lusty come-ons typical of bar-room blues metal at its best.

Elsewhere on the disc, ’16th Century Greensleeves’ provides a textbook run through lumbering medieval metal, while ‘Mistreated’ veers from a chainsaw-buzz guitar opening to find Blackmore pulling dreamy notes out of his axe during the extended midsection breakdown.

‘Man on the Silver Mountain,’ meanwhile, opens with a funk-inflected rockabilly jam and some tasty Blackmore chicken-picking before morphing into the tune’s driving signature riff. Toward the end of the 13-minute tune, Dio delivers chilling a capella moments that serve as testament to his enduring vocal legacy.

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