Ronnie James Dio has been around for a long time. Many people probably don't realize, but he was performing in bands all the way back to the late 50's. This is his latest release, a live recording whose centerpiece is Dio's first and most popular solo album, Holy Diver
, performed in its entirety. It also has a second disc full of songs from Dio's Rainbow and Black Sabbath days, as well as a few other songs from his solo career. Since there are quite a few tracks on this album, I'm going to stick with a general analysis of it and point out a few highlights.
I got this album and the DVD of the same title released recently because I wanted to see one of my favorite artists live and in full glory. Truthfully I'm not a HUGE fan of Dio's solo career, although there are a handful of songs that I love. Mainly stuff off Holy Diver, in fact. He has always put out good music, it just usually doesn't interest me that much. I'm a big fan of Rainbow though and this album has quite a few covers from them on it. I can't say I was disappointed in it either. It's just that this isn't Dio in his full glory.
I hate to say it, but Dio has gotten to the point where he's struggling to sing his songs with the same gusto as he used to. His voice has gotten gruffer, lower, and much weaker. Some tracks make this more apparent than others. For some other artists this would be less of a problem, but Dio was known for his amazingly powerful voice. I've read quite a few other reviews online where people gave this album terrible scores because of it and I might be in the minority, but I think that even with his aged voice this is an excellent showcase of him and his band.
Speaking of his band, Dio has gathered quite a few great musicians to play with him. They all handle the songs thrown their way excellently. I suppose the axe man is worth extra note, as he isn't even the band's main guitarist. Doug Aldrich (Whitesnake) is filling in for Craig Goldy, as he couldn't play because of a hand injury. He does an amazing job, you'd never know he was just a temporary replacement.
On to the actual album...
The first disc is the main event, the entire Holy Diver
album played live. There's a reason this is Dio's biggest album, as almost every song is strong on here. I'm assuming anyone reading this will be at least somewhat familiar with all of the songs on here. Rainbow in the Dark
, in particular, is performed extremely well. Holy Diver
on the other hand...
The second disc contains all the other songs, including the Rainbow and Black Sabbath hits. I'll be focusing on these a little more, since I find hearing newer of these songs is the most interesting part of the album. It starts off with Tarot Woman, which is one of my favorite Rainbow songs. Odd that Dio would choose it though, since I hadn't heard of Rainbow ever playing it live. You can really feel the effects of the down-tuning on this one and I think it takes away from a lot of the power the song had. The keyboard parts sound a bit drowned out as well. Still, it's a great song and Dio sings it pretty well here.
Sign of the Southern Cross
is actually a new song I hadn't heard before. I suppose that's because the only Dio-era Sabbath album I have is Heaven and Hell
, the title track of which is also on this disc. During the intro to it (seen on the DVD) an excited fan comes up on the stage and starts hugging Dio, which is just hilarious. Dio handles it pretty well too, making a joke about everyone wanting to be on stage with him. The song itself is fairly similar to the album version, although extended quite a bit with some improv and various other audience-pleasing acts (light shows and various pyrotechnics).
Another track they do is off Rainbow's Long Live Rock 'n' Roll
album, The Gates of Babylon
. Dio dedicates the song to the late Cozy Powell (RIP) and it starts off with a keyboard intro that might even put the original song to shame. The song is a bit too slow, it doesn't roll like the original does. If there's any synth during the song you can't hear it either, which is a bit disappointing. Great soloing on the part of Doug however.
So overall I'd say this is going to be a good buy for those people who are already into Dio and would like a decent DVD of them playing a lot of their most popular songs. But if you're new to the band, stick to the studio albums first. Dio's voice isn't nearly as strong as it used to be, so that would be the best place to start. I'd also recommend getting the DVD over the CD, as they are the identical concert and about the same price.