Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life by Various Artists (Rhino Records)
Ronnie James Dio went from clean-cut boy band to hard rocking singer for the likes of Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band Dio. His multi-octave singing and fantastic and humanistic lyrics always thrilled and comforted. Dio may have left this plane in 2010 but his spirit lives on in the talents of thousands of musicians and the hearts of fans the world over.
Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life begins with the fist-raising juggernaut Neon Knights. Anthrax don’t hold back and Joey Belladonna knows how to belt and though he doesn’t hit the notes up high, his powerful vocals give tribute to the man that paved the way for him. While anyone that knows Tenacious D is well aware of their absolute adoration of RJD, their cover of Last In Line is rather odd with Jack Black’s vocals mixed too far above the rather generic metal instrumentation, making the song seem like karaoke, yet one with great vocals and a strange flute solo. It grows on you though. I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer. I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés. The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too. Slipknot and Stone Sour singer Corey Taylor bellows like a titan along with Steel Panther guitarist Satchel and Stone Sour drummer Roy Mayorga for a stunning cover of Rainbow in the Dark.
Along with raising money for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund listening to this tribute album should make some new fans for the respective musicians. Case in point, Pennsylvania Grammy winners Halestorm. Led by singer Lzzy Hale and drumming brother Arejay, on Straight Through The Heart the band hit all the notes with muscle and ease, playing close to the original yet showcasing the epic guitars and voice of Lzzy as a fresh new voice in metal. “Unleash the hounds!” Indeed. Some guys named Lemmy and Saxon‘s Biff Byford follow with Biff and Motorhead‘s take on Rainbow’s Starstruck, the titans trading lines like lions fighting for dominance of the pride, with that electrical wall of sound Motorhead are famous for. Scorpions make Temple of the King their own, sounding exactly like themselves, with soulful guitars and a nostalgic feel, as fantastic as when it first came out on Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow’s S/T debut in late 1974. Doro and band put their own stamp on Dio’s Egypt (The Chains Were On), making a mysterious and powerful song even more epic with her beautiful and muscular delivery and the dense instrumentation of the band. Visions of Doro as an armored and sword-wielding warrior come to mind. You don’t have to be a fan of Killswitch Engage to appreciate their buzzing and brash version of Holy Diver. Except for the breakdown the song would seem right at home if played on the Sunset Strip in the mid-80′s.
Former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath singer Glenn Hughes, along with former Dio band members drummer Simon Wright, guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Rudy Sarzo and keyboardist Scott Warren perform a super soulful and quietly powerful rendition of Catch the Rainbow from the Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow album. Current Dio Disciples and former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan, former Dio bassist Himmy Bain, former Dio and current DC4 guitarist Rowan Robertson and drummer Brian Tichy (Foreigner, Whitesnake) take on Black Sabbath’s “I” as a gritty, bluesy bonfire, putting their own modern touch on an already excellent song. Rob Halford’s growl and roar is always a thrill to hear with Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren, all former members of Dio ripping it up on The Man on the Silver Mountain, from Rainbow’s debut, the roaring guitars as well as Appice’s thundering drums more than a match for Halford’s energy. In the first fiery chords of Metallica‘s Ronnie Rising Medley you’ll be yelling “hell yes!” They sample from A Light In The Black, Stargazer, Tarot Woman and Kill The King proving they still have that metal fire in them, sounding fresh and going for broke. Closing the album is Mr. Ronnie James Dio himself, performing This is Your Life. A tear-jerking piano ballad, strings swell, Dio singing “This is your here/ This is your now/ Let it be magical”.
Listening to Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life you’ll understand Dio’s message was always one of hope, faith and friendship, of perseverance in the face of adversity, of beauty and inclusiveness. He was the Godfather of Metal and has touched so many lives. So sing along with these songs and remember, the best days are still ahead. Raise the metal “V” and rock on.
(by Bret Miller)