'Dio: This is Your Life'
Release Date: 27th March 2014
When You Listen to Fools... Halestorm end up on a Dio tribute album...
An all-star tribute album to the great man in aid of his Stand Up and Shout Cancer Charity – a watertight idea guaranteed to be a roaring success, yes? Well the concept is, certainly. But the execution? That's a little lacking in certain places. However there's always the fast forward button, right? And as it would be churlish to pour scorn on such a worthy idea it's up to us as listeners to take the rough with the smooth, performance wise, and let our ears take one for the team every now and then.
Not that Anthrax fall in to the rough category, opening the album with a crunchy take on Neon Knights that finds Joey Belladonna in particular firing on all cylinders. The rest of the band might not talk to him, but he's certainly standing up and shouting for Ronnie in fine style here. Adrenaline Mob also put in a good shift, with vocalist extraordinaire Russell Allen sounding unsurprisingly fantastic on the band's version of (you guessed it) The Mob Rules. The man is frighteningly good, and maybe really the only vocalist on this whole album who can match Ronnie James Dio for power and expression.
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That's not to diss Corey Taylor, however, who fronts the first of several ad-hoc lineups brought together to celebrate the legacy of our diminutive hero; together with cohorts Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci and Jason Christopher he turns in a pleasing, heavied up version of Rainbow in the Dark that ticks all the right metallic boxes and proves once more that there's far more to Taylor than his Slipknot outings might suggest.
Motorhead team up with Saxon's Biff Byford to run through a jaunty version of Starstruck, with Byford handling the vocal far more comfortably than Lemmy would have; Kilmister's unmistakable croak cuts through on the chorus however, and the mix of the two vocal styles works very well – this is one of the highlights of the album.
German heavy rock idols The Scorpions contribute a classy Temple of the King, with Matthias Jabs playing some beautiful lead guitar. Dio's old mucker Ritchie Blackmore covered this song himself last year with his Blackmore's Knight project, and there's perhaps a case to be mounted for that version to have been included here (although knowing Blackmore's curmudgeonly attitude to former workmates – even dead ones – that might have been simply an unworkable dream), bit Klaus Meine and company let no one down with this tasteful reading.
Doro and Killswitch Engage are next up; their respective versions of Egypt (The Chains are On) and Holy Diver have both been in the public domain for a while, so you probably know what you're getting here; Doro puts in a restrained, respectful performance whilst KE are perhaps the only outfit here to actually try to stamp their own musical vision on a Dio composition, and the strength and conviction of their performance means that one of heavy metal's classic anthems doesn't suffer at all from its partial deconstruction.
And what would a RJD tribute be without a contribution from 'THE VOICE OF ROCK' himself, Glenn Hughes? Backed by an agglomeration of Dio sidemen (Scott Warren, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy and Rudy Sarzo), his performance on Catch the Rainbow is bluesy, soulful and passionate, and definitely one of the album's few truly spine-tingling moments. It's a definite keeper.
Oni Logan is next to throw his cap into the ring, adding his undoubted vocal talents to a storming version of I. This is one of my all time favourite Dio-related tracks, and I'm pleased to report that Logan, alongside Jimmy Bain, Brian Tichy and Rowan Robertson, does the song full, heavy metal justice.
Which is sadly more than can be said for Rob Halford, whose listless, lifeless performance on Man on the Silver Mountain is as shocking as it was unexpected. The musicians backing him – another Dio sideman permutation, this time featuring Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson and Warren – are in no way to blame as they bring this classic Rainbow track back to life in all its glory. But Halford sounds tired and uninspired here, especially against the muscular backdrop provided by Aldich's exemplary guitar work. This without doubt is the biggest disappointment of the album.
Bit if it's energy you want, however, then Metallica bring it in spades on their Ronnie Rising medley, featuring raw, spirited takes on A Light in the Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer and a frankly brilliant Kill the King. Metallica always shine bright when remembering their adolescent heroes via the gift of cover versions, and this quartet compressed into just over nine minutes is no different.
Ronnie James Dio ends proceedings himself – no one else could, surely – with this compilation's title track. It's a piquant, sombre ballad from the much-maligned Angry Machines album, with Dio's virtually unadorned vocal hitting you, ahem, straight through the heart with its purity and power. Despite all the vocal talent on show on the album it provides proof, if you actually needed any, that there was, and is, only one RJD.
So there you have it. More good than bad, certainly, though the versions of The Last in Line by Tenacious D and Straight Through the Heart by Halestorm really do blight the album as a whole, taking up space more deserving artists would have used far better. I'm sure the tributes (especially from longterm Dio acolyte Jack Black) are heartfelt enough, but I'd rather have heard some more metallically-inclined contributors (Jorn Lande surely!?) – maybe that's just me being needlessly tunnel visioned; but whatever this album comes as a timely reminder of the timeless genius of Ronnie James Dio. And that's enough reason to buy it in anyone's book.