Ronnie James Dio

This is Your Life

Written by: BW on 01/08/2014 23:31:19

There is no denying how big Ronnie James Dio was to rock and metal culture and the industry as a whole. You always know when a veteran has passed on though when the obligatory cover album rears its head and this can instigate different feelings amongst fans. Some will always prefer the originals and cuss about the fact that a legend’s work has been bastardised, but some welcome the change in the hope it will inspire a new generation to get into the work he left behind. “This is Your Life” is a fitting album name, but are the songs on them good enough to extend beyond the mortal shell?

To give this album a fair crack at the whip I’m listening to both the original versions and the new iterations to see how they hold up; so don’t think I’m just rattling through this for the sake of it. You must give a legend his respect after all.

Anthrax are first up with a cover of “Neon Knights” from the Sabbath album “Heaven and Hell” and I have to say that I actually prefer the cover. This kind of pace of tune was always gonna suit the band and if anything it’s a little slower than they normally do. Joey Belladonna does a great job on lead vocals as well and is rather close to the great man himself in how he brings it across. I think the reason I prefer this version is that it just has a little more meat on the bones and is just a very well executed track.

“The Last in Line” is from the album of the same name back in 1984. I screwed my face up when I heard Tenacious D were covering it, as the original is a very subtle ballad and is done beautifully with nice harmony work and soft verse before an eruption of power rock chords and a really nice guitar solo mid way through. Once JB and KG get hold of it there just seems to be something lacking on the original. It may well be because of the fact you just expect parody work and the pan pipes replacing the guitar solo just doesn’t help matters. If the guitar solo had actually been done with a guitar then it may have been great, but the humour side lacks quality.

Another album track up next in the form of 1981 Sabbath disc “Mob Rules” which is covered by pick ‘n mix group Adrenaline Mob. Ex Symphony-X singer Russell Allen does a decent job of hitting the spot with the vocals and the rest of the track itself does well to remain faithful to the original. Add to this a nice guitar solo in the mid section and it sets the first fifth of this album off nicely as a whole.

The biggest surprise to me is “Rainbow in the Dark” covered by Slipknot and Stonesour frontman Corey Taylor. I had heard the cover version from this album already and my initial thoughts were that is was incredibly good. Taylor has always been known for having good range, especially since he spends most of his time growling. It’s lovely to hear him just singing through a whole track to be honest and it proves just how versatile he can be with some nice, sharp harmonising. The only weakness here is that his high end doesn’t match Dio, although the song is perhaps missing those keyboard licks as well. It was 1983 after all when the “Holy Diver” album came out. Good cover and a good advertisement for what can be done.

Also from that album, other than the title track, which we’ll discuss later, is “Straight Through The Heart”. Halestorm take up the mantle of doing this one and it is really nice to hear Lizzy Hale deliver her own stamp on this. I have to say on a personal level, you don’t realise just how many Dio tracks you remember until you have your memory coaxed back into life by listening to these classics again (yes, I’m part of the first time round brigade) The Dio original is solid and stands up well, and this variation is pretty solid and is refreshing with a female vocal on it.

We move further back to our first track from Rainbow with “Starstruck” off their “Rising” album. The fact it’s being covered by fellow industry stalwarts Motorhead and Biff from Saxon is rather fitting. I do have to say though that other than the cool 70’s style guitar intro kept in good condition it lacks a bit of fire, but still sounds alright. It could be it just needed a bit of a higher volume on the singing, but it is always good to hear Lemmy whenever you get a chance to.

The second one, from “Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow”, is “Temple of the King” and I have to say they picked the perfect band for this in the form of European legends, The Scorpions, as they’re very good at this kind of slow paced, harmonic rock. True to form they don’t disappoint by keeping things pretty close to what has been before.

Then we come to a song that just doesn’t seem to hold its own against the rest and indeed the original. Whilst Lizzy Hale’s voice is pretty well suited for this, unfortunately Doro’s can’t have the same said. She is a good singer in her own right with her own material, but as a cover it just lacks that edge that the rest have had. Don’t get me wrong, “Egypt (The Chains are On)” was never one of the all time classics, but as I say, something just seems to miss as you listen. Not the greatest on here.

I’ll keep the next song pretty limited in description, as everyone has heard Killswitch Engage’s version of “Holy Diver” and a lot of people prefer it to the original. I’m more inclined to go with the original, just because of the purity it has on the track. It was Dio at his best and is the one most people remember above all else, even though it may not be the best song he ever did (I have some I prefer).

The secret highlight of the album for me is “Catch the Rainbow” as it is beautifully done by Glenn Hughes, who did briefly fill Dio and Ozzy’s shoes in Black Sabbath. Some of the guitar work on the cover is very intricately done and soul catching. It adds something different to the way you would expect the track to be like and it is all the better for it.

I find it really cool to have people that have worked with the great man to perform on this and the next track adds to this, allowing former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain to have a go with “I” which is off the Dio album “Master of the Moon” from 2004. It does have a remarkably similar beat to “Holy Diver” but the song is more crisp and clean than that classic. Jimmy does a great job on vocals it does have to be said and the result is something you could happily slot into one of the older albums. There is a sense of the great man in this track in particular, especially in the way it ends.

The biggest disappointment also turns out to be a big surprise. I would have thought of all people Rob ”Judas Priest” Halford would have put a great spin on “Man on the Silver Mountain” from the Rainbow album “Long Live Rock ‘n Roll” but it turns out to be a rather damp squib and lacks any emotion whatsoever, especially when you consider how high that man could put his voice when he really felt like it and from the off that never happens. It is just soulless and it is such a shame to be honest.

Metallica do a medley from the “Rising” album consisting of “A light in the Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer” and “Kill the King” These are all pretty good tracks in their own right, but it is such a shame that they made a medley out of it. Listening to this mini compilation I personally would have liked them just to have done “Stargazer” as a full song in its own right, as it is a brilliant cover with some of the best melodic work the boys have done in quite some time. Feels like a missed opportunity, but it is a good effort though.

The last word, as it should though, goes to Ronnie James Dio himself, as they added the title track on at the end. It is a fitting legacy to a man who fronted two of the biggest bands of their respective generations, as well as gifting us some beauties under his own name. This compilation is testament to what can be done when you get the right blend of people in to do a send off album to one of the greats; and in turn this is a great listen in itself, with only the odd hiccup getting in the way. If you’ve never listened to any of his work it is an absolute essential and if you’re a purist it is worth a go because a lot of it is still close to the original to keep you lot happy. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and reacquaint myself with a back catalogue....


Download: I, Rainbow in the Dark, Neon Knights
For The Fans Of: Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Saxon, Testament

Release date 31.03.2014

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