It’s almost four years since one of the true legends of rock and metal died from cancer. Ronnie James Dio had a career that spanned several decades and included singing for Rainbow, Black Sabbath, his own band Dio, and Heaven and Hell. Now a tribute album is being released with various bands and musicians covering songs he performed. The album also serves a good purpose as it’s raising funds for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund (diocancerfund.org), a charitable fund dedicated to supporting cancer prevention research, raising awareness and educating the public about the vital importance of early detection and prevention when dealing with this deadly disease. The album has been produced by Ronnie James Dio’s wife and longtime manager, Wendy Dio, so you know straight away that it’s going to be good as she wouldnt want anything but the best for a tribute album
So it’s a tribute to a legend, and is in aid of a great cause, how could it get any better? Well that comes when you check out who is performing on the album. Bands performing include Anthrax, Adrenaline Mob, Tenacious D, Halestorm, Motorhead, The Scorpions, Doro, Killswitch Engage and Metallica. Add in a load more artists including Rob Halford, Glenn Hughes, Doug Aldrich, Vinny Appice, Corey Taylor, Biff Byford and many more, and you realise just how respected and liked Ronnie James Dio was. Many of the acts performing on the album knew him personally.
Songs on the album include songs from his Dio albums, his time with Rainbow and his time with Black Sabbath and include songs that almost every rock fan around the world will recognise including “Holy diver”, “Man on the silver mountain” and “Rainbow in the dark”. One omission that I’m sure fans will comment on is “Heaven and Hell” – I’m slightly surprised that wasnt included but having said that it’s good to include a less obvious choice such as “I” rather than just the best known songs.
The album cover is great with the demon that graces the album covers of “Holy diver” and “The last in line” in the background swinging a whip while artists who appear on the album are seen in the front running from the demon. It’s nice to see the demon included to really help tie it to Dio’s memory and it’s nice that they’ve taken the trouble to come up with a good cover for the album rather than just taking the easy option and using a photo of him on the cover.
Obviously trying to cover songs by one of the best metal or rock singers of all time isn’t going to be easy – how can someone hope to live up to the standard set by Ronnie James Dio? Having said that, it’s still possible to do great covers – you just have to accept that they are going to sound different to the originals.
Brief comments on the tracks….
First of all is the opening track, “Neon knights”, a Black Sabbath track which is covered here by Anthrax. They’ve done a great job covering it. They’ve kept the feel of the original rather than trying to make it a thrash song. I’m really impressed how well the vocals have turned out too – Joey Belladonna has done a great job here.
Tenacious D (Jack Black and Kyle Glass) seemed like an odd choice to cover “The last in line”, but it’s a very good cover.
The choice of Adrenaline Mob to cover “Mob rules” seems fitting and they’ve done a great version with plenty of power and the vocals work well. It’s a nice heavy song (as you’d expect since it’s a Black Sabbath song) and this version keeps all that power with a great guitar sound and very effective vocals.
Corey Taylor (Stone Sour, Slipknot) and Satchel (Steel Panther) join forces with Jason Christopher (Stone Sour, Sebastian Bach), Christian Martucci (Stone Sour, Dee Dee Ramone etc) and Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour) for a cover of “Rainbow In The Dark”
Halestorm do a great cover of “Straight through the Heart”. They’ve done covers of various other bands before on their ReAnimate and ReAnimate 2.0 EPs so I was expecting this to be good and I wasn’t disappointed. Lzzy Hale’s vocals work really well here.
“Starstruck” sees Motorhead joined by Saxon vocalist Biff Byford. Biff does a good job on vocals but just can’t match the standard of the original. The backing vocals come from Lemmy and his unmistakable voice.
One of my favourites on the album is the cover of “The temple of the king” by The Scorpions. It’s a fantastic song and Klaus Meine and the rest of the band more than do it justice – absolutely superb.
Long-time friend of Dio, Doro does a cover of “Egypt (The chains are on)”. She’s another singer who has an instantly recognisable voice. Slightly disappointingly though this song has been released before – Doro’s version of it was included in the album “Holy Dio”, released in 2000.
Next up is “Holy diver” by Killswitch Engage, another cover that’s been released previously – the band released their cover of it in 2006. It’s a great version though and like the Doro cover deserves to be included.
“Catch the rainbow” is covered here by the final lineup of the Dio band, with Glenn Hughes joining them on vocals. It’s an excellent version – Glenn Hughes does a great job on vocals
Jimmy Bain, Oni Logan, Rowan Robertson and Brian Tichy join forces for a cover of “I”, from the Black Sabbath album Dehumanizer. It’s probably the least well known song on the album, but is a great song and this version works really well.
“Man on the silver mountain” sounds great musically, but I’m not particularly keen on Rob Halfords vocals on the track – his voice just doesnt feel right for it – I’d have thought he’d be more suited to one of the Black Sabbath or Heaven and Hell songs rather than a Rainbow song.
Metallica’s contribution is the “Ronnie Rising Medley” which is a medley of the Rainbow songs Rainbow songs “A Light In The Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer” and “Kill The King.” It’s just over nine minutes long and is yet another great track.
The album ends with the title track “This is your life”, sung by the man himself, Ronnie James Dio. It’s taken from the Dio album “Angry machines” which was released in 1996. It’s a simply arranged track – just Scott Warren on piano to accompany Ronnie James Dio’s superb vocals, and with lryics about mortality it’s a fitting end to this great album.
Well after listening to the album a few times I’ve already ordered my copy of it, so that alone should tell you this is a great album. These are great songs and I’ve been really impressed by the covers. All the bands have their own sound and bring that to the album, but whether it’s the Scorpions or Metallica they do a great job of recording versions of the songs that I’m sure Ronnie James Dio would be proud of.
“Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life” will be released on 31st March 2014 via Rhino records
1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark (Feat.Jason Christopher, Christian Martucci, Roy Mayorga, Satchel) – Corey Taylor
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motorhead (With Biff Byford)
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow (Feat. Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren, Simon Wright) – Glenn Hughes
11. I – Jimmy Bain, Oni Logan, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain (Feat. Doug Aldrich, Vinny Appice, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren) – Rob Halford
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (Feat. A Light In The Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer & Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio