When it comes to heavy metal, there are those that are regarded as Metal Gods and those who redefine the term entirely. Such is the case with Ronnie James Dio, a towering legend that may have only been a little over five feet tall but was a literal giant in the world of the genre he helped single handedly create. Not only did he help pioneer the genre, but he is also credited with creating its patented devil horns hand gesture.
From his early days in Elf to his hard rock roots in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his illustrious solo career, there is no denying this legendary godfather’s contribution to the world of hard rock and heavy metal. Ronnie was not just a decent human being and a benevolent spirit, but a God among mortal men. He was also one of music’s most gifted and talented singers and songwriters. With a unique one of a kind voice that transcends space and time.
When word came in 2010 that we had lost this gifted musician and great humanitarian to his battle with stomach cancer, the world collectively wept. To help celebrate this icon’s legacy, his wife Wendy has collaborated with a veritable who’s who of guest musicians and singers, along with Rhino records to release the tribute album This Is Your Life with 100% of the proceeds going to the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund.
“Neon Knights” kicks down the proverbial door and sets the bar extremely high for all who would follow. It is presented by NYC thrash titans Anthrax, who are currently firing on all cylinders and sound better than they ever have before.
It leads to Tenacious D’s take on “The Last In Line.”
Overall they do a decent job and try to give the song the respect it so richly deserves, but the flute solo in one of metal’s most prestigious songs is just a little too off the mark. No disrespect to Jack Black and Kyle Gass, but if the album has a weak point this would be it.
While the somewhat clunky guitar riff that replaces the trademark keyboard in “Rainbow In The Dark” may leave a little to be desired, Corey Taylor’s vocal performance is so powerful and spot on that it redeems the entire song. And massive kudos must be given to Adrenaline Mob for their punishing cover of “The Mob Rules,” as it is one of the best tracks on the album.
When it comes to covering such a legendary artist like Dio, Halestorm’s masterful rendition of “Straight Through The Heart” is about as good as it can possible get. While the rich melodic tapestries of “Starstruck” are more akin to Lemmy’s days in Hawkwind than they are Motorhead, Saxon’s Biff Byford’s powerhouse vocals providing the perfect backdrop to the ambient grooves.
The Scorpions’ hauntingly beautiful interpretation of “The Temple Of The King” could have been lifted from the Lonesome Crow or Fly To The Rainbow sessions and will give you goose bumps. At the same time, Doro’s cover of “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” is a six minute bass driven behemoth that is more destructive than an atomic bomb and one of the heaviest tracks on the album.
Even though Killswitch Engage’s reimagining of “Holy Diver” was recycled from a couple years ago, it is hands down the best Dio cover ever recorded and has earned its slot on the album. Let’s be perfectly honest, what Dio tribute album would be complete without it?
Former Deep Purple and Black Sabbath vocalist Glen Hughes teamed up with what was the final line up of Dio’s solo band and their bluesy, soulful rendition of “Catch The Rainbow” is one of the album’s true highlights.
On the other hand Dio bassist Jimmy Bain and one time Lynch Mob vocalist Oni Logan chose to walk the path less traveled, by covering the lesser known “I” from the Black Sabbath album Dehumanizer. Their groovetastic translation carrying as much heft and weight as the all to overlooked original.
Very few artists would dare tackle the seminal Rainbow masterpiece “Man On The Silver Mountain” and do it any justice, but backed by Dio alumni Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich and Jeff Pilson, Judas Priest’s Rob Halford does just that, giving a vocal performance that Delivers The Goods.
The rollicking “Ronnie Rising Medley” by Metallica is a rare gem reminiscent of the Mercyful Fate medley on Garage Days Inc.. and is a nine minute epic that incorporates pieces of “A Light In The Dark,” “Tarot Woman,” “Stargazer” and “Kill The King” into one blissful monolith.
Who else but Dio himself could possibly close an album of this magnitude. The poignant ballad “This Is Your Life” from the Angry Chairs album is the perfect choice. It’s tender, raw and emotional vocal paired with lush piano melodies closes the album with a quiet dignity.
The album is available in several different formats. The digital version has a brutal adaptation of “Buried Alive” by Jasta and the Japanese format has two bonus tracks- Stryper doing “Heaven And Hell” and The Dio Disciples hammering out “Stand Up And Shout.” One listen and you’ll be asking yourself. “Why in the hell aren’t these on every version?”
Here’s the bottom line- With all profits benefiting cancer research and one of the coolest covers in recent memory, this one is a no brainer and if imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery, Ronnie is looking down on us and flashing his devil horns seal of approval.
R.I.P. Ronnie and Long Live Rock N Roll!