Sunday, 27 June 2010

Ronnie James Dio - The Legacy Of A Legend

Ronnie James Dio, legendary heavy metal / hard rock front man, who sadly passed away on May 16th of this year, has entertained the masses for over five decades, most notably as the front man for heavy weight legends such as Dio, Rainbow, Black Sabbath and most recently Heaven & Hell, yet there is so much more to the career of "the little man with the huge voice".

Ronnie James Dio was born Ronald James Padovana on the 10th July 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA. The first musical instrument that Ronnie started to play was in fact the trumpet that his father bought him, which he eventually gave up in favour of the bass guitar. He joined / formed his first band in 1957, at the tender age of 15, called 'The Vegas Kings', whom later changed their name to 'Ronnie and the Rumbler's' and then eventually to 'Ronnie and the Red Caps'. 'Ronnie and the Red Caps' managed to release a couple of single's prior to their splitting up in 1961. Undeterred, Ronnie formed his next band in the autumn of that same year, calling themselves 'Ronnie Dio and the Prophets', again managing to release a few singles before calling it a day in 1967.
After the demise of 'Ronnie Dio and the Prophets', Ronnie formed 'The Electric Elves', who had morphed into 'The Elves' by 1969, and then finally into the more widely known 'Elf' by 1970.

'Elf' described themselves as "small players with an explosively big sound". They played many clubs, colleges and bars along the east coast of the USA whilst searching for a recording contract, slowly honing their hard rock sound and molding themselves into the band that we would later come to love. It was whilst 'Elf' were auditioning for Columbia Records in 1972 that they would get the big break that they were searching for, and also it was this very same big break that would sow the seeds of their demise. Attending the audition were Roger Glover and Ian Paice of legendary British rockers 'Deep Purple', who were so impressed by the bands set, they offered to produce 'Elf’s' debut album. This is where Ronnie James Dio, and the rest of 'Elf' become so entangled in the web that is the annuls of 'Deep Purple history, as not only did Roger Glover produce the bands following two albums, but 'Elf' would also support 'Deep Purple' on many US and world tours over the next few years, exposing them and their music to a much wider audience.
In 1974 Roger Glover also invited Ronnie to provide vocals for a few tracks (three to be exact, Sitting in A Dream, Love Is All and Homeward) on his now legendary 'Roger Glover and Friends' Butterfly’s Ball solo release. 'Deep Purple' guitar maestro, Richie Blackmore also invited Ronnie to provide vocals for his debut solo single, Black Sheep Of The Family (which incidentally never got released!). Richie was so impressed with how things went, he asked Ronnie to co-write the singles b-side, (with the rest of Elf playing all other instruments except guitar!). Again Richie was so impressed with the song, Sixteenth Century Greensleeves, the he asked Ronnie and the rest of Elf to form a new band with him, and help write and record an album, which was to become Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow!

At the same time as they were writing and recording debut Rainbow album, 'Elf' were also writing and recording what would turn out to be their final album together, Trying To Burn The Sun. An interesting side note is that the band Rainbow took their name from the infamous 'Rainbow Bar and Grill' in LA that had become a favorite of both Richie and Ronnie at the time.
 Soon after ‘Rainbow released their debut album, Richie Blackmore fired all members of ‘Elf’ with the exception of Ronnie, replacing them with band members that he felt more suited to touring.

'Rainbow’ followed Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow with Rising in 1976, one of rock music’s most seminal albums, an album giving us such legendary classics as ‘Starstruck’, ‘Do You Close Your Eyes’, Tarot Woman’ and the mighty epic ‘Stargazer’. Ronnie would go on to record one more studio album with ‘Rainbow’, 1977’s excellent Long Live Rock n Roll, which gave us such classics as the title track, along with ‘Kill The King’, ‘LA Connection’, ‘Lady Of The Lake’, ‘ Rainbow Eyes’ and ‘Gates Of Babylon’. After another extensive world tour and the release on of a live album, 1978’s On Stage, Richie decided to fire Ronnie from ’ Rainbow’, with the mostly widely accepted story for Ronnie departure being that Richie wanted to take ‘Rainbow’ in a more commercial direction and Ronnie was either unwilling or unable to change his writing style.

After his departure from ‘Rainbow’, Ronnie first started to try and put together a new band, but the process was proving to be slow, and whilst doing so, Ronnie was contacted by ‘Black Sabbath’s’ Tony Iommi, whom invited him to come and try out as ‘Black Sabbaths’ new singer, as they had just fired Ozzy Osbourne. Ronnie met up with the remaining members of ‘Black Sabbath’, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward in LA to try out, and together they managed to write the Sabbath classic Children Of The Sea in their first day!
Once the deal was set, and Ronnie was officially a member of ‘Black Sabbath’, they set about recording what would become one of Sabbath’s biggest selling albums in the form of 1980’s classic Heaven & Hell. Around this time Ronnie also managed to find the time to contribute vocals for two tracks on ‘Kerry Livgren’s ‘Seeds Of Change album, those two songs being ‘To Live For The King’ and ‘Mask Of The Great Deceiver’.

After the huge success of Heaven & Hell, ‘Black Sabbath’ set about the task of recording the follow up, 1981’s Mob Rules album, which saw Ronnie and Tony seemingly trying to blow each other off of the record with the blistering performances. 1982 saw the release of a live album in the form of ‘Live Evil’, which had been dogged by problems , which has resulted in Ronnie leaving ‘Black Sabbath’ in late 82.

Immediately after leaving ‘Black Sabbath’, Ronnie along with now former Sabbath Drummer, Vinnie Appice, set about forming a new band, this time to be called ‘Dio’, eventually recruiting the services of former Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain, and young hot shot guitarist Vivian Campbell. This line was to record ‘Dio’s’ stunning debut, Holy Diver, quickly followed in 1974 by The Last In Line.

Sacred Heart followed in 1985, giving ‘Dio’ their biggest hit single, in the shape of ‘Rock n Roll Children’. Also in 1985 Ronnie organized a charity single project in the form of ‘Hear n Aid’ along with many other rock and metal stars releasing the song ‘Stars’!

‘Dio’ followed up Sacred Heart with the release of one of Dio’s weakest ever releases, a compromise live Ep containing one studio track in the form of 1986’s Intermission. Unfortunately after the ‘Dio’ line up fell apart, with a new lineup coming together for 1987’s strong Dream Evil album, once again however, this line up was to be short lived, with Ronnie having to yet another line up for 1990’s Lock Up The Wolves album.
‘Dio’ toured with Lock Up The Wolves throughout 1990, but in 1991 Ronnie was to re-join ‘Black Sabbath’. Although the recording process would prove to a difficult one, (with Sabbath bringing in former singer Tony Martin to work on songs at one point behind Ronnie’s back!), the resultant album, 1992’s Dehumanizer, proved to be a solid and very heavy release. Unfortunately this reunion was once again to be short lived, with Ronnie leaving ‘Black Sabbath’ for a second time in November of 1992.

Right after quitting Sabbath again, Ronnie quickly set about reforming ‘Dio’ with a new guitarist, Tracy G, and retreating to Rumbo Studio’s in LA where they were to record 1994’s Strange Highways album. Strange Highways saw a slight change in direction for ‘Dio’, with the band adopting a heavier more contempary sound, and Tracy G wrapping each and every riff in barbed wire so to speak. This line up would also go on to record 1996’s follow up album ‘Angry Machines’ before once again falling apart.

In 1996 Ronnie would provide guest vocals for ‘Dog Eat Dog’ on the title track, Play Games from the Play Games album, and in 1997 Ronnie would also feature on the ‘Munetaka Higuchi & Dream Castle’ album Free World, upon the track ‘What Cost War’

.1999 saw Ronnie regroup with guitarist Craig Goldy from ‘Dio’s’ Dream Evil era, to work on Ronnie very first concept album, 2000’s Magica, which many Dio fans and critics felt was a return to form, with its more traditional ‘Dio’ sound. Once again lineup changes would plague the band before 2002’s Killing The Dragon, which was followed by 2004’s Master Of The Moon album. After 2006’s Holy Diver Live album, Ronnie was once again approached by Tony Iommi, this time with the prospect of writing two new songs that were set to be included on a ‘Black Sabbath’ - The Dio Years compilation album. (2007)

In 2005 Ronnie would provide guest vocals on the the song Tonite for Eddie Ojeda’s Axes 2 Axes solo album.

 Ronnie would also make a guest appearance upon Queensrÿche’s Operation: Mindcrime II album in 2006 upon the track The Chase, Ronnie would also guest on ‘Deep Purple’ vocalist Ian Gillian’s, Gillian’s Inn solo album, on the track Day Late And A Dollar Short also released in 2006. Ronnie also made a cameo appearance in a major Hollywood blockbuster in 2006, Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny providing guest vocals for a verse in the song Kickapoo!

The writing session went so well, that together they came up with three new songs, ‘The Devil Cried’, ‘Shadow Of The Wind’ and ’Ear In The Wall’. Things went so well that they decided to once again reunite under the ‘Black Sabbath’ banner for a short tour, but with the tour, and the new songs proving to be so popular, and with the guys enjoying working together again, they decided to begin on one more album, only this time they would use the name Heaven & Hell as opposed to the ‘Black Sabbath’ moniker.
Also in 2008 Ronnie managed to contribute vocals to a track on British NWoBHM legends Girschool’s album Legacy, on the track ‘I Spy’, as well as providing vocals for the song ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ on the We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year album, (incidentally Tony Iommi features on both of these songs!)

 ‘Heaven & Hell’s debut album, The Devil You Know, was released in 2009 to much critical acclaim, and followed by extensive world touring. It was whilst on tour in late 2009 that Ronnie was diagnosed with the early stages of stomach cancer, which was to bring to an end any plans that ‘Heaven & Hell’ had for 2010. Yet whilst undergoing treatment and battling cancer, Ronnie managed to continue working on some musical ideas, including some songs for the Magica 2 album that he had planned for a while., including one song Electra, and also a song called Heavy Metal Never Dies, which he was recording with former Elf guitarist David Feinstein for a forth coming Rods / solo album.

Sadly Ronnie was to pass away on May 16th 2010, losing his battle with stomach cancer, yet Ronnie will forever live on, both through his fan and through his music.

Ronnie’s legacy is the music he created, and the joy that that music has bought and continues to bring. Long Live Rock n Roll, Long Live RJD.

Ronnie James Dio – A Life Time In Review
Ronnie & The Red Caps
1958 – Conquest / Lover Single (Ronnie doesn’t sing on either of these songs)
1958 – Judy I Love You Single
1960 – An Angel Is Missing / What I’d Say Single

Ronnie Dio & The Prophets
1962 - The Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo / Love Pains Single
1962 - Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow / Bad Man In Town (Unreleased, acetate only)
1963 - Gonna Make It Alone / Swingin’ Street Single
1963 - Mr. Misery / Our Year Single
1963 - Dio At Domino's Album
1964 - Love Potion No. 9 Single
1965 - Say You're Mine Again / Where You Gonna Run To Girl Single
1965 - Smiling By Day (Crying By Night) / Dear Darling (I Won't Be Comin' Home) Single
1965 - Walking Alone / The Way Of Love Single
1967 - Walking In Different Circles / 10 Days With Brenda Single

All of the above see a very different Ronnie James Dio when compared with the one we all know. The songs fit in perfectly with their time being very 50’s / 60’s doo wop rock n’ roll.

The Electric Elves
1967 - Hey, Look Me Over / It Pays To Advertise Single
The Elves
1969 - Walking In Different Circles / She's Not The Same Single

1970 - Amber Velvet / West Virginia Single
1970 - Live At The Beacon Bootleg Album

From the times of The Electric Elves, the sounds started to become more akin to the rock sound we would come to expect from Ronnie’s projects!

Elf onwards (Albums unless otherwise stated)

1972 – Elf - Elf

            Elf was a promisingly strong debut album with strong songs and a great production courtesy of one Roger Glover. Stand out track has to be Never More (rating 8/10)

1974 – Elf - Carolina County Ball Album (Known as L.A. 59 in USA)
            Carolina County Ball was a strong album that saw Elf continuing to develop their bluesy hard rock sound. Stand out tracks include Happy, Rainbow and Blanche (rating 8/10)

1974 - Roger Glover - Butterfly Ball (3 songs, Sitting In A Dream, Love Is All, Homeward)
            A great album, if a little quirky. Love the 3 tracks that Ronnie sings on, tend to skip the rest though. Stand out tracks, the three feat Ronnie! (rating 8/10)

1975 - Rainbow – Richie Blackmore’s Rainbow

            A stunning debut album! Very classy. Stand out tracks incl. Man On A Silver Mountain, Temple Of The King, Catch The Rainbow and Self Portrait! (rating 9/10)

1975 – Elf – Trying To Burn The Sun
            Absolutely great album! Very slick production with some great songs! Stand out tracks incl. Wonderworld, and Liberty Road. (rating 9/10)

1976 – Rainbow – Rising
            What can I say. This Album is a classic! Stand out tracks, well Stargazer, but to be honest the entire album! (rating 10/10)

1977 – Rainbow – Long Live Rock N Roll
            Again a really strong album, great songs, and fantastic performances! Stand out tracks, Long Live Rock n Roll, Kill The King, Rainbow Eyes and Gates Of Babylon (rating 10/10)

1978 – Rainbow – On Stage
            A good representation of the Rainbow live experience. Great Set. Stand out tracks, Still Im Sad and Mistreated. (rating 9/10)

1980 – Black Sabbath – Heaven & Hell

            Again what can I say, this album is an all time classic. Standout tracks incl. Heaven & Hell, Children Of The Sea, Die Young and Lonely Is The Word. (rating 10/10)

1980 - Kerry Livgren - Seeds of Change (two songs, Mask Of The Great Deceiver and To Live For The King)
            An interesting diversion. The two tracks feat Ronnie are pretty strong and deserve a rating of 8/10

1981 – V/A – Heavy Metal Soundtrack (A diff version of Black Sabbaths Mob Rules features)
            The version of Mob Rules on this soundtrack has been sort after by Sabbath fans for years! Rating for that song 10/10

1981 – Black Sabbath – Mob Rules
            A truly great album and a worthy successor to Heaven & Hell. Standout tracks incl. Sign Of The Southern Cross, Falling Off The Edge Of The World, Mob Rules, Over and Over (rating 10/10)

1982 – Black Sabbath – Live Evil
            Mixing problems and band tension marred this release. Still a good live album and interesting hearing Ronnie go at the Ozzy era classics! Standout tracks, Sign Of The Southern Cross / Heaven & Hell (rating 8/10)

1983 – Dio – Holy Diver
            Another all time classic, what more can I say? Standout tracks incl. Holy Diver, Don’t Talk To Strangers, Rainbow In The Dark, (rating 10/10)

1984 – Dio – The Last In Line
            A Worthy successor to Holy Diver. Some great Dio classics here incl. We Rock, The \Last In Line, Egypt (the Chains Are On (rating 10/10)

1985 – Dio – Sacred Heart
            This album saw Dio moving in a slightly more commercial direction. Still a good album but somewhat marked the start of a lull in some ways. Standout tracks incl. Sacred Heart, Hungry For Heaven, Rock N Roll Children. (rating 8/10)

1986 – Hear n Aid – Stars (Charity Project released either 1985 / 1986)
            An interesting and commendable project! (rating 8/10)

1986 – Dio – Intermission (Part live Ep with one studio track Time To Burn)
            One of Dio's worst projects, a comprimise release between band and label. Only studio track is a little bit Dio by numbers. (rating 6/10)

1986 - V/A – Iron Eagle Soundtrack (one song, Hide In The Rainbow)
            The Dio track on display here, was stronger, and saw the band moving in the right direction again. (rating 7/10)

1987 – Dio – Dream Evil

            A new line up and a great set of songs make Dream Evil one of my favorite Dio albums. The songs are strong, the performances tight, and well we get a well rounded album. Standout tracks incl. dream Evil, Night People, All The Fools Sailed Away, Sunset Superman, I Could Have Been A Dreamer and Faces In The Window! (rating 10/10)

1990 – Dio – Lock Up The Wolves
            The first Dio album that I ever heard. A good strong solid album. Standout tracks incl. Walk On Water, Born On The Sun, My Eyes. (rating 9/10)

1992 – Black Sabbath – Dehumanizer
            Wow, this album caught a lot of people by surprise, they were expecting Heaven & Hell 2 and got something very heavy and contemporary. Standout tracks incl. After All, I, Buried Alive, Computer God and Sins Of The Father. (rating 9/10)

1992 – V/A Wayne’s World Soundtrack (A diff version of Black Sabbaths Time Machine features)
            Better version of Time Machine than appeared on Dehumanizer. (Rating 9/10)

1994 – Dio – Strange Highways

            A heavier more modern sound graced this album,. Some strong solid songs, in a similar vein to Dehumanizer. Standout tracks incl. Jesus Mary and The Holy Ghost, Evilution, Starnge Highways and Hollywood Black. (rating 9/10)

1996 – Dio – Angry Machines
            This is Dio's poorest release next to intermission, and Dio would later admit that he was never happy with this album, very heavy but rather by the numbers. Standout track This Is Your Life.
(rating 6/10)

1996 – Dog Eat Dog – Play Games (Ronnie features on title track)
            An interesting diversion with Ronnie appearing on a younger generation’s bands album. Decent song with a good performance from Ronnie (rating 7/10)

1997 - Munetaka Higuchi With Dream Castle / Free World (Ronnie sings the track What Cost War)
            Again an interesting diversion if nothing more. Solid performances all round, but I don’t feel that the songs that strong to start with. (rating 7/10)

1998 – Dio - Inferno - Last in Live
            A great example of this eras live shows. An honest live album (rating 8/10)

1999 – V/A - Humanary Stew: A tribute to Alice Cooper (Ronnie sings Welcome To My Nightmare)
            A brilliant version of the song! (rating 10/10)

1999 – V/A - Not The Same Old Song And Dance: A Tribute to Aerosmith (Ronnie Sings Dream On)
            Again Ronnie puts in a brilliant performance here. (rating 10/10)

2000 – Dio – Magica
            A true return to form for Dio. Strong songs, good concept and solid performances. Standout tracks incl. Feed My Head, As Long As It’s Not About Love. (rating 9/10)

2000 – Dio – The Very beast Of Dio (Compilation)

2002 – Dio – Killing The Dragon
            A strong and solid release. Standout tracks incl. Push, Along Comes A Spider, Rock N Roll and throw Away Children. (rating 8/10)

2004 – Dio – Master Of The Moon
            A Strong, solid album with some great songs on it incl. One More For The Road, Man Who Would Be king, The Eyes, Shiver and In Dreams. (rating 9/10)

2005 - Eddie Ojeda - Axes 2 Axes (Ronnie sings the track Tonite)
            A great heavy song! rating 9/10

2005 – Dio - Evil or Divine - Live In New York City
            A good live album very warts n all (rating 8/10)

2006 – Dio – Holy Diver Live
            A great album, Holy Diver played live in its entirety, then a collection of classics, A great Live album! Rating 9/10)

2006 – Ian Gillan – Gillian’s Inn (Ronnie sings on the track Day Late And A Dollar Short)
            Ronnie features alongside Uli Jon Roth, and Gillan. A good track. (rating 8/10)

2006 - Queensrÿche - Operation: Mindcrime II (Ronnie sings on the track The Chaser)
            A strong song with Ronnie putting in a solid performance. (rating 9/10)

2006 – V/A - Tenacious D and The Pick of Destiny (Ronnie sings on the song Kickapoo along with Meatloaf! A great fun track, not to be taken out of the context of the movie! (rating 9/10)

2007 – Black Sabbath – The Dio Years (features 3 new songs written espec. For this compilation,

            The Devil Cried, Shadow Of The Wind, Ear In The Wall
            The three new songs are great, solid with Ear In The Wall and Shadow of the Wind being the best of the three. (rating 10/10)

2007 – Black Sabbath - Live at Hammersmith Odeon

            A limited edition release of a classic 80’s concert. (rating 10/10)

2008 – Girlschool – Legacy (Ronnie sings on the song I Spy)
             The Dio mix of this song is excellent. Good strong song and solid performances all around!      (rating 9/10)

2008 – V/A - We Wish you a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year (Ronnie sings the track God Rest
            Ye Merry Gentlemen)
            An interesting take on an old Christmas carol. I just love it! (rating 9/10)

2009 – Heaven & Hell – The Devil You Know
             Debut album from Heaven & Hell or Dio era’s forth Sabbath album? Who cares, the songs are great, they guys are firing on all cylinders, not a dud anywhere in site. Standout tracks incl. Atom & Evil, Fear, Follow The Tears, Breaking Into Heaven, Eat The Cannibals. (rating 10/10)

Over five decades of contributing excellent music, Rest In Peace, Ronnie James Dio, passed on but never forgotten!!!

Barry Gennard