DIO – Lord of Roar secret compilation click here
Ronnie James Dio is one of the legends of rock. Actually, he is a legend of metal, hard rock and classic rock, but let’s just elevate past all of that and say ROCK. I first discovered his voice as I followed the thread of in-depth Black Sabbath study and listening exploration in 2006-7. I had always been a mild fan of Black Sabbath, then in 2003 a friend gave me a copy of Master of Reality and that spun me all the way around. Their writing reflected my own thinking back to me. That 3rd album from the original (Ozzy) era Sabbath was much more fitting to my tastes than the ever-popular Paranoid, which perhaps I had just grown tired of. Then in 2006, I got the remastered Black Box, all 8 of the Ozzy-era albums from the 70’s. For almost two years, all I listened to were those 8 albums, Eckhart Tolle books-on-tape, and nature sound CDs. Then in summer 2007, I came across the newly remastered compilation of Dio-era Black Sabbath. It was so different, and yet, just as high-caliber as any other Sabbath. I mean, if there was any doubt that they are the best band in rock history, to completely reformat in the early 80’s with a new vocalist, and sound so different and yet so good and still maintain continuity (Tony Iommi’s genius guitar playing and riffage)–this erased any lingering doubts for sure. And this Dio stuff introduced me to one of my favorite singers of all time, which is a short and selective list to be sure. With very few Caucasians…
Anyways: then my pal Nils played the epic track “Stargazer” one fateful New Year’s Eve for all of us (2007 or 2008). Yet another great band that this Dio guy was in? Yes, Rainbow from the mid-70’s. So my interest grew another dimension. Then he rejoins with the Black Sabbath guys around this time (2008) and records a whole new album. At this point, he is a 50-year music business veteran, an absolute master of his craft, and one of the brightest shining examples of creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, integrity and respect that you might ever discover in any “business” or “industry.”
So then he dies from stomach cancer on May 16, 2010. Well, he had been working perhaps overly hard. So every year since, around that time in May, in spite of not really paying attention to the general music press, I still get the urge to listen to lots of Dio. This year just before the 5th anniversary of his death, the urge was particularly strong, and it became clear that the time had come to delve into the works that he had created with his own band, DIO, that existed more or less continuously from 1983 until 2004, and slightly beyond, and released 10 studio albums. Dio Days 2015 also included the arranging of two Dio (with Sabbath) songs to add to my solo shakuhachi repertoire, but that will be the focus of a later entry (Dio Days 2015, Part II, most likely).
What can I say? It is like a magic realm. Correction: it is a magic realm. You are either in and you have your mind blown wide open, or you are not in and remain outside the stone wall and iron gates of The Land of Dio. There is a kind of long pathway that leads to this gate, mainly featuring the “hits” or classics, as it were: “Heaven and Hell,” “Holy Diver,” “Mob Rules,” “Children of the Sea,” “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Neon Knights” and others. Lots of people know these and like these: how can you not? These are some of the best rock songs of all time. But there is a beyond: a Deeper Dio, if you will. Lots of people know about it; most of them were, like, between 15 and 25 in 1983, when Dio made the leap from Sabbath to his own project and, in that era, 1981-85, his voice and performance prowess reached its ultimate peak, in-my-not-so-humble-opinion. He always sounds good–really good–but some of the live shows and studio albums from those years contain an extra bonus–something.
Now understand this: because I was only 9 years old in 1983, I was still listening to Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Billy Joel and–like everyone else who was not a Dio fan–Michael Jackson’s Thriller. So I came to the band Dio with relatively fresh ears. Sure, I have the bias that “Children of the Sea” and “Stargazer” are two of my favorite songs of all time, but those aren’t from Dio, the band, so this year’s study was begun with some uncertainty: will I like DIO, the band?
So here are a few caveats: there’s some keyboards, so expect that. And what’s more, within the sphere known as “early 80’s metal,” that’s where the Sword of the Land of Dio was forged, so, like every house or property that has its own style and era it hearkens to, it is kind of perpetually 1983 in the Land of Dio, or so it can seem when you first arrive. Even songs from the final DIO studio album Master of the Moon often have an 80’s flavor added, like a spice, even though it is a fresh, creative album from 2004. Just accept it and the visit will be more fun. Then–even though he is widely and wildly respected and championed among musicians and metal fans in general–there’s sometimes the classic metal-snob gripe: “Dio sings too much about wizards and rainbows and witches and dragons and dreams. That’s too, like, wussy or D & D or whatever. REAL metal is just about, like–hate, death, Satan or rotting corpses and stuff.” Fine. Stay in your dark hole if you want.
Part of Dio’s genius was his deep understanding about balance and the ultimate sham that is dualistic thought, whether that’s in life, society or mythology or religion. Given a choice, I’ll take the vaster, larger viewpoint, thanks very much. And thanks RJD for seeing that clearly and sticking to it. (Although in the 90’s, he did get pretty angry and pushed his dark edge much more.) Angels and demons are among us every instant. Stand in the shadow for awhile and look back to the light more clearly. It is all a play. With some really great album artwork, too.
“There’s perfect harmony in the rising and the falling of the sea.” -RJD
“The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you know that your dreaming.” -RJD
Now go listen to some DIO!