This Is Ronnie’s Life

There hasn’t been much in the way of Doctor Who news lately, which is why I’ve been fairly absent from the blog. However, earlier this month there was a pretty major release in tribute to someone I’ve brought up here a few times before.

Mother Effing DIO!

Back in June, I tried to review the new Black Sabbath album 13, and instead went on and on about my love for Black Sabbath’s Dio Years. Since Ronnie is a subject I never tire of, I thought I’d weigh in on each track of the new tribute album This Is Your Life.

Put together to help raise funds for cancer research, This Is Your Life assembles an impressive array of Dio’s contemporaries and disciples. His time with Rainbow is well represented, as well as his early solo work. Black Sabbath gets a nod at the start, and the man himself brings me to tears.

Track 1: Neon Knights – Anthrax

You couldn’t ask for a better track to get things started. Back when Ronnie took over for Ozzy as Black Sabbath’s front-man, any doubt that he was the only man for the job was blown right from listener’s minds. Anthrax has done an insanely good cover. Every bit as fun, energizing, and f*cking awesome. Any doubt that this would be a grande tribute is blown right from your mind.

Track 2: The Last In Line – Tenacious D

I get chills listening to this. The D introduced me to the might that is Dio. Here, they’ve taken one of his mightiest anthems, made it their own (Jack is in full form), while still keeping it face-meltingly epic. Do not question if this be evil or divine. The answer is plainly clear.

Track 3: Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob

I know nothing about Adrenaline Mob. Until now I’ve never heard them. But this cover is SO good, I’ll have to look them up. Dear God, it has all the edge that made the original song great, with a bit more bite as well.

Track 4: Rainbow in the Dark – Corey Taylor

This was an odd choice. Or so I thought. While my high school self had a passing appreciation for Slipknot, Mr. Taylor has been off my radar ever since. When I saw his name attached to this, I was worried. No WAY could he handle Ronnie’s catchiest and most iconic song. His vocals weren’t up to the challenge. Then I heard it. 3 words: I was wrong.

Track 5: Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm

Another surprise! Sweet Jesus is this a good cover. My experience with Halestorm has been extremely limited. They had some song on the radio a few years back that did nothing for me. So I was expecting some half-assed, generic attempt to seem cool. Wrong again! The track is super fun and powerful as hell. Like Dio, this lady’s pipes can really blow. She goes from rough and dirty to booming and Olympian. Fantastic.

Track 6: Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford

This was never one of my favorite Rainbow songs. Although catchy as hell, I often skip it. There just isn’t a whole lot to grab me. That being said, this is a perfectly good cover. No problems with it. Nothing extraordinary. Much like the original. Still worth a listen.

Track 7: Temple of the King – Scorpions

Time to cool things off a bit. Not all of Ronnie’s songs were killer metal anthems. Sometimes he was at his best when a little mellowed out telling a story. Temple of the King is one the best examples of this. Filled with atmosphere and grande imagery, the song takes you away to the time of legends. To a day in the year of the fox, to be more accurate. The Scorpions do an incredible job recapturing that mood. Textured and gentle, with a nice dose of theatricality. Every bit as mesmerizing as the original. Wonderful.

Track 8: Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro

Talk about a surprise. Talk about atmosphere. Wow. I have very little to say about this track. It’s just so good and so different. It conjures all kinds of emotions and images, but few words. It’s simply great.

Track 9: Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage

Best. Cover. Ever. Not just the best Dio cover. Best cover. I’ve never heard a cover of ANYTHING that has so perfectly retained everything that made the original so great while completely owning it. Obnoxious amounts of fun. Energizing. The true definition of epic. I know this sounds silly, but if I had to have a theme song (and we all do, right?) this would be mine. When I listen to this, I feel as though I can bend the universe to my will. Goosebump-enducingly incredible.

Track 10: Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren

Mr. Hughes and Mr. Dio go way back. Not only that, but he’s done a lot to pay tribute to his old friend since his death. Catch the Rainbow is one of Ronnie’s more sensitive and emotive performances. If you want to see his range, just listen to Man on the Silver Mountain and this back-to-back. My Dad said he could hardly believe it’s the same guy. Which is true. Glenn’s cover is a bit bluesier than I’d like, but still a touching tribute to his fallen friend.

Track 11: I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy

Dehumanizer is a dense, exhausting, bleak, and doomy album. I never thought for a second that any of its tracks would be included here. Imagine my surprise to come across I. Not only that, but a cover that is just as dense, exhausting, bleak and doomy as the original. I’m not very familiar with Oni Logan, but I’ll be damned if he doesnt strait nail the weight in Ronnie’s voice. Impressive.

Track 12: Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren

…Uhm…I hate to say this…but…this may be the only track I just don’t like. Look, I know Rob Halford is gettin’ up there in years, probably can’t hit the notes he used to, but COME ON! This is Man On The Silver Mountain! Halford is another one of Ronnie’s old buddies, and another guy who has done a lot to keep his memory alive. I would have thought him the perfect choice for this track. Sadly though…not.

Track 13: Ronnie Rising (Featuring A Light In The Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King) – Metallica

What do you do if you’re running out of room and need to fit in more Rainbow tracks? Give four of them to Metallica of course! What a smart decision! I’ve heard all the guys in Metallica (especially Lars) speak very highly of both Rainbow and Ronnie in general. For years I’ve longed to hear them cover just ONE Rainbow song. Now I’ve got FOUR and it is glorious. Of course James is no Ronnie, but he makes up for it by going full-force. I seriously don’t think he’s sounded this good in decades. Lars, Kirk, and Rob all stand up as well, bringing all they’ve got. Hearing the band that introduced me to metal cover some of my favorite metal tracks ever is just too awesome.

Track 14: This Is Your Life – Ronnie James Dio

Okay. This one is tough. Most tribute albums I’ve heard just stick to covers. They’re fun to listen to, but rarely transcend that. By including such an intimate track, including little more than Ronnie and a piano, the producers of this album have elevated the entire work to inspirational. Hearing the booming power of Ronnie’s voice telling us, “This is your life, this is your time, what if the flame won’t last forever? This is your here. This is your now, let it be magical”, is enough to make me well up. He gets the final word, as he should. So it was on the album. So shall it be here. Rock In Peace Mr. Dio.

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