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Various Artists – Live and Heavy [Review]

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Various Artists – Live and Heavy
1981, NEMS Records

1. Deep Purple – “Smoke on the Water”
2. Nazareth – “Razamanaz”
3. Motorhead – “White Line Fever”
4. Def Leppard – “Rocks Off”
5. Rainbow – “All Night Long”
6. Status Quo – “Roll Over Lay Down”
7. Whitesnake – “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”
8. UFO – “Lights Out in London”
9. Gillan – “Unchain Your Brain”
10. Black Sabbath – “Paranoid”

What a brutal album cover that totally screams “heavy metal”. I picked this one up on vinyl in great condition for only $1 at a local flea market annex shop called Fort Walton Beach Vintage Records. Live and Heavy is a compilation put out by the British label NEMS that, unsurprisingly, features live tracks by UK rock bands. Had this been released a year or two later, I’m sure it would’ve been full of NWOBHM bands but instead we get bands that are more closely associated with ’70s hard rock and heavy metal.

This compilation has a killer line-up: Gillan-era Deep Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, UFO (“Lights Out” is titled “Lights Out in London” on this release), Ozzy-era Black Sabbath, Motorhead… some of the very best heavy rock bands England has to offer. Even Def Leppard makes an appearance. Pretty good deal for such a new and young band (at the time) to get a track compiled with a number of other legendary bands.

Had this been a compilation of studio tracks, I probably would’ve passed. I’m not big on live album but for a collection of live cuts from these specific bands, I figured it was worth a buck.

The inner sleeve lists the various dates and venues these tracks were recorded. Always good to have that info. I was afraid this was going to be a super low-budget compilation that wouldn’t even bother.

This is a good pick-up for fans of hard rock from the 1970s and early 1980s.

Highlights: “Smoke on the Water”, “All Night Long”, “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”, “Lights Out in London”

Dio – Snapshot [Review]

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Dio – Snapshot
2013, Niji Entertainment/RED Distribution

1. Holy Diver (live)
2. Push
3. Fever Dreams
4. We Rock (live)
5. Long Live Rock N’ Roll (live)
6. Stargazer (live)
7. Heaven and Hell (live)
8. Children of the Sea (live)
9. Eat Your Heart Out (live)
10. Killing the Dragon

Stumbled across this album as it was a generated recommendation for me on a website… I hadn’t heard anything about it but Wendy Dio’s Niji Entertainment is listed as the label for it so I was curious as to what it was and why it seems like there’s been zero press on it.

Did some digging around and turns out that Snapshot is going to be an entire line of budget compilations for artists whose music was distributed through RED Distribution at one time or another. For example, Anthrax will be getting their own Snapshot release. These compilations seem to rely on newer tracks (from albums that RED had distributed) and live cuts of classic tracks. As the cover says, each Snapshot release comes with 10 tracks and four “snapshots” of the artist.

Personally, I don’t care for budget compilations. I think if you’re going to package someone’s music as a “best of” or “greatest hits” then you need to give it the proper care and respect in terms of packaging and song selection. That said, I also understand a casual fan is probably much more likely to pick up a $7 compilation at Walmart rather than purchase a $30 two-disc set from a music store or Amazon.com.

For Dio’s entry into this series, there are 7 live tracks and 3 studio cuts. “Fever Dreams” is from Magica while “Push” & “Killing the Dragon” are from Killing the Dragon. They are good tracks and I would agree that they are highlights from the second half of Dio’s career.

Most of the live tracks are a ripoff. “Stargazer” is only 1 min 42 sec and “Children of the Sea” is 1 min 24 sec.  “Stargazer” is completely cut off just as it’s starting and “Children of the Sea” doesn’t even start at the beginning before it randomly stops. “Heaven and Hell” is pitifully reduced to 3 min 18 sec with another abrupt ending.

I have no clue when and where these live songs were done. If I ever find out, I’ll post the information in this review. “Holy Diver” sounds like a soundcheck to me, but I’m sure most of these songs are taken straight from Dio’s previously released live albums though “Eat Your Heart Out” (Has this one ever appeared on a live release before?) has a poorer sound quality than the rest of the songs.

Even by budget standards, this is an awful compilation. I understand using the work-around of including a few classics by making them live versions but why cut them so pitifully short? I’d rather they just included another late-era Dio studio track than do that.

This album costs so little to buy because it obviously cost so little to produce. It’s cheap. It’s a disgrace to the memory of Ronnie James and Wendy should be ashamed of herself for allowing this misrepresentation to exist. She needs to better protect Ronnie’s memory and work. I have a feeling things are only going to get worse though.

Buy the album at Amazon.com (if you’re a glutton for punishment)

Dio – Finding The Sacred Heart: Live In Philly 1986 [Review]

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Dio – Finding The Sacred Heart: Live In Philly 1986
2013, Eagle Rock Entertainment/Niji Productions

Disc 1
1. Draco Ignis
2. King of Rock and Roll
3. Like the Beat of a Heart
4. Don’t Talk to Strangers
5. Hungry for Heaven
6. Medley: The Last in Line/Children of the Sea/Holy Diver
7. Drum Solo
8. Heaven and Hell
9. Keyboard Solo
10. Guitar Solo

Disc 2
1. Sacred Heart
2. Medley: Rock ‘n’ Roll Children/Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll/Man on the Silver Mountain
3. Time to Burn
4. Stand Up and Shout
5. Rainbow in the Dark
6. We Rock

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Craig Goldy – Guitar
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Vinny Appice – Drums
Claude Schnell – Keyboards

Finding The Sacred Heart: Live In Philly 1986 is Dio’s 5th live album and the second to be released posthumously. As becoming common with live releases (and I think this is a cool idea), not only does is this 1986 concert at the Philadelphia Spectrum presented in audio form but it is also available on DVD and Blu-ray. Truth be told, this show was released on VHS and DVD years ago but those versions were edited down to 60 minutes. Here, you get the entire concert. This is the first time the concert has ever been released as an album.

I watched the DVD a few years ago. It’s quite an enjoyable show and features Dio at the peak of his powers and flashy theatrics. Lasers, smoke and Dio fighting Denzil the dragon… what more could you want ?! Plus, I’ve always had a really soft spot for the Sacred Heart album, which the band was touring behind at the time. That’s probably my favorite disc from this band.

This is a great live performance. Most of the hits you’d want to hear from Dio are presented: “Rainbow in the Dark”, “We Rock”, “Sacred Heart”, “Heaven and Hell” and then there are three medleys to satiate the Black Sabbath and Rainbow fans even more.

Finding The Sacred Heart catches Dio going through a hair metal phase but it’s still a great release and features one of the better line-ups for the band. Well worth seeking out, as is this show in video form.

Highlights: “King of Rock and Roll”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “The Last In Line/Children of the Sea/Holy Diver”, “Sacred Heart”, “Stand Up and Shout”, “We Rock”

http://www.ronniejamesdio.com
http://www.facebook.com/OfficialRonnieJamesDio

Buy the Blu-ray at Amazon.com
Buy the CD at Amazon.com

Rainbow – On Stage

Rainbow – On Stage [Remastered] (1999, Polydor Records)
Original Release: 1977, Polydor Records

1. “Kill The King” … 5:31
2. Medley: “Man On The Silver Mountain/Blues/Starstruck” … 11:15
3.”Catch The Rainbow” … 15:36
4. “Mistreated” … 13:07
5. “Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” … 7:37
6. “Still I’m Sad” … 11:05

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar
Jimmy Bain – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Tony Carey – Keyboards

Producer: Martin Birch

This seems to be one of those live albums that everyone likes to point to as a live-album-gone-wrong. Not really sure why. I can understand some of the bitching about the track listing but Ritchie has always done whatever he’s wanted to — fans be damned. So I’m sure he had his reasons for not including “Stargazer”, probably just to tick people off. Whatever the case was, with only the debut and Rising under their belt, I think the collection of songs here is just fine. Especially when you factor in the band debuts “Kill The King” from the forthcoming Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll album, plays Deep Purple’s “Mistreated” and basically plays an extended version of the songs.

I’ve even read some state this album is boring, that is lacks energy. I just don’t see it that way. I’m one of those guys that LOVES going to a concert and watching guitar solos and drum solos and all of that stuff. I don’t see how anyone who truly appreciates rock music or music in general can say stuff like that is boring. Just listen to Blackmore and keyboardist Tony Carey as they duel together in the middle of the medley. Listen to that bit of blues played in that medley as well. That’s great and classic stuff. I love it whenever a band stretches out a song in concert and segues in and out of different songs and solos. The crowd obviously was having a blast because they started clapping to a beat while Ritchie fiddles around in the middle of “Mistreated”.

This is one of the grandest and most epic live albums I have ever heard and not for one second was I bored with it. It’s like actually being there in concert. This is what you would have heard. Extended versions like these are where you really get to see a band act like a band and play off each other. It’s amazing. This a true classic featuring Ronnie James Dio and Ritchie Blackmore — two of the most legendary figures in the world of rock and metal. Essential listening as far as I’m concerned because the Dio era of Rainbow can really do no wrong.

Highlights: ALL!

RAINBOW – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow

Rainbow – Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1987, PolyGram Records/Polydor Records)
Original Release: 1975, PolyGram Records

1.”Man on the Silver Mountain” … 4:37
2.”Self Portrait” … 3:12
3.”Black Sheep of the Family” … 3:19
4.”Catch the Rainbow” … 6:29
5.”Snake Charmer” … 4:30
6.”The Temple of the King” … 4:43
7.”If You Don’t Like Rock ‘n’ Roll” … 2:35
8.”Sixteenth Century Greensleeves” … 3:29
9.”Still I’m Sad” … 3:52

Band:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar
Craig Gruber – Bass
Gary Driscoll – Drums
Mickey Lee Soule – Piano, Mellotron, Clavinet, Organ

Producer: Martin Birch

I’m so sorry I ever took so long to get into Rainbow. I really like all eras of the band but obviously the Dio years were the best and the debut is also the best of the band’s catalog. I can’t stop listening to this CD, there is NO filler here at all. The only song that comes close to being filler is the cover of Quatermass’ “Black Sheep of the Family”, which is funny because that song is the one reason Rainbow existed — Deep Purple refused to cover it at Ritchie Blackmore’s request so he went out on his own to do it and the recording session morphed into a full album and a new group (Blackmore + Elf = Purple Elf?).

Yes, there are a number of epic songs from the next two studio albums but this whole album just really pulls me in. The album has such a classic rock ‘n’ roll sound coupled with some really cool melancholy tunes (“Catch the Rainbow”, “The Temple of the King”) and a bit of a loose, bluesy feel at times (“Snake Charmer”, “If You Don’t Like Rock ‘n’ Roll”) all while playing into Blackmore & Dio’s sword & sorcery obsessions and setting the blueprint for the next generation of rock bands.

“Man on the Silver Mountain” and the cover of The Yardbirds’ “Still I’m Sad” are the hardest rocking songs of the bunch but the previously mentioned melancholy laid back tunes really get to me and have gotten the most play from me thus far. The album really is almost perfect, such a great balance between ballads, “heavy rock” and good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll swagger.

Really what else can be said that hasn’t been said since 1975? Easily one of the best rock albums of all-time! Everyone should own this!

Highlights: “Man on the Silver Mountain”, “Catch The Rainbow”, “Snake Charmer”, “The Temple of the King”, “Still I’m Sad”

JORN – Dio

Jorn – Dio (2010, Frontiers Records)

1. “Song for Ronnie James” … 8:08
2. “Invisible” … 5:23
3. “Shame on the Night” … 5:21
4. “Push” … 4:00
5. “Stand Up and Shout” … 3:23
6. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” … 4:55
7. “Lord of the Last Day” … 4:50
8. “Night People” … 4:24
9. “Sacred Heart” … 6:26
10. “Sunset Superman” … 4:56
11. “Lonely Is the Word / Letters from Earth” … 5:28
12. “Kill the King” … 4:03
13. Straight Through the Heart (live)” … 5:05

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Tor Erik Myhre – Guitar
Jgor Gianola – Guitar
Tore Moren – Guitar
Nic Angileri – Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums, Percussion

Additional Musicians:
Tommy Hansen – Keyboards

Producer: Tommy Hansen

This album was quite a surprise that shocked the metal world for a short time. I believe it was only a week or two after Ronnie James Dio’s passing that a press release was sent out announcing Jorn Lande’s Dio tribute album would be arriving soon. Many people were confused and upset over this. Was Jorn exploiting the memory of Ronnie James? How would he have recorded this album so quickly? Well, soon the word got out that this album had been in the works since 2009 and it had the blessing of Ronnie and his wife Wendy. So all was good in the world again and the metal community then began to anxiously await Jorn’s take on some Dio classics.

The album features a few Black Sabbath, Heaven and Hell and Rainbow tunes but it mostly focuses on the Dio band. 5 songs come Holy Diver and the next in line (not an intentional pun!) is Dream Evil, which is represented with 2 songs. I was pleasantly surprised by the track listing. Do we really need another cover of “Holy Diver”, “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll”, “Heaven and Hell” or “Rainbow in the Dark”? No. Instead, we get some less obvious, but still great, choices like “Push” (from 2000’s Magica album!), “Invisible”, “Lord of the Last Day”, “Sacred Heart” (maybe my favorite song from the Dio band) and “Sunset Superman”. I really would’ve liked to have heard something from the Killing the Dragon album as well, I think that’s one of Dio’s best albums.

If there are a few complaints I could make about the song choices, it’s that I would have liked to have heard Jorn cover some of Rainbow’s more epic songs like “Stargazer” or Dio’s “The Last In Line” (even “Stars” would’ve been fun). I guess those count as “obvious” covers but I really would have loved to hear Lande’s voice on those pieces. And what a voice! Though I’m not in love with much of Jorn’s original work, you can’t deny he has a fantastic voice. Had he been around in a previous era, he’d probably be considered one of the all-time great rock singers. In this day and age, if anyone can do Ronnie James Dio justice, it’s Jorn Lande. In fact, if Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are interested in doing something other than a reunion with Ozzy, I would love for them to work with Jorn on some original material.

The songs are pretty straight-forward covers. There’s no experimentation being done here, which is fine. If you’re like me, you didn’t buy the album to hear them fool around with the songs. You bought it to hear Jorn’s voice and he doesn’t disappoint. Given the advances in technology since the originals came along, it’s also nice to hear re-recorded versions anyway. There is one original song: “Song For Ronnie James”. When I first heard it, I didn’t like it and thought it was very cheesy but it has grown on me.

If you’re a huge fan of either Ronnie or Jorn, I think this is an album you need to have in your collection.

Highlights: “Song For Ronnie James”, “Push”, “Stand Up and Shout”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Sacred Heart”, “Sunset Superman”

http://www.jornlande.com/
http://www.myspace.com/realjorn

DIO – Stand Up and Shout: The Anthology

Dio – Stand Up and Shout: The Anthology (2003, Rhino Records)

Disc One:
1. “Hoochie Koochie Lady” … 5:34
2. “I’m Coming Back for You” … 3:28
3. “Carolina County Ball” … 4:47
4. “Man on the Silver Mountain” … 4:39
5. “Starstruck” … 4:07
6. ” Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” … 4:21
7. ” Neon Knights” … 3:53
8. “Children of the Sea” … 5:34
9. ” Heaven and Hell” … 6:58
10. “Turn Up the Night” … 3:42
11. “The Sign of the Southern Cross” … 7:45
12. “The Mob Rules” … 3:15
13. “Voodoo (live)” … 5:30
14. “Sacred Heart (live)” … 6:28

Disc Two:
1. “Stand Up and Shout” … 3:18
2. “Holy Diver” … 5:51
3. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” … 4:55
4. “Straight Through the Heart” … 4:32
5. “Rainbow in the Dark” … 4:16
6. “We Rock” … 4:35
7. “The Last in Line” … 5:45
8. “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” … 7:01
9. “King of Rock and Roll” … 3:51
10. “Hungry for Heaven” … 4:12
11. “Dream Evil” … 4:24
12. “All the Fools Sailed Away” … 7:13
13. “Lock Up the Wolves” … 8:33
14. “Strange Highways” … 6:52

Musicians:
Ronnie James Dio – Vocals
(No, I’m not listing 30+ years worth of musicians. You know the bands, you know who played what.)

Spectacular career retrospective of Ronnie James Dio and it isn’t just his solo work that’s featured. This two disc collection covers his work in Elf, Rainbow and Black Sabbath as well. All that’s missing is a few doo-wop songs from his days with the Red Cap and the Prophets! Disc one covers his time in Elf, Rainbow and Sabbath while disc two focuses entirely on the band Dio.

This is hardly the first Dio compilation, but to my knowledge, it is the first to not focus exclusively on his solo career. All of the original songs by the original bands are here (meaning these aren’t re-recordings by Dio and his band), which is awesome. Getting the Sabbath songs on the album probably wasn’t too hard because Rhino is a part of Warner Bros. (the longtime label of Black Sabbath), but Elf was released under Epic Records (owned by Sony) and Rainbow comes from Polydor Records (owned by Universal). So Kudos to Rhino Entertainment for working with three separate labels to give us a truly wonderful career overview of one of rock’s most amazing singers.

It’s evident from “Hoochie Koochie Lady” to “Strange Highways” that Ronnie’s voice has not faltered through the decades. Ronnie James Dio defies time itself! In fact, if anything, his voice has better more rich and powerful as time soldiers on. The only gripe I can have about this album is that “Computer God” is the only song from Dehumanizer. That album was great! “Voodoo” is from Sabbath’s Live Evil and I’m assuming the live version of “Sacred Heart” comes from Intermission.

I wanted to pick this album up when it was first released because I was just then beginning to take an interest in Black Sabbath and Dio, but I held off because I think the album was $25-30 at the time and I wasn’t sure if I would even like it. I picked it up a year or two later at Walmart for $13. I’m sure this album can probably be found for that same price or maybe even less these days.

Sometimes referred to as The Dio Anthology: Stand Up and Shout or Stand Up and Shout: The Dio Anthology.

www.ronniejamesdio.com
www.myspace.com/dioofficial

RAINBOW – Down to Earth

Rainbow – Down to Earth [Remastered] (1999, Polydor Records)
Original Release: 1979, Polydor Records

1. “All Night Long” … 3:49
2. “Eyes of the World” … 6:39
3. “No Time to Lose” … 3:41
4. “Makin’ Love” … 4:36
5. “Since You Been Gone” … 3:16
6. “Love’s No Friend” … 4:51
7. “Danger Zone” … 4:27
8. “Lost in Hollywood” … 4:51

Band:
Graham Bonnet – Vocals
Ritchie Blackmore – Guitar
Roger Glover – Bass
Cozy Powell – Drums
Don Airey – Keyboards

Produced by: Roger Glover

Don’t get me wrong, I like Dio-era Rainbow, but it’s their more AOR/commercial-minded efforts that I enjoy most. I’ll put the slick mainstream hard rock of “Since You Been Gone”, “Street of Dreams” and “Stone Cold” against anything they did when Ronnie James Dio was in the band.

And Dio wasn’t the only Rainbow member to exit the band: Bob Daisley and David Stone were replaced by former Deep Purple bandmate Roger Glover and keyboardist Don Airey. With journeyman Cozy Powell on the drums, this is an incredibly strong line-up.

It’s a shame things didn’t work out with Graham Bonnet (this is his only Rainbow album) because he’s a fantastic vocalist turning in some great performances on “Makin’ Love”, “Eyes of the World” and “No Time to Lose” especially.

The sound is different from the medieval so-called “dragon rock” of the Dio years, but as far as I’m concerned this is another classic release and is fantastic from start to finish it… even if my woman said she didn’t like it and “they should like they’re trying to be KISS”.

I love the album’s cover. It’s so very 70s and happy thanks to the use of the cosmic rainbow. =-) It would be the last Rainbow album to feature a rainbow on the cover though. =-(

Highlights: All of it

YOUTH GONE WILD: Heavy Metal Hits of the 80’s, Volume 1

YOUTH GONE WILD: HEAVY METAL HITS OF THE 80’S, VOLUME 1 (1996, Rhino Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” – Scorpions (4:12)
2. “Talk Dirty to Me” – Poison (3:45)
3. “The Last in Line” – Dio (5:47)
4. “Lay It Down” – Ratt (3:27)
5. “Never Enough” – L.A. Guns (4:14)
6. “Parental Guidance” – Judas Priest (3:26)
7. “Blind in Texas” – W.A.S.P. (4:22)
8. “Ace of Spades” – Motorhead (2:49)
9. “Balls to the Wall” – Accept (5:43)
10. “Street of Dreams” – Rainbow (4:28)
11. “Screaming in the Night” – Krokus (6:40)
12. “Summertime Girls [Studio Version]” – Y&T (3:28)
13. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” -Twisted Sister (3:40)
14. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot (4:50)

Rhino was ahead of the curve by a few years when they started releasing 80s metal compilations as the hair metal renaissance really didn’t start picking up until around ’98 and ’99 with the arrival of sites like Metal Sludge, VH1 Behind the Music specials on bands like Poison & Def Leppard, and the countless hair band reunion and summer tours that sprung up.  The first three volumes of this series were all released on the same day and there was a fourth volume released in ’98 (don’t worry, I’ll be getting to all of them).

Of all the YGW releases, this is the most star-studded, with Krokus and Y&T being the only lesser-known bands (but any fan of the genre knows who those bands are). There are some glaring omissions from the whole series (Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, etc.), but I’ll just assume they probably couldn’t afford to license any of those songs because with the exception of Cinderella, most of those acts remained big names even as the 90s rolled on.

Every song here is a classic with the exception of Priest’s “Parental Guidance”, which enters the Cheese Zone somewhat. There’s so many better Priest songs they could’ve chosen to represent them outside of the standard Priest “classics” (I’m assuming they were trying to avoid the obvious inclusions like “You Got Another Thing Comin'” and “Breaking the Law”).

This is the best volume of the series and probably one of the better 80s metal compilations you’re going to find as virtually every band is represented by their signature song. Even if you already own the albums these songs originally appeared on, this compilation makes for a great “mix” CD to go cruising around with.

Highlights: The whole freakin’ album. Even the weakest song (“Parental Guidance”) has some charm to it, as long as you take it in the context of “it was the 80s”. Bonafide classic tracks here.

Lowlights: None. A near perfect compilation.

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