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Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life [Review]

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 Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life
2014, Rhino Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Neon Knights – Anthrax
2. The Last In Line – Tenacious D
3. The Mob Rules – Adrenaline Mob
4. Rainbow In The Dark – Corey Taylor, Roy Mayorga, Satchel, Christian Martucci, Jason Christopher
5. Straight Through The Heart – Halestorm
6. Starstruck – Motörhead with Biff Byford
7. The Temple Of The King – Scorpions
8. Egypt (The Chains Are On) – Doro
9. Holy Diver – Killswitch Engage
10. Catch The Rainbow – Glenn Hughes, Simon Wright, Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren
11. I – Oni Logan, Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, Brian Tichy
12. Man On The Silver Mountain – Rob Halford, Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, Scott Warren
13. Ronnie Rising Medley (A Light In The Black / Tarot Woman / Stargazer / Kill The King) – Metallica
14. This Is Your Life – Dio
Bonus Track:
15. Buried Alive – Jasta

Well, there certainly hasn’t been an absence of Dio-related releases since Ronnie’s passing. In the 4 years that Ronnie has been gone there have been two compilations, two live releases (a third is due shortly) and at least three tribute albums by my count. Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life is the third tribute album that I am aware of. The first two tributes were Jorn’s Dio (which Wendy Dio gave her blessing for) and Joey DeMaio’s Magic (which Wendy did not approve of), though I’m sure there’s probably more out there.

As far as star power and  talent goes, you won’t find a better Dio tribute: Anthrax, Halestorm, Metallica, Scorpions, Rob Halford, Motorhead, Biff Byford, Vinny Appice, Doro, Doug Aldrich… the list goes on and on.

Most these songs are played fairly straight and faithfully but it’s still interesting to hear Dio covered by other well-known artists and the songs cover his years in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and the Dio band. The majority of these tracks range from good to excellent. Even Tenacious D (who I normally can’t stand) do a decent job.

There are a few tracks I do have an issue with though. For one, Killswitch Engage’s “Holy Diver”. I don’t like metalcore and never needed to hear a metalcore version complete with unnecessary pinch harmonics that would make Zakk Wylde proud. I give them credit for trying to make the song their own, but it doesn’t make it a good cover.

Then there’s the cover of Black Sabbath’s “I”. There’s a good line-up of musicians on the track and Oni Logan is a good singer but he lacks the power to really put that song over the top like Dio did. He doesn’t sound bad, but I don’t think he’s the right fit for a song like this, if that makes any sense.

Then there’s “Man on the Silver Mountain”. Again, great musicians here. It’s Rob Halford backed by a collection of former Dio band members. Doug Aldrich’s presence is felt throughout the song and while he was in Dio before he joined Whitesnake, the song is given a slight makeover and comes across like a modern Whitesnake song. Halford sounds fine, but again, he doesn’t have the proper voice to be covering songs sung by Ronnie James Dio. Or songs sung by Ronnie James Dio that have been given a Whitesnake makeover. I’m liking this take on the song musically, I just think Halford’s vocals are out of place.

Glenn Hughes turns in a fantastic soulful performance on “Catch the Rainbow”. He is also backed by a collection of former Dio players. Motorhead & Biff Byford do a great job on “Starstruck” and I initially thought that was the Glenn Hughes track when I first heard it. “The Temple of the King” by Scorpions is wonderful as well. It’s a faithful cover of the original but it’s very cool to hear Klaus Meine on vocals.

The track that is garnering the most attention, obviously, is the Metallica track. I’m glad they are on this project because there’s no doubt they have brought eyes to this album that might not have given it a look otherwise. They do a good job covering four of Rainbow’s best songs.

The physical CD closes the album with the ballad “This Is Your Life” which is pulled from Dio’s 1996 album Angry Machines. The song is given extra weight considering the circumstances. Jasta’s “Buried Alive” is a digital album exclusive bonus track and is actually pretty good. Once again, Japan gets more material than North America because Stryper’s cover of “Heaven and Hell” and the Dio Disciples’ take on “Stand Up and Shout” appear on pressings over there. Seriously, what’s up with Japan always getting bonus tracks that never see the light of the day in the United States? I’ve never heard anyone actually address why that happens so often!

A few minor quibbles, but this isn’t a better Dio tribute album out and there probably never will be. Must have for Dio fans!

Highlights: “Rainbow In the Dark”, “Straight Through the Heart”, “Starstruck”, “The Temple of the King”, “Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, “Catch the Rainbow”, “Ronnie Rising Medley”, “This Is Your Life”

Steel Panther – All You Can Eat [Review]

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Steel Panther – All You Can Eat
2014, Open E Entertainment
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Pussywhipped
2. Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World
3. Gloryhole
4. Bukkake Tears
5. Gangbang at the Old Folks Home
6. Ten Strikes You’re Out
7. The Burden of Being Wonderful
8. Fucking My Heart in the Ass
9. B.V.S
10. You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk
11. If I Was King
12. She’s On the Rag

Band:
Michael Starr – lead vocals, backing vocals
Satchel – lead, rhythm and acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Lexxi Foxxx – bass guitar, backing vocals
Stix Zadinia – drums, percussion, piano, backing vocals

Additional Musicians:
Vivian Campbell – Guitar (“Gangbang at the Old Folks Home”)

Steel Panther continues to prowl the streets with their special satiric blend of heavy metal, melodic rock, sex and gross-out humor. All You Can Eat delivers some of the band’s best songs to date with some interesting musical choices. “Pussywhipped” begins with an acoustic intro that sounds a bit ominous, I half expected the band to break out into 1980s-era thrash song while the keyboards portions used in “She’s On the Rag” sound like they could have very well come from a Lady GaGa song.

For my money, Steel Panther is one of the best rock/metal bands around. Not only are they funny but they are great musicians and songwriters. Pop, heavy metal, glam… it doesn’t matter. They do it and do it well (and I’m not just talking about having sex). Though the band already has some great songs in their catalog, this is probably their best record to date. I can’t get “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “Bukkake Tears” or “She’s On the Rag” out of my head. In fact, I’ve had to correct myself at work because I’ve found myself mumbling the lyrics on a number of occasions. And trust me, “Bukkake Tears” and “She’s On the Rag” are two songs you don’t want to sing aloud unless you want a visit from HR!

Even so, “Bukkake Tears” and “The Burden of Being Wonderful” are two of my favorite songs of the year. They are nothing short of modern pop-metal masterpieces. I realize some people many not be accepting of that given the lyrics, but that’s how I feel. If these guys toned down the humor for one album, they’d probably deliver one of the best hair metal albums of all time. Even with the humor, they are still delivering some of the best hair metal albums. Filler tracks here would be “B.V.S.” (which stands for Big Vagina Syndrome) and “Ten Strikes You’re Out”.

All You Can Eat is an extremely fun album with great riffs and catchy choruses for days. Gonna be tough to beat this one at the end of the year.

Highlights: “Pussywhipped”, “Party Like Tomorrow Is the End of the World”, “Gloryhole”, “Bukkake Tears”, “The Burden of Being Wonderful”, “You’re Beautiful When You Don’t Talk”, “She’s On the Rag”

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