Released: 2010, Niji Entertainment Group
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
The passing of Ronnie James Dio earlier this year left a gaping hole in the hearts of music fans across the world. He was a unique musical figure, the likes of which we’ll never see again. But at the very least, we can be thankful for the legacy of music the man left us with, and that will live forever. And just such an example of that legacy is the newly released DIO AT DONNINGTON UK: LIVE 1983 & 1987, the first release from Ronnie and Wendy Dio’s Niji Entertainment Group. A gorgeous 2-CD package that’s been carefully compiled and presented for the fans, this release is just one more example of why Ronnie James Dio is still the best.
Both discs are have been pulled from the BBC archives and given some TLC for their presentation here, and each disc tells a distinct story about where the Dio band was at their respective moments in time. The disc from 1983 is the band’s first appearance at Castle Donnington and shows a band with something to prove (peep the album cover for proof of that..). Ronnie’s split from Black Sabbath was still fresh, the “Dio” band was a new start for the man and HOLY DIVER was fresh on record store shelves. And that’s the fire that the band brought to Donnington in 1983. Culling a variety of material from HOLY DIVER and some Sabbath and Rainbow staples, Ronnie gave the crowd what they wanted and what they needed, and the songs themselves sound amazing. As good as this band was on recorded wax, their live presence is often overlooked – especially the guitar work of a young Vivian Campbell (you’re wasting your talent in Leppard bro). My memory is hazy, but I seem to remember that this particular concert was previously available as an import through the BBC, or maybe just as a bootleg touted as a BBC recording, but even if you’ve heard this performance before, it doesn’t sound as good as it does here.
Disc 2 is from 1987 and is my personal preference of the two. ’87 was a distinctly different era for Dio – the band had several releases under its belt and had established itself as a metal icon with its own material that could stand up against the Ronnie’s history with Sabbath and Rainbow. Dio is no longer a new band on this disc, but is a “Special Guest” second headliner spot. To give some context to where the world was in 1987, Bon Jovi was the headliner at Donnington that year, ahem….The appearance at Donnington that year was in support of DREAM EVIL and the songs from that album get some much needed attention. I love HOLY DIVER and LAST IN LINE, but the guy had a ton of material that seemed to get lost in later tours. “Dream Evil,” “Naked in the Rain” and “All the Fools Sailed Away” are all presented here, and sound phenomenal. “Rock and Roll Children” also gets a nod here (yes!), as well as the usual Sabbath and Rainbow staples. It’s hard to put the timeline in context, but at the time, Ronnie was the only one keeping those tunes alive. Sabbath hadn’t been “Sabbath” in years, and Rainbow had recently folded, but even before that they weren’t really focused on the older material – all the more reason that the inclusion of “Neon Knights”, “Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll” and “Man on the Silver Mountain” was as important as it was.
Bottom line – you don’t need me to tell you to buy this, just get up off your butt and buy it. The CD packaging is beautiful and comes with replicas of backstage passes for each performance. There’s some brief liner notes courtesy of journalist Dante Bonutto (Classic Rock Magazine, Kerrang!, etc.) and a handful of classic pics, which I wish there’d been more of. The two discs sound awesome, the band sounds awesome, and this release is awesome. DIO AT DONNINGTON UK: LIVE 1983 & 1987 is a release that fully captures what Dio, the man and the band, was all about – the fans. Buy this now, Long live Ronnie James Dio.