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Dio at Donnington UK: Live 1983 & 1987
December 2010
Released: 2010, Niji Entertainment Group
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP

Almost six months to the day after Ronnie James Dio died, two live albums came to commemorate his passing. I’m going to review both of them as my little tribute to him. The other is the Heaven And Hell, NEON NIGHTS live album which you can read in this months reviews as well.

This is the first release by Wendy Dio’s group and they did a really great job. The package is truly a fitting tribute to Dio. It is a lavish Double digi-pak with a decent essay by Dante Bonutto and half a dozen rare photos…Dio & Dee in the backstage area …classic! The case also houses a couple of replica backstage passes one from each show. The whole thing looks great.

Inside we get two discs each one a show from Donnington, one show on the HOLY DIVER tour in 1983 and one in 1987 of the DREAM EVIL tour. Both shows are-mastered with Dio overseeing the work before his passing. Both sets seem to have the drums pretty loud in the mix and the keyboards at times are barely audible. However the sound is big and bold.

The 1983 set seems a bit thin. Dio as a solo artist was 5th on the bill of 6 bands and only afforded 45 minutes. The packaging says there are 12 tracks but that is a bit misleading. There are only about 7 songs per se. The drum solo, guitar solo, aren’t really songs and very short snippets of ‘Stargazer’ and ‘Starstruck’ worked into other songs don’t really count as full-songs…neither does listing ‘Man on the Silver Mountain (reprise)’ count. So what we get is four songs from his debut solo album, 2 Sabbath cuts and a Rainbow cut.

However, that same track listing is also a strength. It is really neat about this show (and Dio concerts in general) is that he does add bits and pieces into the other songs. It’s not just a static set of song-song-song…it’s more like a free-flowing rock ‘n’ roll show with guitar solos, drum solos, and musical goodies thrown into the mix. I’m not suggesting that the packaging is deliberately trying to mislead, it’s just that the music was over too soon!

Speaking of guitar solos, Vivian Campbell was on fire! It just goes to demonstrate what a complete shame it is that he is wasting his talent having joined Def Leppard and slummed it playing pop-rock for the last 25 years. Heaven and Hell (the song) gets stretched out (as usual) to 11 minutes but for my dollar the highlight are the HOLY DIVER tracks with his young hungry band.

Sliding over to Disc Two and fast-forwarding four years to 1987. Campbell is gone replaced by Craig Goldy and the band is now sitting pretty at the #2 slot just under headliners Bon Jovi. Metallica, Anthrax, W.A.S.P. and Cinderella round out the eclectic bill, demonstrating perhaps that in the 80’s it was still all considered ‘Metal’. Take that revisionists!

The bands set is still only at 50 minutes long but the band seems more confident and in command now with 4 albums under their belts. The 1983 set might have seemed a bit hesitant but now seven of the 12 cuts are from his solo career. It is a real treat to hear ‘Naked In The Rain’ and ‘All The Fools Sailed Away’ from DREAM EVIL. The solos and extended jam parts are stripped away in favour of an extra song or two affording the show a bit more an intense experience, a little less laid back and jammy. Really the two shows juxtapose each other very nicely. Again the drums are way up in the mix but the keyboards are beefier as well.

Final note goes to Dio’s performance. Now, settled nicely in the middle of his career Dio still is a magnificent vocal presence. How good was he? Let’s do a compare and contrast exercise. I might suggest listening to the first Rainbow live album ON STAGE (‘77) the second Donnington show (’87) then proceed to INFERNO-THE LAST IN LIVE (recorded in ’97) and finish with the first live Heaven and Hell album (’07). Four live albums each tens years apart, each with Dio on vocals. Can you see any drop in quality? I can’t. Long live Dio and long live rock ‘n’ roll.
Track Listing

Disc One (1983)

1. Stand Up and Shout
2. Straight Through The Heart
3. Children Of The Sea
4. Rainbow In The Dark
5. Holy Diver
6. Drum Solo
7. Stargazer
8. Guitar Solo
9. Heaven And Hell
10. Man On The Silver Mountain
11. Starstruck
12. Man On The Silver Mountain (Reprise)

Disc Two (1987)

1. Dream Evil
2. Neon Knights
3. Naked In The Rain
4. Rock N' Roll Children
5. Long Live Rock N' Roll
6. The Last In Line
7. Children Of The Sea
8. Holy Diver
9. Heaven And Hell
10. Man On The Silver Mountain
11. All The Fools Sailed Away
12. The Last In Line (Reprise)
13. Rainbow In The Dark


Vivian Campbell-Guitar (Disc One)
Craig Goldy-Guitar (Disc Two)
Jimmy Bain-Bass
Claude Schnell-Keyboards
Vinny Appice-Drums

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