Various Artists Ronnie James Dio-This Is Your Life
Released: 2014, Rhino
On May 16th of this year, (2014) it will be the 4th anniversary of the death of Ronnie James Dio. In April Rhino records released a tribute album called THIS IS YOUR LIFE. The amount if media hype about this album was unbelievable and frankly a bit puzzling. This was just sixth (or seventh depending how you count) Dio tribute on the market. Why was everyone so excited about this one? How does it compare to the five previous ones? Of course being a true Dio fan I own all of them so I decided to pull them from the vaults and review them. They are, in chronological order of release…
AWAKEN THE DEMON-TRIBUTE TO DIO (Dwell, 1999)
HOLY DIO-A TRIBUTE TO THE VOICE OF METAL:RONNIE JAMES DIO (Century Media, 1999)
DIO (Jorn) (Frontiers 2010)
MAGIC-A TRIBUTE TO RONNIE JAMES DIO (Magic Circle Music, 2010)
TO HEAVEN THROUGH HELL-A TRIBUTE TO RONNIE JAMES DIO (Backstage, 2011)
RONNIE JAMES DIO-THIS IS YOUR LIFE (Rhino, 2014)
The Jorn album DIO was already reviewed by our very own Waspman back in July of 2010 so feel free to check out this review as well as part of this feature/tribute. Please feel free to enjoy al the reviews in this feature.
This is the most recent and automatically the most well-known tribute to Dio due to a strong advertising campaign and the involvement of some of the titans of Metal namely Rob Halford, Doro, Scorpions, Motorhead, Saxon and Metallica. Does THIS IS YOUR LIFE live up to the hype? Yes and No. In fact, it was the release of this album that gave me the idea to compare and contrast the existing Dio tribute albums and let people know there are better Dio tributes out there.
In technical terms this release is extremely well designed and put together. It is a fold-our digi-pak, with the unique artwork of Marc Sasso, depicting the various artists on the compilation. Of course the omnipresent Murray is looming in the background. You can feel the love, respect and admiration for the man oozing from the 18-page booklet with countless photos, quotes and personal anecdotes from the various participants. Every artist gets one page and in a very nice touch there are photos of Dio with each artist. They really dug into the vaults to publish these shots, most of them candid backstage shots of Dio with Metallica, Dio with Klaus Meine, Dio with Doro etc. I suspect the individual artists donated these photos to the project. In terms of packaging, presentation, layout and design THIS IS YOUR LIFE is the best of all the Dio tributes. And of course all the proceeds go to the Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund. A+ for the booklet.
There are several major highlights on THIS IS YOUR LIFE. Most Notably Metallica. The Rainbow four-song medley is reminiscent of the Mercyful Fate medley they did years back. Anything Metallica touches turns to gold so their participation is a major score. The Saxon/Motohead version of ‘Starstruck’ is excellent as well. Scorpions just nail ‘Temple Of The King’ and Anthrax add some needed firepower with a strong, albeit predictable opener, ‘Neon Knights’. Rob Halford leads an all-star group of ex-Dio members in a faithful version of ‘Man On The Silver Mountain’. Doro’s version of Egypt has always been a favourite of mine as well and perennial Dio champions, the comedy team, Tenacious D also make the grade. A track of note is the song 'I' from DEHUMANIZER and it is not bad but not as good as Tyr's version.
In terms of the bad, there are some things that bog this tribute down. We have Halestorm. Poor choice. Not Metal. Another poor choice for inclusion is the already available version of ‘Holy Diver’ by Killswitch Engage which most of us could never quite figure out if they are making fun of Dio or paying tribute. It’s rare that a band can ruin a Dio song, but somehow they managed too. My feeling was that they were way off the mark and was disappointed to see their lame version of this iconic song on the tribute. I understand that this tribute has some younger bands like Killswitch, Halestorm and the Slipknot guy for commercial purposes of marketability and that’s fine. Perhaps it is good to include these bands to attract younger fans who may learn more about Dio and in turn generate more sales and profit for the cancer fund. However, the critic and cynic in me is saddened to see these bands on the tribute. It seems to me that these bands pay a lot of lip-service to Dio being ‘inspired’ by him but in reality, if your silly, nu-metal, mallcore band sounds nothing like Dio and your band completely misses the entire point of being Metal to begin with, can you really claim to be ‘inspired’ by him? I’m skeptical.
It seems like the cool thing to do, to jump on the ‘I’m a Dio fan’ bandwagon and I suspect their motives are contrived and calculated to try to broaden their audience and exposure. Eg. “Hey! We can be on a tribute to Dio with Metallica! My manger says it will sell a million copies! Cool! Dio who? Never heard of him. That’s OK. Never mind, we can learn the song in a day and it will be good for our exposure.” There are dozens and dozens of cool, young METAL bands who DO get it, and would do a far better version of a Dio song on this tribute, than the unworthy hale-knot-engage trio. Back in 2011 Wendy Dio announced the participation of Sebastian Bach and Alice Cooper. They were supposed to be on this but where here are they? They would be far better choices than dudes from lame, mall core bands like Stone Sour, Soulfly, and Slipknot.
In addition to those three weak links, we have the title track, which is already available and well known to Dio fans. The Doro cut is already available. We get a couple of weird mash-up’s with a bunch of all-stars and a comedic song by Tenacious D. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the 'D', but their version of ‘The Last In Line, complete with flute solo adds to the novelty effect for the whole compilation. Overall, the choice of songs was pretty uninspired. They are fantastic songs but with over 100 Elf/Rainbow/Black Sabbath/Dio songs to choose from we get the predictable and pedestrian choices from 1975-1985, and all of these songs, with the exception of the Dio original, 'I' from DEHUMANIZER and the Metallica medley, have appeared two or three times each, on the previous Dio tribute albums. In my estimation six of the fourteen tracks were unnecessary and added nothing to the compilation.
The cover art is also a sore point. It is so fundamentally flawed on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin. This next three paragraphs will be an extended rant about the album cover, and Yes, I fully realize how silly it is to micro-analyze an album cover but is the principle of the issue. Allow me to explain the unfortunate reality of business. There are two iron-clad rules. #1 Commerce will win out over art. #2. Sex sells. That is why we have the chick from Halestorm is positioned in front of Rob Halford, THE METAL GOD. Think about it. It’s embarrassing. If there was any sort of attempt to maintain realism, the artist would have shown some respect for the peers and colleagues of Dio.
If I was in charge (well, it never would have happened because I would have not let it get that far) I would do a total recall of all the albums, scrap the cover art and start over. There is a Metal hierarchy and yes, it does matter to some of us. Obviously the artist (or the person who was telling the artist) what to do, has no clue and compromised the integrity of Metal for commerce. Dio would not have compromised. Any Metal fan with an ounce of credibility or experience could point out the many flaws in the album cover design. Jumping back to our sex sells rule…the proper thing to do would be to have the main Metal gods up front. Here is the harsh reality. Guys like Biff Byford, who practically invented Metal are relegated to the fourth row of the back-cover, because, well, let’s face it, the grizzled, old, British bulldog bastard does not the same sex appeal of the Halestorm chick with her American flag suit and her boobs almost hanging out.
I have no idea who the guy standing to the left of Scott Ian is. Seriously. I’ve been a Metal fan for almost 40 years and I have no idea who this person is. How did this no-name make the front row on the front cover, while Metal Gods like Mikkey Dee (Helloween, King Diamond, Motorhead) get placed in the fourth row on the back cover? Vinny Appice, Doug Alridge, and Scott Warren who were ACTUALLY IN DIO (!) gets banished to the fourth or fifth row of the back cover. It’s sad and embarrassing that in an effort to sell CD’s the artist (or art director) allowed this to pass the development stage. It is a sad display of commerce vs. art at it’s lowest.
Of all six Dio tributes currently available in the market, THIS IS YOUR LIFE is likely going to the biggest and best-selling, but not necessarily the best. With lots of style over substance, and a dull track-list, it ends up being an admirable try. Normally I would probably pass on it, but I did go buy it. The deciding factor for me was the Metallica medley and the fact that the proceeds go to Dio cancer fund, so it worth getting, despite some lame bands and a horrible cover designed to appeal to a young, trendy audience. Dio is rolling in his grave.
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. 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- METALLICA
14. This Is Your Life- DIO