If you’ve been following me for awhile (and especially on Twitter), you’ll know I like to post playlists. Given my overall music collection is so gigantic, I generally have a playlist for every band I like. I’ve posted several of them to twitter. However, this afternoon when I was thinking about Ronnie James Dio, I thought that it’s hard to pigenhole him into a single playlist. You’ve got Dio, you’ve got Black Sabbath, there’s Rainbow, and Elf. Not to mention the really older stuff like The Elves, Ronnie & The Prophets, etc.. So I decided with all of that to do a career spanning playlist for Ronnie. One that covers bloody well everything. Not the ones that stop at Rainbow going backwards, because there’s gold before Rainbow, too. You just have to look hard once you get into the 60’s. :)
Before I post the list of tunes, I wanted to drop a few notes on the list.
- First off, and most obviously, this is my playlist, so I will pick the songs I like. This is my opinion. If I leave off a song you really REALLY like, that’s fine. Likewise, if you think I’m a moron for picking “song X”, that’s fine too – although I’d prefer to not be called a moron.
- As with all my playlists, I try and cover each studio album by an artist. I want these to be representative of total careers. However, once you get before the Elf studio albums, that’s harder to quantify. The Rumblers/Prophets/Elves stuff isn’t as segregated by studio album. It’s a mess of live albums, bootlegs, studio recordings, singles, etc. Because of that, I’ve touched on all of those, but it might not be “as inclusive” as it could be.
- Given the length of Ronnie’s career, and my desire to touch on every studio album he was on, I’ve had to limit myself to three tracks per album (once we got to Rainbow in the chronology). In some cases, that makes things difficult, because there’s multiple stellar tracks on each. But I wanted to avoid just saying “listen to the entire Holy Diver album” type of scenario, so unless there’s an extreme case, I wanted to limit myself to three tracks per album for the most part.
- Finally, given I didn’t want to just put up a list of songs for you to read. I wanted to take inspiration from the Dio compilation from 2003 called “Stand Up And Shout: The Dio Anthology”. That was always one of my favorite compilations because Ronnie took the time himself to write a few words about all the tracks in the compilation. Something I wish would happen more often with compilations, to be honest. So I’m gonna say a few words personally about each of the tracks I chose.
- Some playlists I do are scattered all over the place in terms of the order of the tracks, where I try and mix them up. Again with this, because it’s so wide ranging in years (going from 1959 to 2012), I want to try and keep them in chronological order.
OK, enough with the “terms”. Let’s get to the list. First we go way back to the time when music was much MUCH different than it was even a decade later, and certainly not now. It’s an era where a bully would chase a kid on a skateboard and get his car full of manure. We’re going to the late 50’s and an era of Doo-Wop. Check it out:
1) “An Angel is Missing”
(Ronnie & The Redcaps) – 1960
I’ve seen places say this was in 1959, and some in 1961 – but my research on this article says it came out in the fall of 1960. But either way, it’s very early in Ronnie’s career. If you take 1960 as read, he was 18 when this came out. This is a very 50-ish piece of music, very much fits the style of music played back then. Ronnie’s voice is very soaring here, but that’s probably got a lot to do with the style of music that was played here. But it features his range quite welll.
2) “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”
(Ronnie & The Prophets) – 1962
When I started writing the entry for this song, I put the song on, to see what I could write about it. Well, turns out my kid wrote it for me. When I had the song on, my three year old started dancing when Ronnie was singing “Ooh Poo Pah Doo”. This is a cover too (common in that era) of an old track by Jessie Hill. This too is a great track, but the fact my three year old was dancing to a song that came out some 47 years before he was born is enough for it to be on this list. :)
3) “Great Balls of Fire”
(Ronnie & The Prophets) – 1963
I’m including this, because it’s a great early rock tune. The original is still a founding slab of true classic American Rock, and this cover is no different. This came out on The lone full album by Ronnie & The Prophets, called “Dio at Dominos” from 1963.
4) “Love Potion #9”
(Ronnie & The Prophets) – 1964
Another cover. This time of a 1959 song originally by “The Clovers“. This was a song I knew before I ever listened to Dio, Sabbath, Rainbow, or any of the other bands that Ronnie was in. Again, as with songs of that era, it’s a cover of a track which at that time was only a few years old. I’m not sure why I glom onto these old school covers Ronnie did in his early/mid 60’s bands so much. But I liked this one, too.
5) Hey Look Me Over
(Electric Elves) – 1967
This is an original song. It was written by the Electric Elves’ keyboardist Doug Thaler. When I listen to it, it kind of reminds me a bit of the Who’s “Substitute”, but that doesn’t stop me from liking the song. In fact, it is the kind of song from this era that I liked. Most of the music from the middle 60’s has this tinny 60’s sound to it that I can’t stand. This song isn’t like that. This isn’t a really strong vehicle for Ronnie’s vocals – but not everyone has to be the “biggest and best” song over all the others. It has a catchy chorus that makes it easy to get into, IMO. That’s the strength of this one for me.
The Electic Elves didn’t last too long with that name because in 1969, they renamed themselves to “The Elves”.
6) She’s Not the Same
(Elves) – 1969
This is an original song, but was a B-side to the 1969 single, “Walking in Different Circles”. Can’t tell you why I like this. I listened to the song three times in a row when making this playlist, and there’s nothing I can tell you about why I like this one. I just do. It has some background vocals on it, I wonder if Ronnie is harmonizing to himself on this track.
A word about the name Elf & Elves. It’s confusing at best. I consulted Tapio Kiehanen, probably the most foremost Dio fan on the net, and he had this to say on the matter..
“I was digging for information about those pre Rainbow days and it is impossible to say when they changed their names at least judging from the newspaper articles and gig ads. They were still billed as Ronnie Dio & The Prophets in 1970 at some gigs, although the first time I saw “The Electric Elves” name mentioned was in 1967. The Elves name showed up in the press first in 1969, but it was used still in 1973, although in 1972 the band released their first Elf album and did major tours as Elf.”
7) War Pigs
(Elf) – 1971
Having a bit of difficulty tracking down the true source for this recording. I’ve seen reference to it being “The Elves” in 1971, and then just it being Elf in 1971, and then also Elf in early 1972, right before they recorded their first album. I included this, because.. well, it should be obvious why. Be interesting that just eight years from this recording Ronnie would be in Black Sabbath singing this for real with Iommi, Butler, & Ward. Don’t think I need to explain this one any further.
After speaking with Dio guru Tapio, I’m pretty convinced it’s from 1971, now. Still doesn’t need any explanation.
From this point forward, we move into the more traditional “studio album” concept. Not a loose collection of singles and live recordings. If you’re more intersted in the pre-Elf era of Ronnie James Dio, I urge you to visit the side padavona.com. You can learn more about the bands there, as well as download several recordings from back then. Also, you’d be a fool to pass up Tapio’s Dio pages, go check them out, too.
8) Hoochie Koochie Lady
(Elf) – 1972
This song was the first studio track on the first Elf album in 1972. It had a nice mix of guitar and piano. Not keyboards, but actual piano. Later on things went to “keyboards”, but there’s still something to this day about an honest to god piano in the mix with Rock & Roll that just feels “authentic”. That was a part of Elf’s sound in a lot of tracks, and Hoochie was the first. Most rock and roll fans know the concept of air guitar, but this track makes me want to “air piano”. In fact, as I am typing this, listening to the track, I find myself bouncing my feet to the beat of the song – and that’s what any good song will do to you.
9) Carolina County Ball
(Elf) – 1974
I never discovered Elf until much later on than the music was originally created. My original introduction to Dio (the man) was Sabbath’s Mob Rules in 1981. Discovered Rainbow a little after that, and then eventually Elf material. When I finally did get into Elf, CCB was the first track I heard. This track comes from the second Elf album
It has a big mix of bass, piano, and has some of the old doo-wop influences from the early 60’s stuff Ronnie did. This one is more piano oriented then Hoochie was. I *REALLY* like this track. In fact, I might go out on a limb and say it’s my favorite individual Elf track. Granted, it’s been ages since I’ve listened to the three Elf albums in their entirety (I probably should), but whenever I think about listening to Elf music, this one comes up mentally first before any other track I know. I like the speed up in music towards the end of the track, and horns come in. Faster piano. I really love the goofy disjointed couple of notes at the absolute end of the song. Top notch stuff here.
10) Black Swampy Water
(Elf) – 1975
This track comes from the third and final Elf Studio album in 1975, “Trying to Burn the Sun”. You can hear in this song where Ronnie was going musically. Elf itself too, as this incarnation of Elf became the initial version of Rainbow later in 1975. But this song is less heavy on the piano tracks that dominated the Elf sound before this. Ronnie’s vocals are stronger, and more like the version we know from Rainbow & Black Sabbath. Not that he didn’t have a strong voice before, but his vocal styles before this were different, and you can hear the “Dio” we know from the 80’s onwards showing up a lot in this track. This is a very strong track, and if I wasn’t so into the keyboard influence of earlier Elf, this might be up there as my single favorite Elf track. As it is, it’s a strong candidate anyway – good strong rock vibe on this one, really dig the track. Shame the album is bloody out of print, though.
The timing of this album is odd, as both it and the first Rainbow album came out very close to each other. In fact, it appears that Elf technically disbanded before the album was even released, but after it was recorded, and they (minus the guitarist) went into the studio with Ritchie Blackmore to form Rainbow.
Now that we’re into the Rainbow era, I’m starting in on my “three songs from each studio album” mention from above. They’ll be lumped together by era, and assuming I can find it, a picture of that album’s lineup. :)
11) Man on the Silver Mountain – 1975
This is the first track from the first Rainbow album which came out in 1975, pretty darned close to the final Elf album. Which is amusing as the original incarnation of Rainbow is the same as the final incarnation of Elf, minus the Elf guitarist. “Man on..” is Rainbow’s signature song. They’ve had a lot of hits, a lot of great and killer tracks over all their incarnations… However, “Man on” has that signature riff that defines a song. Much like the keyboards in Rainbow in the Dark, or the bass thump of “Heaven & Hell”, and the really noticeable guitar riff in Smoke in the Water. “Man on the Silver Mountain” has that same kind of iconic guitar riff that those previous songs had. To me, it defines Rainbow, which is odd, as the sound of early Rainbow wasn’t like what latter Rainbow was like.
12) Black Sheep of the Family – 1975
Can’t tell you why I like this song. There’s nothing especially exciting about the piece that I can point to and go “Now THAT BIT THERE – that’s why I like this”. But the guitar work, the vocal echoing of Ronnie, the whole piece just works for me. Not a huge explanation, but I enjoy this one.
13) If You Don’t Like Rock & Roll – 1975
This track has always caused a conversation with my usual concert going buddy, Steve. He cannot stand this song, and I like it. To me, it sounds the most like Elf of any of the first Rainbow album tracks. Probably because it’s the most piano sounding track of any of the First Rainbow album songs. It feels like they were trying to write a catchy anthem type of song. It doesn’t work completely on that level, but I always liked the piano bits in this song.
That brings us to 1976 and the Rainbow Rising album. This is by far the best Rainbow album of all of them across all eras. It made it extremely difficult to pick just three tracks off the album, because it’s the first time when I wanted to pick the entire album to put on here. But Starstruck is the first track I picked. Thing is, I’m sure some fans will go “How can you pick that over Tarot Woman or Run With the Wolf”? Well, this is my list. :) More seriously, I like the vibe from Starstruck. Tarot Woman probably would have been picked behind this. In fact, this was the only one I gave any real thought to was this one, as the other two tracks were automatics.
“Lady Starstruck, she’s nothing but badluck…” Enjoy the vocals, thought they matched well lyrically with the music.
15) Stargazer – 1976
If I had to pick one single track by Rainbow that I like more than any other, it’s this one. If you’re reading this entire page, than I’d wager some money that you know Stargazer, too.
For a Dio list, the reason I like this track more than any other doesn’t have anything to do with Ronnie, actually, it’s Cozy Powell. Cozy’s drum intro in this track is something to behold. With a proper remaster, and played with good audio equipment, it can turn ANYONE into an air drummer. If you’re into hard rock and heavy metal, I defy you do not want to drum to this when it’s being played live, or played really loudly on good audio equipment. You can’t do it.
I’ve seen where Ronnie has said it’s not his favorite Rainbow song, but knows that the fans like it. You can bet your ass on that.
16) A Light in the Black – 1976
Good, hard fast, Rainbow track. If Stargazer didn’t exist, this might be my favorite overall Rainbow track. It’s an 8 minute song, but Ronnie stops singing for a huge chunk of the song (2:40 to 6:12), effectively making the middle part of the song a big instrumental. It’s a hell of a great track, and as I listen to it for this part of the article, I’m having a hard time finding descriptions for it that do it justice. F’in killer track, this one. It doesn’t let up. Grabs you by the balls at the start, and holds ’em for 8:12.
In fact, when Ronnie died, I used lyrics from this song as part of the tribute I did for him on this site.
Something’s called me back
There’s a light in the Black
Am I Ready to go?
I’m Coming Home!!
17) Long Live Rock & Roll – 1978
The biggest “anthem” track I think of all the Rainbow tracks ever recorded. This one remained in the setlist for Ronnie all through the Dio years, and it’s still being played in 2012 by the Dio Disciples. It’s one of the greatest audience participation tracks ever written. I know after this album, Ritchie Blackmore messed up Rainbow, claiming he wanted more success in the USA, etc.. However, I always felt this track was one of the most commercial Rainbow tracks ever written. It’s very catchy, very much an anthem track. When one casts an eye back on the Dio era of Rainbow, you can’t forget about this track.
This section was written on Nov 19, 2012 – and I had gotten in the mail Saturday the two disc deluxe edition of “Long Live Rock & Roll”. Was playing it today, and played this track for my seven year old, who pronounced it “rockful”. :)
18) Gates of Babylon – 1978
To me, it always felt like a spiritual successor to Stargazer. Has that kind of “non anthemic”, “non radio friendly” feel to it that makes for a great hard rock track. Great keyboard intro, great riff – each segment of the song just kind of rolls into each other in a fluid manner, much like a lot of songs from the 70’s did. That’s a weird statement, but is something that I always felt defined 70’s music over other decades around it.
As a Christian, the lyrics are a bit well, “odd” to me, but the track is pretty darned stellar. It’s hard to deny the power of this track as a Rainbow classic, and is one of the reasons I picked it as my “3” from this album.
19) Kill the King – 1978
Another track my 7 year old determined to be “rockful”. Kill the King is much like Neon Knights or in some respects, or others like “Death Alley Driver”, “The Mob Rules” or “Since You’ve Been Gone”. Good hard, fast song, but short and to the point (meaning it doesn’t go on for 8 minutes). Not that there’s anything wrong with 8 minute songs, but I’m just trying to make a point about shorter songs having a more compact feel to their music. Love the riffs that Ritchie plays going into the choruses. Great riffing in this track.
But Kill the King is a song that should rate higher on the overall list of Rainbow favorites. Most hard rock fans I know of that are into Rainbow usually list other songs first. It’s a popular, yet underrated song, I feel.
20) Neon Knights – 1980
The last song written for the first Black Sabbath album without Ozzy Osbourne was the first one that most people who were listening at the time heard. Track 1 from the “Heaven & Hell” album is one that instantly transports the (then) current fans of Black Sabbath to somewhere new, and somewhere fresh.
Ronnie James Dio’s arrival in Black Sabbath was like a breath of fresh air. Sabbath at the time was at best bloated, and in a bit of a mess – to be fair. Dio’s arrival brought them to places they could never go to before, and ushered in a new era for the band. Had this album not worked, the band was dead.
However, as Neon Knights showed, the new Dio led incarnation was more than up to the task. Dio did the writing, and this track was the only one written with the combination of Iommi / Butler / Dio / Ward all in place (read my timeline for more than that). But it’s killer. Dio usually played it as an encore during his Dio concerts.
It’s a great track. Brilliant album opener, and one of my favorite Dio era Sabbath tracks for sure.
21) Heaven & Hell – 1980
The title track for the “rebirth” (not quite Born Again – hahaha) of Black Sabbath was written early on in the genesis, actually during the time that Geezer Butler had departed from the band. The person who was credited (behind the scenes) for coming up with the main bass line for this song is long time keyboardist Geoff Nicholls. I’ve heard some minor backlash against this song over the years that it’s not terribly good and somewhat boring. Hogwash. This is a stellar track, and structurally reminds me a lot of the track “Black Sabbath” in that it’s slow and moody for a few verses, and then at the end gets fast and finishes strong. It also has some of the more quotable lyrics that Ronnie ever wrote.. Specifically, “The World is full of Kings & Queens who blind your eyes and steal your dreams, it’s Heaven & Hell!”
The band thought a lot of this song. They named the album after it, and later on, they named a tour and a whole band after the song. :)
22) Die Young – 1980
I’ve always felt like this was a sleeper choice for best song on the album it came from. Much like the song “Invisible” from the first Dio album. This is set with a very cool keyboard intro – thanks again Geoff Nicholls. Along with that great keyboard work comes some really cool guitar work from Tony Iommi before the whole band kicks in. It’s then another fast song like Neon Knights.
I tend to like faster songs – not speed metal type of fast, but something like this, vs say “Shadow of the Wind”. This has not only the intro bit that has a nice mood to the music, but halfway through it features some great vocal work by Ronnie.. “someone stopped the flame!” Love the bit where Iommi’s guitar “wah” sound is mixed in with Ronnie’s vocals. Reminds me of the guitar/bass tradeoff from “Into the Void”, except this time with guitar and vocals instead of guitar and bass. Great stuff!
“Live for today, tomorrow never comes – Die Young!”
23) Turn Up the Night – 1981
The first track from the 1981 Mob Rules album was my first ever Black Sabbath song. As I’ve said on this site before, Mob Rules was the then “new” album when I saw a picture of the cover art in either Hit Parader or Circus (or Creem, I don’t remember). Wondered what kind of music would go with that artwork, so I headed down to the record store and bought Mob Rules (on cassette tape, as was the way in ’81). Brought it home, put it on, and thought “HOLY SHIT!” – I had never heard anything like that before.
That opening riff just bloody well hooked me – it’s a great fuzzy, powerful riff to start the song with. It hooked me hard, because all of this site can be traced back to that moment at this 16 year old kid’s bedroom listening on a tiny cassette tape player.
Ronnie has said over the years he doesn’t personally care for the song, that it didn’t do anything for him. But I feel quite the opposite. While I do recognize that it’s not one of the overall best songs the band has ever recorded, it is for me something that holds a very special place in my heart. Had I not had this song at the “Big Bang” that was my Sabbath fandom, I likely would have picked something like “Falling off the Edge of the World” from this album, but I had to include Turn Up the Night due to it’s place in my personal history of the band.
24) The Mob Rules – 1981
I like this song for much the same reasons I said of tracks above like Kill the King, or Neon Knights or something later on like “Ear in the Wall”. Good loud, fast track. Plus, if you were 16 like me when this song was new, you heard it a lot anyway, so it was pretty burned into your brain. I also spent a lot of time trying to visualize the cover art while listening to the song. Which oddly enough was done in 2008 when the band released the “Rules of Hell” box and had a promo video to go with it. Check that out.
There was that alternate version that came out before the album in the movie “Heavy Metal”, but I prefer the proper album version to that alternate. The 2011 2 CD Deluxe Edition of the album has both on there, so go buy that (disc 2 is the very excellent Live at Hammersmith album). But I digress.
The track Mob Rules has been played on every Black Sabbath tour since this (except the ones with Ozzy). It’s a great track, and you can’t go wrong putting this on your Black Sabbath or Dio playlist.
25) The Sign of the Southern Cross – 1981
When I was young, I always thought this song was about the KKK and burning crosses on the front yard. I was only 16, and didn’t know a lot about the ways of the world, and I certainly didn’t know about Geezer & Ronnie’s usage of metaphors in songs, so I assumed it was about that. :)
But my lyrical ignorance aside, the song is bloody powerful. It’s got a big monstrous “crunch” for a riff, after a small, almost “quiet” intro leading into a powerful break-in after about a minute or so. That’s been done many times over the years (Bible Black comes to mind here).
I like the “feel” of this song a lot. I tend to prefer faster songs, but this one has a good “sludge” power to it that works well for me.
Bonus Remark: One last bit I liked an awful lot from this album was the track “Over and Over”. I didn’t pick it, because the reason I like it so much wasn’t Ronnie, but Tony Iommi. Tony’s guitar work on this track is very unlike his usual style. Tony’s strength is his playing with power, and the guitar work in “Over and Over” is far more emotional than he usually plays with. Really love that track, too.
This brings us to the “Dio” era. As I’ve said several times over this website’s existance, the Mob Rules album was the then “current” album when I started listening, so the breakup of the Dio version of Black Sabbath (the first time) happened pretty quickly after I got into the band. So it was here when I started following Ronnie’s career as it happened. Obviously, I’ve gone backwards and caught up, but this time in his career was my “on ramp”, so to speak. This was the first album released by Ronnie (in any band) after I started listening to him, so that fact alone would make it a big deal in my back catalogue of music. That it is so great too is a massive bonus. :)
Speaking about this article.. How the hell do you pick just three songs from the “Holy Diver” album? It’s near impossible. The album is bloody solid from front to back like no other Dio album has been that followed it. It’s dangerous when an artists writes their best album as their first. Now that’s not to mean other albums aren’t good. They are. But from first song to last song, the “Holy Diver” album is clearly the best Dio (band) album. It wasn’t easy to pick just three. :)
One small note – I always felt it was cool that Ronnie used his old Rainbow bandmate Jimmy Bain on bass in the Dio band. Thought it was a nice subtle way to link various parts of his career together.
26) Stand Up And Shout – 1983
When I went to pick the three songs from this album for my article, I decided to intentionally leave out “Holy Diver” & “Rainbow in the Dark”. Both of those are the big well known tracks. They’re not bad tracks, but they are a bit on the overplayed side. I only really truly get into them live when the band is there, and it’s a different vibe. Having said that..
Stand Up And Shout is one that I always thought was a perfect album opener. It’s one of my favored fast songs, and the message was very anthemic. Always felt it was a perfect opener to a concert. I did see Dio twice on the Holy Diver tour, and it did work very well in that regard.
Great opening riff. Much in the vein of “Turn Up the Night” for me, the album’s mood is defined by the first guitar riff you hear. I also feel Deep Purple’s “Purpendicular” has much the same feel with it’s opening riff on “Ted the Mechanic”, but I digress…
27) Invisible – 1983
Invisible is for me the best individual track on an album that is filled with great tracks. Most casual Dio fans will name Rainbow, Holy Diver, or maybe Stand Up as the best track, but I always felt it was this one.
It has that slower intro piece before the band kicks in. It’s not as “mellow” as other times this has been done during his career. But it’s got a nice riff, not too loud, not too powerful, but very effective. I always liked the overall sound towards the end where the lyrics are “…you can see me again, because I’ve just become unseen”. Great GREAT track.
It also has some really bizarre lyrics that to this day I’m not entirely sure what the hell they’re talking about.. “In the palace of the virgin lies the chalice of the soul, and it’s likely you might find the answer there”. I know Ronnie didn’t do drugs, but dude.. what the fuck was that?
28) Don’t Talk to Strangers – 1983
At the time this song came out, I was just about to graduate High School (this album was just three weeks old when I graduated High School). I was like a lot of kids in high school – the kind who wasn’t into the popular stuff, I was part of the “chess club”, that kind of thing – the geek. As I was fond of telling people, my celibacy at the time in High School was definitely against my will. But again I digress. There was a point, though – the line “Don’t speak to women, they’ll only bring you down” struck a chord with me. Loved the message in this song at this time in my life. Fortunately, it stays strong all these years later. I’m not that same kid I was then, I’ve grown a lot as an individual, but the song here was just as strong as the message, it turns out.
It’s another “slow into, band power kicks in about 1/3 into the song” type of song that Ronnie did a lot in his various bands. One thing about this voice is that it contains a very wide range of vocal abilities. His high range vocals were in use at the beginning (“Don’t write in Starlight, because the words may come out Real”), and then elsewhere in the song is the strong, powerful vocal he uses a lot too (“I’m anger, I’m PAIN”). Very wide ranging song, both in lyrics, vocals, and music. Very strong song.
Some great guitar solo work by Vivian here (still saddens me he’s so wasted in Def Leppard these days).
29) We Rock – 1984
Another album opening “anthem” piece. I did see Dio on this tour, I don’t recall offhand if he opened with this or not. But it had that same kind of vibe that “Stand Up And Shout” did from the previous album.
Good fast song. The guitar work isn’t anything special. It’s not bad, but not my favorite. But still, the message, the audience participation part of this song makes it work well for me. Not a lot to say about this one in detail other than to say whenever I hear it (and especially live), it’s a “thumbs up”.
One of the good “crowd pleaser” tracks – it continued to be played on every tour, and even past Ronnie’s death, it’s an encore song for Dio Disciples.
30) The Last in Line – 1984
When I was just out of High School, MTV was at the height of it’s power (not that bastard that uses the name these days). You would watch MTV for hours on end to watch for your favorite videos, because unlike today, you couldn’t just record hours and hours and then fast forward through the crap on your TiVo. When this album was out, there was a full on conceptual video for this track in heavy rotation on MTV.
This is the song that most people will say they like from this album when they think back to it. That alone usually disqualifies a song for me, as I tend to not like the song that most people like. But this is badass. Maybe it’s my fond memories of the video back in the 80’s, but I always liked this song. Still do in 2012. Having said that, it’s hard for me to listen to the song without seeing parts of the video in my mind at the same time. In that regard, I’d say it’s the most powerful Dio music video of all of them (for me, anyway).
I mean I still remember thinking a few years later when Star Trek: The Next Generation came out with the Borg that some of the uh “Guards in Hell” in this video reminded me of the Borg somewhat. :)
“We’ll know for the first time if we’re evil or divine – We’re the last in line”. But.. Did that kid go back to his delivery business on his bike when he escaped? :)
31) I Speed at Night – 1984
Another song I like, probably solely because it’s “fast”. :) Not saying much about this one beyond that. Good fast song.
“I only know in my world I hate the light – I Speed at Night!”.
Additional Remark: The absolute single WORST Dio band song comes from this album. That’s “Mystery”. How that made it on here I don’t know. What makes it worse is that there’s a music video for it, too. I think I threw up in my mouth a little just writing about it.
32) The King of Rock And Roll – 1985
The third Dio album starts off much like the first two, with an anthemic song, geared towards what I felt was “the audience”. This is by far my favorite track off of this album.
It’s an underrated song, too. Dio never played it a lot himself. I remember hearing it back around this time, but as the years went by it disappeared. I know Jorn Lande played it live at his gigs, but that’s about it for this track.
Shame, as I really liked it. It was interesting at the time, because he was asked during several interviews if he had any other “live” tracks that weren’t on an album before like this one was. It’s technically a studio track, that he mixed in live sounds with to make it seem like a live track. I never really knew WHY he did that other than he might have thought the idea was cool. Or perhaps try and replicate some of the power a live track has in the studio.
Whatever the reason, I really liked this song. Wish it got more attention.
33) Sacred Heart – 1985
One thing Ronnie was accused of a lot (rightfully so) was writing about rainbows, dragons, wizards, and the like. This track is probably the height of that issue, because they’re all in here.
“Oh here we see the wizard staring through the glass And he’s pointing right at you”
“You fight to kill the dragon you bargain with the beast / Then you sail into a sight / You run along the rainbow and never leave the ground / Still you don’t know why”
If only all three could be in the same sentence! Seriously, though. This song and this album in particular took a lot of grief from fans at the time for.. Well, I don’t know why, really. I recall hearing a lot of negative flak about all the Rainbow/wizard lyrics, but it’s not like those were new, Ronnie’d been doing that for ages. I liked this song a lot. Felt it worked well. But as with We Rock, I think a lot of that had to with the live presentation. I saw Dio twice on this tour (although technically the second time was after he had changed guitarists, and “Intermission” had come out). This song done live was something to behold. Remember, this was 1985, and Pink Floyd notwithstanding, live “shows” weren’t done much in metal. Oh, it happened somewhat, but Dio’s Sacred Heart tour in particular was one of my favorite all time live shows, because of well, “the show”. The Sacred Heart track in particular featured the “big bang” of the show. There was a live animatronic (sp?) version of a dragon who lorded over the whole show, but during this song, he belched smoke, had lasers for eyes, it was quite the show in 1985. It also featured a couple of sword wielding warriors on either side of the stage, and a great large sword that Ronnie used to “slay the dragon”. It was quite the effect. That show is on DVD, and while it’s nice looking back, most of the effect and impact is lost almost 30 years later. That was definitely a “live thing”.
But the track holds up. I know a lot of people don’t care for this one, but I do.
34) Hungry for Heaven – 1985
When this song came out, I felt it was an intentional attempt to recapture the “feel” of the song “Rainbow in the Dark”. It’s very keyboard heavy, with a “keyboard riff” that tried to mimic that track. It didn’t work as well, but I still like the track. I do confess that the Sacred Heart album isn’t the strongest Dio album, and it was fairly easy for me to pick the three tracks here. The reason I point that out is Hungry isn’t nearly as strong as some of the other “third picks” I’ve made in this article. The problem is that “Side 2” of Sacred Heart is pretty “meh”. Side one isn’t bad.
And while it’s not the strongest song on Sacred Heart, I do like “Hungry for Heaven”. As a Christian, I always wondered if it was some subconscious thing where I latched onto the title alone. Perhaps it is. When I go to listen to this album, I do enjoy this song, but it’s never the first Dio song I’ll want to listen to out of the gate, however.
It originally appeared on the soundtrack to the movie “Vision Quest” for a time before the Dio band released the song itself. For that reason, I had a chance to process it before the proper album came out.
35) Stars – 1986
This was the Dio band spearhaded project that was the “hard rock” answer to things like Live Aid & “Do They Know it’s Christmas”? According to legend, the original genesis of the idea came from Jimmy Bain & Vivian Campbell. It was later joined by a ton of hard rock/metal people from around the community. A complete list of who was on this project is on the Wikipedia page for it.
As an actual song, it’s just “OK”. What makes this song work is the variety of people that appear on it. There’s nine lead guitarists, two rhythm guitarists, two drummers, and oddly enough, just one bassist and keyboardist. However, vocals are a different story. There were 8 lead vocalists and 30 background (or chorus if you will) vocalists. Not all of which were vocalists, either – and some of THEM played elsewhere on the song.
I always liked this track more as an idea, than a track, but I still feel it’s worthy to include in here. Before Ronnie died, it was supposed to have been re-released, but then he died, and presumably put this on the back burner. Would still like to see it happen.
It’s also the last hurrah for the original incarnation of the Dio band. This was recorded in May 1985, and then not released till Jan 1, 1986. Vivian Campbell was gone in March of 1986, and as such, this was the last studio recording by this version of the band (although it had a shitload of guests on it – heh).
36) All the Fools Sailed Away – 1987
I’ve often felt that Ronnie left some good songs off the Sacred Heart album and kept them for his next studio release, “Dream Evil”. Dream Evil is probably for me the most solid album front to back under the “Dio” banner besides “Holy Diver”. It was quite hard for me to pick tracks from this one. I picked these three tracks a few months before actually writing this article, and when I went to look back at the other tracks on the album, more than one of them I said “Man, why am I skipping that?” – but that’s part of the difficulty of an article like this – you gotta pick something and leave others out.
This song doesn’t fit the mold of the type of song I usually like, as it’s not fast. As a general rule of thumb, I don’t like the slower songs, and for the most part this fits that. It also came out in 1987, so as such, keyboards are played up a bit more in this one. Also, the hair of the band members, too. But I liked the “plod” of this song, which is an odd thing to say, as it was a single. It wasn’t to me a typical “single” release, as it wasn’t fast, quick, and to the point. But I always liked this one. I had to miss this tour, because it came to town on my actual birthday, and I had other plans. Would have liked to have a seen it live back then.
37) Overlove – 1987
This is another that features a few things that I’ve mentioned a few times already in this piece. A distinctive guitar intro. There’s some great picking here by Craig on this track. It’s also a fast track. Those two things will carry a song a long way with me personally. But like most of this album it was a hard pick, as I like everything on the Dream Evil album. Went with this because of the guitar work, which I like a lot.
38) Faces in the Window – 1987
This was a hard pick. It was neck and neck with “When a Woman Cries”, which I like a lot, too with a great rhythm. I ended up going with Faces in the Window instead, as it’s a faster song. No other reason. I like both of them a heck of a lot, and is one of the stronger combos to end an album out there. It reminds me a lot of “Walk Away” & “Lonely is the Word” from 1980’s “Heaven & Hell” album. Not in song construction, as they’re different, but in the strength of the final two tracks on the album.
Faces, though has a great speed to it, and then a big “power drum” sound I enjoy around 2:30. It’s very Vinny. Which is unique, as there isn’t a ton of “drum” sound in most Dio songs. Not that you can’t hear the drummer, but drumming isn’t featured a ton in most Dio songs. It’s just part of the tapestry of Dio songs. But I like the feel of this song just slightly over Woman because of that.
39) Wild One – 1990
This brings us to probably the most divisive Dio album of all of them, 1990’s “Lock Up the Wolves”. After the Dream Evil tour, Ronnie dumped his entire band, and brought in a awhole new crew of guys. I remember reading in an interview at the time that he felt the band went astray and that he was “looking to recapture the feel of Holy Diver”. That didn’t happen. In fact, the majority of my friends who were into Dio’s stuff did not like the the “Lock Up the Wolves” album. I was one of them. I dismissed it as being crap for a really long time. The only song from the album I liked at all was the first one. However, as time went on, I rediscovered this album for some strengths it has. I’m not prepared to call it great now, but Ican listen to the album and really like it now. The album cover is still crap, though.
However, Wild One was the one constant. I liked it when it was new, and I still like it now. Again, no surprise. Fast song.
Rowan Robertson’s guitar sound was an interesting mesh of the sounds of the two guitarists before him (Vivian Campbell & Craig Goldy). In retrospect, I think I would have liked to have heard more tracks like Wild One from this lineup vs what we did get. I’ve mellowed on this album, and like more than Wild One now, but I think if there were more tracks like Wild One vs say “Evil on Queen Street”, the album might have had a different feeling with fans.
40) Hey Angel – 1990
This is a song that I like for an odd reason. The chorus resonates strong. Not because of the lyrics as such. But the words. I like the chorus of “Hey Angel, What’s your destination? Hey Angel – We’ve got a complication”.. I can’t really give you a concrete reason why I like this song. I just like the “sound” of the chorus. Not the words, not any instrument. It’s one of those “whole is larger than the pieces” things.
41) Why are they Watching Me? – 1990
Another song that grew on me as time passed. I have to confess when I listened to “Wolves” back when it was new, I never made it this far on the album, and on the odd time I did, I was just hoping it would finish. Not sure what I was thinking back then, as this song is one of the gems, IMO. It’s got a nice feel to it, not too fast, not too slow, and when you get to the end of the song, it has a background vocal “chorus” that I like that comes in around 4:10 of the song.
It isn’t the kind of song that jumps out and is an instant classic like “The Last in Line” or “Don’ Talk to Strangers” or something. This is one of those acquired taste type of things. If you can make it to the point of appreciating this album, I think you’ll like this song, too. I do admit now that this might be one of my more unpopular choices. :)
Additional note: I didn’t find out until 2011 that work had begun on another album with this lineup before Ronnie disbanded Dio to go back to Black Sabbath. I’d love to hear some of that stuff. Wonder if it will ever see the light of day. Probably not, but one can hope.
42) Computer God – 1992
And here we are back in Black Sabbath for 1992’s Dehumanizer. As I wrote at the time, I felt it was an important Black Sabbath album, which showed the band still had a lot of power and relevance in an age of your Nirvana & Soundgarden bands. I LOVED this album. I mean, I really loved this album. I didn’t want to, because I was enjoying where Black Sabbath was before this with Tony Martin & Headless Cross/Tyr, but I couldn’t help it. Too much good stuff on this album.
That’s led off with Computer God, which is a track that has been around in some form or another since Geezer Butler’s attempts at a solo band in the mid 80’s. But I thought this song was relevant, lyrically up to date, and had a power that I thought was important to lead off an album. In particular,
Waiting for the revolution
Program the brain
Not the heartbeat
Deliver us to evil
Deny us of our faith
Robotic hearts bleed poison
On the world we populate
This song has some serious balls to it, and when I saw them do this live under the “Heaven & Hell” banner in 2007, I almost hurt myself with headbanging. I don’t think I actually SAW too much of the band, was too busy getting into the song. Don’t remember how much I hurt myself when I saw them on the Dehumanizer tour, though. Heh. :)
43) TV Crimes – 1992
This was the first single off the album, and as such, there was a conceptual music video. The video seriously disappointed me, because it was about people “stealing a TV set”. It had nothing to do with what the actual lyrics were about, which was picking at TV Evangelists and their desire for money. I love the song – good, hard, fast, has a great Iommi riff in the middle (if it’s really short) – and has some great lyrics to it. I know a lot of people prefer other songs, but this has a “quick strike” feel to it.
There’s a line of lyric that I ran into in 2008. Specifically “Gotta send me a plastic Jesus, there’s a check in the mail today”. When I saw Ronnie for the last time live in 2008 on the Metal Masters tour, I was fortunate to see the gig from the side of the stage where Geezer Butler was playing. I was hanging out with Pedro Howse, who works for Geezer when he’s out with the Sabs. Anyway, there was a bunch of equipment there, and near where some picks were kept was a “Plastic Jesus”. I always wondered how much the phrase “Plastic Jesus” sticks with Geezer as it is in his lyrics, and is a prop when he plays live. Here’s a picture:
Random observation: This video, and the video for the Dio song “Wild one” both featured skateboarders. I wonder if that was intentional – if someone in the Dio camp thought that was worth putting in the videos at the time (as they were two years apart).
44) Time Machine – 1992
This song, much like “Mob Rules” some 11 years previous first appeared not on a Black Sabbath album, but on a movie soundtrack. This one in the first Wayne’s World movie. I remember seeing that in the theatres when it was new, and saw “Black Sabbath” in the music credits, and got a bit excited, because I didn’t remember hearing anything Sabbath in the movie. Turns out when Wayne is pulled over by a cop, who turns out to be the T-1000 from Terminator 2, Time Machine is playing. It’s only on screen for like 30 seconds, and has no vocals. But that’s where I first heard this song, because I had to go out and get the soundtrack, I didn’t want to wait for it to show up on the album. Which it did, but again like Mob Rules in a slightly different mix.
Perhaps it was the early hearing by the movie or what, but I also really like this song. I know when I was trying to goad Geezer into playing it live during the 2007 tour, he remarked that he thought it sounded too much like Deep Purple. I know the Sabs liked it somewhat, as it was the opening song on the 1994 Cross Purposes tour (with Tony Martin). But all that aside, I like the guitar riffs in this one. Has a nice crunch to it.
Additional Remarks: I know others will think I’m nuts for skipping “I” from this album, but “I” never did anything for me. Also, IMO, the single worst track of the entire Dio era of Black Sabbath comes from this album, that being “Buried Alive”. That’s a really bad song, IMO. I was fortunate to see the band on this tour, was disappointed when it blew up at the end, but we did get a bunch more “Dio” (band) albums out of that move.
ENTER THE CHAINSAW!
45) Jesus, Mary, & The Holy Ghost – 1994
When Ronnie put Dio back together, he didn’t go back to where Dio was before this, nor did he go back to the original idea, he took it in a different direction. He went to guitarist “Tracy Grijalva” (more commonly known as Tracy G). His style took some getting used to. Ronnie wasted no time in letting us know something was different with his new guitarist. This was Track 1, and if that’s what you heard first, you heard what amounted to a buzzsaw or a chainsaw coming at you. This track has some really REALLY strange guitar work on it. I like the song, because it’s SO different. It still works, and I’m still not entirely sure about the lyrics, being a Christian. I mean..
Now I lay me down to sleep
Pray my soul to keep away
From the holy spirit, holy ghost
They’re hiding in the dark
Still, I like the buzzsaw guitar work here – it was quite statement that this was an all new incarnation of Dio, that’s for sure.
46) Firehead – 1994
This is a song that falls in the middle in terms of my fast/slow argument. It’s not slow, it’s not fast, either, but I like the guitar work here. The “Buzzsaw G” sound isn’t in full force here, but it’s there in the middle of the solo in places. The temp of the song changes around 2:19 to something different, so the song has a few different “feels” to it. I like the mixture of sounds there.
47) Evilution – 1994
This is one I like lyrically more than musically. In fact, I like the lyrics on this an awful lot. I also like how the vocals meld in one move from one style to a “background/dark” sound without breaking a note when Ronnie sings the word “Evolution” when it’s on it’s own in the song.
I think part of the reason I like it is it’s a good mix between the “Buzzsaw G” sound and that “crunch” sound I like in a good metal song. Couple it with some lyrics I really like, and we have a winner.
Additional Comments: The track “Hollywood Black” was strongly rumoured to be a leftover from the Dehumanizer sessions. Could never get 100% proof of that. It’s guitar sound is rather unlike most of the rest of the album. I also like the tracks “Pain” and “Give Her The Gun” a lot, they’re right under the 3 I picked on this album. In fact, I almost picked “Give Her..” because it sounds a lot different than most Dio tracks.
48) Black – 1996
Black has a different feel than most Dio songs. It’s as Dio is singing most of the song in a higher register than he normally does. Not that he can’t sing that high, and not that he hasn’t before, but in this song he seems up on the higher side of the scale than he normally operates at in a song. It’s like he’s at peak for most of the song.
This song also reminds me a bit of the Black Sabbath song “Buried Alive” where the main riff repeats through the whole song, and doesn’t really go anywhere. However, for some reason this song works for me where Buried Alive does not.
This is one of those “like the vibe” things that I can’t really explain in words too well.
49) Double Monday – 1996
This pick was almost “Don’t Tell the Kids”. In fact, when I put together the list first before writing about any of the songs, I had Double Monday here. Then I went and listened to some of the songs when I got this part, and realized I didn’t have Kids in here, so I changed it. Why? It’s a fast song. Then I changed back to “Double Monday”. This was a hard pick.
Eventually I had just pick something, so I went with Double Monday. In fact, I’m finding I’m having a hard time writing about the tracks from the Angry Machines album. I like a lot of them, I had grown into Tracy G’s sound more than I thought I would, but there’s just “something” about this album that makes it hard to write about.
Double Monday has the “soft Dio vocal” section in it. When Ronnie does that, it’s traditionally at the start of the song, not 2/3 of the way through like it is here. I do like Tracy G’s guitar solo in this one, which I suspect is the big draw for me on this track.
50) Golden Rules – 1996
This is probably my favorite song on the album – I like the chugging guitar riff that is the main backbone of the song. It’s also the track that works in the album’s title into the lyrics, but that’s not why I like it, I just point that out. The chugging guitar riff makes me sit and bop up and down in my chair when I listen to it. I get “into” this song more than any other on the album.
Of all the tracks on this album, I feel the vocal melodies match the music better than any other track on the album. Speaking of the lyrics, it feels like a pre-cursor of sorts to the lyrics Ronnie wrote a few years down the road for the Black Sabbath track, “Computer God”. Not competely, but certain parts of Golden Rules remind me of Computer God lyrically.
Oddly enough, the song sort of “ends” with a whole minute to go. It fades back in and has the slow “lullaby” part of the song repeated. That’s an odd song construction there, reminds me of something strange off Magica in that regard.
A special note about the track “This is Your Life”. This is a real oddball one in the Dio catalogue. It’s not my favorite, but I felt like saying something. It’s just Ronnie and a piano piece. I’ve heard over time it’s one of Ronnie’s personal favorite tracks he’s done. That’s probably why when I saw Dio Disciples in the fall of 2012, they did this song (with Oni Logan singing it). It’s also available on the 2012 compilation “The Beast of Dio Vol 2”. An outright piano hadn’t been heard in anything Dio sang on I think since the first Rainbow album.
51) Fever Dreams – 2000
A word about the Magica album before I get started. Before this album came out, a lot of things changed. The band pretty much overhauled itself again, much like from “Dream Evil” to “Lock Up..”. The drummer, bassist, and guitarist were all different. However, this time, it was all guys who had been in the Dio band before. At this time, Vinny Appice had worked with Black Sabbath on their 1999 reunion tour, and word was that Ronnie was pissed at that, and removed him from Dio. Jimmy Bain & Craig Goldy were back. They made what Ronnie called a “concept” album. Problem I have is that the concept is beyond me. There’s a 18 minute spoken word track at the end of this album which explains the concept. It’s UNLISTENABLE. I’ve forced myself more than once to try – can’t get through it. Once I dropped the “concept”, and just listened to the music, the album worked great for me.
On to Fever Dreams. It’s one of the best overall Dio tracks – on any album. It’s for me CLEARLY the best song off of Magica. How does it relate to the overall “concept”? Who the fuck cares – it’s a great song. Love the tunes, love the lyrics – in fact, some of my favorite Dio lyrics from any band he’s been in (going back to Elf) are from this song. In particular..
I have seen some evil as I’ve walked upon the earth
But this is way beyond what eyes can see
Wicked is as wicked does and if I lose control
Is this the way that hell is gonna be
Have I fallen too far to rise
Been burning too long in the fire
As a Christian, these lyrics appeal to me – I would tend to think what I interpret the lyrics to mean were not what Ronnie had intended when he wrote them. That’s OK – songs from the beginning of time have been that way. But whatever the meaning, this song is bloody brilliant. No way could I do a Dio
Interesting promotional item – when the album was new, the website for the Spitfire record label (Dio’s label then) gave away Fever Dreams for free as a full song mp3 download from their website. The best song on the album given away for free – and legally. Gotta love that as a fan, eh? :)
Now before my demons roll the night across my eyes
I tremble as I wait perhaps to sin
Yield unto temptation and be ruler of the world
And all I do is let the beast come in
52) Feed My Head – 2000
The problem with liking a song like Fever Dreams SO MUCH is that what else do I pick short of picking the whole album? Had to listen to the songs, because to be honest, when I listen to Magica, it’s usually all at once. This was hard to pick out individuals – even though I don’t personally view this as a “concept”, just a string of songs.
I like the multi layered vocal trickery in the chorus towards the end of the song – gives it an interesting feel. Dio doesn’t usually sing different vocals with “himself” that way. Another “I like this song, can’t explain it to well” songs. :)
53) Challis – 2000
This song won’t make many people’s top charts. It’s not instantly as recognizable as say “Rainbow in the Dark”, “We Rock”, or “The Last in Line”. It doesn’t even have a hook like those songs (or other Dio “classics”) do. What Challis is is a good, solid song. I like the piece, but there’s no single part that I can go “See – that bit there, it kicks ass”. Nice riffs by Craig Goldy. Some of the lyrical themes I think Ronnie revisited on the 2009 “The Devil you Know” album, but that’s not why I like it. It’s just a good, solid song that doesn’t stick out hugely, but gets the job done. Nothing wrong with that at all.
54) Killing the Dragon – 2002
The Dio band changes again – this time bringing in someone new to play guitar (Doug Aldrich), but the band otherwise stayed the same. What was produced was one of the best Dio albums overall. This was an album where I had a HUGE PROBLEM picking just three songs – there’s just too much good stuff on here.
The title track though is probably my favorite from the album, and the album has a lot of great tracks. To me this is the pinnacle of a “rolling” riff – that’s my own term for a guitar song that just chugs through the entire song, and works well, driving the piece, and defining the sound. Love Ronnie’s vocal melodies on this piece. Love the guitar work. The whole thing just kicks all kinds of ass – hard to describe it, because I have it on writing this, and I just want to listen to it, and not type about it. heh. Stop reading this – go buy this song from iTunes or something if you’ve never heard it.
One thing I thought might have been amusing live would have been to bring out the Sacred Heart stage set again (but with updated tech), and have Ronnie Kill the Dragon again, as he did during the song “Sacred Heart” back in 1985. :)
55) Better in the Dark – 2002
Another song that’s right up my alley. Hard and fast. Doug’s main song riff here is simple, yet quite effective. This isn’t as strong as the title track, but it’s the same kind of vibe to me. Just a different riff.
Doug’s playing seems like a mix between the style of Vivian Campbell and the more “fluid” style of Craig Goldy. It’s a more “Dio” style than most of the “Buzzsaw G” stuff, for sure.
Listening to this again for the article, it’s got some of the characteristics of a song I don’t like, but this one works for me.
56) Push – 2002
This song is more in the vein of something commercial from the first couple of Dio albums. This reminds me a bunch of “Rainbow in the Dark” for some reason. It doesn’t sound like it, but it has commercial appeal. Whether that was designed that way or not, it’s hard to tell. But it’s got a wider appeal than a lot of Dio songs I know. I like Dio, but a lot of Dio tracks aren’t what you would call “radio hits”, or ones that would jump out at you to play for a friend not into a band.
Push is one of those tracks. It’s “feel” is lighter than most tracks – it’s not sludgy, it’s not slow. It’s fast, yes – but just a fast song won’t do it. Has to have a catchy hook, and the kind of short title and lyrical content that lends itself to audience participation. Those tend to make the most commercial tracks, to me. Push is like that.
Heck, Push was the first Dio track that he made a music video for in many an album at this point. The video has some funny stuff with Jack Black & Tenacious D – not a group that I care for much, but their appearance in the video was pretty funny.
57) Throw Away Children – 2002
This one violates my three song rule, but there was no way I could leave this one off the list. As y’all remember, Ronnie did the charity song Stars back in 1985. There was always talk of him doing a sequel to Hear ‘N Aid. A few years before this, Ronnie was going to do another one, but not for famine, but for a charity that he had been involved with for awhile, called “Children of the Night“. It’s a charity that benefits young girls and keeps them away from prostitution. This was the kind of thing that Ronnie kept quiet. Shame that he didn’t get more attention for it. Wendy Dio was on their board of directors for awhile, too.
Anyway, the charity “event/benefit” didn’t come off, but the song remained, and was released on this album. This track was co-written by Craig Goldy, who I believe was still in the band when work started on this album.
The message behind this song is heavy. The song is quite good too, but when you couple it with the meaning behind the song, and then think about what happens to kids who live in that “world”, it’s a killer combination. It’s a song I end up playing a lot when I listen to this album. The kids’ chorus towards the end gets me every time.
It’s a good sing-a-long for me too. I have a young daughter, and I know I would never want her involved in that kind of life. So this is why I had four for this album’s section in the article here.
58) One More for the Road – 2004
The final Dio studio album starts out with what else – a change of guitarist again – this time back to Craig Goldy. If you go back over the course of all the 10 “Dio” studio albums, the longest serving CONSECUTIVE album appearances since Vivian was Tracy G, with his two. Only twice did Dio go more than a single studio album without changing his lead guitarist. Never really sat down and digested that until now. Granted, there’s a bunch of repeat appearances, but consecutive appearances was not the strong point here.
1983 – Vivian Campbell
1984 – Vivian Campbell
1985 – Vivian Campbell
1987 – Craig Goldy
1990 – Rowan Robertson
1994 – Tracy G
1996 – Tracy G
2000 – Craig Goldy
2002 – Doug Aldrich
2004 – Craig Goldy
At this point, Dio in the United States wasn’t drawing much. But that didn’t affect the studio albums. This is probably the lowest point in terms of record sales for Dio, but the albums didn’t suffer. Say what you will about Ronnie, he had a quality control on his albums – whether you liked the songs or not, the quality was high.
Anyway, this song I thought was an underrated, mostly unknown Dio track. It has that feel of “album opener”. Not quite anthemic, but when I saw Dio on this tour (at place that local bands play), he played this, and I enjoyed it. Thought it worked quite well. Given this was the final Dio studio album, I thought this worked well in it’s message, although I know it wasn’t written with that in mind. Only thing that would have made that work better is if this was the LAST song on the album, instead of the first (think Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”). Very strong track.
59) Shivers – 2004
This is a slow track, with a plodding guitar riff. The kind of track I don’t care for, but I really like this one a lot. The lyrics are that right balance of Dio “what the hell is he talking about” content coupled with a good guitar riff. However, what makes this work MOST for me is the way the plodding riff changes a lot with about a minute to go in the song.
The feel changes to something louder, more powerful, and for some reason I love the moment when Ronnie sings “a bucket of blood”. Not so much because of the visual those words bring, just the way it all comes together in that moment of the song. The last minute is much different than the rest of the song.
60) The Eyes – 2004
This track is one of my favorites for a single reason. It works well as soundtrack music for racing videogames. At the time this came out, I was playing a bunch of racing videogames on my Xbox, and I had this album ripped to the device. I found when you’re driving a lot of open racing that this song went with it well for me. It’s not the greatest Dio track at all, but that reason above is why I like it alot.
On a more humorous note, I think he was running out of a way to use the word “Eyes” in a song. We had “Evil Eyes” from The Last in Line, “My Eyes” from Lock Up the Wolves, “The Eyes” from Master of the Moon, “Rainbow Eyes” from Long Live Rock & Roll, “Do You Close Your Eyes” from Rainbow Rising…. :)
A note about Master of the Moon. It was recorded with Jeff Pilson on bass, but he didn’t stay. When they went out on the road, it was Rudy Sarzo on bass, that’s who the picture is below. I’ve never found a formal promo band shot from 2004 with Pilson. If you have one, let me know, please.
61) Ear in the Wall – 2007
And we’re back to Black Sabbath again. After the Master of the Moon tour was over, some writing had begun on what Ronnie said was going to be “Magica II & III”. No idea how much true material was finished there, but in 2006 Rhino records had wanted to put together a compilation of the Dio years of Black Sabbath, and from that came some chit chat between the guys about putting a few new tracks on there, because in their words, there were no completed leftover tracks hanging around to use. So they wrote three new songs. In the pre-release runup, they said they had a fast one, a slow one, and a medium one. Of the three, I liked the fast one best. That would be “Ear in the Wall”. The others are good (although the lyrics to Devil Cried are a bit dippy).
If you’ve made it this far in the list, then you should know why I liked this one the best of the three. I was disappointed they didn’t do this track live – at least when I saw them, anyway.
62) Fear – 2009
When Black Sabbath toured in 2007 to support the “Dio Years” compilation, they technically did it under a new banner, that of “Heaven & Hell” – but everyone knows what it was. The Dio incarnation of Black Sabbath. I liked the name change because you could drop Iron Man, War Pigs, & Paranoid. But most importantly, we got a proper full studio album by Black Sabbath. The first with Dio in 17 years, and the first with any singer in 14 years. Depite the band being officially called “Heaven & Hell”, I corrected that when it came out – see my album cover modification. :)
I almost didn’t know what to feel with new music, and it took some time to digest it. There’s a lot to like on this album. I mean a proper, full album with Iommi, Butler, & Dio? Who wouldn’t like that? Fear was the first track I really liked – loved the riff, and the vocal changes during the chorus were attractive to my ear. I especially liked the singing of the word Fear (Feeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaar) in the chorus. Nice riffing, a good feel. One of the accusations this album had is it sounded like a Dio album with Iommi on it. Not this – it doesn’t feel like a Dio song at all. It’s Black Sabbath born again.
63) Bible Black – 2009
Musically the most interesting track on the album. Has yet another typical slow/soft intro, leading into a big bang power feel. They’ve done this NUMEROUS times in the past, so that construction shouldn’t be a shock to anyone. But the tune itself..
Great guitar work. It’s got a slow, driving power. Dio’s vocals (not the lyrics, more on that in a sec) go VERY well with the guitar work going on in the background, both in range and in power. In fact, I think it’s heads and tails above everything else on the album – so much so that I initially wondered if I could just put Bible Black on here three times.
A small little thing I like – it’s just a few notes. The last couple of notes right before the big loud part kicks in (at 1:28), it’s a few bass notes from Geezer that I really like. It’s stupid, it’s just a few notes, but their inclusion is like a good frosted flower on a wedding cake. Doesn’t need to be there, but makes it better that it is. :)
As a Christian, the lyrics are some of the uh, more difficult to deal with. Not that I’m afraid of it or anything like that, or I’m changing my beliefs because of it, but couple it with the cover art, and it’s a harsh message, for sure.
One last thing. There was a conceptual video for this – but it might be one of the WORST videos for any song ever. It’s a pretty horrible piece of crap, even Tony Iommi has come out and said it’s pretty bad. Shame, as the song is great!
64) Rock & Roll Angel – 2009
I had a hard time picking the third track. I thought it was going to be Neverwhere, then Breaking into Heaven, and then Eating the Cannibals (a good fast one). I ended up going with Rock & Roll Angel, because this song is the most varied in style of anything on the album. I intitally considered not picking this one for that, since I’m picking it mostly on the strength of Iommi’s guitar work, not Ronnie’s vocals, which is what this playlist is about. But I latched onto “you’re on a caravan to Superman”.
I really like this song a lot, as there is not a single musical theme here, there’s several different vocal ideas and tricks here. Different musical styles, and a different guitar sound by Tony that you don’t normally hear on a Sabbath track. This one doesn’t get talked about a lot. But I get into this more I think than anything else musically except maybe Bible Black.
65) Electra – 2010/2012
Technically Electra came out when Ronnie was still alive, but not by much. This song was originally released on a box set that Dio released in early 2010 called “Tournado'”, and it was just a 1,500 copy limited edition. As such, the song wasn’t heard a whole lot. It was written as part of the sessions for “Magica II”, and how this would fit into the overall story for that – who knows?
Then in 2012, Niji Music put out a compilation called “The Very Beast of Dio Vol 2”, which covered his post Dehumanizer Dio material. Electra was put on here, presumably as a selling incentive. This time the track was made WIDELY available. There has been some noise since Ronnie’s death that Wendy might go into Ronnie’s notes for Magica II/III and get it recorded. How much besides Electra was finished with the Dio band when Ronnie was still alive is unknown. But Electra stands as what will probably be the last “Dio” song released by the Dio band. I could be proven wrong sometime down the road – I’d be glad to, but for now, this is the last “Dio Band” song.
I included it for that fact. Not so much because of the song itself, because it’s well, not the greatest song. The attraction is it’s status, not so much it’s music.
66) Metal Will Never Die – 2012
This song however, gets the distinction of being “last”. While Ronnie’s vocals were recorded around 2 years before the song came out (according to this), it is the first “full song” that Ronnie sang on that came out after his death. It originally came out in late 2010 on the album “Bitten By the Beast“. That was released by Niji, but I suspect most fans wouldn’t have heard that. It’s inclusion on the “Beast of Vol 2” compilation will definitely give it a wider berth for sure.
This song is pretty good, it has a very raw feel to it – very “unproduced” compared to most things that Ronnie’s on, plus it’s got a nice power to it. That probably has something to do with it not being a Dio song, and that brings us full circle back to the top of the list. You see, the song was written by David Feinstein, one of Ronnie’s bandmates going back to the 60’s in the Prophets, The Elves, etc.. So for his “last” song to be with someone from the earliest days is quite cool.
I like the power in this track, the message, and pretty much the whole thing. It’s a good place to finish this tracklist. If you don’t know this track, I strongly urge you to check it out.
That brings me to the end of this article, covering music from SEVEN DECADES. Think about that. Ronnie started music in 1957. Still releasing stuff in 2010. That’s seven different decades. I think about the age he was when he was still doing this, and I’m amazed. Ronnie was 67 when he died, and the musical legacy he leaves behind is enormous. The first album I really got in this genre was Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules, so it’s his voice that started me on the path that led me to doing this website, and your reading this article. I met him twice, and he was as nice as his reputation makes him out to be. It’s sad that we won’t get any more from him (of a “new” new fashion), but you can take solace that the music he created will live on forever. I hope my list above has some of your favorites. If you have any comments about my selections, or want to mention a favorite track that I did not, please use the comments selection below.
Thanks for reading, and may God Bless Ronnie James Dio.