RECORD STORE TALES & REVIEWS: Complete Table of Contents

February 1, 2012 9 comments
Categories: Table of Contents

REVIEW: AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (bootleg)

August 30, 2015 15 comments

Scan_20150818AC/DC – Rare…Rarer…Rarities (Flight records bootleg CD, year unknown)

Rare…Rarer…Rarities, huh?  Indeed, this is a bootleg CD that includes rarities that most fans don’t have on an official release.  The pretty comprehensive Backtracks box set, which came out later, covers most of these songs…but not all.

Most of these tracks are either single B-sides or songs that were exclusively released on the Australian versions of albums.  Until Backtracks came out, those songs were very hard to find in North America.  The only one I had was “Rock in Peace”, from Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.  I couldn’t believe my luck in scoring the Australian CD of that album.

There are, however, two songs that none of us are likely to ever own an original physical copy of.  These two tracks alone make the bootleg CD purchase worth considering, since they are AC/DC’s first single from 1974, featuring original singer Dave Evans.  Most fans have never heard anything with Dave Evans singing.  These are ripped from an original 7″ single.

“Can I Sit Next to You Girl” is a song every AC/DC fan knows, because this golden oldie was re-recorded on T.N.T. (1975).  Bon Scott’s cheeky delivery made all the difference in the world.  Dave Evans is just some guy, asking to sit next to you.  Bon was Bon fucking Scott asking to sit next to you…who do you think gets the girl?  This early single was issued in the summer of ’74, and it has a completely different, much more laid back intro.  It’s not nearly as heavy as it would later become.  Evans does have a fine vibrato, I must say!

Every single has a B-side, and “Rockin’ in the Parlour” was AC/DC’s first.  It’s much more “rock and roll” than you expect from AC/DC, but it’s catchy and melodic.  Angus and Malcolm have yet to fully develop their styles, but you can certainly tell its them.  You can hear for yourself, that Dave Evans was not the lyricist that Bon Scott was.  “She said, ‘I got some booze, around at my place, so come along and have some fun!'”  Sorry Dave, but that just won’t cut it when the band is AC fucking DC.

The rest of these songs are all in print today, so they can be acquired on official AC/DC releases.  “Love Song” (High Voltage) shocked me on the first number of listens.  Is this AC/DC’s one and only ballad?  I guess so!  “Oh Jean, Oh Jean!” sings Bon, seemingly heart broken.  Once you get used to it, and accept the fact that there are no other AC/DC songs that sound anything like it, you might enjoy it.  I know that I do, from time to time.

I’m not sure what makes “She’s Got Balls” and “Little Lover” qualify as rarities.  As far as I can tell these are the album versions.  Next!  “Stick Around” (High Voltage) is a cool tune, a laid-back AC/DC rocker with lots of space between the instruments.  You can hear the air sizzle!  The riff is about as simple as it gets: two chords.  But they are the right chords!  “High Voltage” is slightly longer than the album version, and this is also on Backtracks.

“School Days” is a Chuck Berry cover, one of very few covers AC/DC recorded.  Chuck Berry is the prototype of AC/DC anyway, so this version fits like a glove.  Hail hail rock and roll, indeed!  This was originally on T.N.T., but you can get it on the Bonfire box set too.  The aforementioned “Rock in Peace” is a shorty, heavy with that AC/DC stomp and the same damn riff they’ve been playing for 40 years.

AC/DC have always had tongue firmly in cheek, but “Crabsody in Blue” is probably the jokiest song they ever recorded.  A slow blues similar to “Ride On” deserves to have some down-and-out lyrics. Bon takes that to a descriptive extreme!

“Oh, and when they start to bite,
Then it’s time you saw the light,
For an appointment.
Before you start to scream,
That’s when you apply the cream,
Blues ointment.”

Only Bon Scott can really write a lyric about venereal disease. Nobody else seems quite as qualified.

“Carry Me Home” was the heavy and instantly likeable B-side to “Dog Eat Dog” (1977).  Using his speaking voice to full effect, Bon proves to me why he is one of rock’s all time greatest frontman.  His animated vocal performance here is something that very few singers can pull off.  (Ian Gillan is one such singer — think “No Laughing in Heaven”.)  Then, “Down on the Borderline” is Brian Johnson’s only showing on this CD.   This was the B-side from “Moneytalks” (The Razors Edge), but it sounds little like that album.  Sonically and vocally, it resembles Blow Up Your Video, right down to the muddy finish.  I have no doubt it was recorded for that album.

“Fling Thing” is AC/DC’s take on “The Bonnie Banks o’ Loch Lomond”, which they cheekily credited to Young/Young! It sounds like quite a party was going on during the recording, which falls apart after a mere two minutes! This was originally the B-side to “Jailbreak”. The final song is “Cold Hearted Man”, which was recently dusted off for the Iron Man 2 soundtrack album.  It was on Powerage (1978) first, and a dark prowler it is.

A lot of people like to joke that all of AC/DC’s songs sound the exactly the same.  This CD of also-ran’s has proven otherwise, and “Cold Hearted Man” is a perfect closer for a solid collection of rock.

3.5/5 stars

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#427: I Do Want to Miss This Thing

August 29, 2015 20 comments

“Michael Bay is the Nickelback of movies.” — Mrs. LeBrain

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#427: I Do Want to Miss This Thing

Blame Michael Bay.

Quite possibly the worst movie director of all time may be responsible for the downfall of Aerosmith.  I’m not talking about the “Falling in Love (Is Hard on the Knees)” music video, which he directed.  No, that was not the downfall.  In fact quality-wise, Nine Lives was a bit of an up-tick from Get A Grip.  It’s too bad that sales didn’t match (2 million sold U.S. vs. 7 million U.S.), but that’s the fickle finger of fate.  The tastes of the public seldom make a perfect match with hard rock quality.

Since Nine Lives would have been considered a bit of a sales disappointment in some camps, it probably didn’t take Steven Tyler much coercing to do a Diane Warren ballad for a movie soundtrack.  Of course, Tyler’s daughter Liv was the headline actress in the flick, so from that standpoint it was a once in a lifetime opportunity for them to work on the same project.  Unfortunately for the world, that project was Armageddon.  Not quite as bad as a real meteor heading to Earth, this Michael Bay stinker made so much money, that some reports suggest that Bay wallpapered his 43 bedroom mansion entirely in Benjamin Franklins.  There’s that problem with the tastes of the masses, again.

So Bay, aided and abetted by Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thorton, and Steve fucking Buscemi, laid this turd of a movie and all it needed was a turd soundtrack.  As for what happened next, Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader 2015 desktop calendar* has the answer:

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For many fans, this was the beginning of the end of Aerosmith.  Some truly dreadful music followed “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing”, such as Just Push Play and (ewww) “(It) Feels So Good”.  Can Aerosmith be redeemed?  I don’t know the answer to that.

What I do know this is, and it’s quite simple.

If Michael Bay didn’t make this damned movie, Aerosmith wouldn’t have had this damned million selling single!

Message to Michael Bay:  Stay away from things I like!

* These things are brilliant and I recommend them to anyone who does not have a stunted sense of humour!

REVIEW: Savatage – Edge of Thorns (1993)

August 28, 2015 21 comments

By special request of reader Wardy, it’s Epic Review Time!

SAVATAGE – Edge of Thorns (1993 Edel & 2002 Steamhammer)

Sava-fans were shaken.  Even though 1991’s Streets: A Rock Opera was a complete artistic triumph, singer and co-founder Jon Oliva quit the band.  Side projects and home life had become priorities.  He would not, however, ever truly leave Savatage.  Even though he was no longer the singer, Jon Oliva co-wrote every track with his brother Criss and producer Paul O’Neill.  He even personally selected his replacement, Zachary Stevens, and tutored and coached the new young singer.   He also continued to play all the piano parts in the studio, although this time he would not tour.  It was certainly an unusual situation, but also an ideal one.   Fans knew that Jon was not really gone, and they easily embraced Stevens as the new frontman.  Oliva had stated that Savatage needed a voice like Zak’s in order to continue.  He knew his own voice was not commercial enough to get on the radio.  With Stevens they had a shot.

The press glowed with reviews, praising the new direction of the band.  They had successfully combined the later piano-tinged Savatage that wrote complex operatic songs and ballads, with the earlier riff-driven metallic Savatage.  Stevens was praised for his voice, and comparisons to Geoff Tate, James LaBrie and Ray Alder were tossed around.  I found a copy of Edge of Thorns in Michigan, and it was with great anticipation that I ripped the shrink wrap off the cassette and placed it in my Walkman.

Anyone who has heard the now-classic title track “Edge of Thorns” can’t forget the haunting piano that descends at the beginning of the album.  At this early stage, Stevens was very much singing like a progressive rock singer, and throwing in screams at key moments.  His range and power here are impressive, and very different from the Mountain King’s style.  “Edge of Thorns” was a great choice for an opening track and new singer.  Not only is it one of the most immediate songs that Oliva/Oliva/O’Neill had yet composed, but it also combines both sides of the band.  The soft piano intro reflects Streets, but then it kicks into overdrive with a riff, heavy bass and dramatic guitar solos. It possesses the pure rock drama of “Gutter Ballet”. It is the whole package.

I have always been drawn to the words.

I have seen you on the edge of dawn,
Felt you here before you were born,
Balanced your dreams upon the Edge of Thorns,
…but I don’t think about you anymore.

I don’t think about you…anymore,
Anymore…

But clearly, he does, and intensely so.

“He Carves His Stone” begins as if a ballad, but the patented snake-y Criss Oliva guitar riff drags us back to the metallic origins of the band.  The combination of riff and chorus are a winning one.  More intense is the borderline thrash metal of “Lights Out”, a smoking track that shows what Zak Stevens can do with the rougher side of his voice.  Hang on tight and shout along to the chorus, because this one is a ride.

Back to the dark, dramatic side that Savatage do so well, it’s “Skraggy’s Tomb”, a brilliant song bursting with ominous heaviness.   Just let it assault your skull, don’t fight it.  Fear not — “Labyrinths” is a quiet piano piece, with Jon accompanied by Chris on guitar.  This cascades in traditional Sava-fashion into a fully-blown dramatic intro similar to “Gutter Ballet”.  It is a suitable and essential part of the song it is attached to, “Follow Me”, the side one epic.

His whole life was written,
Written there inside,
The new weekly Bible,
His modern TV Guide,
Every night he stares back at the screen.

There is no way to sum up the pure excellence, drama, and chills that “Follow Me” delivers. Zak’s vocals make it accessible enough, the power is undeniable. “Follow Me” is among the greatest songs of the Zak Stevens era. A quiet piano piece appropriately titled “Exit Music”* works as an outro. Together with intro and outro, “Follow Me” is almost 10 minutes of pure Savatage adrenaline, with a Criss Oliva solo that still gives me chills.

The second side opens exotically with “Degrees of Sanity”, and Savatage fans know that sanity of one of Jon Oliva’s favourite lyrical subjects!  Criss’ guitar parts are lyrical and enticing.  Slowly it chugs, building and building.  With Criss firmly at the helm, the ship steers through craggy riff after craggy riff until it gives way to the next song, also clearly dealing with sanity:  “Conversation Piece”.  The subject person of the song thought he had been doing better, lately.  “I haven’t thought about you for a while,” he claims.  But even so, he has not let it all go yet.  “I keep your picture hidden a file, of favourite one-act plays.  Like pieces of myself, cut off in desperation, as offerings to thee.  I’ll leave them on the shelf, they’re good for conversation over a cup of tea.”  The melodramatic lyrics of Savatage have always appealed to me (I don’t know what that says about me).  Thanks to Stevens’ impassioned delivery, you can feel every word, while Criss Olivia chugs behind.  Remind me not to visit for tea!

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Delicate is “All That I Bleed”, a pretty piano ballad with a rocking conclusion.  Demonstrating the versatility of his voice, Stevens sings smooth and light, until the end.  Perhaps it is all coincidence, but the songs do seem connected.  Both “All That I Bleed” and “Conversation Piece” deal with a letter and difficult emotions.  I like to think of the two songs as alternate endings to the same story — one in which the person does not send the letter (“Conversation Piece”) and one where he does (“All That I Bleed”).    Regardless, “All That I Bleed” has everything you would want in a ballad.  Had in come out in 1989 it would have stormed the charts and MTV would have played it non-stop.  1993 was a very different year from 1989, but Savatage had never expressed any interest whatsoever in musical trends (the mis-step that was Fight for the Rock notwithstanding).

“Damien” appears next, a choppy heavy rock tune with bouncy piano doubling the guitar riff.  Following this fine song is the even finer “Miles Away”, a melodic heavy rocker that is easy to like.  It has a brightness to it, and Steve “Doc” Wacholz kicks the drums right in the ass.  Unexpectedly the album closed with a quiet acoustic song, “Sleep”.  It feels like a sunrise after the stormy night, and perhaps that’s the intention.

There are plenty of bonus tracks on different editions of Edge of Thorns.  I can only review the bonus tracks I have, which are:

  1. “Shotgun Innocence”, originally a Japanese bonus track.  This is a glossy hard rock song with an emphasis on melody.  Though certainly heavy enough, its direct rock vibe doesn’t fit the mood of Edge of Thorns, which I’m sure is why it was saved for a bonus track.  Good song though, and it certainly shows off the pipes of young Mr. Stevens.
  2. “Forever After”, the second Japanese bonus track.  Probably the weakest song of the batch.  It sounds a bit like an unfinished Ozzy outtake, circa the Jake E. Lee period.
  3. “Conversation Piece (Live in rehearsal 9/24/1994)” is recorded really poorly, but the sweat and rawness are captured.  Since it is live in rehearsal, and it is known that Doc Wacholz did not tour, I assume this is with Jeff Plate on drums.  That would also have to be Alex Skolnick from Testament on guitar.  This track is on the 2002 Steamhammer/SPV remastered edition.
  4. “Believe (Acoustic)” is part of a series of acoustic versions Savatage did for another batch of reissues.  This is Zak Stevens’ version of the closing ballad from Streets, but with acoustic guitar instead of piano.  It is a fascinating alternative version, but the original always kills me.  This is on a German printing on Edel records.

As fate would have it, this would be the final time Jon and Criss would make music together.  On October 17, 1993 Criss was killed by a drunk driver with seven prior DUI’s.  Rather than let this crush him, Jon survived by pouring himself into music.  Savatage would not die, even if with half its heart ripped out.  Edge of Thorns remains Criss Oliva’s capstone, and a bright apex it is.

5/5 stars

*The really interesting thing about “Exit Music” is that it is entirely piano.  Therefore no “official” members of Savatage appeared on it!

#426: The History of the Holy Grail

August 27, 2015 24 comments

KNIGHT

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#426: The History of the Holy Grail

I don’t know when I started referring to this list as my “Holy Grail” items, but the idea is simple.  I wanted to create a wishlist of musical items that would be my ultimate, most sought after records and CDs.  For example, there is a rare Iron Maiden EP called Live!! +one.  It was released in Japan in 1980, and featured two exclusive recordings still unavailable anywhere else:  “Sanctuary” and “Drifter” from the Marquee show.  In 2014, I found a copy in Mississauga.  Should I have bought it?  It was $100.  It was not in the budget that time.  Will I ever see it again?

Those are the kinds of things I’m referring to as Holy Grails.  The kinds of things that you see only ever one or twice in your time as a fan.  When you find a Holy Grail item, how much are you willing to pay?  I paid $300 for a copy of the rare live album marillionrochester on eBay.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that again though.  That was a once in a lifetime buy.  (Only 2000 copies of it were ever made, which were sent directly to fans who donated to their 1997 American tour fund.  It will never be reissued.)

In the digital age, curating a Holy Grail list has never been easier.  My solution today is simple.  I have entrusted my Holy Grail list to Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive site.  There, he has created (and continues to update) several bloggers’ personal lists as the Master Grail Search List.  Using this list from our smartphones, we have hunted for items for others, too.  The increased range provided by the Master Grail Search List has resulted in a couple scores.

While searching one of my hard drives, I discovered what is probably the very first Grail list I ever made, and it is over 10 years old now.  Apparently I wasn’t calling it a Grail list yet (like I said, I don’t know when we started using that term), but below is my 2005 “Ultimate All-Time Want List”.  I have since found a number of these…but have also added many more to my list!  Check out the list, with added notes from today in [red].


CHICKARA

Date: 2005/06/11

ULTIMATE ALL-TIME WANT LIST

To be modified and added to periodically.

In no particular order:

  • KISS – Chikara (CD or LP)

[I should have bought this when I had the chance in ’96 at Dr. Disc in Hamilton!  I blew it.]

  • marillion – Web Christmas 1998 CD
  • marillion – Web Christmas 1999 CD

[Still missing these two.  I’ve downloaded them from their official site, which is nice, but not as nice as an original CD.]

  • Metallica – The 5 1/2 Year Anniversary Box Set LP

[Saw this one at Flying Monkey Music in Waterloo in 1997, priced around $120.  I should have bought it.  Scott, our Heavy Metal Overlord has a copy, but he is also apparently immune to my Jedi mind tricks.]

  • Tommy Shaw – Girls With Guns CD

[Hahaha, what!?  I don’t remember wanting this!]

[I mean, sure, I’ll take it, I like that one song…it’s a great music video too, all one continuous shot with no edits…but the CD is certainly not a Holy Grail item anymore!]

  • KISS – Alive III (Japanese CD)

[No longer needed, since the release of Kiss’ comprehensive Alive! 1975-2000 box set!]

  • Iron Maiden – “Wasting Love” (CD single)
  • Iron Maiden – “Hallowed Be Thy Name” (CD single)
  • Motley Crue – Generation Swine (limited edition Japanese with bonus track “Song To Slit Your Wrist By”)

[FOUND, FOUND, and FOUND!  All of these came from eBay.  None were cheap, but I had a budget threshold for each under which I was willing to pay.]

  • Black Sabbath – “The Shining” (12″ single)

[No longer needed, due to the excellent Sabbath deluxe edition of Eternal Idol.]

  • The Sultans Of Ping F.C. – Casual Sex in the Cineplex CD

[FOUND by Aaron in 2012!  Holy Grail lists work!]

  • ZZ Top – Chrome Smoke & BBQ (limited edition CD box set)

[FOUND, quite easily, and very soon after I made this original list.  I just went down to Best Buy and bought it.  Hey, sometimes it’s the simple way.]

  • KISS – Instant Live CDs (ALL of them)

[Three have been FOUND!  I would still love “all” of them, but I’m not made of money!]

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I’m actually surprised to see so many items crossed off this decade-old list!  Surprised, and pleased.  I know how much I wanted some of these items, such as those Iron Maiden CD singles.  That Motley Crue import also dogged me for years.

The internet helped me gain access to many of these.  It has also broadened my realization of what lay in the nooks and crannies of a band’s discography.  When I made this list 10 years ago, I didn’t even know about Maiden’s Live!! +one EP.  I didn’t know that the same band’s Best of the Beast 6 LP box set had one exclusive bonus track (“Revelations” live) that was tucked away unnoticed.  As I have crossed items off my list, two more sprang forth in their place!

Thanks to Aaron’s Master Grail Search List, the never ending quest continues!

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Speed of Light” (2015 single/T-shirt bundle)

August 26, 2015 37 comments

For Superdeke‘s review of the new Maiden single, click here!

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20150825IRON MAIDEN – “Speed of Light” (2015 BMG single/T-shirt bundle – Best Buy exclusive)

“Only at Best Buy — the words chill me to the bones.

I don’t know what the deal is with Best Buy exclusives in Canada.  When Tenacious D’s movie Pick of Destiny came out, I found the Best Buy edition no problem, just up the street.  Bonus disc and all, easy peasy.  Didn’t even know such a thing existed until I found it at Best Buy.

Only a few years later, it became impossible to find Best Buy exclusives at Best Buy.  Using Tenacious D as the example again, the Best Buy edition of Rize of the Fenix has two bonus tracks.  I had to buy it on eBay, so you know it was an inflated price.  Same thing with the last Black Sabbath album.  Best Buy had a bonus track called “Naïveté in Black” which happened to be one of the best songs.  Had to buy it on eBay.  Paid too much.

A few weeks ago, Best Buy announced they were getting an exclusive on the new Iron Maiden single “Speed of Light” from the forthcoming double album The Book of Souls.  It came with a T-shirt.  But I wanted the single just as much.  That’s where Stone from Metal Odyssey came in!

First of all, I’m gonna tell you to follow Stone in some way, shape, or form.  (WordPress/Twitter)  He read my plight regarding Best Buy items here and took pity.  I called my closest Best Buy — all CDs have been removed from their inventory.  So Stone bought two copies and sent me one, asking nothing in return.  (I will return the favour — just name it man!)  To say I appreciate this gesture is am understatement, which is why I’m being more long winded than usual for a one track CD single!

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“Speed of Light”, written by the duo of Dickinson/Smith, is true to Iron Maiden, and it sounds fucking brilliant.  We know all about the new double album, with plenty of long bombers.  “Speed of Light” is just a hair over five minutes, a very concise song for any Maiden album.  When Adrian and Bruce write together, you can count on a catchy riff and hooks.  “Speed of Light” delivers, and Bruce’s singing is just as powerful as ever, cancer be damned.  His voice is virtually unchanged since Brave New World, 15 years ago.  The air raid siren is intact.  And this album will be the fifth with this Maiden lineup, the longest lived in its history.  Impressive.

Most impressive.

A highlight of “Speed of Light” has to be Adrian’s solo.  The three Maiden guitarists (Janick Gers and Dave Murray being the other two) all have their own distinct styles, which is a major boon to a band like Maiden.  Adrian is the one who thoughtfully composes his solos, and then lets them rip.  This one is brief but has his stamp all over it.

Sometimes Maiden take on a 70’s vibe.  “The Angel and the Gambler” is one such moment, but I think “Speed of Light” also has one foot in the 70’s.  Just a hint, an insinuation, at the beginning.  Otherwise, “Speed of Light” is purely a modern Maiden metal moment.  It would have fit comfortably on The Final Frontier, although I would caution against inferring the sound of the new album from just one single.  It is probably one of the more straightforward moments on The Books of Souls, but we’ll find out for sure on September 4.

One last comment:  fuck you, cancer!  You just got beat by Bruce Dickinson!

4.5/5 stars

VIDEO: “Star Wars – Capture on Kashyyyk” featuring music by STEALTH

August 25, 2015 27 comments

What is summer without a few trips to the cottage? This past weekend was beautiful and loaned itself to some photography and loads of music.

Below, you will find a video using a new track by Stealth, the duo made up of bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, and percussionist Richard Burrows.  The music is “point i” from their debut album, called …listen.  Thanks to Youtube, you no longer have to just “listen”!

“Point i” suited the jungle planet in the photos.  I was just playing around with my Star Wars Black Series 6″ figures and I wanted to show off my new IG-88 and Chewbacca.  I got carried away and what you see below is the result.  It was a lot of fun, which I hope you can see in the adventure!

Thanks to Kathryn and Stealth for permission to use the music.  Pick up ...listen by contacting the artists at kathrynladano.com, coming soon to iTunes and Amazon.

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REVIEW: Dio – Holy Diver (deluxe edition)

August 24, 2015 22 comments

DIO – Holy Diver (2012 Universal deluxe edition, originally 1983)

Ronnie James Dio often said that the best Dio album was the first.  Fans will always have their own favourites, but there is no denying that Ronnie was right about Holy Diver being a special album.  Dio had always had a knack for rallying talented people around him.  Just look at that lineup:  Ronnie and Vinny Appice had recently fled Black Sabbath.  Jimmy Bain had worked with Dio in Blackmore’s Rainbow, an integral part of that band’s lineup in the Rainbow Rising period.  On guitar – Vivian Campbell, from little known New Wave of British Heavy Metal band Sweet Savage.  A shredder he was, able to compete with the hot flashy players of the 80’s.

Very few people do speedy metal songs better than Ronnie James Dio.  “Stand Up and Shout” is the prototype of such Dio songs.  Youthful and rebellious, “Stand Up and Shout” was exactly what fans in 1983 were craving.  The band got to show off their chops a bit, with Vinny Appice leading the way via a hell of a drum performance.  Then it’s Vivian’s turn to shine on one of the speediest solos laid to tape.  “You are the strongest chain and not just some reflection,” sings Ronnie, inspiring the masses with his positive message of self-belief.

For the first four albums, Dio always put the title track second.  If this holds some special meaning, I do not know.  “Holy Diver”, with its ominous opening, still remains upon  the lofty peak of the best songs Ronnie has ever written.  The riff, written solely by Ronnie, is iconic.  Perhaps it is not recognized on the level of immortal riffs such as “Whole Lotta Love”, but among metal fans, it is held in high regard.  “Holy Diver” is the shiniest jewel in the crown, a massive track that just has everything.  Bain and Appice formed a tight rhythm section with the exact right amount of heft.  The song is flawless…shiny diamonds indeed.


Like the eyes of a cat in the black and blue, something is coming for you.

“Gypsy” is a knockout.  Ronnie belting in full voice with a solid mid-tempo song behind him is always a pleasure.  This is Vivian’s first writing credit on a Dio album.  The guitar solo could use some focus, but I think the directive here was “just shred”.  One of Dio’s most pop moments (in terms of melody only) is “Caught in the Middle”, one of his catchiest, most concise and direct songs.  Even Vivian sticks to point on the solo.  But “Caught in the Middle” is soon eclipsed by an even more exciting song:  “Don’t Talk to Strangers”.  The acoustic fake-out intro is a trick Dio pulled again later on “The Last in Line”, but when the song really starts, it’s friggin’ frantic.  It’s like the wind.  These guys had so much energy, it is remarkable.   “Straight Through the Heart” has balls to it, it’s a groovy tune.  I loved Halestorm’s cover of it immensely.  I think they really caught and emphasized what is great about the song.  Lzzy Hale is one of very few people who can do Dio justice vocally.

The slow intro to “Invisible” reminds me of a 1987-era Whitesnake ballad.  This is another trick!  It stops and abruptly turns into another Dio stomper of high quality.  There is very little letup on this Dio album.  The momentum is maintained by the stunning single “Rainbow in the Dark”.  That’s Ronnie on keyboards, by the way.  I have a story about this song.

Our local rock station, 107.5 Dave Rocks, has a 3:00 contest called the Tedious Tiresome Trivia in the Tri-Cities, or the TTT in the TC.  What makes it so tedious and tiresome are the callers.  Craig seems to attract the…how should I say this? The most “interesting” callers.  The most notorious of these is “Bore-linda” who has a legion of haters who can’t stand her perky tone.  (She’s actually a very nice lady in real life.)  Craig Fee would receive emails from annoyed listeners saying, “Hang up on Bore-linda!  Play some Dio!”  So that’s exactly what Craig did, and he chose “Rainbow in the Dark” as the song.  And Bore-linda calls in a lot.  And Craig hangs up a lot.  For a while, “Rainbow in the Dark” was played almost daily between 3 and 4 o’clock.  And you know what?  It never got tiring.  Every single time it came on was a fist-pumper.

Holy Diver deserves a dramatic ending, and that would be “Shame on the Night”.  Copying the template of a song like Sabbath’s “Lonely is the Word”, it occupies the same kind of slow-paced dark metal space.  Vivian’s guitar intro is very cool, but the song just pounds.

The bonus CD is chock full of Dio goodness.  Deluxe editions should always present a complete set of B-sides.  This has the three from this era, including the studio cut “Evil Eyes”.  This excellent, cruisin’ tune was re-recorded for The Last in Line, and the B-side version has remained obscure until now.   Vivian has a lot of different solos on this version, and they are all cool.  Then, essential cuts “Stand Up and Shout” and “Straight Through the Heart” are both live B-sides, every bit as electrifying as the originals.  They are simply more raw, probably a little faster, and there is nothing more powerful than Ronnie James Dio’s voice live in the raw.

The balance of the disc is fleshed out by six live songs recorded for radio by the King Biscuit Flower Hour.  They sound excellent, thanks to King Biscuit.  You get “Stand Up and Shout” a second time, but the rest of the live songs are not repeats.  In the mix are some Sabbath (“Children of the Sea”) and some Rainbow (“Man on the Silver Mountain/Starstruck”).  Of the two, “Children of the Sea” fares better from the Dio band’s interpretation.  To be fair, I think Tony Iommi and Ritchie Blackmore both have so much personality, that it is daunting to cover them no matter who you are.  I think Vivian’s style works less well on the Rainbow song than it does with Sabbath’s material.  The rest of the songs (“Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark”, “Shame on the Night”) are all quality Dio tracks.  Although the market is now inundated with live Dio packages, it is still a delight to have these early recordings on CD.

I needn’t divulge that this deluxe edition is loaded with cool liner notes and pictures.  You have come to expect that from a good deluxe edition.  And Holy Diver is quite good indeed.

4.5/5 stars

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