The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!
In a surprising turn of events, Jim Crean has been named the new singer for Vinnie Vincent! So it is a perfect time to review Jim Crean’s Greatest Hits.
Buffalo’s Jim Crean has four solo albums under his belt. That’s a good minimum before you release a greatest hits. There is enough material here for a solid listen, including two new songs from Crean’s forthcoming fifth album.
Several of the best tracks are hard rockers from Crean’s Insatiable. “Touch” remains a standout, a great song any rock songwriter would be envious of. Not to mention Crean’s power-pipes lay waste to the chorus. Check out the metal riffing on “Follow Your Heart”, too. These taffy-sweet tracks claw into your cranium via your ear canal. All you can do is surrender to it.
Crean’s also capable of standout ballads. “Make It” and “Can’t Find My Way” (a duet with Mike Tramp) are fantastic. Then he goes vintage Aerosmith on “She Goes Down”, a song that could have fit nicely on an album like Toys in the Attic.
There are a handful of covers on the 16 track album, and interesting choices too. “Caught in the Middle” is, of course, Dio, performed with Jimmy Bain and Vinny Appice. “Over the Edge” is early 90s L.A. Guns, an excellent groove. Crean also covered fellow Buffalo band the Goo Goo Dolls with the acoustic “Cuz You’re Gone”, one of the Goo’s finest ballads.
What about the new songs? “Scream Taker” sounds like a Ronnie Dio tribute, with the lyrics cut and pasted from Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Dio songs. “Scream Taker” indicates that Crean has gone heavier on his fifth record. The other new song, “Conflicted” has a strong traditional metal riffy vibe. (Is that Billy Sheehan on bass?) Both these new songs hint at a great album to come. Guitarist Steph Honde, who plays on both new songs says that while the new Crean album will be a bit heavier, there will also be some great ballads.
Don’t have any Jim Crean yet? Pick up his Greatest Hits to catch up.
Yes folks she’s back! She is home, resting comfortably now. We are celebrating by ordering in Chinese (and maybe sushi for me too). Jen will be watching her beloved Maple Leafs on our nice big screen.
Her strength at this time has been unbelievable. Every movement is pain but she made it back safe and sound. She gets even stronger daily. I can’t wait to see how she’s doing by this time next week. She should be making a full recovery in about six weeks, barring anything unexpected.
Of course, this is not necessarily the end of Cancer Chronicles. We will see Dr. Sugimoto in a couple weeks to go over test results and follow up on Jen’s recovery. Even with clean test results, she will be monitored for the next five years.
So, it’s not “over over”, but for now this battle is won. Fuck you cancer. You didn’t beat us this time. Just look at that face. Does that look like someone who’s been beaten? Not by a long shot. That’s one of the strongest faces I know.
Thanks again for all the wonderful support here in this rock and roll community. I have not have time to respond to anyone, but every message is read and cherished. You rock. And so does Jen!
Although Ronnie James Dio was a very vivid songwriter, he only made one true concept album. Magica was intended as a trilogy, but only the first part was completed before Dio’s death in 2010. Magica was released in 2000 as a story of aliens, heroes, villains and magic. Dio’s new band consisted of returning champions Craig Goldy (from the Dream Evil album) on guitar, drummer Simon Wright (Lock Up the Wolves), and original bassist Jimmy Bain. The album, co-written by Dio and Goldy, was considered a triumph in its time. It is a strong return to old-style quality metal after 1996’s questionable Angry Machines CD. This deluxe edition collects the album and all related tracks together in one place.
Without getting into too much story detail, “Discovery” introduces aliens that serve as a framing story. Alien explorers have found the ancient planet of Blessing, but are confused by the written records they find. “Flesh can NOT be mutated into stone, and re-morphed back to the body once again. Continue the investigation with special attention given to one word: MAGICA.”
“Lord of the Last Days” is a dramatic and metallic start. Dio’s slow grooves bring the melody and power of the riff to the fore. “I love the night, so many shadows,” he sings as the villain character Shadowcast. A segue brings us to the single “Fever Dreams”, a song so good that it was performed live in 2001 by Deep Purple with Ronnie as guest. Goldy’s choppy riff is the stuff of metal dreams. Fans who thought Dio strayed too far from the old school before were very pleased.
The music speeds up and becomes more menacing on “Turn to Stone”. Evil has made its move! “Turn to Stone” is classic Dio music, very much in line with Dream Evil (1987). Goldy turns in some killer solo work here, before we move on to the robotic “Feed My Head”. The album loses momentum on the long “Eriel”, and the truth is that the story gets too hard to follow without reading along with the liner notes.
Some smoking soloing introduces “Challis”, a memorable rocker that brings the album back on track. The songs work best when backed by good old riffs. “Challis” is quintessential hard rock Dio, but Dio also has a tender side. The album’s ballad “As Long as it’s Not About Love” is long but exemplary. Then it’s a celtic sounding jig on “Losing My Insanity”, before it transforms into something heavier and almost Sabbathy.
The deluxe edition of Magica contains the original Japanese bonus track, an instrumental called “Annica”. This is on CD 2, but for the most authentic listening experience, you should move it back to where it belongs, on the first disc between “Losing My Insanity” and “Otherworld”. This guitar piece really shows off Craig Goldy’s style and tone. Then “Otherworld” is the climax of the story, good triumphing over evil, and a nice dramatically heavy track.
The alien framing story returns with a reprise of “Lord of the Last Days”, indicating that the tale is not over. Far from it.
The final track on the original album has been moved to CD 2: Dio reading “The Magica Story”, also included inside as text. This is 18 minutes of some of the dullest narration you’ve ever heard. Finishing it once is a challenge, listening to it regularly as a part of the album is madness. Instead, skip to “Electra”, the only song they finished for Magica 2 (or 3). “Electra” was the last single that Dio released in his lifetime, as part of a box set called Tournado. It sounds like a part of Magica, perhaps indicating the next album would have been darker. It’s sad but gratifying to know that the last song Dio put out was a good one.*
Five rare live tracks round out the set, all songs from Magica never released on anything else. Live, the band featured Alice Cooper bassist Chuck Garric in Jimmy Bain’s place. “Fever Dreams” is particularly good, a little bit faster than the original. “As Long as it’s Not About Love” has more passion in the live setting. Most fans have not had the chance to hear live versions of the Magica songs before this package came out.
When Magica was originally released, I was lucky enough to get the Japanese version right away. I was hoping for something more like old Dio, and less like Angry Machines. Judging from my time in the Record Store, I think many Dio fans lost interest in the band after Angry Machines. One of my old customers, Glen, was turned around by Magica. I recommended it to him, and he loved it. Now, I’m recommending it to you.
* Former Dio guitarist Doug Aldrich recently stated that he is in possession of a complete demo with vocals of another Magica 2 song. He has offered it to Wendy Dio to release.
GETTING MORE TALE #589:
Metal 101 – Learning the Basics in the Original School of Rock (Circa 1984-86)
I started getting really serious about rock and roll in the mid-80s. I was 12. Much Music had arrived. I had instant access to so many great bands. Thanks to the Power Hour, I had an hour dedicated to heavy metal every week. I also had friends like Bob and George who were willing to let me tape things from their collections. I started buying rock magazines. But there was a learning curve.
Take Van Halen, for example. All I knew of them were a couple singles from 1984. I had seen the video for “Jump”. I had also learned from my friends that Eddie Van Halen was the greatest guitar player alive. Since I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, I assumed Michael Anthony was Eddie Van Halen. I don’t know why I assumed that, except I probably liked Michael’s beard. Bob and George corrected me, but I wondered, “How can you tell a guitar from a bass guitar?”
“A bass only has four strings”, they told me. And you could tell the number of strings by the tuning pegs. I got it! Soon I was able to start piecing the rest together. George bought a bass a few months later. There is a local musical legend that lived on our street named Rob Szabo. He is a very talented player, singer and songwriter. He was starting to put together his own band, and all he needed was a bassist. George was adamant that he was that bassist. He decided this before he even bought a bass. Rob was too nice a guy to tell George that they wanted someone else with more experience. He didn’t expect George to buy a bass because of the vacancy in the band. To his horror, that is exactly what George did. I think he jammed with them once or twice before they let him go. Maybe not even once.
Undeterred, George learned the instrument by playing along to records. He put together a couple bands of his own, like Asylum and Zephyr. His singing was shit, but his bass playing wasn’t bad at all. He got pretty good at it. But sadly, in our neighborhood, George might be best remembered for his attempts at singing.
George’s bedroom window was right next to our front step where I hung out a lot as a kid. Bob and I would be up there listening to music, or even playing GI Joes on the lawn. Sometimes we’d sit there in just listen to George. You’d hear him put on a record, start playing along on bass, and when he got singing you’d think a cat was being tortured up there. It was horrendous, but he seemed to have no idea how awful his singing really was.
George worked at Long John Silver’s which was about a 20 or 30 minute walk. In the early hours of the morning, I saw George walking down the street alone with his headphones on, heading for work. Suddenly he burst out: “ALRIGHT! LOVE GUN!” Then came the barely recognizable chorus of one of my favourite Kiss songs. It was the kind of scene that you’d make sure you got on video today. Another time, he was singing Judas Priest. We ran into him that time and asked him what’s up? “It’s Priest Week,” he answered. He was only listening to Judas Priest that week, it seems.
One time George was over playing his bass, and he asked me if I knew how to pick out a bass line in a song. I actually did, and I learned it by hearing him play bass along with his records.
Besides Kiss, Priest, and Van Halen, I was learning about bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath. Bob had a Black Sabbath tape with a baby devil on the cover. He brought it over one time, raving about a song called “Zero the Hero”. We listened to it and it was cool. I especially liked the spooky music between songs. That was my first taste of Black Sabbath. I knew who Ozzy Osbourne was, but I didn’t know he was in Black Sabbath before. All I knew was the singer of Black Sabbath had long black hair and looked really evil. Ian Gillan was my first Black Sabbath singer.
George was really cool about letting me tape his stuff, to the point that he’d bring his VCR over so I could even record his videos. We did this on about two or three occasions, as he had quite a collection of taped videos. I was interested in getting some more Dio. I had heard “Holy Diver” and wanted some more, so I got the video for “The Last in Line”. The clip was a trip to a hellish underworld of monsters and musical vigilantes. A bit later, we got to a Black Sabbath video for “Neon Nights”. I recognized the two moustache guys. But who was that singer?
I timidly asked George, “Hey…did Dio ever have anything to do with Black Sabbath?”
“Yeah, that’s him.”
No way! My brain expanded about six levels that afternoon.
Sabbath had a singer before the long black haired guy. Unreal. George told me that guy (Ian Gillan) was the singer from Deep Purple. Holy shit!
A few months after that, we were in the park listening to Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette. “That’s Ozzy singing!” shouted Bob above the music. I simply could not believe it. And not long after that, I was watching Much Music again when they debuted a brand new Sabbath video with yet another singer! A bearded guy! Some guy named Glenn Hughes? Never heard of him before. He had a beard and a suit. Not really very rock and roll. Could you imagine my reaction if I knew at that time that Glenn Hughes was also a singer in Deep Purple?
The circle was becoming complete. This kind of trivia was like candy to me. I ate it up, every last morsel that I could absorb. Band “A” led me to Band “B” and Band “C” via these kinds of connections. Ozzy even connected back to Quiet Riot, the first “metal” tape I ever bought, via original guitarist Randy Rhoads. He was about the only guy who could rival Eddie Van Halen in the guitar stakes, according to my friends. But there was a new up-and-comer that Much Music kept talking about, named Yngwie Malmsteen.
Much was an advantage my neighbors didn’t have. Neither Bob, nor George, nor Rob Szabo had the channel. I began growing and developing tastes of my own, though still heavily influenced by my friends. On my own, I found White Wolf, Sammy Hagar, Savatage, Queensryche, Aerosmith…and Spinal Tap.
Yes, Spinal Tap. “Hell Hole” became one of my favourite songs during the summer of ’86. My sister liked it. She hated her Catholic school, and as we’d drive by, she’d sing “Don’t wanna stay in this Hell Hole!” That school was a indeed a “hell hole”. Shitty teachers and shittier bullies who did not like heavy metal.
It’s true that the teachers gave me hell for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt. It is also true that we went to a retreat for a week, where music T-shirts and players were forbidden. I have always been drawn to music since my earliest memories. What did these teachers have against music? I knew. It was the old myth that these groups were “Satanic” and would drive us to all do drugs and die. What those teachers didn’t know was that the music made me feel good without drugs. I was even expanding my vocabulary. Bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath were not simplistic with their lyrics. I learned words such as “pyre” and “pneumatic”. Through Iron Maiden, I was learning about literature and history. I knew stuff that they weren’t even teaching in school, about Alexander the Great, the Gordian Knot, and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner. How could that be bad?
Fuck ’em. I trusted myself. I was smart enough to know better than they did.
I look back at these early days, and I’m not surprised that it’s these bands that the core of my tastes are built around today. Long live rock and roll.
The King of Rock and Roll rolled into Philly with a new axeman. Vivian Campbell bitterly departed and was replaced by Craig Goldy of Ruff Cutt. Goldy had a flashier style, a bit heavier on the shred. The Sacred Heart tour was a big deal, and I can distinctly remember seeing TV ads for the Toronto show. They had their big dragon on stage, a crystal ball, and Accept as the opening act. The Philly gig was filmed, and so today we have this double live album to enjoy.
As it did on Sacred Heart, “King of Rock and Roll” opened the set with a flurry of speed. Another newbie, “Like the Beat of a Heart” goes over well with an extended solo by Goldy including a nod to Blackmore. “Don’t Talk to Strangers” is the first Dio classic in the set, though “Hungry for Heaven” was a top 30 single.
Dio had so much material to play (including his past with Rainbow and Black Sabbath) that a lot of the biggest songs are jammed into medleys. “The Last in Line”, “Children of the Sea” and “Holy Diver” are truncated into eight minutes. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Children” is joined with the Rainbow classics “Love Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Man on the Silver Mountain”. It seems a shame that there are guitar solos, a drum solo, and even a keyboard solo, but all these classics had to be crammed together into medleys. “Heaven and Hell” is complete at least, but Claude Schnell’s keyboards sound out of place on this Sabbath cornerstone.
1986 was one of many prime periods for Dio. Your perception of this CD set will largely hinge on how much you like Craig Goldy vs. Vivian Campbell. Goldy was a fine replacement though his shredding often sounds like a green kid just going for it. There is plenty of great Dio material to enjoy, all killer no filler from start to finish…solos aside that is. There’s even a live version of the smooth “Time to Burn”, the first new song with Goldy from the Intermission EP.
There is a nice selection of live Dio available on the market. Finding the Sacred Heart would be a great choice for most, but if you want Dio live with Vivian Campbell, probably best to go for the Donington 1983 & 1987 set. This one certainly sounds excellent, it’s a beautiful recording and mix.
Ronnie James Dio used to consider the second albums he did as inferior to the first ones. Second Rainbow wasn’t as good as the first; same with the second Sabbath, according to Ronnie. Is that also true for The Last in Line compared to the legendary Holy Diver?
Comparing the two is much like splitting hairs. The two albums are so close in style and quality that it really doesn’t even matter.
A better opener than “We Rock” is hard to find. The blitz of drums and riff was custom made for bangin’ on the stage. It’s unusual to hear a song where the drums are a major hook, but Vinny Appice has a way of doing just that. He gives you the urge to air-drum every time he throws down a fill.
Dio had an interesting pattern for his albums in the early days, up to Dream Evil (1987). The albums always began with something fast. In the song two position: always the title track! (The title track of each album always had a few lines of lyrics printed in the album sleeve too!) And so it is with “The Last in Line”. The soft and ballad-y opening lures one into that “safe place”…before Dio lets it loose. One of his best and most memorable music videos went with “The Last in Line”, absolutely one of the legendary man’s most notable songs. Its reputation is well earned, as all the pieces are in the right and you never get tired of hearing it.
We’ll know for the first time, if we’re evil or divine, we’re the last in line!
With the first two tracks being so legendary to Dio fandom, it’s easy to understand how the next batch often get lost in the shuffle. “Breathless” lacks for nothing. Vivian Campbell’s solo spot is blazing stuff, and the song is memorable enough for head banging. Accelerating into “I Speed at Night”, hooks are sacrificed for tempo. It’s quintessential 80s heavy metal when speed was such an important thing. Not a bad tune, but one with only a single purpose — banging thine head.
“One Night in the City” takes the time to allow the hooks to percolate through. Vinny and bassist Jimmy Bain lock into a mid-paced groove while Ronnie lays down one of his typically emotive melodies. Though it simmers on a back burner, “One Night in the City” is hot just the same. “Evil Eyes” is also a high quality tune, and if it’s familiar that might be because an earlier version was a B-side, included on the Holy Diver deluxe edition. Naturally, the album version is more polished, but as for which is better, that’s up to the listener. Then there is “Mystery”, arguably Dio’s most “pop” single. Not such a bad thing, after all Ronnie James Dio also did right by “Love is All” from the Butterfly Ball.
We are lightning, we are flame, and we burn at the touch of a spark.
“Eat Your Heart Out” is the only stumble, but it’s soon paid back with “Egypt (The Chains are On)”, a Dio epic in true metal fashion. Who doesn’t love a good plodding metal epic about Egyptian legends? It’s a second or third tier metal motif! Ronnie brings his own metal melodrama to the fore.
The Last in Line is already a great album, certainly up to the quality of Holy Diver with equally memorable material. This carries over to the bonus CD included in the deluxe edition. Four single B-sides from the era are included. They are live versions of “Eat Your Heart Out”, with “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark” (all originally from Holy Diver). The only two B-sides missing are “Stand Up and Shout” and “Straight Through the Heart” live at Donington 1983, from “The Last in Line” 12″ single. These tracks however can be found on the 2010 CD release, At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 .
Finally we have Dio’s entire set from the 1984 Pink Pop festival. Naturally there is some overlap with the previous live tracks: “Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers”. This is offset by a smattering of Rainbow and Black Sabbath classics: “Stargazer”, “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Heaven and Hell”. The audio is quite good and Jimmy Bain’s bass has a nice full thump to it. The Last in Line is one deluxe you’ll want to add to your collection
JIM CREAN – Insatiable (2016 Rocker Records)
If you’re not familiar with Jim Crean, that’s OK. You probably know of his famous friends. Crean sings lead with the Appice Brothers (Carmine and Vinny) for their Drum Wars live shows. Both brothers appear on his solo CD, Insatiable, along with other stars such as Phil Lewis (LA Guns), Mike Tramp (White Lion), Tony Franklin (The Firm/Blue Murder), Phil Naro and more. But it doesn’t matter how many guests you fill your album with if you don’t have the tunes. Crean has not only the tunes, but also the voice.
In a way the weirdest track is the intro by Don Jamieson from That Metal Show. He pronounces “Appice” differently for each brother. Carmine is “Appeece” and Vinny is “Appicee”. Very odd. The title track “Insatiable” features Vinny, but the song does not address the pronunciation controversy! If you’re a fan of 80’s sunset strip rock, then “Insatiable” is for you, like Faster Pussycat but fed a steady diet of heavy metal. Crean has range and rasp, and the result is the kind of rock that people miss today.
Vinny might be best known for his stint in Dio and Black Sabbath with Ronnie James. With the late Jimmy Bain on bass, Appice and Crean re-created Dio’s “Caught in the Middle”. Having original players and writers on it lends it a credibility that most covers can’t match. Best of all, Crean can pull it off! Singing Dio is, to put it mildly, not easy. Crean pulls it off with confidence and ability, just as he does with his own original tune “Touch”. Not to exaggerate, but “Touch” has to be one of the best songs to come out in 2016: killer mid-paced rock, besides the riffs and that voice! Another fine cover, L.A. Guns’ “Over the Edge” is performed with assistance from Philip Lewis. A more obscure choice from 1991’s Hollywood Vampires, it’s a powerful slow rock track with a Zeppelin-y groove. Guitarist Steve Major also needs to be singled out for a fine performance on this one (and all the tracks).
The most star-studded song is the lead single, “Can’t Find My Way”, a Mike Tramp cover. Mike sings on it, as does Phil Naro, with Tony Franklin on bass and Carmine on drums. (Tony and Carmine make it 2/3rds of the original Blue Murder, minus only John Sykes.) This ballad is a bit slow, a bit long, but kicks in for the chorus. I actually prefer Jim’s original material. “Follow Your Heart” is one such original, this one featuring ex-Dio guitarist Rowan Robertson. It has a distinct Dio-ish vibe, aided and abetted by Vinny’s incomparable drum sound. The final three originals (“Shut Your Mouth”, “Turn it Around”, and “Miss Me”) are all very strong hard rock songs. Crean wrote all his originals himself. What a talent. Such a voice, with sharp songwriting chops. This guy has more talent in his pinky than CC Deville has in his entire body.
Two bonus tracks close it out, both covers: Mr. Big’s rockin’ “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, and “Magic Touch” by Kiss. Sharp fans will recall that Crean contributed “Magic Touch” to Mitch Lafon’s Kiss tribute CD, A World With Heroes. If you missed that now sold-out CD, you can at least get Jim’s version of the song here. “Magic Touch” is, of course, great. It always was, but now here’s a chance to hear it without the disco (Kissco?) trappings. As for “The Whole World’s Gonna Know”, Jim’s version may surpass the original.
Added Can-Con bonus: Much of the album was recorded in Toronto, just a stone’s throw away from Jim’s base in Buffalo, New York.
Added extra bonus: My copy included a DVD with the “Can’t Find My Way” music video.
If you like hard rock with integrity the way they used to make it, then this album is for you. If you buy one new release this week, make it Jim Crean’s Insatiable.
2016, I fucking hate you.
R.I.P. Jimmy Bain, age 68, now the second member of the original Dio to pass. And yet another Rainbow casualty.
Jimmy rocked. Listen to some Jimmy today.
Black Sabbath had a very acrimonious split with Ronnie James Dio in 1993. Sabbath were asked to open for Ozzy Osbourne at his “farewell” concerts in Costa Mesa. At the end there was to be an original Sabbath mini-reunion. Ronnie James Dio outright refused to perform and left the band immediately afterwards. Sabbath were forced to get Rob Halford, not so far away in Pheonix, to fill in (the first of two times he would have to do so in Black Sabbath, the second time due to an Ozzy illness). Halford did so admirably under the circumstances. After the show, drummer Vinnie Appice joined Ronnie in a new version of Dio.
The new Dio lineup was a four-piece for the first time since album #1. On bass, Jeff Pilson (ex-Dokken), also helping out with keyboards and backing vocals. Pilson was always capable of singing the high parts in Dokken songs, and with Dio he adds a little bit of melodic accent by harmonizing with Ronnie. On guitar, controversially so, was Tracy G (Griljalva) from the band WWIII, which had also included Appice at one point. Dio described his mood as “pissed off” during this period and it certainly came out in the heaviest Dio album yet.
The thing with Tracy G was that he had an abrasive, atonal drony guitar sound, although certainly fitting to the new angry Dio sound. It was very different from the slick neo-classical bent that guys such as Vivian Campbell added to their solos. It was a brutally heavy and edgy change that should have earned Ronnie some credit rather than criticism. “Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost” opens the album on a speed metal approach, showing off the new guitar player. Tracy G was like the mad man’s scientist heavy metal guitar player crossed with Steve Stevens from Billy Idol’s band. If you want to check out what Tracy G did within Dio, just crank up “Jesus, Mary & the Holy Ghost”.
Admittedly, a whole album of Tracy G’s razor blade guitars can make one weary, but fortunately Dio albums are usually varied in song tempo and style. “Firehead”, the second track is a slow metal groove that suits Dio well. Arguably, the Dio lineup with Pilson on bass is more adept at this Sabbathy path than any other. Pilson has always been one for the low end, and his bass has an elastic thud that is similar, but different from ex-Dio bassist Jimmy Bain. Slower and heavier still is the title track “Strange Highways”. Ronnie has always stated that he liked to hear the space between the instruments, and that’s “Strange Highways”. This really was a great lineup for the band.
“Hollywood Black” is based on a lyric that Ronnie wrote for the sessions of Black Sabbath’s Dehumanizer album. Maybe it’s even the same melody; the original has never been leaked. This is a strong mid-tempo slog; the most mainstream Dio song yet in this collection. Side closer “Evilution” (love that title) is even better; nastier and snippy.
I have a funny story about this song. I bought the cassette while out on a road trip with my buddy Peter, who was always a much bigger Ozzy fan than Dio. We put the tape in the car deck. The words at the end of the song baffled us both, but it was a case of mis-heard lyrics! On Peter’s overdriven, bass-heavy car system, we heard the closing words as:
“Hello, good night, it’s me,
I’m open again,
Come back, come in, goodbye,
The actual final line is “We’re closed.” If you play the song and pay attention…you can hear it too, can’t you? “WEAR CLOTHES!” Misheard lyrics…or hidden message?
As if there was any question from the first side of the album that Ronnie was in a bad mood lately, then “Pain” should settle. “Take the water and wash your face with pain!” Or, “Take the hammer and pound yourself with pain!” My favourite, “Bury my bones on the moon, if they ever should find me it would be too soon.” It was hard to find Ronnie’s usual positivity in some of these words. But listen to that one floor tom hit at 2:00 in! Holy drums, Batman! I love that one hit, it’s my favourite part of the song, which is actually pretty good.
“One Foot in the Grave” is a lot more upbeat than you’d expect by the title and it too is pretty decent. Notice these songs are not “great” — they are just shy of whatever quality makes a song great. Then “Give Her the Gun” is the Dio power ballad, but thematically it too stark and real for some tastes. Child abuse, gun rights? In a Dio song? All power to the man for speaking his mind, but even the most ardent supporter must concede that this is an unusually blunt song for him.
Onto “Blood From a Stone”, back to metaphors once again, and back to blazing hot Tracy G shreddery. Back to insuppressible Pilson bass. There are some 80’s-isms in some of the guitar licks, but blink and you’ll miss ’em. Then, rock out to “Here’s to You”, which sounds like a blazing hot celebration of the rock, or the “masters of the universe”, or something. But according to Ronnie, “The wheel goes ’round, so here’s to you!” Sounds like by this point in the record, Ronnie has worked out whatever bitterness he had left seething in his system. Finally “Bring Down the Rain” ends the album on a very Dio note, with all the majesty and power he can inject into a closing song. It’s just heavier than before. “Put out the flame”, sings Ronnie, his leathery lungs never more impassioned nor powered.
Perhaps Dio still had much anger left in him after all, since the next album was the aptly-titled Angry Machines. But that’s another review.
Strange Highways in a good album bordering on great — but not quite.