holy diver

#811: Ride the Tiger

GETTING MORE TALE #811:  Ride the Tiger
Holy Diver,
You’ve been down too long in the midnight sea,
Oh what’s becoming of me.
Ride the tiger,
You can see his stripes but you know he’s clean,
Oh don’t you see what I mean.

I can’t believe it has been this long.  20 frickin’ years ago I started talking to a metalhead in England named Dan Slessor, from Brighton.  He has since deleted his social media and I’m no longer in touch with him.  Hi Dan!  I hope you are well.  Drop me a line.

I was very happy for him when Dan told me had started writing for Kerrang!  (I still have an issue with one of his articles, and Josh Homme on the cover.)  He had achieved the Dream.  Best of all, he got to interview rock stars for the magazine:  Tom Araya, David Coverdale, Joe Elliott….

And Ronnie James goddamn Dio!

One of Dan’s signature moves was to ask bands a joke question, in hope that they have a sense of humour and it would loosen things up.  It worked with Tom Araya when Dan asked him if Slayer ever killed time on the tour bus by seeing how many pencils they could stuff in their pubes.

I recently dug up an old message from Dan.  It was just after he interviewed Dio.  And folks, I can testify that in May 2008, Dan did ask Dio if he had ever ridden a tiger.

Dan told me that while Ronnie did answer in the negative, “Dio was awesome dude – and judging by his amusement, I think I’m the first person to ever ask him if he’d actually ridden a tiger….”

Ronnie passed away only two years after that interview.  You gotta give Dan credit for that one!  I don’t know anyone else who has asked Dio that question.

Dan, I hope you are doing well and if you stumble upon this, please drop me a line, I’d love to catch up!

 

REVIEW: Dio – Holy Diver (deluxe edition)

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

Part 37: When Wives Spill Their Pepsi all Over Ronnie James Dio

Back in 2006, a few weeks after I left the store, I became a “normal customer”.  (As if there is such a thing!)  I started getting calls from my former compatriots any time they saw something cool come in for me.  Which was frequent back then.  Today I have a hard time finding discs locally that I still need, as my collection is pretty beefy.

I drove on a snowy Saturday to one of my former haunts to see my friends and former co-workers.  I managed to snag a mint condition used copy of Dio’s Holy Diver – Live.  It was his newest album.   (Also, sadly, his last album released while he was still alive.)    The package was 2 CD’s including one disc of Holy Diver, performed live in sequence.  I tried to explain to Jen how cool this release was:

It’s the first time he’s played the whole album live.  It was his first album, and considered his best solo album by a lot of fans.  It’s a landmark album — you’ll know some of these songs.

Jen had already heard some Dio.  I played Intermission (on vinyl) for her regularly, and she knew tunes like “Rainbow in the Dark” quite well.  Plus, Jen enjoys back rubs.  If she wanted a back rub, for example, I’d put some tunes on, usually Dio.  Soon it became known as “Dio Massages”.  It wasn’t too long before Jen knew most of Dio’s best tunes from Rainbow and beyond:  “Man On The Silver Mountain”, “Holy Diver”, and so on.  Dio Massages became a regular weekend ritual.

So, when I picked up Holy Diver – Live, I was stoked!  I got it cheap, used, which was not always easy with new metal releases.  Metal fans tend to hang on to their new releases, since they’re not always easy to come across in mainstream retail outlets.   Jen and I listened to disc one, and went to bed.

I had rather stupidly left the CD case (with second disc still inside) on the end table.  Right next to Jen’s can of diet Pepsi.  An idiot could have predicted what would happen next.  My only defense is “I am not an idiot!” but it didn’t save my Dio CD.  Jen reached for her diet Pepsi, missed, and spilled.  Dio was drenched – the booklet, the back cover, and the second disc.  I owned the CD for less than a day, and it was already wrecked.  In the morning, the second disc (previously mint) had little beads of dried Pepsi on it.  The booklet and back cover were a lost cause.  Couldn’t even open the booklet, like a teenager’s first Playboy mag!

I called up my buddy at the store where I had bought the CD.  We’ll call him “Steven Tyler” as an alias.  (He happens to share the name of a famous rock star in real life.)

“Steven!  You got any more of those Dio live albums floating around in the system?”

“Nope, sorry man.  You got the only one,” said Steven.

I ordered a replacement copy from Amazon later that morning.  New.  Over $30 all said and done.

MORAL:  DO NOT LEAVE YOUR DIO DISCS NEXT TO A CAN OF DIET PEPSI OVERNIGHT!

I still love my wife more than anything.  She still loves “Rainbow in the Dark”.