Bloody hell fire, this takes me back a bit. Let’s not do half measures here. I was a metal kid in the late 70s/early 80s. While virtually living at Hammersmith Odeon and the old Marquee Club, I saw band after band after band.
You name ‘em, I probably saw ‘em. Rush, AC/DC, Blue Oyster Cult, Motorhead, Saxon, Def Leppard, and many more. I hung out at Flyover Records just over the road from the Odeon, and bought so many albums from there I lost count. Those were great days.
For some reason though, despite his massive talent, Ronnie James Dio passed me by somewhat. I saw him front Black Sabbath once, on the “Heaven & Hell” tour, but it didn’t move me much. Dio had some great songs, solo stuff, his Rainbow era, etc, yet there was something that I just didn’t get. Let’s not under-estimate his importance to the metal genre though.
He carried metal on this shoulders for years with a quiet dignity when most were either embarrassed to be connected to the genre, denied it existed altogether, or reverted to type and acted like absolute tools (Motley Crue and Ratt in particular). He lived and breathed metal, and treated it, and it’s legions of fans with the respect it, and they, deserved.
Sadly, Dio died of stomach cancer in May 2010, but he left a back catalogue of what can only be seen as some of the greatest examples of 80s metal still around. Yeah, 49 years old, now I get him.
Although Dream Evil could be seen as bog standard 80s metal, replete with wanking-handle guitar posturing and that horrible cardboard box snare sound that was “de rigueur” in those days, it’s Ronnie that this is all about. His voice here is thunderous, full of passion, emotion and presence.
Dream Evil isn’t the best thing attached to the Dio catalogue (check out the classic “Holy Diver” for that honour), the songs and production are not the best either, but this special edition release is a fitting tribute to the great man.
From the rolling thunder of the title track (with it’s rather weird hasty fade-out), the rampaging anthem, “Sunset Superman,” to the utterly gorgeous lush epic “All The Fools Sailed Away,” “Dream Evil” succeeds in spots, but in others it’s average by Dio standards. The best is yet to come though.
The second CD is a revelation. Featuring a stunning live set from his Monsters of Rock appearance in 1987, it captures Dio and his band, one that included the sublime drumming of Vinny Appice, at their very best.
It’s all there in this performance. I wasn’t there, but having checked out the bill (including Metallica and the anemic Bon Jovi headlining), I can’t imagine any of the other bands coming anywhere close to this.
The versions of “Neon Knights,” “The Last In Line,” and the Rainbow classic “Man On The Sliver Mountain” are white hot and proves what a great band Dio was. RJD’s rapport with the audience was unusual in as much as they loved him, but he wasn’t one of those ridiculous cock blocking frontmen in the David Coverdale mould. He let his music talk and his voice soar.
There are lots of things the uninitiated might see wrong with certain aspects of metal, and 80s metal in particular; the shameless wankery, the ridiculous clothing and hair, and mostly they’re right.
Yet in terms of social influence metal had most other forms of music beat hands down. It influenced the marginalised youth, far more than the five minute idiot-fest that was punk. It was real life. I should know, I was that youth. It taught me to play, become a musician and still touches my heart even now.
I’ll end this review as I started it though. This album brings a lot back. The memories are so thick I can almost touch them. The bands, the sights, the smells, the whole shebang. Great days indeed.
Dream Evil Special Edition is available now.