Monday, July 13, 2009

Retrospective: Ronnie James Dio - Solo (Part 1)

This is it: the definitive Dio album. Everyone knows the title track - even if you don't listen to this style of music, you know it. This album produced several singles that are still heard on the radio; "Holy Diver," "Don't Talk To Strangers," "Straight Through The Heart," and "Rainbow In The Dark." This is by far the most popular album in Dio's catalog, deservedly so, and it helped launch his hefty solo career off right.
This album was released on the tails of Holy Diver, and it is decent - it's no Holy Diver - but it is pretty good. It still plays into the "Swords & Sorcery" theme that was present in the previous album. You can see how much of an impact these first few albums had on the blossoming sub-genre power metal, many bands still reference Dio as a major influence, and many more pay homage through covers. If you like Holy Diver, you will probably find something to enjoy in The Last In Line.
Sacred Heart still lives in the fantasy realm, but is also more radio-friendly then The Last In Line. Songs like the title track, "Rock N' Roll Children" (one of my favorite Dio songs) and "Hungry For Heaven," all saw radio play (not to much anymore) and the album broke the Billboard Top 200. This was the last Dio album to be rated Gold or higher (the previous albums both went Platinum) until his greatest hits in 2000.
Dream Evil kept some radio-friendly songs, but it also dove back into the story-telling aspect of Dio's music. These songs were longer, and several of them had different sections to the song - periods of tempo shifts and musical changes. In my mind this album signaled the end of the Dio hey-day of the 80's (being his last album of the decade). While the latter albums are pretty good, they just don't hold up to the 80's thunder of Dio. Also as a side-comment, the pseudo-spoof power metal band Dream Evil takes it's name from this album (their Evilized album is one of my favorites).

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