Ronnie James Dio. I still can hardly fathom is and it puts a pit in my stomach every time I think about it. Although the man is best known for his metal career; both solo and with Black Sabbath (as also Heaven And Hell), my favorite recording to benefit from his amazing voice are from his short-lived blues rock band, Elf. I've already written a bit about the band, once when I first discovered them, and again while I was going through the entire Ronnie James Dio catalog (a full year before his death). Now that it's been a while, I believe that I can adequately describe these amazing records (all three of them) and why they are included within my Favorite Albums.
Elf, the group's debut album, is a great first release from the group. As I stated before, this is their most 'pure' album, and by that I mean that this album takes upon the sounds of blues and mixes them with a semi-big band jam sound. The following pair of releases are much more rock-oriented (while still keeping the hint of blues) as the group was influenced by the sounds and styles of Deep Purple, who they were opening for continually throughout their career. So this is the album that best signifies the 'true sound' of the band, for better or worse.
Songs that, even as I look at their names, I am humming in my head (aka, the best) are "Hoochie Koochie Lady," "Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be Alright)," "Dixie Lee Junction" and "Love Me Like A Woman." These are the best examples of the band's jam-band sound, mixed with their blues heritage, and all with Dio's legendary vocals drawing the sound out. The story-telling aspect that shows up in later albums isn't really present now, a few tracks have some sort of narrative, but nothing really powerful. It's nice to see that as a progression as the band moves forward.
I like the thought that this is the bands 'true sound,' that it shows off their original style and grace. But honestly, even though this album is great and I could listen to it on repeat all day, it is my least favorite of the group's releases. It is is amazing and one of my favorites, but when compared with either Carolina Country Ball or Trying To Burn The Sun, it just falls a little flat. This may be because I am much more into rock then blues, or maybe they all found their stride by their second recording, but when I look at the track lists for the triad, Elf falls behind the others.