Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Holy Diver: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio

Heavy metal has had its share of critics. Some dismiss the music and genre. Believe it or not, heavy metal has some of the best musicians out there. When it comes to metal singers, Ronnie James Dio is probably the best. His credits are amazing. Sadly, he passed away on May 16, 2010. Still, Dio was one of a kind.

Ronnie James Dio was born on July 10, 1942 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. When he was just in his teens, he began to sing and play in bands. He was in numerous bands throughout the 1960's until he was in Elf in the early 1970's. Elf released a few albums and one time, opened up for Deep Purple. By this time, guitarist Ritchie Blackmore was about to leave Deep Purple. When Blackmore Met Dio, he recruited him to be the singer in his new band Rainbow. In 1975, Rainbow's debut album was released to positive reviews. While Rainbow went through personnel changes, Dio stayed for two more studio albums (Rising and Long Live Rock N Roll) and a live album before leaving in 1979.

In 1979, Dio was hired to replace Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath. In 1980, the band released Heaven And Hell and then the following year, Mob Rules was released. It was during Dio's stay in Black Sabbath that he popularized the "metal horns". Dio would lift his index and pinky finger and hold down his middle and ring finger with his thumb. Dio would cite years later that he got the "horns" from his grandmother, who would do it to keep evil spirits away. After the release of a live album, Dio and drummer Vinny Appice left Black Sabbath and formed the band Dio. Their debut album, Holy Diver, was a commercial success. Although Dio went through changes in their line-up, Ronnie remained the stable member. Dio took a short break in 1992 when Ronnie went to reunite Black Sabbath for 1992's Dehumanizer. Ronnie went back to making music with Dio until 2006 when he reunited with Black Sabbath again only this time; the band went under the name Heaven & Hell. In 2009, The Devil You Know was released. In December 2009, Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Dio went under chemotherapy and was well enough to attend VH1's Revolver Golden God Awards, where he was awarded "Best Metal Singer". On May 4th, Heaven & Hell were forced to cancel their summer tour due to Dio's health. On May 16, 2010, Ronnie James Dio passed away.

Dio's passing has been a huge loss in the world of heavy metal music. I myself was lucky enough to see he and Dio perform in 2003. Whether it's Rainbow, Black Sabbath, or Dio, Ronnie James Dio's music will live on forever. Without a doubt, Ronnie James Dio was and forever will be the best metal singer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Ronnie James Dio dies at 67

Ronnie James Dio
July 10, 1942-May 16, 2010

Sadly today at 7:45 am, Ronnie James Dio passed away. He was 67 years old. Without a doubt, Dio had one of the best voices in the metal world. Dio started out his career in a few bands and by the early 1970's, he was in Elf. In 1975, he was the lead singer for Rainbow until 1978. He replace Ozzy Osbourne in 1980 in Black Sabbath. Sabbath would end up making three studio albums and one live album with Dio. Then in 1983, Dio formed his own group called Dio. In recent years, Dio has been the singer for Sabbath spin-off band Heaven and Hell. In December 2009, Dio was diagnosed with stomach cancer. Heaven and Hell were forced to cancel their summer tour as a result.

Words cannot describe how sad I am about Ronnie's passing. Ronnie was and will forever be on of my favorite singers of all time. He had one of the best set of pipes in metal for sure. Ronnie's music will never die and live on forever. Rest in peace, Ronnie. We'll miss you a lot man!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Rolling Stones' Exile On Main Street reissue

The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
The Rolling Stones
Exile On Main Street
Rating: **** 1/2
Bonus Disc Rating: ****

The Rolling Stones were at a peak in 1972. They had released Sticky Fingers and were touring constantly. The band made Exile in Paris, France in Keith Richards' house and then put the finishing touches on it in California.

In this special reissue, Exile on Main Street has been expanded. The first disc you get with the two disc edition is the original classic album from 1972 remastered. Compared to the 1994 remaster, this version is a bit louder and cleaner. Seriously I don't think Exile needed a reissue, along with the band's albums from Sticky Fingers to Bridges to Babylon. The albums sound fine on the 1994 remasters but because the Stones are now signed to Universal, they had to reissue them. If you don't own Exile for some odd reason, go and buy the single disc version but you may want to reconsider if you're a die-hard Stones fan like me. The deluxe edition includes a second disc with ten never before released tracks. This disc has some goodies for the Stones junkie in everyone. "Pass The Wine" is almost like a meaner version of "Honkey Tonk Women" while "Plundered My Soul" is a feel-good R&B number. "I'm Not Signifying" is a piano-blues based track and "Following the River" is a great ballad. "Dancing In The Light" and "So Divine" are both hip shakers but the alternate takes of "Loving Cup" and a Keith-sung version of "Soul Survivor" don't match up to the greatness of the original versions on the album. "Good Time Women" seems to be an early version of "Tumbling Dice" and "Title 5" is just the band messing around.

Exile on Main Street is one of my all time favorite albums, as it sits at #8 on my list of 200 albums. The reissue will be out everywhere on May 18 but if there's a local record store in your town, they may already have it. There are several versions of the remaster. There's a single disc version and a two disc version. Along with this, there's a vinyl reissue out for those who prefer vinyl and if you have the money there's a monster box set with three discs and the vinyl! A documentary called Stones In Exile should be out on June 22 on DVD.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Let It Be is 40 years old

The Beatles - Let It Be
The Beatles
Let It Be
Rating: ****

The beginning of 1969 was hard for the Beatles. The band was growing apart during their next project, which would be documented on film. In the end, this product became what we know as Let It Be.

It was January 1969. The Beatles began work on their next album, Get Back. The album got its title come the idea that the band would “get back” to their roots. Paul McCartney had the idea of the band being filmed while they were recording and rehearsing in Twickenham Studio. This turned out to be a very bad idea. The cameras caught tensions in the band. As the band recalled later, they hated being filmed 24/7. This later ended up in the 1970 Let It Be documentary. There’s one scene where Paul and George are having a row about how to play a certain part in a song. Also, Yoko Ono was there beside John. Tensions were very high. Things got bad when one day, Twickenham Studios had been taken over by John’s friend Magic Alex. The cameras followed the band to the new rehearsal spot, Abbey Road Studios. George Martin brought in keyboardist Billy Preston, which eased the tensions in the band. On January 30, the band performed the now famous rooftop concert. Eventually, the album was shelved and the band made Abbey Road instead. However when Allen Klien became the band’s business manager one of the first goals was to get Get Back, now called Let It Be, released. George Martin would not be producing the album but instead, Phil Spector would. Spector had the hard job of choosing from 100 tapes the perfect album. In May 1970, Let It Be was released. By that time, the Beatles had broken up. When the album was released, not all the Beatles were happy with the final results. In 2003 Paul, Ringo, and George Martin oversaw the Let It Be…Naked project. This project was made so that the intended original album could be released.

Let It Be starts with the warm and beautiful “Two of Us”, which tells the story of two lovers headed out for nowhere. “Dig A Pony” isn’t lyrically one of Lennon’s best songs (John said so himself years later) but “Across the Universe” is a real winner with its chant “Nothing’s gonna change my world”. “I Me Mine” is perhaps the most rocking song on the album and easily one of George’s most underrated songs. “Dig It” is short (uncut versions have it at eight minutes) but the self-titled track is probably the best song off the album. When I met Paul in 2002, he told me the song was written after he had a dream about his mother, who said “It’s okay. Let it be”. “Maggie Mae” is not related to the Rod Stewart hit but “I’ve Got A Feeling” has to be one of the most funky Beatles songs. “One After 909” dates back to the early days while “The Long and Winding Road” is simply one of the most beautiful Beatles songs ever made. “For You Blue” is a great bluesy George song and the album ends with “Get Back”. Yes, John. You’ve passed the audition along with Paul, George, and Ringo.