The enduring love and affection shown by fans far and wide for the memory of Ronnie James Dio since his 2010 death from stomach cancer has provided ample proof — as if it were needed — of the singer’s colossal contributions to the history of hard rock and metal.
And now, the great man’s memory is being celebrated by a remarkable tribute album entitled ‘Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life,’ featuring what may be the most impressive gathering of heavy metal talent since the Roadrunner United project in 2005, or maybe even the Ronnie-spearheaded Hear ’n Aid charity single back in 1986.
In any case, the sheer star power contained behind these fourteen tracks speaks Marshall-amplified volumes about the length and breath of Dio’s influence — both upon the platinum-selling careers of his many disciples, and the amazing quality of the music created with his solo band, as well as Rainbow and Black Sabbath.
First in line are New York thrash kings, Anthrax, who blast through a ripping duplication of Sabbath’s ‘Neon Knights’ that’s eerily accurate. Subsequent contributions by Adrenaline Mob (a well-chosen ‘Mob Rules’), Killswitch Engage (whose popular ‘Holy Diver’ cover is resurrected from 2007), and Halestorm (showing that a female voice suits ‘Straight Through the Heart’ very well) are not, but in a good way.
Moving on, the Scorpions take all-too naturally to the stately melodiousness of ‘The Temple of the King’ (which here recalls their own ‘70s material), while their fellow Teutonic citizen, Doro, delivers a fetching interpretation of ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On),’ which really tingles the spine during the epic tune’s gentle bridge section (and reveals how much inspiration her career owes to Mr. Dio).
‘This is Your Life’ also boasts several one-of-a-kind recordings by specially assembled heavy metal all-star-teams — including a gravelly reworking of ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ by Slipknot vocalist Corey Taylor (backed up mostly by his fellow Stone Sour band mates) and a memorable ‘Starstruck’ carried off by Saxon frontman Biff Byfford with Lemmy and Motorhead, in what amounts to a British metal union for the ages.
But it’s another trio of late-album entries, packed with Dio band alums, that really fulfill this album’s celebratory mission. On a sublime ‘Catch the Rainbow,’ Glenn Hughes’ incomparable howl leads Craig Goldy, Rudy Sarzo, Simon Wright and Scott Warren; on the faithfully rendered ‘Dehumanizer’ favorite, ‘I,’ it’s former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan joining Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson and Brian Tichy; and on a astonishingly, surprisingly funky ‘Man on the Silver Mountain,’ it’s none other than Rob Halford crooning along with Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich and Jeff Pilson.
Frankly, the only issue is with the questionable decision of sequencing Tenacious D’s submission in the album’s second slot. Because no matter how respectful and entertaining it may be, the duo’s rendition of ‘The Last in Line’ (complete with flute solo!) sort of undermines the earnest tribute intended here. Instead, the D should have been swapped with Metallica, whose sizable, nine-minute ‘Ronnie Rising Medley’ — comprised of Rainbow classics like ‘A Light in the Black,’ ‘Tarot Woman,’ ‘Stargazer’ and a positively storming ‘Kill the King’ — is inexplicably held back until next-to-last.
The only possible explanation is ensuring this compilation ends with an unquestionably powerful climax, and, to be fair, that’s precisely what occurs when the parting shot is supplied next by Ronnie himself, crooning like an angel from beyond the grave, on ‘This is Your Life’s’ stirring, tear-jerking title track: that golden voice backed by a lonely piano and string section punctuations.
As tribute albums go, ‘This is Your Life’ achieves a standard of utmost quality and inspiration on par with the legend himself; and with proceeds destined for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up And Shout Cancer Fund, no self-respecting metal fan will want to be the last in line to grab it.