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Dio "Holy Diver - Live"

By Mick Stingley, Contributor
Thursday, April 20, 2006 @ 9:55 AM


On Eagle/Red

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Two discs long and recorded live in 1995 at the Astoria in London, England, the Tony Bennett of metal, Ronnie James Dio lovingly revisits his glorious past with the first live retrospective of his classic album in its entirety, with some beautiful extras. Given the recent interest in artists performing landmark albums in their entirety, and the long-overdue appreciation of Ronnie James Dio (thanks, strangely, in part to the efforts of Pat Boone, Jack Black and Iron Maiden), this record is a more-than-welcome addition to any Dio fan’s collection. And for good reason.

First and foremost, however silly, is the return of the album’s principal character, “Murray.” Murray is the Devil-guy swinging the chain on the album cover, and he’s back and even more menacing than ever. Not too shabby for a guy named “Murray.” Oh, sure: he was (more or less) there on the last record, “Master of the Moon,” but it was hopelessly overlooked (the song, “One More for the Road” is classic Dio), but he’s back with a vengeance and one can only hope that Tipper Gore and Elizabeth Dole and maybe Laura Bush are freaking the fuck out that Satan is lurking in the Wal-Mart, waiting to steal their grandkids away and corrupt them forever. Because that’s what Dio wants, right? (Yeah, right.)

Better than that is Dio, the man and the voice. He warms up on his opening song and gets better and better as the disc goes on. Anyone – anyone – who has seen this guy live, whether they like him or not – cannot dispute that his delivery is amazing; his stamina unflagging; and his reach, uncanny.

The record opens with a monologue from Dio, a la Motley’s “Shout at the Devil.” “Imagine yourself as the chosen one, caught in the middle, a rainbow in the dark. Would you pray to be invisible? Or stand up and shout: “Shame on the night, shame on you; shame on all of you! You could ask the gypsy. But don’t talk to strangers; the pain goes straight through the heart… if you would be the Holy… Diver…”

And then it rips open with the guitar…

And then it’s just fucking awesome. It sounds as good and as real as a live Dio show. There are no overdubs; no mixed down vocals… this is PURE DIO, and it is flawless in every way. Flawless in that it hides nothing: when Dio growls sometimes he gurgles the “r” in some words; and then sometimes he yells, “HEY!” Sometimes he shouts, “Whoa!” and variations on that. Totally a live show.

There are moments when it seems the disc has been edited for certain: between songs. There is very little downtime and it appears the concert has been trimmed for space. So one song kinda flows into another. Granted, there is some crowd shouting and cheering, but it is clearly truncated for space to keep the flow of the songs as seamless as possible.

The band line-up is: Doug Aldritch, guitar; Rudy Sarzo, bass; Simon Wright, drums; Scott Warren, keyboards. “Holy Diver” chugs along gracefully while Aldritch wails away. Simon Wright stands out often, and Dio shouts his name here and there after drum excellence.

“Rainbow in the Dark” is, without a doubt, as much of a standout as it has always been and always will be. A magnificent song which cooks live, thanks to the assemblage of a hard-working band and the vox of a certain Elf. Never has a keyboard and a guitar sounded so perfect together. The one part where there is just the break… the keys sound like a calliope and the guitar is all hooks and squeals… goddamn if that doesn’t always take you back to another time when there was nothing but hope. This song rules, and Dio sounds as rich as he ever has.

When the “Holy Diver” portion of the disc is concluded, the second disc offers a few trinkets… notably, “Heaven and Hell,” “Long Live Rock n’ Roll,” “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “We Rock.” Well, of course he’s going to do these songs- they’re among his best songs. Could he have done “Mob Rules,” “Slippin’ Away,” “Country Girl,” “I Speed at Night,” or “The Last in Line?” Sure. But God bless him, we all know that’s probably coming out next.

More Dio live, because Dio live is untouchable. Is it a perfect live disc? No- nothing will ever equate to the perfection of Ronnie James Dio live. But for those that couldn’t make it, or didn’t feel like showing up: well, you got lucky, because Dio is bringing it home for you. Lucky bloody you, you should have seen him live, right? Shame on the night, shame on you, shame on all of you…

* * * *

Correction: Liner notes on the first run of "Holy Diver Live" were printed with the incorrect date of 1995. The second run will indicate the correct date of the London Astoria show, October 22, 2005.


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