Ronnie James Dio was a soul unlike any other. His voice, his songwriting, and perhaps most surprising to those that did not know him, his amazing sense of compassion and humanity were what made this diminutive man such a giant among us. “Ronnie James Dio – This is Your Life” is not merely a tribute to his legacy but a celebration of his benevolent spirit and charitable heart. In that vein, this album will help raise funds for the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund (diocancerfund.org). Ronnie’s wife and partner, Wendy Dio produced this effort which brings together some of metal’s most notable talents, many of whom have worked with Ronnie over the years. These 13 tracks represent a bold statement of the love and admiration that turned even veteran musicians into devoted fans. As a statement of honor and respect, Ronnie gets the last word, closing out the record with one of his most poignant ballads.
Kicking it all off, Anthrax juices up Black Sabbath‘s “Neon Knights”. It is a skull-cracking way to start a wonderful nod to a true pioneer of rock and metal. This marks one of the last Anthrax recordings with guitarist Rob Caggiano who is now in Volbeat. He referred to their take as “smoking” and that is an apt descriptor. It will simply triturate your marrow.
Tenacious D takes its swing at “The Last in Line” and misses (okay call it a foul tip). It is difficult to lend credibility to what is essentially a joke band paying homage to one of the true legends of rock and metal. Jack Black manages to bring some beast to the vocal performance but you can still picture him going Nacho Libre in front of the mic and prancing about as if this were an outtake from School of Rock. This is not a bad rendition, but it simply is not worthy of this tribute album. Although, despite its tongue-in-cheek underpinnings this version grows on you with repeated listenings.
Adrenaline Mob has already released a number of Dio covers and while their spin on Black Sabbath‘s ”The Mob Rules” is not newly recorded for this album, it is as heavy and in your face as one could hope for. It’s a swift kick to the sac that does Ronnie proud.
Corey Taylor of Slipknot and Stone Sour fame man-handles Ronnie’s masterpiece song “Rainbow in the Dark”, along with Roy Mayorga (Stone Sour), Satchel (Steel Panther), Christian Martucci, and Jason Christopher. Taylor does a ballsy job on the vocals and the band backs him up beautifully, though Satchel’s solo is not nearly as tasty as Vivian Campbell’s original.
Halestorm originally recorded “Straight Through the Heart” for its “ReAniMaTe 2.0 Covers EP” but held it back for this album. I have heard some negative press about this rendition and it seems to be less about the end result than the expectations. The performance is excellent but fans have become so expectant of Lzzy Hale’s amazing vocal performances that anything less than over-the-top is somehow less than good enough. Lzzy seems admittedly restrained early on with her vocals; there is a lack of bite, but she brings it home down the stretch and the band does a fantastic job overall.
Next up, rock legends Motörhead team up with Saxon vocalist Biff Byford for a turn at Rainbow‘s classic, “Starstruck”. Meaty and powerful, they strike a bruising chord on this rendition.
Scorpions add some sting to Rainbow‘s “The Temple of the King”, from the band’s 1975 debut album. Klaus Meine and company rejuvenate this classic and beautiful, bluesy and folksy ballad.
Doro recorded “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” for the 2000 CD, “Holy Dio: A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio“, making it the oldest recording on the album. If not for Doro’s fierce love of Ronnie and her standing in the metal community, this song might not have made it onto this tribute album. It is a fine rendition, and Doro’s sweet edge is a nice contrast to Ronnie’s powerful voice.
Another previously released track comes in the form of Killswitch Engage‘s mammoth take on the Dio trademark, “Holy Diver”. Former Killswitch vocalist, Howard Jones recently admitted he was completely unaware the song would appear on this album. Nevertheless, it simply kicks ass.
The legendary Glenn Hughes tackles “Catch the Rainbow” along with Dio Disciples; Simon Wright, Scott Warren, Craig Goldy and Rudy Sarzo. The quintet spin a moody and satisfying near seven-minute jam of the Rainbow gem.
Oni Logan (Lynch Mob, Racer X), Brian Tichy (Whitesnake, Ozzy Ssbourne) and former Dio members Jimmy Bain and Rowan Robertson dug deep, pulling “I” from the 1992 Black Sabbath album, “Dehumanizer“. They give a rich and weighty performance that should inspire many fans not so familiar with that album to reach out for a fresh listen.
I have long awaited a brilliant cover of Rainbow‘s “Man on the Silver Mountain” and it took Judas Priest‘s Rob Halford, along with Vinny Appice, Doug Aldrich, Jeff Pilson, and Scott Warren to deliver. An impressive array of talent and an explosive and swaggering sonic display.
Leave it to Metallica to go for the throat in that typical over-the-edge manner of theirs. Not content to do one song, they recorded “Ronnie Rising Medley” which blends together, over nine-and-half-minutes, parts of ”A Light In The Black”, “Tarot Woman”, “Stargazer” and “Kill The King”. As one might imagine they give it the full ‘Tallica attack; burning the village and laying waste to everything in sight. The “Kill the King” portion is a brutal slab of all that we love about metal. I may not always wave the Metallica banner, but I’ll wave it here!
Finally, Ronnie James Dio, the man on the silver mountain himself, brings this fantastic tribute to a close with the title track, “This is Your Life”, from the 1996 “Angry Machines” album. I have only shed tears over the loss of two musicians in my lifetime, Randy Rhoads and Ronnie. This song makes my eyes well every time. We miss you, brother!