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This is one of very few cases where a slightly obscure song sampler approach to a compilation actually works quite well. In general these compilations tend to take an approach of selecting songs from eras that are mostly untouched and including less obligatory hits. Other Dio compilations that have taken this route will not base their selection off of a particular time period, thus throwing off any kind of potential consistency to the listening experience, and also include songs that are also found on virtually every best of compilation to come out under his name. This one does the exact opposite and limits itself explicitly to the work from 84‘-90‘, completely avoiding the “Holy Diver” album save for “Stand Up And Shout”, which was adapted to music video format a couple years after the album came out, and also tilts heavy towards “Dream Evil” and “Lock Up The Wolves”.
Naturally there are some flaws in the pacing of the album and the general flow of things stylistically from start to finish, as no two songs from the same album occur next to each other. Sometime the transitions are relatively smooth, such as the move from “Mystery” to “I Could’ve Been A Dreamer”, both of which play off a similar mid tempo idea set and sound close enough to each other in production to see like it’s the same band. The same holds true for the move from the up tempo rocker “Overlove” to the more grooving and heavy edged “Like The Beat Of A Heart”, which has a driving riff feel not all that dissimilar from “Straight Through The Heart”. All of these songs could function well together had they been put on the same album originally and are very much underrated. Having said that, every time one of the “Lock Up The Wolves” either precedes or follows something from one of the other 3 albums, there is definitely a large discrepancy in both the production character and style that almost makes it sound like two bands are part of a split album, but alternating tracks rather than being at opposite ends of the play list.
The true strength in this release is the large representation of the latter two albums in the time period covered. “Lock Up The Wolves” in particular gets shelved as being almost akin to a misbegotten side project by some, particularly Vivian Campbell enthusiasts. The sad thing is that these people are missing out on great epic guitar rockers like “Hey Angel” and “Night Music”, not to mention energetic up tempo riff and lead blazers like “Why Are They Watching Me?” and “Walk On Water”. The whole album was essentially a rediscovery of that proto-metal form of hard edged 70s rock that was heard on the Rainbow albums that Dio appeared on, with a heavier guitar tone and a slightly more Van Halen oriented approach to lead guitar work.
If someone was in a position where they only wanted to get the obligatory classics by Dio on CD, namely “Holy Diver” and “The Last In Line”, this could be seen as a cost effective way to experience some of the other 3 albums without getting too much overlap from what you already have. Granted, as far as I’m concerned all of Dio’s first 5 albums are essential listening for anyone who loves epic sounding heavy metal. The re-mastering of these songs has not robbed them of their initial charm, although it does help to bridge the massive gap between the sound of the 80s albums and “Lock Up The Wolves”. Not an essential purchase for someone who already has the albums in question, but possibly something to pick up in a discount bin if you own the original pressings of the albums and are curious as to how their character may have been altered.