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On May 16, 2010, Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with stomach cancer, ending his 5 decade career in music. The world lost a metal god that day, but Dio left us one last song off of his next-album-to-be. It seems that the album won’t be finished now, unless Dio is the Tupac of metal, which would be fine with me. However, contained on this release is probably the last studio track we will get from Dio. Because of this I’ll have to try to balance both reviewing this as a Greatest Hits, albeit a part two, and still give m thoughts on the new material.
This is a companion piece to “The Very Beast of Dio.” That is actually the album that got me into Dio almost 10 years ago. That was a solid best of in terms of representing Dio’s early career, but unfortunately lacked in terms of later accomplishments. “Lock Up the Wolves” and “Strange Highways” only got one song from each, and despite having “Magica” and “Angry Machines” available at the time, both were ignored. And while this collection picks up at “Magica” and “Angry Machines,” the dismal representation of “Lock Up The Wolves” and “Strange Highways” remains. This track list simply needs more Jesus, Mary and The Holy Ghost and Hey Angel. It also is a shame that between both releases, All The Fools Sailed Away is left off. Angry Machines also gets the short end of the stick, with only “Black” and the obvious “This Is Your Life,” although some may argue that this is for the best. This isn’t a bad track list, but it feels lacking, and that quality songs that we’re left off the first were ignored for some of the more “just ok” songs from Dio’s later releases. One thing I can’t complain about however, is that I'm completely in love with “As long As it's Not About Love” and “This is Your Life.”
One thing I remember, is when this was announced and a lot of complaints were made about the art. People said it was tacky and cheesy. Welcome to metal, is it your first day? I think it reminds me the 70's unofficial Judas Priest covers vibe, like Hero, Hero, or the Rocka Rolla with the winged monster on the cover. There’s sort of a cool kind of old school metal feel to it.
Anyway, Let’s discus the new song and bonus material. The next planned project for Dio was the follow up to Magica. Thats a good indication of what to expect from the song “Electra.” Don’t expect a return of the classic Dio, because this song is not another “Rainbow in the Dark.” It's on the darker side of Dio's musical spectrum, though not exactly the darkest he's ever recorded. The riff somewhat plods along during the verses, with Dio carrying the song vocally. His voice isn’t as mighty as it used to be, but he still had some power behind it. It’s very good for a 67 year old man. There are some rather upbeat synthesizer and guitar riffs in there despite the overall darker guitar tone and the more chugging riffs. It goes on for about 6 minutes and yet never feels over long. It really plays a lot like man y modern Dio tracks really. Old fans shouldn’t feel cheated, but this won’t convert anyone who didn’t like Dio. If you enjoyed Magica and some of Dio’s less upbeat work, say Dream Evil or Lock up the Wolves, this might be the song for you. In fact any Dio fan should probably give this a listen. It’s not his best work, just a solid chugging Dio song.
The other two bonus cuts are “The Prisoner of Paradise,” which I believe was a bonus track on some versions of “Master of the Moon” and “Metal Will Never Die,” A David Feinstein song featuring Dio on vocals. “Prisoner” sounds like a weaker song from “Master of the Moon,” not really bad, but not the best. Although not very well mixed, so it seems. “Metal Will Never Die,” while a cool thing to add on in spirit, is nothing to write home about. Its great Electra now has an official wide release, and when it was announced t here would be two other bonus tracks, I was kind of sure the other two bonuses would be “Hide in the Rainbow” and “God Hates Heavy Metal.” I thought maybe “Prisoner of Paradise” instead of “God Hates,” but despite it being a popular guess, I think I was the only one who didn't expect “Metal Will Never Die,” since it wasn't technically a Dio song. It’s kind of a shame that we got this instead of a Dio rarities collection. That would not only give the old fans something worth investing in, but free up space on this for a better “best of” selection. The “Best Of/New Material” combo never works out as well. Still, it’s not bad, and while I have my criticisms, it’s solid enough to please most fans, and maybe interest those who never got into newer Dio to give some of his stuff a shot. I don’t think I’d want it to be anyone’s first experience with Dio though.
Rhino Records' "The Very Beast Of Dio" was the much needed first "best of" set in North America. It was rewarded with strong sales and became Dio's last God Certified Record (500,000 +) to date. It was a solid, but not perfect (the anemic live version "Man On The Silver Mountain" from the mini-album "Intermission" was chosen instead of the lone studio cut "Time To Burn" from that project), 16-song summation of Dio's major label years 1983-1992. While a proper 2 disc set of his Reprise albums from "Holy Diver" through "Strange Highways" is definitely called for Rhino instead released "Stand Up And Shout: Dio Anthology" in 2003, a decent but, again, flawed endeavor that tried to pack Ronnie James Dio's career from Elf, through Rainbow, through Black Sabbath with the band Dio onto 2 discs. Just not possible but a good try. The set sold poorly compared to "The Very Beast Of".
It seems unlikely Rhino will be issuing anymore Dio compilations so Ronnie & Wendy Dio's Niji Entertainment recently made a smart business decision to do it's own compilation of the Dio albums from 1996's "Angry Machines" through 2004's "Master Of The Moon" and called it "The Very Beast Of, Vol. 2".
The four studio albums and 1 live album released during this period received less distribution than the Reprise years so they are not and were not as easy to find as the major label period. In terms of quality I feel they hold up quite well to "Beast 1". Dio never made a truly bad album. Even the critically-lambasted "Angry Machines" needs to be revisited now that the dust has settled. Only two choice cuts are found here from "Machines" ("Black" & "This Is Your Life"), while a third, "Hunter Of The Heart", is the live version from "Inferno: The Last In Live". These are the best songs from the album but there's still great tracks to be found on that LP.
The next three Dio studio LPs get represented thusly: "Magica" (4 tracks: "Fever Dreams", "Feed My Head", "Lord Of The Last Day", "As Long As It's Not About Love"), "Killing The Dragon" (4 tracks: title cut, "Along Comes A Spider", "Better In The Dark", "Push") and "Master Of The Moon" (3 tracks: "The Eyes", "One More For The Road", "Shivers") and these were for the most part the best choices (the title cut to "Master Of The Moon" is a gem that I would've chosen over the generic "One More For The Road"). While more cuts from these four LPs could have been included Niji decided to fill out the compilation with some hard-to-find tracks. This is where they sort of dropped the ball.
While "Prisoner Of Paradise" (Japan-only bonus cut from "Moon"), "Metal Will Never Die" (Dio's song found on a David Feinstein's solo album "Bitten By The Beast") and the single "Electra" (from the "Tournado" box set and allegedly from the planned "Magica ll" that never happened) are all great additions they left off the ferocious "God Hates Heavy Metal" (Japan-only bonus track to "Angry Machines") and "The Code" (Dio's vocal on The Rods' CD "Vengeance"), which would have really sold this set. As it is it feels incomplete. Three out of the five recent (or 6 if you could the "Annica" instrumental from Japan-only "Magica") tracks not found on proper Dio albums, which makes this a bit messy. Personally I already had 15 of the 17 songs on here so I'm grading this set as a whole for what *IS* included. It is a "thumbs up" and essential purchase for a casual fan and Dio collector. Notice I left one group out: The longtime fans who bought all the albums.
From a marketing standpoint there's three types of potential consumers: 1) The casual fan who just wants the "greatest hits" so the bonus tracks are just more of them 2) The longtime Dio fan who bought every album but is not a "serious" collector ("completist") 3) The Dio completist who purchases every Dio release or alternate packaging because that's what "serious" collectors do.
Fan types 1 & 3 will welcome this set with no sweat but fan-type 2 might feel conflicted and and see this as a frustrating, difficult purchase. But let me ask you: Again, if you came across a bootleg cd containing three Dio tracks you don't have.... would you buy it? How much you think you would pay for it? Look, three Dio songs are worth the $10 list price (and by the way you can purchase those three songs by themselves as mp3's)
I'm a fan "type 2" and I only needed two of the tracks. Glad to have "Electra" & "Metal Will Never Die". Still. I have to deduct 5% off the rating for two reasons: 1. A full rarities set would've been a better home for the three "bonus tracks" along with the others that didn't make the cut 2. The "Magica" tracks are taken from a concept album and feel a bit awkward lumped in with the others.