The Albums That Shaped Me: HOLY DIVER

albums-holydiverDIO: HOLY DIVER 
Year of Release: 1983
Year it Came Into My Life: 1983

“Stand Up and Shout”
“Holy Diver”
“Caught in the Middle”
“Don’t Talk to Strangers”
“Straight Through the Heart”
“Rainbow in the Dark”
“Shame On the Night”

I remember buying this album very well. I was browsing in my favorite record store in FL, Spec’s Music, and just happened upon it. I didn’t know that Ronnie James Dio had released a post-Black Sabbath album, so this was quite a surprise. By this point I had followed his years in Black Sabbath but had also fully explored his other band, Rainbow. I was very curious to see what Ronnie would do outside of these two powerhouse bands.

I loved this album immediately. Well, most of it, anyway. I’ll be honest, the one song that I didn’t like at all was “Rainbow in the Dark”. It just seemed too poppy, too keyboard-driven, to fit with either the rest of the album or with what I was expecting from Ronnie. Its still my least favorite song on this album, so it surprises me sometimes that people who like even heavier music than I do love it so much.

Aside from that, though, there are some killer tracks here. I remember being particularly blown away by “Stand Up and Shout”. In fact, I later picked up an import 12″ single of “Rainbow” and it had a live version of “Stand Up” on the flip side, recorded at Castle Donnington. Wow, what a powerful performance it was! Much better than the superb studio version. I’d seen Black Sabbath on the Mob Rules tour, so I knew that Ronnie was a great performer (sadly that was the only time I saw Ronnie live, but its a show that I remember extremely well).

I was very excited about Dio, partly because Ozzy Osbourne‘s post-Sabbath career had been so successful, and I was hoping the same would happen for Ronnie. And for a while, it did. The first four Dio albums all performed pretty well and had good MTV and radio coverage. It was fun to watch the more or less parallel path that the two singers’ solo careers took. There was a bit of a rivalry between them, which is a shame, because a co-headlining Ozzy/Dio tour would have been amazing. It could never happen, though, as was proved when Sammy Hagar and David Lee Roth attempting such a tour in 2002. It was a big success, but read Sammy’s bio to see some of the drama that went on backstage.

Even though overall not as successful as Ozzy, Ronnie’s solo career was a metal feast, turning out amazing albums like The Last in Line, Sacred Heart, Strange Highways and Killing the Dragon which are among the best works of his entire career, solo or otherwise. He rejoined Sabbath in 1992 for one great album, Dehumanizer, and then rejoined them under the name Heaven and Hell in 2007 for a tour followed by a new album.

Ronnie’s death in 2010 was devastating to me personally as it was for everyone in the metal community. Luckily, his wife and manager Wendy has kept his music alive with some really terrific releases, like a two-CD release of his two Castle Donnington performances.

The Albums That Shaped Me: HEAVEN AND HELL

albums-heavenandhell1BLACK SABBATH: Heaven and Hell
Year of Release: 1980
Year it Came Into My Life: 1980

“Neon Knights”
“Children of the Sea”
“Lady Evil”
“Heaven and Hell”
“Wishing Well”
“Die Young”
“Walk Away”
“Lonely is the Word”

I had a best friend from the middle of 1st grade all to way to the end of 12th grade. His name was David. We hung out pretty much all the time, and spent the night at each other’s house a lot when we were younger. He’s one of those people who will always be a part of me.

I remember staying over at his place one time, and his older brother had a bedroom in the basement. That in itself fascinated me, as my house did not have a basement (its a pretty rare thing for homes in Central FL to have basements). I was always intrigued by the music the brother listened to, and there were things that David liked that he picked up from his brother that I would never have been exposed to otherwise, like Jean-Luc Ponty.

albums-heavenandhell2I remember being down in the basement with David this one time, and I was browsing through his brother’s LPs. I came across Heaven and Hell and was pretty transfixed by it. The front cover was interesting, but far more it was the back cover – which featured a pencil sketch of the band members – that really grabbed my attention. I’m not even sure why. But something about it just seemed … important. Now, I knew who Black Sabbath was but I didn’t know much about them. I just knew that this image wasn’t what I expected from them.

That feeling only increased when I heard the album. I immediately loved it, but it wasn’t what I expected from Black Sabbath. I’d heard “Paranoid” before, and one or two other songs, but I was not prepared for this. This was so different from what I thought a BS album would be like (in fact, I remember wondering at the time what other “real” Sabbath fans thought of it). The only name I knew from Sabbath was Ozzy Osbourne, but that guy was nowhere to be found. Instead, there was this new guy with the incredible voice.

Actually, my introduction to Ronnie James Dio came from that same year, from two songs he recorded on Kerry Livgren‘s first solo album, Seeds of Change – “To Live for the King” and the powerhouse “Mask of the Great Deceiver”. I was a huge Kansas fan at the time and so was really excited about Kerry’s first solo record. Ronnie’s vocals on these songs blew me away, and I wanted to know more about him. I found Heaven and Hell soon after that and my journey down the long dark road of Sabbath began. But I also delved into the history of Ronnie’s previous band, Rainbow, which I also fell in love with.

Soon after  Heaven and Hell, I bought the “best of” package We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘n’ Roll. My growing love for Black Sabbath led to my love of proper heavy metal and hard rock, and through them I quickly found my way to great bands like Judas Priest, Iron MaidenMetallica, Megadeth, Ozzy‘s solo stuff, plus all the “hair” metal bands of the later 80s.

I stayed a Dio fan all the way up to his death, and he’ll make another appearance in a future blog. Heaven and Hell remains one of my favorite hard rock albums ever. It’s an amazing work that is solid from start to finish. Great production, great performances, great songs and amazing vocals and lyrics.