Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Ronnie James Dio (1942-2010) Chronological Compendium

The world lost a rock ‘n roll legend on Sunday when Ronnie James Dio succumbed to the stomach cancer that was detected six months earlier in November 2009. He was almost 68 years old. I had not followed Dio, but as I prepared to write this, I remembered his music and have grown to appreciate his vocal talents through an extensive study of his varied career.

Ronnie and the Red Caps: An Angel is Missing

As you would expect anyone who was born in the 1940s and aspired to be a rock ‘n roll singer in the 1950s, he would sing the type of music that was popular during the latter half of that decade. Ronnie and the Red Caps started as the Vegas Kings in 1957, changed their name to Ronnie and the Rumblers, and in 1958 were known as Ronnie and the Red Caps. The band recorded a number of sides including “An Angel is Missing.”

Ronnie and the Prophets: Don’t Take your Love from Me

In 1961, Ronnie and the Red Caps were further rebranded as Ronnie and the Prophets. Following their cues from popular bands of the era, Dio and company did a number of popular styles of the day – vocal music and straight ahead rock ‘n roll. The following example is a medium tempo ballad that showcases how expressive Dio’s voice was.

The Electric Elves: It Pays to Advertise

When Ronnie and the Prophets disbanded in 1967, guitarist Nick Pantas and vocalist Ronnie James Dio formed The Electric Elves and again followed the trends of the day and recorded one psychedelic single for MGM: “Hey, Look Me Over” backed with “It Pays to Advertise.” In my opinion, the B side, featured here, is the stronger of the two.

The Elves: West Virginia

By 1969, The Electric Elves shortened their moniker to simply The Elves and recorded a pair of singles for the American Decca label. The second single “Amber Velvet” was backed with a song composed by keyboardist Doug Thaler titled “West Virginia.” This 1970 single was produced by veteran songwriter, vocalist, and producer Scott English.

Elf: Sit Down Honey

By 1972, The Elves evolved into Elf – the band that would bring Ronnie James Dio into the attention of Deep Purple guitarist Ritchie Blackmore as the band frequently opened for Deep Purple during the 1970s. The band was influenced by Rod Stewart, Jethro Tull, and straight ahead blues as evidenced from their recordings. From their debut LP “Elf,” Ronnie sings “Sit Down Honey.”

Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow: Man on the Silver Mountain

While Ritchie Blackmore was still working with Deep Purple, he formed his band Rainbow with all of the former members of Elf with the exception of guitarist Steve Edwards. Dio would be the only one that survived the first LP and recorded three albums with Rainbow.

Kerry Livgren (with Ronnie James Dio): To Live for the King

While between gigs, Dio recorded two songs for Kansas’ keyboardist/guitarist Kerry Livgren’s first solo album: “Seeds of Change.” I feel that this is one of Dio’s best vocal performances and the song reminds me of “In this Place” from Robin Trower’s “Bridge of Sighs.”

Black Sabbath: Sign of the Southern Cross

When Ozzy Osbourne left Black Sabbath, Ronnie James Dio was asked to be his replacement and stayed with the band to record two LPs: “Heaven and Hell” and “Mob Rules.” From his second LP with the band, here’s “Sign of the Southern Cross.”

Dio: Holy Diver

When Dio left Sabbath in 1982, he did so to form his own band that bore his stage surname of Dio. The title cut of their debut album, “Holy Diver” was also Dio’s first single release and first MTV video. The single charted at #40 in the US and features the excellent guitar work of Viv Campbell.

Deep Purple (with Ronnie James Dio): Rainbow in the Dark

In 2000, Ronnie James Dio was asked to do some guest appearances with his old friends in Deep Purple. The band Dio’s recording of “Rainbow in the Dark” was the highest charting single in Ronnie James Dio’s career peaking in the US at #14 in 1983. The band is the classic lineup of Deep Purple sans Ritchie Blackmore with Steve Morse handling the guitar chores. This is one of my favorite songs of RJD.

Heaven and Hell: Die Young

From 2005 until this year, the band Heaven and Hell, a reincarnation of the Black Sabbath, of Ronnie James Dio’s days (1980-1982 and 1991-1992) took to the stage. Besides Dio on vocals, the band featured Tommy Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, and Vinny Appice on drums. “Die Young” originally from the Sabbath LP “Heaven & Hell” showcases the guitar wizardry of Tommi Iommi on his Gibson SG guitar.

Rest in peace Ronnie.

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