The year 2010 marked the passing of a rock ‘n’ roll icon: one of my heroes, Ronnie James Dio succumbed to a long battle with cancer. I had the pleasure of meeting and interviewing Ronnie about a decade ago and spending a day with his crew. You couldn't meet a warmer, nicer guy, or an artist more devoted to his fans. I attended the show that night, and afterward Ronnie stood outside in bone-chilling cold signing autographs and chatting with a group of fans for over an hour, talking to each and every person in turn and signing anything that was handed to him. Later commenting on the experience he said “...those people are my life – that’s my heart out there. I owe them everything.”
Upon his passing, I wanted to write something – a review, a tribute, something to commemorate the passing of an icon and pioneer of heavy metal. Ultimately, the most significant praise I can offer is t describe how he helped revitalize the most important metal band ever, Black Sabbath. When Ozzy left Sabbath, the band was ravaged by substances and conflict and artistically barren. Out of the rubble, Ronnie, Tony, Geezer, and Bill resurrected the Sabbath sound. The result was music of a quality and depth worthy of the band’s legacy.
Sabbath is a band that has a ludicrous amount of compilations on the market, typically with the same ten songs and a few random throwaway tracks. And they are inevitably culled from the Ozzy era. The Dio Years finally compiles the best of the amazing rebirth of the band. Together, they were able to create a new sound that was successful artistically and resonated with fans new and old, marrying beautifully with the Sabbath legacy. Though Ronnie only recorded three albums as a member of Sabbath, the output was very good and this collection highlights the best of that era almost perfectly.
The expected hits from that era are represented with the tracks “Neon Knights,” “Die Young,” and “Mob Rules,” not to mention the iconic “Heaven And Hell,” a song that belongs as much as any in the canon of Sabbath greatness. Lesser known treats are an excellent live version of “Children Of The Sea,” one of their best from the era, “Falling Off The Edge of The World,” and the overlooked gem “I,” one of three tracks from the Dehumanizer album.
One of the highlights of the album is the new tracks recorded for this release. Often with a compilation, a band will toss in a lost track or two, or more common nowadays, they will record a couple of new tracks. Typically, however, those inclusions are mostly filler. For this album, the band did indeed record new tracks, but these comprise an excellent addition to the Sabbath catalog. “The Devil Cried” is a truly great song, dark and brooding in the Sabbath tradition. Closing the disc, Ronnie paints a bizarre tale of paranoia in “Ear In the Wall.” I was truly pleased to hear the quality of these new tracks, and any Dio/Sabbath fan who hasn't heard these are in for a treat. The Dio Years is an excellent compilation, nicely representing the most important work from the era. The inclusion of the new tracks makes it a must have for Dio fans. All in all, it is a worthy tribute to Ronnie's contribution to the band.
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