Dio - Tier List


This week I focused on an artist who is vital, unique and fundamental for me... my wonderful Ronnie James Dio and his solo career, a handful of albums that I tried to pigeonhole into the usual categories, MASTERPIECE, EXCELLENT, GOOD ENOUGH, MEDIOCRE AND BAD (even if in two of these you will find dust and cobwebs, but that's another matter)… I'll start by saying that I decided to look only at his solo albums, otherwise the matter would have been more complicated.. .but nothing prevents him from doing one tomorrow about his career in the 3 main bands he worked with. And so:

HOLY DIVER: the solo debut is the most magical thing you can imagine. The good Ronnie, in fact, draws from the experience gained with Rainbow and Black Sabbath, mixes them with wisdom adding his theatricality and the result is a true collection of classics, from the direct opener "Stand up and Shout" to the epic title track, from the wicked "Don't talk to strangers" to "Straight through the heart" up to the evil keyboards of "Rainbow in the dark" and the solemn blues-like finale of "Shame on the night". MASTERPIECE to teach in schools!

LAST IN LINE: good Ronnie's inspiration never fails and even the second work has more than one winning arrow in its quiver. And if the opener "We Rock" and the solemn title track (also placed in second position here) perform better live than in the studio, one cannot remain indifferent to the long "Egypt", "One Night in the City" or at the fast "I speed at night". There are maybe one or two less inspired pieces but overall there's so much good stuff that I refuse to go below a MASTERPIECE.

SACRED HEART: a certain more commercial mood creeps into Dio's production, with some catchier songs like "Rock'n'roll Children" or "Hungry for Heaven" but still very successful, alongside more classic episodes like the opener " King of Rock'n'roll". The long and epic title track is magnificent (once again in second position)… the rest moves between the good and the ordinary, without at least for me, reaching the level of the other tracks mentioned, but overall I feel like defining it an EXCELLENT job.

DREAM EVIL: we continue along the path traced in the previous album and once again we find a good half of pieces of absolute value, from the less focused opener than usual "Night People" to the title track, from the live songs "Sunset Superman" and "Naked in the rain", before arriving at the dreamy "All the fools sailed away" (my favourite Ronnie song). A job that I define as EXCELLENT also for its strong emotional component.

LOCK UP THE WOLVES: the sounds begin to darken, and there is a certain tendency for us to retrace our steps, with darker and more difficult, less immediate compositions. A work that can be appreciated, especially if I think of the lyrical value of the dark title track, but which does not shine for inspiration when compared with what has been done in the past. At least for me, it's a GOOD ENOUGH album with some good points.

STRANGE HIGHWAYS: we continue to follow the dark path, with some hints of electronica, but the result is much more evocative and inspired and this work has a handful of really good songs, I think of the opener "Jesus, Mary and the Holy Ghost " but also to "Hollywood Black" or "Pain". Definitely an enjoyable album and for me superior to "Lock up the Wolves" although not at the level of the great classics...let's say GOOD.

ANGRY MACHINE: the experience with Black Sabbath of "Dehumanizer", which already appeared in the previous album, becomes predominant here, offering us a dark, raw, rather difficult and not always very inspired work. Something is interesting, I think of "Double Monday" or "Hunter of the Heart", but the rest is very ordinary and I just can't go beyond a generous ENOUGH.

MAGICA: Dio tries the concept album card, putting together a work with a complex and articulated story, narrated in a long song at the end of the album for the curious. Focusing on the music instead we can notice how the darkness of the previous works is accompanied by a greater inspiration that is clearly present in the songs "Lord of the Last Day" and "Fever Dreams". The folkish "Losing my insanity" is striking. Overall a GOOD album. In Ronnie's plans, there was supposed to be a sequel which however was never made and of which little arrived (the beautiful "Electra").

KILLING THE DRAGON: the beautiful cover suggests a return to a certain epicness and more rocking sounds, as evidenced by the very successful single "Push". The songs are mostly direct, and very simple but effective, like the title track, "Scream" or the Sabbathian "Rock'n'Roll". It may not be a masterpiece but for me, it is undoubtedly an EXCELLENT album.

MASTER OF THE MOON: critics have never rated this album too well, perhaps due to its gloom and the lack of songs rhythmic. I, on the other hand, have always found it very fascinating, partly because I have always loved the dreamy refrain of the title track, partly because there are faster songs, I think of "One More for the Road" or "Living a Lie". It is certainly a more Sabbathian, heavier and theatrical album, and it is sad that unfortunately due to Ronnie's death, this is the last; for these reasons, I consider it now GOOD (keeping in check the emotions that would push me to put it higher).

As I unfortunately wrote, this will be DIO's last studio album, and the loss of Ronnie remains a wound that cannot heal... all that remains is to keep him alive through his music!
Giovanni Gagliano

Passionate about music I wrote my first article for "Given To Rock" in 2012, reaching now 30K global followers. I am also a musician, gigging around London.

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