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Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dio - Live at Donington (UK) 1983 and 1987 review

Dio – Dio at Donington UK Live 1983 and 1987 CD album review
Released on: BBC Recordings through Niji Ent. Group. Release date: Available now.

So here is a release from a truly great, yet sadly departed artist (And band), no longer with us but before Ronnie James Dio passed away, he did apparently perform the duties of Executive Producer of this two CD set, both are two separate performances of Dio, the band, Live at Donington (England) 1983 and 1987.

To me personally, Ronnie James Dio was a rock legend, no question and although – sadly – I never met or interviewed the man, I can say that I got to see him fronting Black Sabbath, Dio and finally Heaven and Hell
Sadly though, I never saw him in the line up I always longed to see live, Rainbow with Ronnie fronting the band, a huge shame indeed.
I probably saw him live around ten or so times so yes, I know he was that good and what an excellent persona!
He always tried to make every gig so personal, wherever it was and never once did I get the impression that he was simply going through the motions that sadly cannot be said for many other rock acts these days.
OK, without dragging out this intro any longer, let’s get to it!

Disc 1 - Live 1983
The first disc I guess is probably the best known and first Dio line up that featured RJD on lead vocals, Vivian Campbell on lead guitar, Jimmy Bain (Bass), Vinny Appice (Drums) and Claude Schnell on keyboards.

The opening track cannot be knocked, ever! The all powerful and out and out rocking ‘Stand Up and Shout’ and boy is this fast live! Intense! Wow! All sounds good and incredibly tight! Immediately you are reminded what a huge loss Dio’s passing has been to the world of rock.

Next up is ‘Straight Through the Heart,’ a lot more of a steady punchy rocker and again sounds great and what an incredible voice the man possessed!
He dedicates the next song to the Donington crowd, ‘This is just for you because you’re all 'Children of the Sea.’' A great track from his Black Sabbath days and the ‘Heaven and Hell’ album, performed very well indeed here, although Viv Campbell is certainly no Tony Iommi! The accompanying backing keys sound full and back it up well … Unfortunately that seems to drift later …

OK, this next track is where the keyboards seem to go astray if you ask me … The intro to ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ has to have the distinct synth keyboard there, but it’s missing at the start and also it seems the keys are a little off key down half a step or more, when you can hear them! Very sad on a track where they are meant to be so prominent.
Now it’s time for the medley from the band, probably due to the bands position on the bill so they tried to cover as much of Ronnie’s background as possible. Starting with ‘Holy Diver’ and it’s pretty solid stuff before Vinny Appice gets a short drum solo (40 seconds).

Time for a trip back to Rainbow days with brief version of ‘Stargazer’ next complete with mystic keyboard backing, before it’s stopped and Viv Campbell then gets to take the spotlight for a minute and a half. Then next  it’s the Sabbath anthem ‘Heaven and Hell.’ There does seem to be a slight disconnect here with the band where Ronnie comes back in after the first instrumental break and the band should back off to allow his vocal to carry through. Then Viv Campbell gets a chance to get the extended solo part ‘play time.’ Ronnie then gets to do his crowd sing along part with the crowd and also takes the opportunity to thank the crowd for sticking with him through all he’s done. The band then kicks back in again, before taking it down again for Ronnie to sing an additional added verse to the crowd where he also throws in a comment about a little white shape appeared and says ‘Heaven is where you want to be …’ and Ronnie tells the angel to, ‘Go away I’m going to burn in hell, with all of you (Donington crowd.)!’ Nice Ronnie … Perhaps could’ve have left that one out but that was your call … The song then builds up and rocks out and is seriously, riffarama!

‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ is next and is certainly an up tempo version on the original with Campbell shredding some of (Ritchie) Blackmore’s original parts, but it rocks with the mood and RJD is of course giving his all here too. This then gives way to a very mellow section before RJD sings, ‘If I’m high on a hill, will she still be looking down on me …' Cue another Rainbow classic ‘Starstruck,’ again presented in speed fashion, but only for around forty seconds and then they get back into ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ and the set is done. That was 1983 live at Donington! Short and sweet!

Disc 2 - Live 1987
When the band returned in 1987 the band were higher on the bill as special guests to headliners Bon Jovi but above Metallica, imagine that?! - Quite right in my books though! Metallica obviously were still on the up, but not at their peak yet.

By 1987 the band had parted ways with Viv Campbell who had been replaced here by Craig Goldy and the band had just released ‘Dream Evil’ and the title track from that release opened the set on this occasion.
Ronnie thanks the crowd for their applause and introduces next track, ‘Neon Knights’ as a track he and Vinny used to play in a previous band they were in together (Black Sabbath for those who’ve been under a rock for many a year!) and this track totally rocks out and I must say, although Viv Campbell was a founder member of Dio, I prefer Craig Goldy’s more precise style.

‘Naked in the Rain’ is up next from ‘Dream Evil’ and as Ronnie introduces it he says ‘I think this is a song that applies to all of us here …’ Donington sadly often had the reputation for being a rain soaked event, but the 60,000 rock fans at each of the annual events were always loyal to the end. Craig Goldy gets a lengthy solo spot here too, although it’s a pretty lengthy track anyway.

‘Rock And Roll Children’ is next and the sound balance in this recording is in fact much better than the first event from 1983.
The keyboards from Claude Schnell are clearly obvious for the intro as they should be and for an overall live mix at an outdoor gig the BBC clearly got this right.
It’s funny as I was driving home the other night, I heard Eddie Trunk talking to Craig Goldy about this release and Craig was saying he really wasn’t even aware of the BBC tapes, until he received a press copy of this CD set and he was very impressed by the sound mix from the time.

The band next launch into Rainbow’s ‘Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll’ and a rousing rendition it is too, before getting back into ‘Rock And Roll Children’ and Ronnie applauds the crowd for being ‘bloody great!

‘The Last in Line’ is next and sound simply great and I think this line up was really cooking without doubt and Ronnie as ever sounds like he’s really enjoying himself here. He always was such a great live performer.

‘Children of the Sea’ is listed next on sleeve notes but they really only just briefly touch on it, as the band then heads into a big medley. ‘Holy Diver’ follows in its shortened form before surging into ‘Heaven and Hell’ which likewise gets chopped quite a bit.

Ready for some more Rainbow? ‘Man on a Silver Mountain’ is next and even as short as this version is, Goldy’s playing once more comes across better than Campbells did. Then simply Claude Schnells keyboards back up Ronnie next as he dwells on the end of ‘Man …,’ before the band launch back in too and wrap things up as the ending then drifts into ‘All the Fools Sailed Away’ and it’s all big epic like stuff here. What will we do without Dio … What a great band they were!

There’s a reprise of ‘The Last in Line’ to wrap things up or so you’d think, but there’s one more Dio classic that this 1987 line up that they have not yet played cue, ‘Rainbow In The Dark.’
The keyboards though again, do not sound right at the start … Something not quite right with Claude Schnells interpretation here, unless Ronnie had wanted them all to tune down half a step or something like that … Weird that, as 'Holy Diver Live' from 2006 doesn’t sound off at all? The keys here are also very buried in the mix generally, in places where we all know they should be prominent or at least obvious.
That aside, both discs are a worthy addition to any rock collection, yes I’m down on the keyboard mix across both discs and even to a degree critical of Campbells kind of ‘sloppy’ at times playing – for want of a better word. – on the first disc, but Ronnie’s voice is as good as ever if you ask me and his absolutely great interaction with the crowd, his fans is as obvious as ever.

On the Eddie Trunk show that I mentioned earlier, where he spoke with Craig Goldy about this live set, Eddie also asked the question of Craig, ‘Is there any live footage to be made available on DVD from this show,’ to which Craig seemed doubtful.
Craig was saying that back then he didn’t believe there were the big live screens for the crowd at the back to be able to se, so it was unlikely there was any live footage recorded.
That to me is an inaccurate statement, as I went to some of the early Donington gigs, my last there being 1986, where Ozzy headlined, Def Leppard came back from Rick Allen's terrible crash and him losing his arm and the Scorpions simply killed at that show!
I seem to recall that there were live screens there and that was the year before this live 1987 CD, so who knows.
I think for sound mix, the ’87 disc has the edge, so a DVD release of that would be great …!
I guess we’ll have to see what Wendy Dio has and gets put out, as I know there’s been a lot of talk of live material now seeing the light of day through Niji Entertainment, that she and Ronnie started together.

Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll as the man sang, I think this is a very strong double set, yes there’s a few blips but then I guess they were both ‘in the moment’ live recordings from a festival gig, so it’s how it goes, right?!
I for one am thankful to have this set, Ronnie left us more than his legend, he left us some fantastic music!
God bless RJD!
Thanks for all you gave us Ronnie, you are deeply missed but you will never be forgotten!
Rating: 4 out of 5

Official website:
Finally here's a video from way back in the days where Ronnie joined Black Sabbath to give them a new lease of life and what an apt song this is, as Ronnie may have been older than many others in the genre, but seriously, he never showed it!
Black Sabbath - Die Young

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