Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Metal Master

Today in Music History:

In 1966 "The Monkees" series debuts on NBC-TV.
DioThe other night we rented a movie called Metal: A Headbanger's Journey. It's a documentary by a 30 year old anthropologist named Sam Dunn who hails from our fair city. He's also been a headbanger since he was twelve. Six years ago, he made the unusual switch from studying Guatemalan refugees to starring in his own film about long-haired, leather-clad, headbanging rockers. The film's aim, according to Dunn, is to explain why heavy metal, a style of rock music made popular by bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Slayer and known for heavy guitar riffs and controversial lyrics, has been maligned by critics while its millions of fans across the globe have been stereotyped as violent or Satanic. It's a pretty decent flick and I highly recommend it if you like any form of metal. The film is loaded with candid interviews with metal icons, including Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper, Dee Snider, Ronnie James Dio, Geddy Lee, Tony Iommi, Bruce Dickison, Lemmy Kilmister, and many more. Also lots of good headbangin metal. I like me some good metal, but I admit that some of the more hardcore stuff isn't to my taste. Speed, death, black (especially that Norweigian stuff) metal isn't for me. I like a good dark riff, vocals I can understand and a hint of a melody.

Watching the film I was stunned by how small a dude Ronnie James Dio is. I knew he was short but dang he's a small guy. How in the heck does that voice issue forth from that wee laddie. Many metal fans will tell you that Dio was the one that first to use the devil horns, or they'll even tell you that he invented it. Even though Gene Simmons claims he invented it. Dio explains all this in the movie. When he was growing up, he would be walking along with his grandmother and she would consistently flash the devil horns at people to ward off the evil eye. He always thought it was cool so he incorporated it into his persona. Now heavy metal and the devil horns go hand in hand. A metal concert wouldn't be the same without them.

Like Tenacious D says, Ronnie James Dio has rocked hard for a long, long time. He is one of heavy metal's most talented and instantly identifiable vocalists. There is no mistaking Dio's voice for someone elses. He formed his very first band all the way back in 1958, called Ronnie and The Rumblers. In the early seventies he belonged to a band called Elf, when Ritchie Blackmore left Deep Purple he was ready to launch a new project and shortly after first metting them, Blackmore invited most of Elf to join his new outfit, Rainbow. Thus Dio was introduced to the masses of metal fans. A few years later Blackmore made it clear that Rainbow was his band, and Dio jumped ship. Dio received word that Ozzy Osbourne had left Black Sabbath, and a tryout was arranged. Dio got the gig immediately, and helped Sabbath break out of their creative and commercial slump, resulting in such metal classics as 1980's Heaven & Hell and 1981's Mob Rules. With Sabbath enjoying their greatest success in years, Dio shocked the metal world by leaving the group. Dio was fed up with the 'singer for hire' tag that was bestowed upon him. He formed Dio with ex-Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain and ex-Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice (Carmine Appice's brother), and ex-Sweet Savage guitar shredder Vivian Campbell. The group would retain the same subject matter that Ronnie James specialized in with his previous outfits, dungeons and dragons, swords and sorcery, damsels in distress, etc. Many years and platinum albums later Dio is still rocking hard. The backing band has gone through many changes over the years, but Dio's voice is still has the same identifiable mastery in it. So some Dio tracks from over the years seem to be in order for today. Sorry folks I don't have any Elf tracks so I'll start out with some Rainbow. This first track is a Rainbow tune but a lot of people have said it sounds a lot like Elf, so that's as closer as I can get.
If You Don't Like RockN Roll by Rainbow

Now this is a straight ahead Rainbow tune.
Man on the Silver Mountain by Rainbow
Buy it

From the Sabbath Days
Children of the Sea by Black Sabbath
Buy It

Most true metal fans consider Dio's first album, Holy Diver, to be a masterpiece. With good reason.
Rainbow in the Dark by Dio
Buy It

And finally Tenacious D's little ditty about Dio where they claim he should pass the torch to them.

Dio by Tenacious D
Buy It

Funny Toon