The loss of Ronnie James Dio resounds greatly in the world of metal. The famed vocalist, best known for his time in Black Sabbath and his own eponymous band Dio, had a powerful voice that few in the hard rock spectrum could compete with. He was a prolific talent who left behind not only a lot of influences, but a lot of catalogue work from a half-century(!) of recording.
That’s right: Dio first got his start way back in 1957 as a bassist for The Vegas Kings, a teen-rock outfit that saw plenty of personnel and style changes through the ’60s. Ultimately, Dio would front The Electric Elves (later known simply as Elf); that band would open for Deep Purple in the 1970s, and their guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, would replace Elf’s guitarist to create a new band, Rainbow.
The rest of Dio’s lengthy rock tale – and the resulting reissues – can be read after the jump.
Rainbow: The Dio Years (1975-1978)
Rainbow’s legacy was built on two factors: Blackmore’s straightforward hard rock guitar and Dio’s unmatched vocal delivery, combined with a distinctive songwriting bent (the metal cliche of medieval themes largely stem from bands like Rainbow).
Dio fronted the band for four LPs: Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow (1975), Rising (done with a completely alternate line-up than the previous record in 1976), On Stage (1977) and Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll (1978) before departing after Blackmore sought a more commercial sound. The band continued through the mid-’80s without Dio, but a few catalogue gems would sprout up over the years. The live/outtakes compilation Finyl Vinyl (1986) had two Dio-era live tracks, and a few vintage shows would make their way to CD and DVD (notably Live in Germany, recorded in 1976 and released in the U.S. in 1996; a Live in Europe box that featured the three shows that made up Live in Germany in their entirety, and Live in Munich 1977 (released in 2008)). In 1999, the entire Rainbow catalogue was remastered by Polydor/Mercury, but the only bonus content was the CD-sized preservation of every LP’s original packaging.
Black Sabbath: The Dio Years (1980-2007)
After Ozzy Osbourne’s substance abuse problems became too much for Black Sabbath, Dio was invited to take over lead vocals. With him at the fore, Black Sabbath enjoyed some of its best years, and a definite critical and commercial resurgence thanks to tracks like “Neon Knights” and “Turn Up the Night.” Dio would front Sabbath for three consecutive records in the ’80s – Heaven and Hell (1980), Mob Rules (1981) and Live Evil (1982) – and would return for one more LP in 1992’s Dehumanizer.
Those albums have been treated well by both of the band’s distributors (Rhino in the U.S. and UMe in the U.K.). In 2007, Rhino released a compilation of Dio-era Sabbath that featured three brand-new tracks (recorded with classic members Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi as well as longtime drummer Vinny Appice; this lineup later toured under the moniker Heaven and Hell). Rhino Handmade also released the sold-out Live at Hammersmith Odeon in 2007, featuring live cuts from 1981 and 1982. The next summer, The Rules of Hell compiled the four Dio/Sabbath LPs into one box.
Things have been even more interesting across the pond. Last month, Heaven and Hell, Mob Rules and Live Evil were given deluxe reissues that added B-sides and live material (including a wider release of Live at Hammersmith Odeon on the second disc of Mob Rules and the premiere release of a version of “Mob Rules” heard in the cult film classic Heavy Metal) as well as reinstating the full track order to Live Evil, which some U.K. pressings had shortened.
If Rainbow or Black Sabbath couldn’t hold him forever, Dio could at least bring his signature metal sound to the masses through his own band. Amazingly, though, much of this material has not seen any catalogue efforts from distributor Rhino. The biggest pushes have been a 2005 remaster of debut LP Holy Diver featuring a lengthy audio interview with Ronnie as bonus material, and a 2000 compilation, The Very Beast of Dio (you’re reading that right). Perhaps more will surface to pay tribute to Dio’s metal legend status, but as with all posthumous reissues, it’s a shame that it took a loss to remind us what we’ve gained from Dio’s music.