Very rarely are “tribute” albums a good thing. Either they are modern artist playing classic rock songs because the label thinks it’s a good idea, KISS My ASS or Zeppelin-Encomion. Or you get gimmick-y crap like Country Does Metal. Ugh. Lastly, there’s what I call the Cleopatra effect. A label uses a group of older artists to do classic rock tributes. The label Cleopatra had an assembly line of 80’s rockers doing songs of 70’s acts. It became comical to see Jizzy Pearl of Love/Hate or Joe Lynn Turner on every release from Cleopatra. Very rarely do you get a tribute album of well known acts doing songs in the same genre of an iconic artist.
Lo and behold, here comes This Is Your Life-A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio. They did a great job of collecting metal artists for this record and the songs they covered range throughout his career. As an added bonus most of these songs are new recordings. With this kind of an album I think it’s best to go track by track.
Starting us off is “Neon Nights” by Anthrax. They do a nice and faithful version of the song. It’s a perfect album opener. If you heard last year’s Anthems you know they can do great covers. Following that is is Tenacious D’s “The Last In Line”. It has a nice acoustic opening but once it kicks in… the only way to go is down…… I love these guys but doing an electric metal song doesn’t work. Plus Jack Black does not have the pipes for this song. We are then greeted with Adrenaline Mob’s “The Mob Rules”. This was done on their covers EP a while back and I was not a fan of it then and still feel the same. Most of Stone Sour tries their hand at “Rainbow In The Dark”. They are joined by guitarist Satchel of Steel Panther fame aka Russ Parish from Paul Gilbert’s band and Fight. Doing such a well known song can be tricky but they put their spin on it. It’s a little heavier and just a tad faster. What is interesting is Corey Taylor’s vocal choice. His delivery is very restrained thereby letting the guitar riff to shine. At first it’s surprising because you expect him to go big but this works a lot better.
Young ones Halestorm try on “Straight Through The Heart”. The band proudly wears it influences on its’ sleeves and have done a couple of covers EP’s already. I know I’m supposed to like them but something about them doesn’t click. Lizzy Hale has a killer voice and on the second half of the song she steps it up a notch and it’s is killer. However the band is very blah and the guitar playing is bar band level. I know her brother is the drummer but she needs to be with some players.
The first track released was “Starstruck” with Biff Byford of Saxon singing with Motorhead. Just typing that sentence is a metalhead’s wet dream. Listening to it is even better. Biff’s gravel works great with Motorhead’s dirty delivery. It’s just so simple and so great. Another legacy act is next with the Scorpions doing “The Temple of the King”. The Rainbow track fits right in the Scorpions wheelhouse. The mid pace song is perfect for Klaus Meine’s vocals. It sounds like it should have been on their MTV Unplugged album. The Metal Queen herself, Doro gives us “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” and it is as glorious as you would think. When Ronnie passed they did a couple of tribute shows and she sang this song. It was done awhile back but chances are most people haven’t heard it. Another already available track is “Holy Diver” by Killswitch Engage. Done when Howard Jones was still the singer, it’s still a pretty cool cover and even better video.
Glenn Hughes takes the lead alongside Dio veterans Simon Wright, Rudy Sarzo, and Craig Goldy on “Catch The Rainbow”. Since this is very ballad-like it reminds me of some of the Black Sabbath stuff Glenn did. I like that he chose a song that he could do use his blues voice but it doesn’t really work. Next is one of my favorite songs Ronnie sang.”I” ,from the Black Sabbath-the Dio Years, is better than anything on that gawd awful 13 record. Former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan is joined by Jimmy Bain, Rowan Robertson, and Brian Tichy, Musically its good but Oni cannot match the defiance that was so evident on the original.
One of the tracks I was really looking forward to was “Man On The Silver Mountain” with Rob Halford on vocals. When Dio dropped out of Sabbath when they were going to open for Ozzy’s retirement shows, Rob stepped in. He did a terrific version of “Children Of The Sea” so my expectations were high. Unfortunately time has caught up with the Metal God and his voice is flat and very uninspiring.
The mighty Metallica do a medley on “Ronnie Rising”. It’s made up of “A Light In the Black, Tarot Woman, Stargazer, Kill The King”. It’s tremendous. Any long time fan will know that they love to do covers and it shows here. Especially on “Stargazer/Kill The King” sections.
The album ends with Dio himself singing the title track. It’s just him and a piano and it’s phenomenal. A little heard track and it shows what a powerhouse he was.
There are some other songs depending on what version you buy. The digital download has “Buried Alive” by Jasta. I like it since we get to hear Jamey actually sing and this track works for him. The Japanese version has Stryper’s “Heaven and Hell” which was available on their covers LP from a couple years back. It’s good but they changed some lyrics and that kind of bugged me. Dio Disciples crank out “Stand Up and Shout”. I don’t have that version but it’s either Oni Logan or Ripper Owens singing so it should be good.
As with any tribute there are some hit or misses. As a whole This Is Your Life is a fitting tribute for Ronnie and with all the proceeds going to the Stand Up and Shout cancer fund that was set up after his passing it’s even more fitting.
Final rating, I’d be happy paying…
$14.99-Regularly Priced CD
$9.99-Download from iTunes or Amazon
$5.00-wait for Amazon to have it on sale
$1.00-finding at a flea market, car wash, or pawn shop
$0-Not worth the drive space