Well this is a pleasant surprise, given that most tribute CDs are awful (take Butchering the Beatles as a prime candidate - a title which ironically really does sum up the content of the CD).
Released to celebrate the life and work of the late legendary Ronnie James Dio, the great and the good of the heavy metal fraternity have had a crack at playing some of his large canon of work. So a quick summary of the highlights of what you can expect for your 10 quid, that is 100% going to charity.
Anthrax kick things off in brash style with a surprising point perfect version of 'Neon Nights', which vocally and delivery wise is barely distinguishable from the original (with possibly a bit more bass and a chugging finale). This is surprising as I thought that this would be a more oblique take given the bands credentials and quite frankly I didn't think the singer had it in him (I presumed it was Bush but its actually Joey B) - in simple terms, of the other Dio band members need a singer to front up a tour they couldn't go far wrong with Joey. Tenacious D have a go at a sincere version of 'The Last In Line' - to be fair, it adds a bit of light relief to the CD as the Medieval sounding flute solo had me crying with laughter. Normally you'd want this left off (from a pure quality control perspective, given the level of musicianship on display here) but it works because, like Ronnie, you can't take everything too seriously and also it's obviously done with 100% respect and total love for the guy.
Corey Taylor does the impossible and improves 'Rainbow in the Dark' over the Dio version (with a smoother and slightly more contemporary twist) and the Scorpions lay down a very laconic 'Temple of The King', which swings the pendulum from Tenacious D's humour to the other end of the spectrum. Noticeably they ooze old school style and quality, which puts this song as a high water mark on this tribute. They are closely followed by fellow German Doro, who puts in a great version of 'The Chains Are On', which she has been keeping warm on her recent tours as a live favourite. Top marks go to Kill Switch Engage, who smash 'Holy Diver' out of the ball park with a thrashy and turbo charged bruiser of an interpretation, whilst the prize of `can I sing better than Dio, can I , can I?' goes to Glenn Hughes for his slightly over the top 'Catch the Rainbow' (sounding not a million miles away from Robert Plant). Also 'I' by some bloke marginally fails to hit the essence of the song that Dio gives it, simply due to the fact that Dio lives the persona of 'I' in the song - When Dio roars 'I am anger' or 'I'll smash your face in', you know he means it from the very depths of his soul. Don't get me wrong - both songs are excellent (particularly the guitar work on CTR, but there is a high bar to achieve particularly on these two.
Rob Halford trys to put lipstick on a pig with the dreary 'Man on the Silver Mountain', but I would suggest that he doesn't quite make it work as its delivered almost wholly at the lower range of his impressive vocal range. Biff Byford is in fine voice as ever on a breezy run through of 'Lady Starstuck', with Lemmy hovering uncharacteristically in the background, however it is the mighty Metallica who win hands down as the stars of the show. 'Kill the King', which is played in its entirety in the medley, is BRUTAL, delivered in the high octane and enthusiastic style of all their other successful cover versions (which often out do Metallica's own originals and the original originals) - this a Kill Em All `shock and awe delivery' of quite breath taking proportions and is worth the price of the CD on its own (it just keeps coming...). Also worthy of note are Adrenaline Mob who give it all on 'The Mob Rules' and a sultry rock performance by Haelstorm on 'Straight Through The Heart'.
The whole CD is then capped off with a sad piano epitaph from Dio himself (surprisingly an 'Angry Machines' song)- this a quite moving peroration to end on, as it draws together nicely the varied and excellent music on the CD, which cleverly mirrors his life - the old school 80's style (Scorpions), the wry and affectionate humour (Tenacious D), the classic and historic (Glenn Hughes), the world wide influence (Doro) and the young turks (KSE) etc etc.
The only questions that remained unanswered as I finished listening to this were - where was Geoff Tate (who I'd have thought was an obvious choice given the collaboration on Mindcrime 2 and the fact that Neon Knights was covered on Queensryche's lacklustre covers album) and why is there nothing covered from Dio's solo career after the Last In Line? What about Geoff Tate doing `All the Fools Sailed Away', now there's a thought from his ex band members.. Also, 'Heaven and Hell' is a somewhat surprising omission - but, perhaps somethings are best left untouched.
Worth every penny! Only regret is that Ronnie never heard it as I reckon he'd have been blown away.