Ronnie James Dio
Niji Entertainment Group
We’ve lost the discipline of putting a disc on a player and hearing it through, song-by-song, in whatever order the band wanted. Thus the brilliance of a good concept album is rarely appreciated by today’s music fans. Ronnie James Dio’s Magica was late to the game; it came out in 2000 and by that numerically portentous date the Evil emperor Compact Disc had conquered and subdued the gentle yet profitable Vinyl People and the evil daemon Napster was circling the Tower of Records on The Sunset Strip, ready to turn us into iPod hypnotized music zombies that shuffle our tracks while mumbling “download… must have download.” If that ridiculous sentence appeals to you, so will this album. You might want to start with disc two, which opens with a narrated “The Magica Story.” All the metal Middle Earth buzz words lurk in the narrative: a 1000-year-old civilization, powerful wizards, epic spell casting sessions, dragons, and absolute good battles absolute evil. Then switch over to disc one to hear the original album and see if you can follow the narrative. Wrap up the listening session with the rest of disc two for the “official live bootlegs.” These are alternate takes, a “Japan-only” track, and some odds and ends that might be edits from the original concept.
This is classic Dio: ponderous, important, and frankly a bit plodding. Not everything is brilliant, and even with cues from the narration the story is murky. But you have to love his voice. He can hit some high notes and there’s no disputing his vocal power. “Fever Dreams” is a good example, and the mysterious “Challis” is the most melodic song on the collection. “As Long as it’s not About Love” sounds like it was written by Meatloaf, and “Losing My Insanity” ought to get your head banging on your iPod. The “B” disc live material is very clean, the sound mix is effective, and crowd noise is minimal and mostly exists at the very beginning and end of the cuts.
If your tastes plunge deep in the bowels of classic metal or if you are on a quest to collect every Ronnie artifact out there, this is a must have. But if not, be warned: this album is easier to love at 18 than at 48.
Ronnie James Dio: ronniejamesdio.com