Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Grieving A Legend (Day 3)

Ronnie James Dio has been in quite a few bands in his lifetime.  He started a group with other musicians from his hometown of Cortland, NY, called the Vegas Kings.  At first, he was just the bassist, but, eventually, he took up a singing role as well.  The band did undergo a few name changes: Ronnie and the Rumblers, Ronnie and the Redcaps, and finally Ronnie Dio and The Prophets.  When that band split up, Dio formed the Electric Elves, which, eventually, just became Elf.

However, the first band that Dio would really make an impression with in the music world was Rainbow.  Back when Ritchie Blackmore was still in Deep Purple, Elf was one of the bands that opened for them.  Blackmore was so impressed with Dio's vocal talent that, when he quit Deep Purple, he took Dio and other members of Elf to form Rainbow.  Blackmore, being very much a stickler for how his music should be, fired the entire band after their first album except for Dio, who remained for two more studio albums and one live album while the rest of the band constantly changed.  Eventually, Dio left because Blackmore became interested in a more commercial sound for the band, something Dio didn't want to be a part of.

During the band's time with Dio, Rainbow's sound combined the mystique of Ritchie Blackmore's guitar with Dio's esoteric, sword & sorcery flavored lyrics, making for awe inspiring music that sent shivers down your spine.  After Dio's departure (and maybe even before that), their songs started being polarized.  In Long Live Rock 'n' Roll, a definite schism formed between Dio's songs and Blackmore's, as Blackmore pulled himself away from the mystical themes for something more radio friendly.  While Rainbow did produce some pretty good songs after Dio's departure, they didn't have the same hypnotic power that came from their previous albums and, in turn, weren't as successful.

Nonetheless, Dio's tenure with Rainbow was a time rife with great music.  These videos of my favorite Rainbow songs are evidence of that.

Of course, when most people think of songs by Rainbow, the classic "Man on the Silver Mountain" comes to mind.  This was their first song I heard from the group, even before I knew who they were, and what a great introduction to the band.

Then, there's my second favorite song, "Stargazer," a a piece of music that's highly evocative of the sword & sorcery that Dio would be known for after he left the band.

"So, Kaiser," you may ask, "what's your favorite Rainbow song?"  That would be "Gates of Babylon," with its shadow haunted melodies, arcane guitar solo, and foreboding lyrics.  In the video, it looks like Blackmore is in a trance, as if possessed by his own music.  Just listen to how great Dio's voice sounds.  Despite what you may think, he is actually singing in this video - no lip synching, ever.  That's why Dio is a fucking god.

If you've never picked up a Rainbow album, you owe it to yourself to check them out.  Remember, though, to stick with the first three albums.  While post-Dio Rainbow is okay, it can never match the power of the original.

Kaiser out

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