Dio’s ‘Holy Diver’ expanded – Knox County VillageSoup | marketrealtime.com

Dio: Holy Diver, Super Deluxe Edition (Rhino/Warner Records, 4 CDs). Metal singer Ronnie James Dio would have turned 80 July 10. To mark the occasion, Rhino has released a four-disc version of his band Dio’s first album, “Holy Diver” (1983), a classic of the heavy metal genre. At the time, Dio, who first emerged in the limelight as vocalist for Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, had just finished his first stint with Black Sabbath, having contributed to the classic albums “Heaven and Hell” and “Mob Rules.” When he finally formed his own band, Dio brought along drummer Vinny Appice from Sabbath, reunited with ex-Rainbow bassist Jimmy Bain, and added guitarist Vivian Campbell from Sweet Savage.

“Holy Diver” was a platinum-certified smash and one of the late singer-songwriter’s most groundbreaking achievements. The album contributed two timeless classics to the heavy metal canon in “Rainbow in the Dark,” which was pop metal before such a type was recognized, and its title track. The album ranks No. 16 on Rolling Stone’s current list of “100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time.”

The set comes with two versions of “Holy Diver.” The first is a new mix of the album made by Joe Barresi (Tool, Queens of the Stone Age, Slipknot), who used the original analog tapes to remix all nine tracks. The results are a crisper sound that some have criticized for being too sterile. The second version is a newly remastered version of the original 1983 mix (41:29) that beefs up the sound. There also is an unreleased live show recorded in Fresno, Calif. In 1983 – the same city where Black Sabbath’s “Live Evil” was recorded — and a fourth disc of outtakes and rarities from the era.

Dio was known for his earthy baritone voice and his clear enunciation of every word, which stands out even more in Barresi’s new mix. In addition to the aforementioned classics, the album includes the hard rocking “Stand Up and Shout,” “Gypsy,” which is classic metal on steroids, and the self-introspection, blues rumble of “Caught in the Middle.” The latter has a good chorus melody. There is machine gun-like drumming on “Don’t Talk to Strangers,” as they will “only bring you down.”

The live show has the band at its peak, but one gets to listen to a drum solo inside a 9-minute “Holy Diver” and a 5-minute guitar solo during a 20-minute version of “Heaven and Hell,” one of two Sabbath songs covered, the other being “Children of the Sea,” the first song Dio co-wrote with guitarist Tony Iommi. The band also covers two Rainbow songs in “Man on the Silver Mountain” and the brief “Starstruck,” which is tucked inside the longer song.

Disc four contains unreleased outtakes for several album cuts, including “Invisible” and “Straight Through the Heart,” and a version of “Rainbow in the Dark” that has an alternative guitar solo. There’s also an early version of “Evil Eyes,” a song that would resurface on Dio’s 1984 follow-up album, “The Last in Line.” A selection of rarities rounds out the collection with mono and stereo 7-inch single edits for “Rainbow in the Dark” and a version of “Evil Eyes” that was released in 1983 as the B-side to “Holy Diver.”

The heavily illustrated, 60-page hardcover book that holds the CDs has music journalist Mick Wall share the album’s creation story. He writes, “Lyrically, it was Ronnie James Dio at his poetic best … Musically, ‘Rainbow in the Dark’ was also the band’s first truly collaborative endeavor. The inspiration for the monster guitar riff came from something Viv had written when he was 16. Vinny added his distinctive battle-cry beat, and Jimmy added the final touch with the infectiously simple keyboard motif.” The song was finished in 10 minutes, he adds. Grade: original album A+; expanded box B+

Eric Clapton performs in Mansfield, Mass. about the time of his blues concert, now officially released. Tom Von Malder photo


Eric Clapton: Nothing But the Blues (Reprise, Blu-ray or DVD, NR, 104 min., or Reprise, CD). This documentary explores Clapton’s lifelong passion for the blues. The film, from executive producer Martin Scorsese, was broadcasted only once in the U.S. on PBS in 1995 and then was nominated for an Emmy Award. Upgraded to 4K quality, the film, which contains 19 performances, is finally officially available, along with its soundtrack that includes more than an hour of previously unreleased live performances recorded in 1994 during Clapton’s tour supporting “From the Cradle,” Clapton’s Grammy-winning, multi-platinum blues album. The recordings took place Nov. 8 and 9, 1994 at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

A previously unreleased video of Clapton’s searing, seven-minute performance of “Groaning the Blues” has been released as a video. Included as a bonus on the Blu-ray is a performance of “Driftin’” (8:19). The song was written by singer-bassist Willie Dixon, whose prolific songwriting helped define Chicago blues.

Written, directed, and produced by Scooter Weintraub, the documentary is sprinkled with an in-depth interview with Clapton, conducted by Scorsese. Clapton discusses his love for the blues and the profound impact bluesmen, including Muddy Waters and B.B. King, had on his music, both guitar playing and singing. The film also covers a dozen or so of foundational blues artists, including Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, T-Bone Walker, and Otis Rush, through vintage performances, interviews, and photographs.

Clapton’s performances of blues standards and lesser-known blues songs are at the heart of the film and audio formats. The band, which includes guitarist Andy Fairweather Low and pianist Chris Stainton, expands to eight with a trio of horn players on some songs. Clapton often is emotionally committed to the songs’ lyrics, as with “Standin’ Round Crying,” one of several songs featuring Clapton on slide guitar. There is a subdued “Malted Milk Blues” (by Johnson), after a blazing “Crossroads” with the full band. Clapton also rocks “Every Day I Have the Blues” and Freddie King’s “Someday After a While.” He plays a hot solo on “Have You Ever Loved a Woman” and “Groaning the Blues” becomes a workout.

The CD does not include “Crosscut Saw,” “T’ Ain’t Nobody’s Bizness” and “Driftin’.” Clapton’s longtime co-producer, Simon Climie, remixed the audio of these performances from the original multi-tracking recordings.

There also is an expensive Super Deluxe Edition that includes the documentary on Blu-ray, the soundtrack on both 2-LP vinyl and CD, and an exclusive hardcover book, plus memorabilia, including a numbered lithograph, 12×24 poster, Clapton guitar string set, custom guitar picks, and an exclusive bandana. Additionally, there is a bonus CD with the exclusive tracks — “Driftin’,” “County Jail Blues,” “Kid Man Blues” and “It’s Too Bad.” Grade: A+

The Notorious B.I.G.: Life After Death (1997, Rhino/Bed Boy, 8 LPs). This is the 25th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition of the final studio album by Biggie Smalls. It includes the original album, plus 12-inch mixes and versions available on vinyl for the first time in 25 years. The original album includes the hip-hop classics “Hypnotize,” “Mo Money Mo Problems,” “Notorious Thugs,” “Sky’s the Limit,” “Going Back to Cali” and “Ten Crack Commandments.”

“Life After Death” was the second album by The Notorious B.I.G., aka the late Christopher Wallace, who would have celebrated his 50th birthday this year. Upon its release, “Life After Death” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. It was the first album to feature two back-to-back posthumous No. 1 singles, “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems.” The album received a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album, while “Hypnotize” was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance and “Mo Money Mo Problems” was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. The double-LP has sold more than 5 million copies.

The box set comes with a commemorative booklet that has rare photos from the album cover shoot, liner notes by Sheldon Pearce, and exclusive reflections from members of the team who worked on the original album release. In addition to the 2022 remaster of “Life After Death,” the set includes the 12-inch releases of “Hypnotize,” with its three versions; “Mo Money Mo Problems,” with its three versions and “!*@ You Tonight,” featuring R. Kelly; “Sky’s The Limit,” with its two versions, plus three versions apiece of “Kick in the Door” and “Going Back to Cali”; and “Nasty Boy,” with its three versions. Grade: A

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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