DIO - At Donnington Live (1983/1987 - 2010) Feb 13, 2011 3:10:58 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Feb 13, 2011 3:10:58 GMT -5
The fact that this album was released on CD just a few months after the passing of legendary vocalist Ronnie James Dio was not by design. Ronnie himself had been working on this release prior to his death, and his wife (and manager) Wendy Dio made sure that it came out as planned.
And it's a great thing that she did.
While this isn't the best live album to hit the shelves, it is a good one - and a great piece of history. In a way, the fact that it is flawed makes this even more valuable to the hard core Dio fans. You see, this is the first time that I have ever been able to detect any kind of nerves shown by Ronnie on stage. Ronnie flubs a couple parts, and comes in at the wrong time in one song (the band going along to keep things together). Ronnie was an absolute professional, and he rarely made any kind of noticeable mistakes on stage.
Even with the minor (very minor) flubs here, this two CD set is extremely enjoyable to listen to for the quality of the performances.
The 1983 disc shows a new band with a lot of energy - and just a little apprehension. That nervous energy gives the performance quite a spark. From the frantic version of, "Stand Up and Shout," to the high octane, revved up version of the Rainbow classic, "Man on the Silver Mountain," this was a show that saw the beginnings of a band that would quickly become one of the most successful and revered Heavy Metal bands of that era.
The audio production on the '83 show is very good. It's untouched, and that raw performance may not be perfect but it wwas more than good enough. The mix gets the balance mostly right (it could use a little more bass, but I'm nit-picking to a degree). This isn't a polished live recording - this is just a well recorded and mixed live show.
By 1987 when they band returned to the by then legendary Castle Donnington festival they were a well established unit (even with then new guitar player Craig Goldy). Confident, experienced, and successful. They were a band with little to prove, so the fact that there were some flubs (again, an unusual occurrance for any Dio led band) just brings home the fact that these guys were human after all.
Once again, the flubs are minor, and tend to make the live recording seem somehow a little more, "Real."
The band's energy level isn't quite as high as it was in 1983, but they still packed quite a musical punch. Goldy brought a nice melodic sense to the band and the rhythm section of drummer Vinnie Appice and bass player Jimmy Bain by this point were locked in and very tight.
Despite touring in support of their new album, Dream Evil, there isn't an overabundace of songs from that album present (only three then, "New," songs made the set-list), although they all sound good here.
Goldy had a better feel for the pre-DIO band material as he was clearly familiar with the Black Sabbath and (especially) Rainbow songs. Goldy grew up as a fan of Ronnie from both Rainbow and Sabbath and it shows. Where Vivian Campbell's style wasn't a perfect fit for that earlier material Goldy's fits in very well.
The audio production on this one is both better and worse than the 1983 show. The drums sound better, and the guitar tone is a little better overall - but Ronnie's voice is not quite up front enough in the mix. The band is on an even level with the vocals, which tends to drown out vocals (the first thing you learn about mixing popular music is that the vocals have to be louder in the mix than the backing music in order to be heard properly). And the bass is still too low in the mix... Still, it's more than listenable as you can hear the power of Ronnie's voice (and the guitars and drums do sound great).
In the end, DIO At Donnington is a worthy release that is long overdue. Hopefully this isn't the last CD of previously unreleased DIO material that shows up over the next couple of years.
DIO At Donnington is a very, very good live album, and it is also something of a cathartic release for fans of the late, great Ronnie James Dio after his premature passing.
Long Live Rock and Roll, indeed.