Prolific guitarist Paul Gilbert of Mr Big, Racer X among many others, shredder extraordinaire, returns with another instrumental album, a tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio – singer for Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own eponymous band. The Dio Album will be released via Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group on Friday 7th April.
The musicianship is superb as you’d expect, all performed by Paul Gilbert except for the drums, handled by long-term collaborator and session legend Bill Ray. There is no vocal – Gilbert is basically replacing Dio’s vocals with guitar. Tracks that featured some of Dio’s greatest vocal performances are here and most of them are instantly recognisable to a classic rock fan – Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, Rainbow’s Man on the Silver Mountain, and Dio’s Holy Diver just to name a few.
The album launches with Sabbath Mk2’s Neon Knights and it’s immediately obvious that these are not new arrangements, they are faithful reproductions of the original songs. Gilbert has worked hard on emulating every feature of these songs, but with the polish that characterises a modern recording. Oddly, a recording of a crowd chanting ‘Dio!’ frames the Rainbow track Kill the King, presumably to seem even more authentic and give a live feel, but this adds to the strange vibe that carries through the whole album.
Every track is faithfully reproduced, and Paul does a superb job of emulating his own guitar heroes – Ritchie Blackmore, Tony Iommi and Vivian Campbell. The original tracks all have their flaws – not in musicianship but in production quality, all forgivable considering the equipment available when they were recorded. This production is excellent throughout but there’s more than a hint of sterility here.
When it comes down to it, this album is a bit of a puzzler. It’s certainly listenable but a compilation of the original tracks would satisfy fans of Dio’s work much more. Gilbert’s efforts to replace Dio’s vocals on guitar are technically brilliant, but it’s a Dio album without Dio. It’s a virtuoso at work – a guitar geek, student or full-on Paul Gilbert fan would love it. Most classic rock fans will have heard the songs before and it’s unfortunate that without that signature Dio vocal, they fall flat.
Overall, this album is an interesting curiosity. It’s technically superb but it’s just not clear that there is an audience for it.
Dave Smith Price
1. Neon Knights
2. Kill the King
3. Stand Up And Shout
4. Country Girl
5. Man On The Silver Mountain
6. Holy Diver
7. Heaven And Hell
8. Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll
9. Lady Evil
10. Don’t Talk to Strangers
12. The Last In Line
Taken from The Dio Album
Released: 7 April 2023 Via: Music Theories Recordings/Mascot Label Group