Ronnie James Dio's Dungeon Opens Again On Magical New Releases
Niji Entertainment Dio on the "Magica" tour with Jimmy Bain (left) and Craig Goldy
Finding the Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 1986
Eagle Vision, 143 mins., $14.98 DVD/$19.98 Blu-ray
Though he passed away from stomach cancer in 2010 (right here in Houston, according to several reports), fans of Ronnie James Dio have had a steady stream of newly-released music and projects to feast on, setting the stage for the release of the autobiography he was finishing at the time of his death.
Live in Philly 1986 is a high-energy show from the 1985/86 tour in support of the Sacred Heart LP. Arguably showcasing Dio at the height of his vocal and performing powers, this tour was also famous (or, in a Spinal Tap way, infamous) for one of its stage sets.
It included a medieval dungeon, pyro, lights, costumes of satin, silver, and wristbands and, for the finale, Dio slaying an actual animatronic fire-breathing dragon with a laser sword onstage. It might seem corny and primitive to 2013 eyes, but at the time, I'm sure it was pretty fucking cool to see.
Tracks cover the gamut of Dio's career to that point, including solo ("Stand Up and Shout," "Holy Diver," "Rainbow in the Dark," "King of Rock and Roll"), Black Sabbath ("Heaven and Hell," "Children of the Sea") and Rainbow ("Man on the Silver Mountain," "Long Live Rock and Roll"). More pop/hard rock sounding rarities like "Time to Burn" and "Hungry for Heaven" also appear.
Dio's band included bassist Jimmy Bain, drummer Vinny Appice (whose kit was raised almost 20 feet off the stage), keyboardist Claude Schnell and guitar wunderkind Craig Goldy, who had replaced Vivian Campbell in mid-tour when he decided to leave the group. And he shreds mightily under teased hair that would put the members of Warrant to shame.
And though keyboard, drum, and guitar solos shown may make one reach for the fast forward button, and Dio's song intros are a bit too literal, it's a boon to have this entire show finally on DVD and remastered.
Bonus features include vintage interviews, behinds the scenes footage, and music videos. A companion 2-CD set is also available.
Also coming out from the Dio Dungeon is the two-disc Magica: Deluxe Edition. The 2000 Magica record isn't one of Dio's generally better-known releases, but the concept record was dear to his heart. So much that he planned it as the first release in a trilogy, but was not able to get to Parts II and III before passing away.
The story is a particularly detailed (and, to be frank, not very original or creative) one, combining elements of sci-fi and fantasy in the tale of a dead planet, an enslaved populace, battling wizards and overlords, good vs. evil, the legacy of sons and fathers, and the powerful Book of Magica.
Musically, Magica is more textured and layered a normal Dio record - which will entice some and turn off others. But with the lineup of Jimmy Bain (bass), Simon Wright (drums), and the return of Craig Goldy (guitars/keyboards), it's not an airy-fairy sound.
Disc 1 presents Magica in its entirety, but it's Disc 2 that will appeal most to hardcore fans, as it features live recordings from the Magica tour, a Japanese-only bonus track, "Electra," one of Dio's last recorded pieces planned for Parts II and III -- though one can't miss the encroaching frailty in his voice. Perhaps most importantly, it also has Dio himself reading a text version of the Magica story, making sense of it all.