Welcome to a new weekly post that I will call Metal Mondays, where I will rank the albums of a certain artist in the metal and hard rock genre from worst to best. As I am a list and ranking person, I am unable to have a simple discussion on what a band’s good albums are, as well as their not-so-good ones. I must rank them in some sort of order, or I will not be able to participate! This also makes for a fun debate, don’t you think?
NOTE: I will rank full length STUDIO ALBUMS only. There will be no live records, greatest hits, or EP’s here.
We’re back to the album rankings this week. I can think of no musician more fascinating than Ronnie James Dio. Here is a legend that began his recording career in the infancy of rock and roll in the 1950s. I am amazed at the number of musicians and classic acts that Dio has played with, from Richie Blackmore with Rainbow to Tony Iommi with Black Sabbath, not to mention those from his solo band. In this ranking, we will span Dio’s career from Rainbow in 1975, through Sabbath in the early 80’s, and all the way through his solo catalogue.
Recorded near the tail end of the grunge movement, even the great Ronnie James Dio succumbed to the curse that haunted many classic metal musicians by trying to fit into something he was not. Easily the worst album of his career.
Best Song: Don’t Tell the Kids
Best Deep Cut: Don’t Tell the Kids
I may get some flack from some of the diehards with this low ranking, as I find there are some niche Magica fans here. Dio’s only true concept album, I find much of the record to be plodding and meandering.
Best Song: Challis
Best Deep Cut: Challis
Again, not much to write home about when compared to earlier Dio offerings. This is the record that features then-18-year-old guitarist, Rowan Robertson.
Best Song: Evil on Queen Street
Best Deep Cut: Evil on Queen Street
A heavy record, I find Strange Highways to fly under the radar a little. Perhaps this is because it came out at the height of grunge. Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost and the title track stand up to just about anything in Dio’s catalogue.
Best Song: Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost
Best Deep Cut: Jesus Mary and the Holy Ghost
The final Dio solo album was a very good one. One More For the Road, the title track, and Then End of the World get things off to a strong start, while Living the Lie and In Dreams highlight the second half.
Best Song: Living the Lie
Best Deep Cut: Living the Lie
The first reunion to feature Dio and drummer Vinny Appice with Sabbath, Dehumanizer is by far the weakest of the three albums to feature Dio on vocals. The time together turned out to be short lived, as well.
Best Song: Too Late
Best Deep Cut: Too Late
Guitarist Craig Goldy’s debut with the band has its moments but continues a noticeable downward spiral that started with 1985’s Sacred Heart. Night People offers an all-out thrash blitz, while the title cut, and Sunset Superman are worthy of a listen.
Best Song: Dream Evil
Best Deep Cut: Night People
Sadly, this is the final studio album to feature Ronnie on vocals. Indeed, this is not a bad way to go out. Due to Black Sabbath currently working with Ozzy Osbourne, this lineup featuring Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice went with the moniker, Heaven and Hell to avoid any confusion. Atom Evil, Bible Black, Double the Pain, Eating the Cannibals, and Follow the Tears are the highlights for me.
Best Song: Bible Black
Best Deep Cut: Bible Black
I feel this release does not get nearly enough love as it deserves. For me personally, coming off two subpar records, Killing the Dragon represents a return to form of sorts. Listen to the title cut, Along Comes a Spider, Push, and Guilty.
Best Song: Killing the Dragon
Best Deep Cut: Killing the Dragon
As mentioned above, Sacred Heart proved to be a drop off from the first two Dio albums, and was the final record to feature guitarist, Vivian Campbell. There are some major highlights that save the record, namely, King of Rock and Roll, Rock ‘n’ Roll Children, and Hungry for Heaven. Unfortunately, the rest offers too much filler material.
Best Song: King of Rock and Roll
Best Deep Cut: Sacred Heart
Dio’s last collaboration with Rainbow and Deep Purple guitarist, Ritchie Blackmore, Long Live Rock and Roll is the weakest of the lot, although there is plenty of solid material in the title track, Lady of the Lake, and the amazing Kill the King.
Best Song: Kill the King
Best Deep Cut: Lady of the Lake
Dio’s second album with Sabbath is where I began to have trouble ranking the records. The title cut and The Sign of the Southern Cross are classics.
Best Song: The Sign of the Southern Cross
Best Deep Cut: The Sign of the Southern Cross
It’s hard to imagine that this outstanding record is only number five in this ranking. That speaks volumes as to the strength of the four other releases above it. The title cut, We Rock, Evil Eyes, and Egypt (The Chains Are On) are the highlights.
Best Song: We Rock
Best Deep Cut: Egypt (The Chains Are On)
The first and finest Dio-led Sabbath album perhaps saved the doom metal legends’ career. Side One is a masterpiece, with Neon Nights, Children of the Sea, Lady Evil, and the title cut. Meanwhile, don’t fall asleep on Side Two.
Best Song: Neon Nights
Best Deep Cut: Lady Evil
Deep Purple’s Ritchie Blackmore’s new band, before it shortened its name to simply, Rainbow. Man on the Silver Mountain is the big hit here, however, Black Sheep of the family, The Temple of the King, and If You Don’t Like Rock and Roll secure this album as an all-time Dio-fronted classic.
Best Song: Man on the Silver Mountain
Best Deep Cut: Black Sheep of the Family
Dio and Blackmore outdid themselves with the follow up to their debut. Tarot Woman and Starstruck highlight the first half, while Stargazer and A Light in the Black offer an epic one-two closing punch.
Best Song: Tarot Woman
Best Deep Cut: A light in the Black
Dio’s first solo album is an all-time rock and roll classic, complete with an all-star band of Vivian Campbell on guitar, Jimmy Bain on bass, and Vinny Appice on drums. The record provides everything, including huge hits, such as the title track and Rainbow in the Dark. Meanwhile, Stand Up and Shout, Don’t Talk to Strangers, and Straight Through the Heart offers undeniably great deep cuts.
Best Song: Holy Diver
Best Deep Cut: Stand Up and Shout