Various Artists

A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life

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A diminutive yet larger than life and remarkably stalwart knight of the heavy metal round table who could silence a sold-out arena with a single note and then elicit a thunderous roar with the flash of a horned hand, the late Ronnie James Dio is as worthy of veneration as any metal god, and this 2014 tribute album, which was organized by his wife Wendy and raises money for his own Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, offers up 14 reasons why. Tribute albums can prove problematic, especially when they forgo emotional narrative for name recognition, or when participating artists spend too much time trying (too hard) to subvert the songs, but Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life succeeds by remaining true to its source material. This approach can also backfire by descending into karaoke, but each cut here is delivered via the full-blooded ferocity of friends, family, and (famous) fans, so it never feels phoned in. In fact, some of the performances, like Anthrax's ferocious take on Black Sabbath's "Neon Knights" and Metallica's ambitious medley of "A Light in the Black," "Tarot Woman," "Stargazer," and "Kill the Kingare" are so dialed in that they induce whiplash -- even Tenacious D, who built a career (albeit a comedy one) out of unabashed Dio worship, spend less energy debasing "Last in Line" with a "Stairway to Heaven"-inspired recorder arrangement and more time delivering the meat of it like it was the closing song of a last chance battle of the bands set. Sure, there are some limp moments (Rob Halford and a cast of past and present Dio members, despite their best efforts, just can't seem to locate the power source on "Man on the Silver Mountain"), but for the most part, This Is Your Life rocks the fu#k out, and it's a testament to RJD's talents as a molten metal scribe that instead of sticking their necks out and screaming "hey, look at me!", everybody pretty much sticks with the program.

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