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It's Cher, with worse hair and less talent

Stand Up and Shout: The Dio Anthology
Stand Up and Shout: The Dio Anthology
By Ronnie James Dio

Rhino Records / Warner Bros.: 2003

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This review first appeared in the May 28, 2003 issue of Fahrenheit San Diego.

Does it really take two full CDs to cover the career of Ronnie James Dio? And if so, do we really want to be reminded of it?

Okay, so he's not the WORST offender of '70s rock excess. To be honest, Dio's not even in David Coverdale's league in terms of pure soulless schlock rock.

But as this new box set from Rhino illustrates, nearly everything Dio ever laid down on record was severely overproduced to the point of making Dio the singer irrelevant.

The one track from this collection that breaks out of this mold, and where we actually get to hear Dio sing, is from the first band he recorded with, Elf. "Carolina County Ball" – kind of a bluesy, country-tinged bit of jam rock not unlike early Atlanta Rhythm Section or Allman Bros. – shows that, stripped of all the overdubbing and electronic effects boxes, Dio actually possesses a strong, rich voice, capable of imparting a real sense of fun. Emotion, even.

Sadly, we've not heard those pipes since that session thirty years ago.

Instead, in the three decades since, we've heard a producer's vision of what Dio's voice might sound like were he given a lobotomy and Cher's musical talent.

Once Elf was converted to Ritchie Blackmore's backing band Rainbow, Dio stopped being a singer and became a screecher. The only emotion – whether fronting Rainbow, post-Ozzy Black Sabbath or the band that carries his name – we ever hear from Dio is an ever-higher-pitched shriek, the sort of sound one might make upon waking up in a drunken haze and finding Yoko Ono sharing your bed. Naked.

Okay, actually, that's not fair. Dio's music is never even that interesting. Overblown, theatrical and dramatic, yet the worst offense Dio commits is that his music is above all else boring.