Dio - Holy Diver / The Last In Line / Sacred Heart

I won't waste time and go over old territory again by mourning the loss of one of heavy metal's finest performers. Missed as much as he is though, we should instead just celebrate Dio doing what he does best with these fine reissues of his first three solo albums. Given the deluxe treatment, Holy Diver, The Last In Line and Sacred Heart are towering monuments to the man's simply awesome voice, and the expanded versions do indeed do justice to his legacy.

There is an object lesson here in how to treat this thorny subject and not irritate the traditional fans, with all three hitting the mark brilliantly. In each case, disc one is purely the album in all its glory, remastered to bring fresh life in this new technological age, but left standing proud as the work of art intended. That leaves all the curios, treasures and live recordings to be collected on the second disc, wrapping up the period of each record conveniently and concisely without impinging on the centrepiece.

There is little point in going back into the details of each of the original albums, but needless to say they still sound magnificent. A forerunner to the power metal genre that would emerge in the late 1980s, Dio marries galloping rhythms with a slew of fist-pumping riffs, minus the horrific cheesiness that the Germans in particular would subsequently insert. To designate a "best" of the three would be pointless, and almost without fail any preference anyone has will be dictated by which they heard first.

In each case, the extra discs follow the same pattern, opening with the studio outtakes and B-sides from the relevant singles, before drawing live tracks from a particular show or appearance from the following tours. None of the bonus material is particularly new or unreleased, but all is very relevant and should keep the completists happy. Including the Intermission EP in its entirety for Sacred Heart for instance, rounds that period out succinctly, and ensures the quality remains at a very high standard from beginning to end.

There are of course repetitions of live tracks across the three, but in each case they still show a broad spread of material not just from the Dio albums, but some classic Rainbow and Black Sabbath too. The likes of 'Man On The Silver Mountain' and 'Rainbow In The Dark' might appear more than once, but it is these tunes that cemented Dio's place in history, and each collection accurately represents the live shows and the favourites the fans wanted to hear - and have never tired of.

And in that, what we have here are three gargantuan albums in the pantheon of classic rock, bound up in over-arching and respectful packages that offer something for both the Dio novice and die-hard. As Dio himself said, "We rock!"



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