The little man with an enormous voice, the late, great Ronnie James Dio was one of the finest vocalists in the history of rock and metal. His lengthy music career started way back in the late 50s, before going on to front hugely successful acts like Rainbow, Black Sabbath and Heaven and Hell and singing on some of the most iconic heavy metal records ever.
Of course, he might be most well known for the time he spent with his eponymous group Dio. Tunes like "Holy Diver," "The Last In Line," "Don't Talk To Strangers" and "We Rock" have cemented their legacy in metal lore – but what about the lesser known Dio tracks? With 10 studio releases to pick from, our dragon, rainbow and sword obsessed focal point has lots of deep cuts that have been forgotten about. So what are they? Let's throw the horns, ride the tiger and find out…
"Born on the Sun"
Dio’s fifth studio full length Lock Up The Wolves never gets enough love. The 1990 effort’s stripped back sound is a big departure from the keyboard-soaked excesses of Dio’s late 80s material, with the guitars and drums pushed right to front of the mix. “Born on the Sun” is one of the album’s greatest, and least talked about, moments. One time guitarist Rowan Robertson brings a heavy-blues style to the fantastic riffing, and the huge chorus is tailor-made for the live setting. It was indeed played live on the Lock Up The Wolves tour, however it was culled by the end of those dates and never returned to the Dio setlist.
Fresh off the success of Dio’s smash debut Holy Diver, the band delivered the goods once again in the form of the 1984’s The Last In Line. An underrated banger from this excellent sophomore record, “Breathless” is only song from that classic LP to have never performed live. A thumping mid-tempo rocker, it features an excellent guitar solo from Vivian Campbell, and despite being the third tune on The Last In Line, it’s been ignored and forgotten for a long time. It’s a great number, with it’s only real sin being surrounded by a plethora of even better Dio tracks.
"Bring Down The Rain"
Maybe the heaviest of all the Dio records, the criminally underrated Strange Highways sees the act, and Ronnie James himself, at their most muscular and darkest. It certainly works though; big thick riffs and RJD’s titanic voice is always a match made in heaven. The whole damn thing could be considered a deep cut, but we’ve gone with the powerful closer “Bring Down The Rain”. It is coated in instantly memorable hooks; from the hefty guitar work to the excellent vocal refrain – it shows that Strange Highways desperately deserves to be revisited by those who overlooked in back in the early 90s.
“Electra” is a monumental Dio track, as it’s the final piece of music Ronnie James Dio completed and recorded before his 2010 passing. Originally written for the Magica II & III albums that sadly never materialised, “Electra” is classic Dio through and through. Ronnie’s voice belied his sexagenarian status, and the song’s big melodic chorus, weighty verses and epic, almost cinematic outro makes it more than worthy to close Dio’s immense career. It’s a damn shame we never got to hear the final, finished project in it’s entirety.
“God Hates Heavy Metal”
A bonus tune from the Japanese edition of Angry Machines, “God Hates Heavy Metal” is arguably stronger than almost every other piece from the oft-maligned 1996 Dio record. Angry Machines is generally regarded one of the weakest albums Ronnie James Dio attached his name to – if not the weakest – but there is some gold amongst the lesser tunes found on it. It’s certainly a heavy, pissed off sounding LP from Dio, with the crunching “God Hates Heavy Metal” a perfect example of that sound. Worth mentioning is it’s elusiveness on streaming services, and it was not included on the 2019 reissue of Angry Machines.
"I Could Have Been A Dreamer"
Lifted off the underrated Dream Evil, Dio’s fourth effort, “I Could Have Been A Dreamer” is a rare inclusion into our Deep Cuts as a selection that was released as a single. Despite also having a film-clip made for it, it was barely performed live and is one of the lowest streamed songs from Dream Evil. It’s a shame, as it’s classic mid/late 80s Dio – with an excellent, mainstream-friendly chorus and stomping verses, plus the man himself is in at his powerhouse best, despite being near the age of 50 by the time the album dropped.
"Just Another Day"
Sacred Heart’s increased usage of keyboards has given it a slightly poor reputation amongst ardent Dio fans. Sure, some of the tracks from the third Dio LP are a little cheesy and poppy, but the immensely underrated “Just Another Day” sounds like it could have come off of Holy Diver or The Last In Line. A fist-pumping uptempo rocker, it’s got a driving pace, tight riffs, great bridge and a kickass guitar solo. Tucked away at the back end of Sacred Heart, it’s no real surprise that “Just Another Day” has been overlooked for so long.
“Living The Lie”
From the final Dio release, 2004’s Master of the Moon, “Living The Lie” shows that the band went out on a high note – yet the album never really gets talked about by Dio or metal fans alike. It sounds like just what you’d want from Dio, just brought into the modern age with a big, beefy production job. Our choice “Living The Lie” is a speedy hard-rockin’ tune that would have slotted in perfectly to their live set – had they not already had an immense catalogue to pick from. Sadly it, along with a lot of the later day Dio material, has seemingly been forgotten about.
“Throw Away Children”
“Throw Away Children” has had an interesting life – having originally been penned for the Hear ‘n Aid 2 project that never got off the ground, the tune ended up appearing on 2002’s Killing The Dragon. The song was heavily inspired by the Children of the Night charity, an organisation that Ronnie and his wife Wendy were involved in. Despite it’s emotive lyrics, “Throw Away Children” is far from a ballad, more of a classic mid-tempo rocker, with some great guitar work from Doug Aldrich. It’s a shame the second Hear ’n Aid didn’t came to pass, as the excellent track would have had it’s profile and message boosted immeasurably.
"Time To Burn"
Taken from the 1986 stopgap live/studio EP Intermission, “Time To Burn” was the first thing to be recorded with the then-new guitarist Craig Goldy after Dio’s less than amicable split with original member Vivian Campbell. The only studio cut on the extended play, “Time To Burn” was essentially thrown-together to introduce their newest axe-man. It’s major-key, uptempo feel was a sign of things to come for the band on their next full-length Sacred Heart, with Goldy definitely the star of the song – his excellent soloing firmly cementing his place Dio.
How did we go? Are there other Dio deep cuts that we missed? Let us know in the comments!