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Random Awesomeness (part 205)

Random Awesomeness

Purchase CRASHDÏET – Rest in Sleaze.

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Dio edition

Dio Ultimate

Ronnie James Dio’s voice was silenced five years ago, but his legacy lives on through the recordings made during his lifetime. His solo career followed stints in Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and Black Sabbath. It was very difficult to make this Ultimate Mixtape because there are so many great songs, but rules are rules.

  • Every studio album must be represented by one and only one song.
  • That song does not have to be an official “single” released by the band to promote said album.
  • Compilation albums can be included, but only songs that are new, previously unreleased, or remixed songs from prior albums are eligible for the list.
  • Live albums are a great way to sneak additional songs into the mix. Can you imagine a Dio Ultimate Mixtape without “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver”? Me neither.

Click play on the YouTube video, review my list, make your own, and buy some Dio today.

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Dio edition

Of course, Ronnie James Dio did much more in his career than just Dio. He also sang with Elf, Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and made several guest appearances on friends’ records. Below is just a small sampling of those projects. Explore more of Ronnie’s career at

Bonus tracks:

What’s missing? What is on your Ultimate Mixtape: Dio edition that is not on mine?

Ronnie James Dio with Heaven and Hell: Live at Rockpalast, 2009

Ronnie James Dio and Black Sabbath, Live in New York, 1980

Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall (2015)

Black Sabbath Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall

Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe
by Mick Wall
St. Martin’s Press, 2015
400 pages

The most legendary of all heavy metal bands, Black Sabbath has a long history with and without singer Ozzy Osbourne. Noted rock author and former publicist to the band Mick Wall gives fans a rundown of the band’s ups and downs in Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, how they evolved from the Earth Blues Band to the pioneering heavy metal masters, and the revolving door of singers, bass players, and drummers. The book not only holds the original lineup as the most authentic, but gives due respect to the Ronnie James Dio era as well.

The first post-Dio era, featuring singers Ian Gillan, Glenn Hughes, and Tony Martin, was a dark time for Black Sabbath, and Wall does not hold back when addressing the dynamics of their relationships with the band. The return of Dio in the 1990s, and his subsequent departure when he refused to participate in Ozzy’s “No More Tours” farewell tour, paved the way for Martin to return to the group before the ultimate reunion with Osbourne.

Solo projects are not altogether ignored, though the focus is on Osbourne and Dio. From Randy Rhoads’ death to biting a dove’s head off to Osbourne’s relationship with Sharon, Ozzy is given more than his fair share of non-Sabbath ink in Symptom. Likewise, Wall delves into Dio’s solo recordings, though not quite as deeply.

The soap opera that is Black Sabbath makes for an interesting subject, as well as the ascension of Osbourne as a solo artist to heights that the band never imagined in the 1970s. Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, and the various other members of the band are recognized for the parts they played in creating and perpetuating the heavy metal genre.

While Wall’s opinions of various albums and performers are not hidden, they help to make the players more real to the reader. As with most rock biographies, foul language is an issue here. That said, Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe is highly recommended for mature fans of classic rock and heavy metal.

Learn more about St. Martin’s Press.

Purchase Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe by Mick Wall.

The Best Albums of 2013

Whether you enjoy classic, modern, or independent rock, 2013 was a great year for music. Several “best of” lists have been posted around the internet already, but it’s time for The Writer’s Journey to weigh in with our list and a brief sentence about each. And away we go…

The Best of 2013

10. Brandon Reeves – A Decent Melody. A fantastic independent release from a Georgia-based blues artist, Reeves’ album is much better than decent.
9. Pearl Jam – Lightning Bolt. The kings of the nineties rule again with a throwback to the seventies.
8. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience 2 of 2. Part 1 is good, but Part 2 will go down as a historically great record.

The Best of 2013

7. Stryper – No More Hell to Pay. The Yellow and Black Attack is back with soaring vocals and squealing guitar solos, a fantastic hair metal album.
6. J Roddy Walston & The Business – Essential Tremors. Another throwback rock band with hints of Aerosmith and the Black Crowes.
5. Black Sabbath – 13. Ozzy, Iommi, and Butler recaptured the magic of the band’s beginnings and reached No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 charts.

The Best of 2013

4. Newsted – Heavy Metal Music. It’s heavy and it’s loud and it’s everything you would expect from a former member of Metallica.
3. Krokus – Dirty Dynamite. Full of catchy hooks, but the best song might be the Beatles cover “Help,” arranged as a hair metal ballad.
2. Twenty One Pilots – Vessel. Modern rock at its finest, and they really rock out with a ukulele on “House of Gold.”

The Best of 2013

1. Death On Two Wheels – Death On Two Wheels. Traditional hard rock sound with more authenticity than anyone else out there.

Here are some other “Best of 2013” lists around the web…

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Black Sabbath edition

Black Sabbath

A couple of weeks ago, I unveiled the tracklist of JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Ozzy Osbourne edition, and planned to follow up with the Black Sabbath edition fairly quickly. But then I realized that it had been so long since I listened to the non-Ozzy and non-Dio Sabbath albums, it would take me a while to sort through them and pick out my favorites. So I revisited the entire Black Sabbath catalog, including Ozzy’s and Dio’s years, and finally came up with what I believe is the Ultimate Mixtape for the classic heavy metal band.

A quick reminder about the rules of this project…

  • Every studio album must be represented by one and only one song. Which means either “Iron Man” or “Paranoid” will be omitted. Yikes.
  • That song does not have to be an official “single” released by the artist to promote said album.
  • Compilation albums can be included, but only songs that are new, previously unreleased, or remixes of songs from prior albums are eligible for the list.
  • Live albums are a waste of time. This is a general rule that applies to most, but when you need to find a way to sneak a classic song onto the list because the studio version didn’t make it, this is a good way to do that.

Alright, with those rules in mind, are you ready to do this?

Here’s something to listen to as you read through my list…

JT’s Ultimate Mixtape: Black Sabbath edition…
“Black Sabbath” (Black Sabbath, 1970)
“Iron Man” (Paranoid, 1970)
“Into The Void” (Master of Reality, 1971)
“Tomorrow’s Dream” (Black Sabbath, Vol.4, 1972)
“Sabbra Cadabra” (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, 1973)
“Megalomania” (Sabotage, 1975)
“All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” (Technical Ecstasy, 1976)
“Never Say Die” (Never Say Die!, 1978)
“Heaven And Hell” (Heaven and Hell, 1980)
“Voodoo” (Mob Rules, 1981)
“Zero The Hero” (Born Again, 1983)
“Turn To Stone” (Seventh Star, 1986)
“Hard Life To Love” (The Eternal Idol, 1987)
“Kill In The Spirit World” (Headless Cross, 1989)
“Valhalla” (Tyr, 1990)
“After All (The Dead)” (Dehumanizer, 1992)
“Virtual Death” (Cross Purposes, 1994)
“Rusty Angels” (Forbidden, 1995)
“Psycho Man” (Reunion, 1998)
“Paranoid” (Past Lives, 2002)
“Shadow Of The Wind” (The Dio Years, 2007)
“Zeitgeist” (13, 2013)

The bonus tracks for the Black Sabbath edition are a little all over the place. I used alternate versions of a couple of songs from movie soundtracks, but the rest are a mixed bag. There are a couple of former singers that did not have a long tenure with the band (White Tiger’s David Donato and Badlands’ Ray Gillen), there are a couple of former singers doing new versions of songs they had originally performed with Sabbath (Tony Martin, Ian Gillan), and there are the classic Black Sabbath members doing side projects (Bullring Brummies, Tony Iommi’s solo project, and a live Dio recording). Finally, I decided to include a song from Heaven and Hell’s The Devil You Know here instead of the main tracklist, even though I still personally consider that band Black Sabbath.

Bonus tracks:
Black Sabbath “The Mob Rules” (alternate version from Heavy Metal, 1981)
White Tiger “Stand And Deliver” (White Tiger, 1985)
Badlands “Dreams In The Dark” (Badlands, 1989)
Black Sabbath “Time Machine” (alternate version from Wayne’s World, 1992)
Tony Martin “Jerusalem” (Back Where I Belong, 1992)
Bullring Brummies featuring Geezer Butler, Bill Ward, Rob Halford, Scott Weinrich, Brian Tilse, and Jimmy Wood “The Wizard” (Nativity in Black, 1994)
Tony Iommi featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Bill Ward, and Laurence Cottle “Who’s Fooling Who” (Iommi, 2000)
Primus featuring Ozzy Osbourne “N.I.B.” (Nativity in Black II, 2000)
Dio “Egypt (The Chains Are On)/Children Of The Sea” (Evil Or Divine, 2005)
Ian Gillan featuring Tony Iommi, Roger Glover, and Ian Paice “Trashed” (Gillan’s Inn, 2006)
Heaven And Hell “Eating The Cannibals” (The Devil You Know, 2009)

Is that enough Black Sabbath for you? Tell me what’s on your Ultimate Mixtape…what songs do you pick over my choices?

Offbeat cover songs

Cover songs are a dime a dozen, and most of them can be thrown away pretty easily. Either they are so poorly performed, pale in comparison to the original, or are so faithful to the original to make them unnecessary. But when done well, cover songs can be thrilling. Think about Jimi Hendrix covering Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” Completely different arrangement and delivery, making it almost unrecognizable but still unforgettable.

A good recent example is this Krokus song from the new album, Dirty Dynamite. Listen to it carefully…do you recognize it at all?

So who did Krokus cover? Who was the original artist for this song?

That’s the Beatles, folks. They took that classic pop song and turned it into a sticky sweet 1980s ballad, complete with a crying guitar solo. I absolutely love Krokus’ version of this song.

How about Reggie Watts’ version of “Panama”…which is really nothing like the Van Halen song at all, but still pretty interesting.

Have you ever thought, “I wonder what ‘Stairway To Heaven’ would sound like if it had been performed by the Doors instead of Led Zeppelin?” Wonder no more, my friends…

Alex Skolnick, guitarist for metal band Testament, also has a jazz band that covers heavy metal songs. Check out “War Pigs” below:

If jazz isn’t your thing, how about flamenco guitar? Benjamin Woods did an album called Flametal of cover songs, like Ozzy Osbourne’s “Bark At The Moon”…

One more for this post, and then we’ll turn it over to the comments section…The Byrds singing “Friday,” a song originally written and recorded but never released by Bob Dylan. The song was made popular a few years ago by Rebecca Black.

So now it’s up to you…tell me some of your favorite offbeat cover songs in the comments, with a YouTube link if you can find one!

Ronnie James Dio died three years ago

Ronnie James Dio

It doesn’t seem like it was that long ago when we lost the heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio. On May 16, 2010, he succumbed to stomach cancer.

Read this interview with former Dio drummer Simon Wright about Dio.

At the time of Ronnie’s passing, I was still hosting the Hard Rock Nights radio program and had the opportunity to speak with some musicians that had worked with him. You can hear those interviews below:

Rowan Robertson:

Tracy G:

Robert Sarzo:

Chuck Garric:

Finally, remember the music of Ronnie James Dio with three of my favorite songs featuring his voice…

A legend has died.

Per Blabbermouth, Ronnie James Dio has died. Wendy Dio released the following statement to the heavy metal news site:

“Today my heart is broken, Ronnie passed away at 7:45 a.m. [on Sunday] 16th May. Many, many friends and family were able to say their private goodbyes before he peacefully passed away.

“Ronnie knew how much he was loved by all.

“We so appreciate the love and support that you have all given us.

“Please give us a few days of privacy to deal with this terrible loss.

“Please know he loved you all and his music will live on forever.”

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