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The Great Voice Of Dio In An Unexpected Place

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I take it that it’s no longer even a matter for debate: Ronnie James Dio was the greatest heavy-rock singer we’ve ever had, period.  And those of us who still miss him daily want to hear everything he ever sang (including those priceless “Ronnie and the Red Caps” doo-wop songs – you can find them on You Tube). 

But, fan though I am, even I didn’t know till recently that Dio had sung two songs on Kansas guitarist Kerry Livgren’s first solo album, 1980’s Seeds of Change.  It’s a fine album (though I must point out that I am a big Kansas fan so am predisposed to like it).  But you can’t blame me if my two favourite songs are those that Ronnie sings on, “Mask of the Great Deceiver” and “Live For the King.”

There’s Something About Those Titles

There sure is.  This album was recorded shortly after Livgren became a born-again Christian, and the lyrics are explicitly Christian, too.  The “great deceiver” in the title of the first of those songs is Satan, and, yes, the “king” of the second is God.  So there’s Dio, smack in between his tenures in Rainbow and Black Sabbath, singing – and singing beautifully – songs in praise of God and against the seductions of Satan.  The first song is pretty Kansas-like (and it features, as do several of the other songs, drumming by Jethro Tull’s great Barriemore Barlow); the second isn’t a million miles removed, in tempo and feel, from Rainbow’s “Catch the Rainbow.” 

Manufactured Controversy

Apparently there was some kerfuffle among Livgren’s fans at the time about Dio – a man not known, let’s say, for religious faith – singing such songs.  But, hey, another song on the album, “Ground Zero,” was sung by David Pack, who has become an in-demand producer but whose voice you’ll likely remember from Ambrosia’s lovely 1980 hit song “Biggest Part Of Me.”  Shocking!  A pop singer working with one of America’s foremost progressive-rock guitarists!  What’s the world coming to?

GW

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