Mr Big guitarist Paul Gilbert is known for soaring guitar instrumentals on his solo albums, but for his latest record he’s gone all out. For the Dio album he attempts to capture the nuances of Ronnie James Dio’s vocal, while paying tribute to the riff lords Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, Ritchie Blackmore of Rainbow and Vivian Campbell from the Dio band. Gilbert is certainly wading into deep waters by not only emulating Dio’s vocal on guitar but also taking on some of the giants’ of hard rock guitar work.
The Dio album contains some of the RJD’s most iconic tracks across his career with Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his own band, including ‘ Holy Diver’, ‘ Man on the Silver Mountain’ and ‘Neon Knights’ all taken on with Gilbert’s Ibanez axe attack.
Part of the albums’s success is in Gilbert’s ability to differentiate between the vocal lines and the guitar breaks, but the arrangements are very similar to the original tracks, perhaps too similar. Although you lose some of the retro feel that defined the originals, and some of the harmony work on tracks like ‘ Country Girl’ are absent. It would have been a more interesting album to listen to in Places if he’d totally mixed up some to the production and arrangements, but perhaps that’s not the point. Gilbert has challenged himself, and the challenge has been accepted and completed tenfold.
And there’s even more heavy lifting: With the exception of the drums (courtesy of Billy Ray) Gilbert handles all the instrumentation too.
As far as the musicianship goes its excellent, as expected from a guitarist of Gilbert’s calibre, but to make it worth a spin depends on if you’d prefer to listen to a Dio cover’s album with vocals or you can cope with the brain blending of Gilbert’s widdly- widdly (technical term) guitar work. At times it feels like it’s just over kill, at others it feels strange that there are no vocals where you’d like them to come in. But bottom line if you’re a Dio or Gilbert fan it’s probably worth diving in.