‘He’ll do justice to Ronnie': Vivian Campbell discusses decision to reform Dio with new singer

Guitarist Vivian Campbell is organizing a 2012 reunion tour with the rest of the original Dio band, inserting new singer Andy Freeman in place of the late Ronnie James Dio.

Campbell, who went on to play with Def Leppard after appearing on Dio’s first three albums, says he has been holding jam sessions with drummer Vinny Appice, bassist Jimmy Bain and keyboardist Claude Schnell. Freeman has fronted Hurricane and Bulletboys. Shows are planned for November, with the focus to be on Dio’s earliest music, according to Bain.

Dio, formed when its namesake leader left Black Sabbath, burst onto the charts with 1983’s Holy Diver, a platinum-selling metal staple featuring a pair of legacy-making standout songs, the title track (No. 40 on the mainstream rock charts) and “Rainbow in the Dark,” which Dio said reflected his feelings on the break with Sabbath. The well-received Last in Line and Sacred Heart followed, before internal struggles between Dio and Campbell led to the guitarist’s departure. Dio died of stomach cancer in 2010.

The members of this reformed version of Dio are already taking pains to distance Freeman from direct comparisons with Dio, one of metal’s most distinctive voices: Campbell, posting on his Facebook page, described Freeman as “a great singer who can really do justice to Ronnie’s parts.” Bain, meanwhile, told Classic Rock Magazine that “Andy isn’t Ronnie. How could he be? But what he does bring is his own twist on the vocals.”

There’s already a Dio tribute band on the road, Dio Disciples — which features members of Ronnie James Dio’s final working band, Tim Owens, Toby Jepson, James LoMenzo, and others. Then, of course, there’s the matter of Def Leppard, which has already announced plans to tour in 2012, as well.

Campbell took on the “naysayers” in a Facebook post this afternoon, assuring them that he’d be touring with Def Leppard as well: “Although there have been a couple of inarticulate naysayers, I’m happy that most of you are supportive of my plans to play with the original Dio band,” he says. “However, in the meantime there’s Def Lep business at hand as we’re gearing up for the summer tour. Rehearsals start in just over two weeks and the monkey is all fired up!”

Bain, meanwhile, said he’s been happy with the early results.

“We’ve had a couple of rehearsals and it sounds great,” Bain told Classic Rock Magazine. “Listening to Vivian playing those songs again has been amazing. He’s just so into doing this and his enthusiasm has rubbed off on the rest of us.”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Ronnie James Dio. Click through the titles for complete reviews …

DIO – HOLY DIVER (1983; 2012 Audio Fidelity remaster): Originally released in 1983, Holy Diver introduced Ronnie James Dio to the metal world as a solo artist after stints in classic bands Rainbow and Black Sabbath. But it was far from Dio’s first rodeo, as his career stretches back as far as the late 1950s. The results: an undisputed metal classic. It proved with the single “Rainbow in the Dark” that synthesizers could have a place in metal without taking away its toughness. The loping main riff of the title track is as immediately recognizable to classic rock fans as to hardcore metalheads. And for as much play as they get, those are not even the two best songs on the album.

HEAVEN AND HELL – LIVE AT RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL (2007) I think it’s pretty cool that the band opted to not carry the Black Sabbath moniker for their tour in support of the material Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi and Co. recorded as Black Sabbath in the early 1980s, then again in the early 1990s, and once again this year for The Dio Years Sabbath compilation. The CDs are what you’d expect — the 15 tracks from the show — and the DVD adds about 35 minutes of extras in the form of a short overview of Radio City Music Hall, a short featuring the fans waiting in line for the show, another about the band itself, and a 20-minute documentary about the tour itself.

DIO – THE RONNIE JAMES DIO STORY: MIGHTIER THAN THE SWORD; SACRED HEART; THE LAST IN LINE REISSUES (2011): For some reason, I’ve never been a huge fan of Sacred Heart. It’s one of only a few records throughout the course of Dio’s career away from Black Sabbath that’s just never clicked with me. The Last in Line, on the other hand, is a completely different story. It’s one of Dio’s finest moments, and is every bit a match for his classic Holy Diver. The other record is a two-disc collection that spans Dio’s entire career, though I think the song choices really shortchange his solo work.

BLACK SABBATH – THE DIO YEARS (2007): While I was aware of the Ronnie James Dio-fronted version of the band, I just never got around to checking them out. I moved on from being a metal die-hard for a while to other things, but in recent years have been slowly re-integrating a lot of older metal material. What we’ve got here is five tracks from Heaven and Hell, four from Mob Rules, three from Dehumanizer, one from Live Evil, and three brand-new songs that Dio wrote. So, finally, after all this time, the Dio-era Sabbath is finding a home in my collection.

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  • Fred Phillips

    That’s wrong on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin.