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Heaven & Hell - "Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell" (CD)

Heaven & Hell - "Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell" CD cover image

"Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell" track listing:

1. Mob Rules
2. Children Of The Sea
3. I
4. Bible Black
5. Time Machine
6. Fear
7. Falling Off The Edge Of The World
8. Follow The Tears
9. Die Young
10. Heaven & Hell
11. Neon Knights

Reviewed by on November 27, 2010

"Dio is in fine form on this recording, tearing through 'Mob Rules' with a ferocity that singers half his age would find hard to match."

"Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell" works in just about every way an album like this should. It's a fond farewell to a fallen friend, the late great Ronnie James Dio, who died this year after a struggle with stomach cancer. It's a great retrospective of Dio's tenure with Black Sabbath/Heaven & Hell, with tracks from every studio album he recorded with them. Most importantly, it's a showcase for the metal majesty of the band's live show, on full display at the Wacken Open Air Festival on July 30, 2009.

Dio is in fine form on this recording, tearing through "Mob Rules" with a ferocity that singers half his age would find hard to match. Though his voice had deepened with age, he managed to find new ways to attack tracks like "Children Of The Sea" and "Falling Off The Edge Of The World" that had been sung in a falsetto earlier in his career with the band.

It's a tribute to the band's skill that tracks that they could probably play in their sleep — "Die Young," "I" and "Neon Knights" — don't sound at all sleepy. I found myself noticing little details like the way Geezer Butler's bass line dances around the intro to "Falling Off The Edge Of The World," and how Tony Iommi's "Children Of The Sea" guitar solo feels almost like a song unto itself. A few warts-n-all moments add a sparkle of life to the songs. Drummer Vinny Appice flubs a fill here, a note or two drops out of Iommi's fleet-fingered solo there.

It's also interesting to hear the live versions of tracks from the band's last record together, "The Devil You Know." Particularly noteworthy is "Follow The Tears," which has a much looser feel to it than the album version, with a few moments where it feels like the band isn't quite in sync.

The sprawling "Heaven & Hell" naturally comes near the end of the proceedings, and it's every bit as majestic as ever, with Dio coaching the massive crowd in singing the guitar riff. I have no doubt that the live audience hung on every note during the nearly 18 minutes the band played this one. What's surprising is how well it translates on the record, feeling in parts like improvisational jazz (something Iommi knows a lot about).

It's hard to find too much to dislike here. Sure, any fan of Dio-era Sabbath probably already has multiple versions of tracks like "Mob Rules" and "Neon Knights" (and did the band really need to include "Falling Off The Edge Of The World" on the CD, rather than "Country Girl," which appears on the DVD?). That said, this is a much tighter album than the sprawling "Live From Radio City Music Hall," with Dio in better voice than he was on that 2007 album.

"Neon Nights: 30 Years Of Heaven & Hell" is a heavenly listen, featuring one of the greatest voices in metal with the band he made the best music of his life in.

Highs: "Mob Rules," "Children Of The Sea" and "Follow The Tears."

Lows: None to speak of, though fans probably have multiple versions of most of the songs.

Bottom line: An excellent live album and tribute to the late, great Ronnie James Dio.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)