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Dio: Magica (remastered & expanded)

If Angry Machines had seen Ronnie James Dio reinvent his band’s line-up so Magica saw him turn back the clock with the reintroduction of both guitarist Craig Goldy and bassist Jimmy Bain, who last featured together on 1987’s Dream Evil album, while also bringing back Lock Up The Wolves drummer and ex-AC/DC man Simon Wright.

The first album of the noughties for the band, Magica saw Dio throw off the shackles of the previous decade and return, pretty much, to the sound that had first brought this band to prominence. With keyboards handled by the evergreen Dio himself and Goldy (even though keyboard player Scott Warren seems to have still been with the band at the time) things do maintain a guitar heavy attack but this time the tempo is ramped up, the intensity reduced ever so slightly and melodies and sing along choruses brought right back to the fore. Of course, Magica was a concept album and as ever Dio took us to magical lands filled with good and evil and the struggles for domination and power those different factions undertook. To be fair to Ronnie, there’s much more than that going on here, for he created a whole world in which to set this story, as well as a cast of characters to tell it - and hinted that there might be more tales to regale us with in the future (not that those ever quite came to light) but at the same time the concept is presented in a pretty straight forward manner that allows the music to live and breathe in its own right. Goldy however was maybe this album’s main star, the ex-Rough Cutt and Giuffria man arguably giving his strongest ever performance. Just listen to the riffs on “Fever Dreams” and “Return To Stone”, with the staccato bursts on the former almost sounding mechanic in nature, while the more fluid take on a similar theme in the latter proves utterly irresistible.

With some short spoken interludes - often in a digitalised robotic voice - breaking things up to move the story along, the atmosphere of the album is presented as some sort of medieval/futuristic hybrid that suits Dio’s more fantastical lyrical side and vocal delivery to a tee. Of course, the man himself was in magnificent vocal form throughout, whether holding long notes with ease, romping through the more frantic sections, or casting his spells over the symphonic sojourns. From the more aggressive opening of “Lord Of The Last Days” (which I often wonder if it was placed at this album’s beginning to make people think that the heavier style of the band’s previous two albums was set to continue) right through to the almost fanciful, heavied up Magnum-like “Losing My Insanity”, both he and his band never put a foot wrong.

As with the other three albums in this reissue series, Magica is expanded out into a two disc set (which adds half a star to the overall score) although, as with Angry Machines, the lack of the Japanese bonus track, on this occasion, “Annica”, on this new version is nigh on unforgivable. However, what we do get still proves of value, with the bonus studio cut of “Electra” (which was the single from the band’s Tournado box set) an interesting slower cut that finds Dio adding a slightly uncomfortable drawl to his vocal. Whereas moving the Ronnie James Dio read “Magica Story” 14 minute spoken word track from being on the same disc as the original album and onto the bonus disc here, actually works better for both. However, for most it will be the live material that’s of interest as the band, now replete with Warren on keyboards, performed Magica in full. Or at least I presume they did because, frustratingly, one of the best tracks - the aforementioned “Turn To Stone”, along with “Feed My Head” - is nowhere to be found. However, there’s no denying the potency of this configuration of the band on stage and it has to be said that they do a superb job of presenting almost all of Magica.

It may not be fashionable to say it - and undoubtedly the conceptual aspect clouds some people’s judgement - but Magica is a fantastic album and, while not quite Holy Diver, is close to being one of this much missed band’s best.

Track Listing
Disc 1
1. Discovery
2. Magica Theme
3. Lord of the Last Day
4. Fever Dreams
5. Turn to Stone
6. Feed my Head
7. Eriel
8. Challis (Marry the Devil’s Daughter)
9. As Long as it’s not about Love
10. Losing My Insanity
11. Otherworld
12. Magica - Reprise
13. Lord of the Last Day - Reprise

Disc 2 - Mostly Live - Recorded on Magica Tour 2001
1. Discovery
2. Magica Theme (listed as just Magica)
3. Lord of the Last Day
4. Fever Dreams
5. Feed My Head
6. Eriel
7. Challis
8. Losing my Insanity
9. Otherworld
10. Electra (Studio track)
11. Magica Story (Studio track)

Added: April 15th 2020
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Ronnie James Dio online
Hits: 1438
Language: english

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