I have to admit, I’m a sucker for tribute albums. I guess I should clarify; I was a sucker for tribute albums. In the infancy of affordable CDs, record companies used to churn these out with a variety of bands covering legendary songs. I discovered a ton of great bands this way. I figured, hey, if they like Black Sabbath then there’s a good chance I’ll like them too. Then, they started recycling the same songs by the same bands on various albums andI got wary of the whole idea.
It was at that point that bands themselves started to release entire albums covering a variety of groups and in the case of Six Feet Under, humorously covering an entire album: Back in Black. At least, I think it was a joke. Now, these tribute albums can serve as a cash grab for artists and a way to reach new audiences, or at their most pure, a fun way to pay tribute to the people that influenced their own music and in many cases their lives.
I do not know Ronnie Romero. I guess I might have missed him at the last family reunion. In fact, I didn’t even know *of* Romero until I heard his stellar performance with Ritchie Blackmore’s latest incarnation of Rainbow. Let me emphasize *Romero* was stellar (no comment on the other performances.) At times encompassing the same feel and grit of Graham Bonnet, or likewise the majesty of Ronnie James Dio, I made a mental note to seek out more from him but it never seemed to happen.
I was stoked to hear he was starting a side project with Ritchie Faulkner and Scott Travis of another band I worship but that has yet to be Unleashed in the East (or West…or anywhere yet), so it feels odd that my reintroduction to him is with yet another slab of unoriginal tunes. But good cover albums tend to at least add new dimensions to existing music so I was eager to see how Ronnie Romero measured up.
The first thing I noticed was the immaculate choice of songs to cover. At this point, finding a band to cover a Black Sabbath song is about as hard as getting a wiff of some sweet leaf at a metal show, but Romero doesn’t rely on the same old songs. It was tempting to jump ahead to his rendition of The Shining, one of my favorite Sabbath songs of all time, but I was disciplined and went in order.
Up first was The Battle Rages On by his new boss and his old band Deep Purple. An underrated tune that also would prove to be one of the last songs the famous Mark II lineup ever played together. As the familiar ambient synth/orchestral notes and heavy guitar riffs kicked in, I was a bit shocked to hear the tempo this was performed at. It wasn’t exceptionally slow or anything but it seemed to drag. And as I heard Romero’s voice, there was a familiarity but it was also overshadowed by the many layers of melody while emphasizing too many low notes. Perhaps this wasn’t the best song to start with because it doesn’t really showcase Ronnie’s talent nor the band’s.
Metal Daze followed which is a song and a band (Manowar) I’m not really familiar with which leads me to think that I may view this album with too much bias. I really enjoy the groovy riff and some high pitched vocals and hope it will carry through the rest of the album.
Next up is Turbo Lover which is inexplicably one of my favorite Judas Priest songs. I don’t care for much pop sensibility found in the 80s but damn it if Judas Priest didn’t somehow make it work. Romero makes it work too! I’m starting to dig this album but proceding with caution because this song has one of my favorite Judas Priest solos. Thankfully they respect the original enough to touch on it but not copy it which gives my ears something new to listen to without having to compare it to Glenn Tipton’s origina,l which, let’s face it, cannot be duplicated. It is interesting to note there is a different version of the song as a bonus track which plays it much more safe and is very underwhelming for the previously stated reason.
Hallowed Be Thy Name by Iron Maiden and Fast as a Shark by Accept follow. Would you believe I’m not too familiar with either? I respect Maiden and dig a lot of their stuff but I was always more of a Priest fan. Both songs are cool but Accept gives the album some much needed speed with a heavy dose of melody.
At one point in my life No More Tears was my favorite song. I still like it quite a bit but can’t take anything Ozzy did after the 80s very seriously. For this track, Romero enlists the help of Gus G, a one time Ozzy guitarist. It’s quite good but I’m afraid my exhaustion from this song from the Ozzy era and Romero’s playing it safe leaves me underwhelmed and also scared the followup song, The Shining, won’t live up to my high standards.
Immediately, on this Eternal Idol track I notice the bass player is not mimicking Bob Daisley’s supremely underrated bass lines which are almost as important as Tony Iommi riffs. Thankfully Romero doesn’t hold back so we get to hear his outstanding voice in the style of Tony Martin or Ray Gillen, depending on which Sabbath version you’re listening to. For my money, Tony Martin claims the better version and I might even put Romero above Gillen.
To round out the album we’re treated to A Light in the Black, which is only necessary given his spot in the broader Rainbow lineage. Of course, he already proved his bonafides but it’s comforting to hear this. Confusing though, is the inclusion of a Masterplan song, a German power metal band I can’t say I’m familiar with and doesn’t do much for me.
Finishing the album is a Yngwie J. Malmsteen tune from the Trilogy album. It’s as poppy as it gets on this album but I can’t say I mind in this instance. It’s a great take on it but a little off putting to be followed by The Four Horsemen from the Kill’em All album. That could also be that I’m one of 15 people in the world that never cared much for Metallica.
When it comes to Raised On Heavy Radio, I basically got what I expected. A few stellar takes on some classics and a few paint by the numbers versions. Yes, I even expected to not be familiar with every artist so props to my long lost cousin for keeping it interesting in that aspect. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough deviation to truly make this a “must have.” I get the feeling that even if I commanded everybody to buy this album, very few would do so unless they were already planning on it. Such is the nature of tribute albums. So if it’s your thing, by all means, check it out. As it stands, I can really only recommend it if you’re a diehard of Ronnie Romero fan or if you just love tribute albums. I’m glad I got the opportunity to listen to it and I probably will occasionally from this point forward, but I’m much more interested in hearing some original Romero output, especially Elegant Weapons. That can’t come soon enough.
Bernard Romero is a history teacher by day and a music and film fanatic by night. In fact, if his name were a pseudonym, which we cannot confirm or deny, it would be more of a tribute to horror master George Romero, although he wouldn’t shirk the association with a great vocalist like Ronnie Romero.
“Raised On Metal Radio” Tracklisting:
The Battle Rages On (Deep Purple cover)
Metal Daze (Manowar cover)
Turbo Lover (Feat. Nozomu Wakai) (Judas Priest cover)
Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover)
Fast As A Shark (Accept cover)
No More Tears (Feat. Gus G.) (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
The Shining (Feat. Chris Caffery) (Black Sabbath cover)
A Light In The Black (Rainbow cover)
Kind Hearted Light (Feat. Roland Grapow) (Masterplan cover)
You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget (Yngwie Malmsteen)
The Four Horsemen (Metallica)
Turbo Lover (Alternate Solo Version) (Judas Priest cover) Digital Bonus Track
Total length: 00.45.56
Ronnie Romero – vocals
Jose Rubio – guitars
Javi Garcia – bass
Andy C – drums
Alessandro Del Vecchio – keyboards
Alfredo Alonso – Guitar solo on ‘Metal Daze’
Nozomu Wakai – Guitar solo on ‘Turbo Lover’
Gus G. – Guitar solo on ‘No More Tears’
Chris Caffery – All guitars on ‘The Shining’
Roland Grapow – Rhythm & lead guitars on ‘Kind Hearted Light’
Corina Minda – Backing vocals on ‘Metal Daze’, ‘Fast As A Shark’, and spoken vocals on ‘No More Tears’
Produced by: Alessandro Del Vecchio
Executive Producer/A&R: Serafino Perugino