The debate rages on about exactly how old ex-RAINBOW/BLACK SABBATH frontman Ronnie James Dio is (some claim to have come across scratchy singles recorded by him in the early Sixties), but however many years the wizened old sage has clocked up, THAT voice will always be there. To avoid the trap of existing overwhelmingly on former glories, Dio has shuffled his bandmates around periodically and come up with a few albums that hold their own recently (2000's "Magica" being the finest example) — yet still without delivering the ultimate killer blow to show all these new generation trad metallers what "riding the tiger" and "catching the rainbow" is really all about (then again, did anyone figure out what the hell Ronnie was singing about back there?).
If you were to slice "Master Of The Moon" right down the middle, the better half of it would come agonizingly close to utter glory. The remainder, however, you feel that pint-sized Ron, with the help of co-composer and returning guitarist Craig Goldy, could've penned in his sleep. Thankfully, "epic" is the thing that Dio excels at these days, and that partially naked voice billowing around the doomy, spacious chords of the title track is an absolute winner. It's sprawling, orchestral and when he steps out onto the stage, throwing the horns and all that jazz, this is the kind of material that will really sit tight with classics such as "Holy Diver" and "Rainbow In The Dark". Both "The End Of the World" and "Shivers" trim away some of the spookiness, where drummer Simon Wright resumes his lifelong vocation of applying a simple backbeat. But with a sprinkling of imaginative riffing from Goldy, both songs bloom and intoxicate the mind as they tick over menacingly.
Given this strong slant to the proceedings early on, it's disappointing to rewind and see the whole affair opened with a track so obvious and overly quirky as "One More For The Road". Seemingly intended to be one of those driving, uptempo numbers that Ritchie Blackmore specializes in, it's too twee and doesn't position itself well with the grandiose material that comes directly after. Far better as a potential opener would've been "The Man Who Would Be King" — a Hammond organ-encrusted stomp that rocks hard and takes a few informed potshots at the regal machinations of one George W. Bush. Classy.
Inevitably, however, with such peaks there are always a few troughs, and from "The Eyes" through to "In Dreams" which closes the album, it's a five-track downward descent into unremarkable normality. Perhaps it wouldn't be fair to describe the likes of "I Am" as strictly mediocre, but these are riffs and arrangements you've heard all-too-many times before. Both Dio and Goldy — and the rest of the band for that matter — can do much better.
A mystical album in parts, then, but as the one of the last bastions of old school grandeur, Ron clearly still has a portion of the old magic to re-discover.