I love Ronnie James Dio. He was the consummate rock vocalist. Most people know is work with Dio. Most people know he fronted Black Sabbath, including two of their best records. Some people know he was in a band called Rainbow with Ritchie Blackmore before that. Unfortunately not many people are familiar with his first band. We need to change that.
Elf was originally formed in 1967 but it wasn't until 1972 that their self-titled debut full length was released. Produced by Roger Glover and Ian Paice of Deep Purple fame this album would be the debut of vocalist Ronald Padavona (Dio's given name and the name he's credited as on this record). Footnote - Dio also played bass on this album. Most people would expect that with Dio's involvement and with a band name like Elf (and that album cover!) that you are about to embark on some type of proto-metal journey. While there are songs that allude to Dio's future work with Rainbow and Sabbath (specifically "Never More" and "Gambler, Gambler") this album is straight up blues-influenced rock. Elf had more in common with The Rolling Stones and early ZZ Top than Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer. Songs are filled with piano accompaniments, tales of riverboat queens and loads of cowbell.
The big hook here is listening to Dio rock out on some bluesy jams that you would have never expected if all you knew him from was his work in the 80's and forward. You would think that if Dio got in front of a band playing Stones covers that it would sound off or even awful, but it's not. In fact he sounds right at home. Although it's not the best band Dio was involved with it's a fun listen and recommended for anyone who likes 70's blues-tinged arena rock.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times