Thursday, August 14, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Elf, by Elf

Before world renowned metal singer Ronnie James Dio was singing about rainbows in the dark, Heaven and Hell, or even the man on the silver mountain, he was singing a very different kind of music. Before all that, he sang the blues and straight up rock n' roll in a band that went through many line-up and name changes called Elf. By the time the group finally put out their first full length album titled Elf, the line-up consisted of Ronald Padavona (Ronnie James Dio's real name which was used on the first album in order for the family name to be on an album) on vocals and bass, David Feinstein on guitar, Mickey Lee Soule, on keys, and Gary Driscoll on drums.

Elf was produced by Deep Purple members Ian Paice and Roger Glover when the two of them had seen the band auditioning and found that they liked them very much. Elf had been their opening act on multiple tours so in 1972 Glover and Paice decided to give them a real chance by helping them produce a studio album. From there Elf would go on to produce two more studio albums and much success as an opening band on multiple tours for Deep Purple until they morphed into what became Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow.

Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be All Right) has to be one of my absolute favorite tracks not just on this album, but by Elf in general. It starts off with a very honky-tonk sounding opening on piano and is soon joined by the rest of the band at a moderate 12 bar blues groove. From there Ronnie's legendary voice comes soaring up over the band, but not in a way many of his fans are used to. His vocals surprisingly suit this style of music very well and add a very nice amount of richness to it. The beauty of Sit Down Honey however is that it doesn't try to be anything more than it is. It is straight upbeat blues that promises nothing less than a good time.

Never More like many of Elf's other songs is piano centered. It is the sad ballad of Elf. This one is almost prog-rock oriented rather than straight up blues. The band does seem to do a bit of experimentation musically. Dio of course makes Never More really sparkle with his vocals and cleverly worded lyrics. Another splendid aspect of the tune is that rather than just piano, Soule also incorporates in some Hammond organ; which adds to the prog-rock element of it. For those who are not fans of overly long experimental songs however, it doesn't go on too long.

Elf is not the most spectacular of Ronnie James Dio's works, but it gives great insight as to where he came from musically. While not overly flashy and majestic, the musicianship is still respectable in many ways. The band sounds tight, the songs while straightforward are creative in their own ways, and the album knows exactly what it is. Elf is a key piece in any Dio fan's collection and is even quite enjoyable for an average listener to pick up and listen to. It isn't very difficult to digest and it is a good time.

Elf, by Elf receives 4 out of 5 stars.

Track List:

1. Hoochie-Koochie Lady
2. First Avenue
3. Never More
4. I'm Coming Back For You
5. Sit Down Honey (Everything Will Be All Right)
6. Dixie Lee Junction
7. Love Me Like a Woman
8. Gambler, Gambler

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