RONNIE ROMERO – Raised on Heavy Radio (Album Review)

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It was almost one year ago that we had the opportunity to have a listen with Ronnie Romero and his covers album called “Raised on Radio.” If you are unfamiliar with Ronnie’s bonafides, or you want a recap of his previous release, feel free to catch up on our previous coverage. For the extra-abridged version, Ronnie is one of the top rising star vocalists in modern rock and metal, and last year he put together a collection of rock classics for personal homage. Now, freshly in the new year, we are treated to the matching bookend. Where the previous collection was simply entitled “Raised on Radio,” now the radio part has been upgraded to “heavy” radio. Now, just being real for a moment, this new batch of tracks barely qualifies as radio. The track with the most radio play is probably something like Ozzy’s “No More Tears,” but hey, if you live in a market where the stations were ever playing “Four Horsemen,” or “Hallowed be thy Name,” well, lucky you. That being said, we are not going to get hung up on details, because the previous release was a collection of the songs which inspired Ronnie’s career, and this is just the same thing with the gain knob rolled up to 10. Good tunes are good tunes, so let’s get right to it.

First of all, take note that aside from a couple nice guest cameo appearances, it’s the same lineup as Ronnie Romero’s previous cover album. The best news in that would likely be the return of the heavy metal renaissance man Alessandro del Vecchio, on keys and overall production. Although Ale gets around and puts his signature on a lot of music, he is sort of like Parsons or Max Norman or Kevin Shirley where you see his name on a record and at least you know it will sound good.

The album kicks off with “The Battle Rages On,” which was essentially the final effort by “old” Deep Purple before the Morse era. In some ways, it is an interesting choice, since Ronnie’s new boss Ritchie Blackmore called it quits with Purple while making this album, calling it “The cattle grazes on.” Yet, the title track from that old record remains a real rocker, and if anything, this version puts some shade on the original. In 1992, Ian Gillan was already showing mileage on his voice, and being made to sing parts written for Joe Lynn Turner was not helping matters. On the other hand, this new record was made in 2022 by a Ronnie Romero very much in his prime. Pair that with a slightly heavier presentation, and modern mixing, and you have a cover that easily rivals the original.

The subsequent “Metal Daze” benefits for many of the same reasons. While Manowar were in their respective prime for this one, they were hardly polished on their first record, which was made with second-class production, even by 1982 standards. Again, Ronnie and the boys were able to polish and make viable a track mostly reserved for Manowar’s cult following. On the other end of that spectrum, we have “Turbo Lover,” almost nearly the titular track from Priest’s 1986 “Turbo” record. This was very much Priest at the top of their game, with Halford backed by Glenn and K.K. at their best. For this one, Ronnie called up his Destinia bandmade Nozomu Wakai for support on the guitars, and it’s a good thing as the guitars are so critical on this track, along with the synths handled capably by Alessandro. Is it better than Priest? Probably not, but it’s a really good version, especially the guitar layering in the solo section of the track. If Ronnie wanted to cover some Priest, and do it well, to check it off a lifetime bucket list, consider it done.

“Raised on Heavy Radio” Album Artwork

Hot on the heels of “Turbo Lover”, we have Priest’s oldest and dearest roadmates, Iron Maiden. Few tracks are more hallowed than “Hallowed,” and here is Ronnie to take that bull by the horns. So here’s the thing. No one will ever do Maiden better than Maiden, especially from the golden age. So omitting that as even a possibility, what other reason is there to cover it? To pay tribute, to put one’s own spin on it, or just to say you did. It does not even need to be a carbon copy. After all, if we wanted 1983 Bruce, Ronnie could have just passed the mic to Rafael Mendes. Musically, this cover of Hallowed is good, even if somewhat a mechanical replica. The plus is we get Ronnie’s interpretation, with his almost Dio-esque timbre, so we’ll just think of it like an alternate-universe replica of the original and be happy with that.

In the same era, we have Accept’s 1982 “Restless and Wild” album, which had that same early-thrash rough mix feel as “Kill ‘Em All” and “Killing is my Business.” This one really benefits from the marvels of modern recording, as well as Ronnie’s consummate professionalism behind the pop filter. At the time, UDO was definitely blazing a trail into uncharted metal territory, and Ronnie stands on shoulders of the giants preceding us, as we all do, and his polished singing demonstrates this. Thus it is that his version of “Fast as a Shark” easily holds its own with the original, and is a valuable part of this collection.

Meanwhile, we have something with a bit more production value than Accept did in 1982, in the form of Ozzy’s “No More Tears.” There’s a couple pros and cons here. First up, while this track sounds fairly good, it’s not on a level with Bob Ludwig’s 1991 ear candy masterpiece. Bob Daisley’s bass sound was just larger than life, and what is there to say about Zakk? Now, today, we have Ronnie putting his own spin on Ozzy’s take, which is neither good or bad, it’s just a different flavor. What saves this track is Gus G on guitars, with his huge tone and heavenly vibrato. He has played this very song live alongside Ozzy who knows how many times, so if he’s good enough for Ozzy, that’s good enough for us.

Speaking of the Ozzyverse, we also have Sabbath’s “Shining” from their 1987 “Eternal Idol” album. Thankfully, they get the Tony guitars pretty well right, and Ronnie keeps the performance in line with the spirit of the other Tony on the record, Tony Martin. Much like Gillan had to adapt to discarded Turner lyrics, Martin had to adapt to discarded Ray Gillen (Badlands) lyrics. It was a tumultuous time in the DioRainbowPurpleSabbath universe. Thankfully, this track is supported by the guitars of Savatage alumnus Chris Caffery, once again boosting its overall street cred.

While we are taking a stroll in the Black/Purple universe of Ritchie Blackmore and his Rainbow, we have a cover of “Light in the Black” from Rainbow’s sophomore “Rising” album. While we could debate about whether Ronnie is the right guy to be covering Dio-era Rainbow, Ritchie has already made that determination for everyone by naming Ronnie the current singer of Rainbow. If Ronnie is good enough to sing Rainbow for Ritchie, that’s good enough for us. He does, in fact, deliver a spirited performance here, and the instrumentation is solid. While the original is absolutely a classic, it is almost 50 years old, and benefits well from modern production as well as Alessandro venturing out into the keysphere and ending up someplace between Jon Lord and Derek Sherinian. Also, the staccato triplet section in the middle is kept tight and true to the original.

On the subject of bonafides and legitimacy, Ronnie was able to borrow Mister Helloween himself, Roland Grapow, to provide guitars for his Masterplan modern classic “Kind-Hearted Light.” Although it is instrumentally quite true to the original from 2003’s self-titled Masterplan debut, Ronnie is certainly bold in tackling Jorn Lande vocals. However, he does this effectively and faithfully to the Masterplan recording. Surprisingly, we also get to dabble in the golden age of the Yngwie (J) Malmsteen catalog, in the form of “You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” from the “Trilogy” record. Effectively, we have Ronnie approximating Mark Boals vocals, which is just as well, because if Frontiers wanted a Jeff Scott Soto cover, they have the real thing on speed-dial. Alessandro does a tasteful approximation of Jens Johansson’s now-retro keys, and session man Rose Rubio ostensibly covers the Yngwie parts respectably well.

Possibly the most surprising choice is the final cover, “Four Horsemen” from Metallica’s debut “Kill ‘Em All.” Just about everyone in modern metal has been influenced by Jamez or Metallica in some way, but it would have been a more obvious choice to grab something from Black Album, or Puppets to be just a little bit edgy, but going with the first album is legitimate homage to old-school thrash. Ronnie does a great job, as he should, being technically a superior vocalist to Hetfield. If there is any complaint, it is the guitar leads that bear little if any resemblance to Kirk’s original work, which make some of his best lead work in the first few albums. This is so different, Ronnie could have just covered “Mechanix.” It’s not that the lead parts are bad, per se. It’s just that if we wanted to see Kirk guitars played totally differently than what’s on the record, we could just buy a ticket to a Metallica concert.

That’s a wrap for this big smoking pile of metal. We learned something today. Ronnie Romero has great taste in rock and metal. Also, he can do a hell of a job. He may not be the most versatile vocalist on the scene, but he is damned good at what he does, and every last one of these covers was good. If you are a fan of Ronnie’s usual work, like Rainbow or Lords of Black, this album is pretty essential for you as a fan. If you are just a general all-around metal fan, you should check out a couple tracks and see if you want to go in for the whole album. It makes for a pretty solid hour of metal for driving or working out, especially just to get a flavor a little different than these songs we’ve all heard a thousand times before.

Release Date: January 27th, 2023
Record Label: Frontiers Music SLR
Genre: Hard Rock / Melodic Metal

Musicians:

  • Ronnie Romero / Vocals
  • Jose Rubio / Guitars
  • Javi Garcia / Bass
  • Andy C / Drums
  • Alessandro Del Vecchio / Keyboards

“Raised On Heavy Radio” Track-listing:

  1. The Battle Rages On (Deep Purple cover)
  2. Metal Daze (Manowar cover)
  3. Turbo Lover (Featuring Nozomu Wakai) (Judas Priest cover)
  4. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover)
  5. Fast As A Shark (Accept cover)
  6. No More Tears (Featuring Gus G.) (Ozzy Osbourne cover)
  7. The Shining (Featuring Chris Caffery) (Black Sabbath cover)
  8. A Light In The Black (Rainbow cover)
  9. Kind Hearted Light (Featuring Roland Grapow) (Masterplan cover)
  10. You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget (Yngwie Malmsteen cover)
  11. The Four Horsemen (Metallica cover)
  12. Turbo Lover (Alternate Solo Version) (Judas Priest cover – Digital Bonus Track)

Pre-order/save “Raised On Heavy Radio” here.

8.0 Great

If you are a classic metalhead and are open to quality covers of some of the all-time great tracks, you will want to hear what Lords of Black vocalist Ronnie Romero has done to pay tribute to the titans

  • Songwriting 8
  • Musicianship 8
  • Originality 7
  • Production 9
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