Paul Gilbert Explains One Similarity Between Dio and Bob Dylan, Names Rainbow Song That Has ’Almost Disco’ Bass Line

In a newly published interview by Ultimate Guitar, legendary guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert looked back on his recent Ronnie James Dio tribute album. Titled simply “The Dio Album,” it features all-instrumental covers of Ronnie’s songs from all eras, going from his Rainbow days, over to Black Sabbath years, and, finally, to his own Dio works.

Aside from drums, Gilbert handled everything else, including guitar parts that emulated Dio’s vocals. However, this wasn’t the only challenge on the album. Asked about things that he learned from Dio’s music and that now has a newfound appreciation for, Gilbert said:

“Some of the biggest surprises came from playing the bass. I think growing up as a metal musician, I guess I kind of assumed that the bass did basically what the guitar did, just an octave lower.

“Every time I figure out bass parts, I’m always awestruck with how smart bass players are. The parts are much smarter than I ever would have thought they were.

As he adds, one of the biggest surprises was Geezer Butler’s choice of notes which is, in his opinion, not what he expected:

“The main takeaway was that Geezer Butler rarely chooses the lowest note possible, which was really surprising to me because its metal and you would think you’d want to go low and have that deep sound.

“But on ‘Heaven and Hell’ which is in E, he’s playing the middle E most of the time, when the song goes to A, he goes up instead of going down – hes always aiming for the middle. There’s no explanation for it other than when you play it that way, it sounds right.

Paul Gilbert - Heaven And Hell (The Dio Album)

“But again, with my lesser intelligence I was thinking I should go low and play it lower, but Geezer proved me wrong time and again.

Recalling some of the Rainbow stuff, Gilbert looked back on the band’s earliest material and how Craig Gruber’s bass lines aren’t what you’d expect. Sure, we all know the song, but have you really listened to the bass and how it actually creates the sonic landscape that we’re familiar with? Gilbert continued:

“The other thing was ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ which was earlier, I had to research it a little, I didn’t know who played bass on that song – it was a guy named Craig Gruber. And its almost like a disco bassline.

Paul Gilbert - Man On The Silver Mountain (The Dio Album)

“That was really surprising, but it worked perfectly for the song, and I use that disco line from ‘Man on the Silver Mountain’ all the time when I’m recording my own demos now. It really works great. So those bass parts were unexpected – maybe its because that is what I do the least. I play guitar a lot, I play vocal lines some, and I play bass less often.

Going more into the matter, Paul also looked into other stuff aside from bass. Obviously, covering a singer like Ronnie James Dio on a guitar comes with its challenges. He added:

“The other thing with Dio’s stuff is that there’s a lot of ‘in-between’ stuff — he’s a very accurate singer. Technically, he’s very much in command. If he wants to hit a pitch, he hits it.

PAUL GILBERT - Man On The Silver Mountain - Paris 2013

And, surprisingly enough, he compared Dio to Bob Dylan:

“But he sometimes adds some extra expression by talking through his melody. Kind of like Bob Dylan used to talk his melodies, which requires a bit more sliding around when you’re trying to do them on guitar.

“It’s almost like a blues element and when you strip away a lot of the metal coating to those songs, there’s a lot of blues and a little bit of this talking stuff and it really makes it expressive. When you start trying to do that stuff on guitar, it’s tricky because there’s a lot going on between notes where you have to bend or slide or hammer onto it. The more you do it the more those things become instinct, and you can do it quicker.

Dio & Ritchie Blackmore Rainbow live 1977 concert in Munich Full HD

Gilbert concluded:

“A lot of these songs, I probably could have done from memory because I listened to the stuff so much but it would have been more of my version of it, which might have actually had a little more flow to it, but I wanted to learn – I wanted this to be the best guitar lesson in the world and Ronnie James Dio is my guitar teacher.

During the chat, Gilbert was also asked about whether he ever met Paul Gilbert in person. He replied:

“I did, but only one time. It was in Japan. I went to go see Deep Purple and it was the tour where they played with an orchestra and Dio came out as a surprise guest, or at least it was a surprise to me because I was there to see Deep Purple and all of a sudden, Dio is on stage.

“He did ‘Love Is All’ which I had never heard before. I didn’t know anything about that song at the time. It was like a dream – all of a sudden Dio was up there and he’s singing this ’60s pop ‘Penny Lane’ kind of a song with Deep Purple and an orchestra…

“The whole time I was thinking, ‘Any minute I’m going to wake up and tell everybody about this weird dream I had!’ But it was real, and it was great. I’m a Beatles fan and a Dio fan so it was really cool to see those two styles put together.

“After the show I went backstage, and he came up and he was the nicest person in the world. That was the only time I really met him.

Paul Gilbert - Neon Knights (The Dio Album)

“There was one other time when I snuck into a rehearsal, but I didn’t meet him because I was sneaking and I didn’t want to get thrown out. I was like 17 or 18 years old, and I knew somebody who got me into the production rehearsal for the tour with the dragon, so I was there hiding in the shadows – I was awestruck by how awesome it was.

“That was probably 1987 or something like that. It was the peak of big hair and silly hair… And dragons. So it was nice to be able to sneak in there unnoticed.

Photos: Lars Horstmann (GS2019 – Paul Gilbert), Alberto Cabello (Bob Dylan – Azkena Rock Festival 2010 1), Badulake (Ronnie James Dio in Concert)

  • David Slavkovic

    David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor and brands like Sam Ash.