Ronnie James Dio used to consider the second albums he did as inferior to the first ones. Second Rainbow wasn’t as good as the first; same with the second Sabbath, according to Ronnie. Is that also true for The Last in Line compared to the legendary Holy Diver?
Comparing the two is much like splitting hairs. The two albums are so close in style and quality that it really doesn’t even matter.
A better opener than “We Rock” is hard to find. The blitz of drums and riff was custom made for bangin’ on the stage. It’s unusual to hear a song where the drums are a major hook, but Vinny Appice has a way of doing just that. He gives you the urge to air-drum every time he throws down a fill.
Dio had an interesting pattern for his albums in the early days, up to Dream Evil (1987). The albums always began with something fast. In the song two position: always the title track! (The title track of each album always had a few lines of lyrics printed in the album sleeve too!) And so it is with “The Last in Line”. The soft and ballad-y opening lures one into that “safe place”…before Dio lets it loose. One of his best and most memorable music videos went with “The Last in Line”, absolutely one of the legendary man’s most notable songs. Its reputation is well earned, as all the pieces are in the right and you never get tired of hearing it.
We’ll know for the first time, if we’re evil or divine, we’re the last in line!
With the first two tracks being so legendary to Dio fandom, it’s easy to understand how the next batch often get lost in the shuffle. “Breathless” lacks for nothing. Vivian Campbell’s solo spot is blazing stuff, and the song is memorable enough for head banging. Accelerating into “I Speed at Night”, hooks are sacrificed for tempo. It’s quintessential 80s heavy metal when speed was such an important thing. Not a bad tune, but one with only a single purpose — banging thine head.
“One Night in the City” takes the time to allow the hooks to percolate through. Vinny and bassist Jimmy Bain lock into a mid-paced groove while Ronnie lays down one of his typically emotive melodies. Though it simmers on a back burner, “One Night in the City” is hot just the same. “Evil Eyes” is also a high quality tune, and if it’s familiar that might be because an earlier version was a B-side, included on the Holy Diver deluxe edition. Naturally, the album version is more polished, but as for which is better, that’s up to the listener. Then there is “Mystery”, arguably Dio’s most “pop” single. Not such a bad thing, after all Ronnie James Dio also did right by “Love is All” from the Butterfly Ball.
We are lightning, we are flame, and we burn at the touch of a spark.
“Eat Your Heart Out” is the only stumble, but it’s soon paid back with “Egypt (The Chains are On)”, a Dio epic in true metal fashion. Who doesn’t love a good plodding metal epic about Egyptian legends? It’s a second or third tier metal motif! Ronnie brings his own metal melodrama to the fore.
The Last in Line is already a great album, certainly up to the quality of Holy Diver with equally memorable material. This carries over to the bonus CD included in the deluxe edition. Four single B-sides from the era are included. They are live versions of “Eat Your Heart Out”, with “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Holy Diver” and “Rainbow in the Dark” (all originally from Holy Diver). The only two B-sides missing are “Stand Up and Shout” and “Straight Through the Heart” live at Donington 1983, from “The Last in Line” 12″ single. These tracks however can be found on the 2010 CD release, At Donington UK: Live 1983 & 1987 .
Finally we have Dio’s entire set from the 1984 Pink Pop festival. Naturally there is some overlap with the previous live tracks: “Holy Diver”, “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Don’t Talk to Strangers”. This is offset by a smattering of Rainbow and Black Sabbath classics: “Stargazer”, “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Heaven and Hell”. The audio is quite good and Jimmy Bain’s bass has a nice full thump to it. The Last in Line is one deluxe you’ll want to add to your collection