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After three (and a half) albums of "medieval" themes and metal anthems what does Dio do next? He stays true to his formula. Even his "cuddly" mascot "Murray" is back on the album cover (in the window). Despite the departure of guitarist Vivian Campbell, who left and later joined Whitesnake and Def Leppard, Dio creates an album that nearly matches the legendary "Holy Diver" & "The Last In Line". Campbell's replacement, Craig Goldy, filled the shoes with no problem.
Dio's fanbase had definitely shrunk by 1987 and with the release of "Dream Evil". Partly due to the mediocre live EP "Intermission" and MTV's all-embracing love for fluffy hair alleged "hard rock" bands like Bon Jovi & Poison. Still, the LP entered the U.S. Billboard Top 200 albums at a respectable #43 (his highest LP chart placement in the US was #23 with "The Last In Line") and was another Top Ten in the U.K. Unfortunately, the album exited the charts faster than the previous albums (but eventually received Gold record status years later).
Though similar in it's more polished, slightly commercial leanings the album is a better overall work than "Sacred Heart". The reason? Better songs. No real duds. Dio had another creative spurt teamed with Goldy that produced melodic tunes like the title cut, "I Could Have Been A Dreamer" (his last track to chart in America- #33 Mainstream Rock), "Sunset Superman" and "Night People". It also contains the epic ballad "All The Fools Sailed Away", which certainly ranks in the Top 20 best Dio cuts. Many have noticed the guitar riff resembles the classic Rainbow track "Man On The Silver Mountain". Perhaps.
During interviews for "Dream Evil" Dio admitted that "Sacred Heart" was an "unhappy album to make" because of friction with Campbell. He knew there was a couple tracks on "Sacred Heart" that he referred to as "album helper" songs, his euphemism for what we call "filler". He went on to say "Dream Evil" was a conscious attempt to "return to form". Irregardless of Ronnie's humility "Sacred Heart" was still one of the best albums released in that year. "Dream Evil" is just better. One can only wonder if had this been the follow up to "The Last In Line" would it have gone platinum and kept him on the A list a little longer? Whatever the case it was the beginning of his commercial decline with each subsequent Reprise LP selling less than the previous one. So less and less promotional effort was received from the label. It had nothing to do with quality though. MTV (temporarily) ruined metal.