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**Note: This is a review of the 2012 Deluxe Edition**
After a huge success with “Holy Diver”, Ronnie James Dio and his newly formed solo band had to find a way to match that success and that came into the form of “The Last in Line”. While a strong album in its own right, this album is just a step below the legendary debut. “The Last in Line”, along with the aforementioned “Holy Diver”, and “Sacred Heart” have recently been released as deluxe editions with improvements in sound and loaded with extra content. “The Last in Line” comes with some live b-sides as well as a concert from the Pinkpop Festival in 1984.
“The Last in Line” mainly draws upon the formula from the debut. “We Rock” could be seen as a brother to “Stand Up and Shout” with its empowering lyrics and up-tempo joys. “Eat Your Heart Out” is the child of “Straight to the Heart” and “Egypt (The Chains Are On)” invokes a familiar atmosphere and ends the album on a brooding note like “Shame to the Night” did. Last, but certainly not the least, there is the epic title track slotted as song two.
The main problem with these comparisons is that the “Holy Diver” tracks are superior. That’s not to diminish the merits of these songs because “We Rock” is a sterling opener is a top Dio track and I actually find the song “The Last in Line” better than “Holy Diver.” The lyrics in the chorus are some of the greatest examples of Dio’s writing ability and his use of metaphors is truly impressive.
“Mystery” is the most commercial song and one of the singles off this album. The song remains one of my favorite DIO songs because of the enchanting keyboards provided by Claude Schnell and has one of Dio’s best lyrics with “Is the wise man always right? No, he can play the fool.” The accompanying music video is also worth a look too. Dio gets to fight with a sword again and he makes awesome gestures with his hands.
Rounding out the territory is “I Speed at Night” complete with attitude and some resounding guitar work from Vivian Campbell. Thanks to the improvements in the sound, the jumping notes of Jimmy Bain can be clearly heard as well. “Breathless” stays on the mid-tempo, but floats in the generic realm and “One Night in the City” has a cool riff to keep attention while Dio tells a story about a couple young kids.
The extras piled onto this deluxe edition are live b-sides of “Eat Your Heart Out”, “Don’t Talk to Strangers”, “Holy Diver”, and “Rainbow in the Dark.” All are solid listens that don’t deviate much from the studio versions and it is nice to have a live version of a song that is not talked too much about in “Eat Your Heart Out.”
However, the meat of the extra content is the concert from the Pinkpop Festival. It is an excellent set list, but unfortunately this concert seems to be a bootleg and there is this buzzing, static noise that permeates the sound. It is a big distraction, but if the ambitious listener can look past that then there is a load to latch on to. Dio’s stage banter is in full effect and not cut out and there is a rousing version of “Heaven and Hell” that is over 13 minutes long. The band is in tight form and it is easy to surmise that they are enjoying themselves. A live version “One Night in the City” is on here and that song is not heard much on the live stage and it’s never a bad thing hearing “Man on the Silver Mountain.”
As with all the other deluxe editions, there are extensive linear notes on the development of the album as well as some neat photos of artwork and the band. The sound upgrade along with the bonuses should provide enough nourishment for a DIO fanatic, and while the sound of the extra concert is disappointing, this is still an entertaining deluxe edition. I suggest you don’t be the last in line for a purchase.