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Their Last With Dio - 71%

pinpals, May 17th, 2010

It was pretty obvious in the time period leading up to this album that the band was probably going to splinter soon. Aside from the fact that Richie Blackmore is notoriously difficult to work with is the constant rotation of band members. Fortunately this means that Tony Carey and his terribly outdated keyboards have been replaced by the more traditional Hammond organs of David Stone, which fit the music much better.

Song-wise, this is probably their most consistent album. The title track, despite the cliche title and lyrics, is a foot-stomping rocker. The oft-covered "Kill the King" is an example of early speed metal and is one of Rainbow's finest songs. "Gates of Babylon" is a worthwhile mini-epic with some fine guitar work by Richie Blackmore. There are also a bunch of accessible rockish songs like "Lady of the Lake" and "L.A. Connection" which are aimed at mainstream audiences. The closer, "Rainbow Eyes" is a frustrating listen because it has the potential to be a magnificent, breathtaking finale. The folk-ish, medieval sounding first half is spruced up with a flute and a string-quartet, but the song flounders and goes nowhere in the second half. There is no payoff, which was disappointing for me. Others may like how laid-back the whole thing is.

Ronnie James Dio again gives an outstanding performance, whether it be the singing on the rockers, snarling on more metallic songs or crooning on the quieter moments. Even though this is Blackmore's band, the real reason to hear this album is because of Dio's fantastic vocal work. The two virtuosos, Blackmore and Cozy Powell, are very restrained, probably in an effort to keep everything simple and accessible. I see this as a waste of talent; the live versions of these songs far surpass their studio counterparts (this is true on all three of the Dio-fronted albums).

Also, the production of this album, even on the remaster, is very rock-sounding. The guitars lose that heavy-blues sound that Richie brought to his live performances and makes everything seem too polished and safe. There's no bite to any of the instruments, as well as no feedback or guitar-squeals. This is another reason why the live recordings of Rainbow songs far surpass the originals, the guitars sound raw, like they should.

So is this album worth owning? Sure, especially if you have a keen eye and can find the remaster at a low price. However, money-conscious people can just get the Rainbow Anthology without really missing out on much. Dio is the main reason to hear "Long Live Rock 'n' Roll;" everything else is passable but not exceptional. Dio would soon leave after Blackmore wanted him to sing a song about cheating in a relationship (another attempt at a hit single) and would go on to join Black Sabbath and release the landmark "Heaven and Hell," which would far surpass everything Blackmore would release afterward.