Last in Line 24k Gold
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The Last In Line
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Second studio album release ,The Last In Line, was certified Platinum in 1984 and is packed with heavy and hard rocking songs that draw upon the fantasy lyrics that the band is known for. Contains 9 tracks including 'We Rock' and 'One Night In The City.'
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Well, the answer is a resounding "yes". There was no "sophomore slump" for Dio on his second outing under his own name. Dio fans seem to rate "Holy Diver" over "The Last In Line" as the best Dio album but I consider them nearly equal when it comes to the LPs as a whole. The only real difference is "Last" has a few B grade tracks ("Breathless", "Eat Your Heart Out") while "Diver" was straight A's.
"The Last In Line" is in many ways a clone of "Holy Diver". The line up is the same (Dio, Campbell, Bain, Appice), only with the addition of keyboardist Claude Schnell, who brings a different, if somewhat dated, synth to several tracks. It was Dio's first step towards the pop metal (not to be confused with 'hair metal') of it's followup "Sacred Heart". Just like "Holy Diver's" leading number "Stand Up And Shout", the first cut on "Line" is "We Rock", another fast fist-pumping headbanger. It even eclipses "Shout" in sheer force. That's no easy task. It's one of those universal anthems Dio writes to connect with the audience. In concert he used this to it's max. The "we" is everybody. WE all rock. It's our lifestyle. It's our identity. (One could contrast that to Queen's "We Will Rock You", which is more about the band Queen rocking you. Campbell has some of the fastest fingers in the business as evidenced by the ferocious, breakneck guitar hook, let alone his requisite solo. This cut became a staple of Dio's live gigs for the rest of his life).
The title track is definitely one of his absolute best tracks. It opens with a slow melodic intro but the hammer comes slamming down when Dio sings "hoooooooooooome!" ("we are coming.....(brilliant rest) and then Dio roars "home" in full chest voice followed by the lumbering bass & guitar riffs. "We're off to the witch we may never never never come home but the magic that we'll feel is worth a lifetime". At this point you find yourself running with Ronnie to see the witch. The greatness of Dio's voice was his Freddie Mercury-like ability to hit his high register in full chest voice instead of going nasal (Axel Rose) or shrieking (Rob Halford).
Another standout is "One Night In The City", a midtempo number that briefly tells the tale of a "dark child" named Johnny and a "princess" named Sally. Needless to say the good girl was invited by the bad boy to "steal away and play the game". The lyrics are typically cryptic but it seems to "recommend" living for the moment or perhaps getting lost in the moment. This was 1984. It didn't sound so daft back then.
It's the midpaced, doomy numbers like "One Night" or "Shame On The Night" from the preceding LP that really brought out the "horns" in Dio.
Just like "Holy Diver" the imagery is pure Final Fantasy or D&D fiction. Still, "Line" doesn't feel quite as cohesive as "Diver" thanks to a decent but out-of-place "breakup song" ("Eat Your Heart Out") and the lyrics of the aforementioned "One Night In The City". Even the radio-friendly "Rainbow In The Dark"-clone "Mystery" doesn't fit seamlessly like "Dark" did on "Holy Diver".
Now, in retrospect, some would say this is a positive as songs about rainbows, dragons, witches, demons and what have you made Dio a self-parody in time in the minds of some. Dio was hip to the joke as his retro-2002 album "Killing The Dragon" was a conscious throwback. His lyrics and use of medieval imagery to talk about the struggle of life issues was still fresh at the time. Over the years he's been asked several times why he continued to write in that style. To paraphrase, Ronnie usually said "I like to give people some fantasy instead of just writing songs about love stinks or the world is going to sh**".
While Dio was often a fine lyricist the more important thing about this and the preceding LP is the musicianship. Hungry, aggressive playing by a group like themselves and each other (for awhile). Tight, clean production but hard, heavy with the two elements that separates one band from another. Not to lesson the important of a bassist and drummer to the band but, in metal, there's two things that stand out most and make it or break it with the average non-musician record buyer: A great vocalist (Ronnie James Dio) and a hot metal guitarist (Vivian Campbell). The Dio band had two of the highest caliber. Nevertheless, in order for the album itself to rise to the level of greatness, it has to have the songs.
Case in point: The album closes with the "Egypt (The Chains Are On)" , a slow to mid-paced doomy, number with a crunchy Campbell riff that gives Dio an opportunity to blow you away with his voice. This seven minute track has gone on to be one of the favorites among Dio-philes. It has that epic quality of a Black Sabbath's "Heaven Or Hell" or Rainbow's "Stargazer".
It's been 28 years since this album was released and it has aged extremely well. Just this week I purchased a 24-Karat Gold remaster while earlier in the year European markets were treated with a Deluxe Edition of "The Last In Line", which included a bonus disc containing live B-Sides to the singles "Mystery" & "We Rock" plus a set of Live At The Pink Pop Festival recorded in 1984.
Last in Line the music video was the coolest video I ever saw when it first came out... now it looks laughingly cheesy but back then....man it was a new definition of awesomeocity :). Each song on this album is pretty rockin but Egypt (The Chains Are On) has a vibe to it thats kind of odd. I still wonder who it was that he was singing about , beings that are beautiful , fantastic and terrifying, angels? demons? ETs? he seemed to write a lot of lyrics that moved in mythology and 'magic' ect. Normally I have litte paitience for that kind of nonsense even in music (which traffics a lot in such imagery) but Dio lends it a depth and flavor that makes it engaging.
Lastly the album cover is so filled with iconography I wrote an essay deconstructing it . I got an 'A' for it but I excelled at BSing back then :)