When Dio Released a Metal Masterpiece, ‘The Last in Line’
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For Ronnie James Dio, the title of his band Dio‘s second album, The Last in Line, could very well have referenced the legendary singer’s lengthy wait for much-deserved solo stardom after decades served as the ultimate team player.
After all, the previous year’s hit Holy Diver was a debut album in name only. Between his recent exploits with Black Sabbath (whose career he helped save from oblivion), prior service with Ritchie Blackmore‘s Rainbow, the band Elf and countless, oft-forgotten groups dating all the way back to the late ’50s, Ronald James Padavona had been preparing for his close up for a long, long time.
As with Holy Diver, Dio produced The Last in Line, which had been recorded in the early months of 1984 at the same Caribou Ranch Studio made famous by Elton John‘s LP of that name. It welcomed back the same core trio of musicians — guitarist Vivian Campbell, bassist Jimmy Bain and drummer Vinnie Appice — that so competently backed up Ronnie on Holy Diver, contributing excellent song ideas, as well as their talents. The addition of former Rough Cutt keyboard player Claude Schnell gave their efforts new dimensions, and the end results were, as Dio himself might have put it, magic.
“We Rock” ensured that The Last in Line would storm out of the gates at full power and breakneck speed, thus paving the way for the anthemic title track and rockers like “Breathless,” “One Night in the City” and “Eat Your Heart Out” that were as heavy as they were hook-filled. Sprinkled among these were further samples of pedal-to-the metal head-banging (“I Speed at Night,” “Evil Eyes”), “Mystery” and an epic closer rife with mystery and grandeur in “Egypt (The Chains Are On).”
An instant success story around the world, The Last in Line hit No. 4 in the U.K. chart and No. 24 in the U.S., on its way to earning a gold certification within two months of its release, and powering through to platinum sales by the following year (thus becoming the first Dio LP to earn that distinction).
By then, Dio — the band — had become a touring machine, crisscrossing the U.S., U.K. and Europe beginning in June until the end of 1984, before returning to America for a final leg that ended on Jan. 27, 1985. Over that span, the quintet performed more than 100 shows with the likes of Whitesnake, Twisted Sister, Queensryche and Dokken as support acts.
All in all, the tour signified perhaps the height of the group’s popularity and helped make The Last in Line first among Dio albums for many fans.
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