This live recording would be the final stand of the first phase of Ronnie James Dio’s solo project after the release of the poorly produced ‘Sacred Heart’ a year prior in 1985. Inner turmoil had been on the rise during this period and much of the record reveals the resulting lack of focus. However, as this live record proves, many of the songs from the ‘Sacred Heart’ record were meant to be experienced in a live environment. After all, Dio’s songwriting was always impeccable and his knack for live performance was second to none, even if he and his fellow bandmates weren’t the happiest at this moment in time.
This live recording features all of the goods from throughout Dio’s extensive career. This includes material from Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and his solo project. Dio seems to have taken out all of the stops on this record and it makes one wonder whether or not he was channeling the frustrations of the impending project’s demise into his live performance. Aside from Dio himself, other links of the project are in fine form during this performance. Vinny Appice, Dio’s longtime partner-in-crime, lets his chops on the drum kit shine in full form during the record’s five minute drum solo. Being a live record, the listener is treated to things that they normally wouldn’t be on a studio recording, one of those things being medleys, and Dio delivers the goods with the excellent medley “The Last in Line/Children of the Sea/Holy Diver”. Sometimes medleys can come off as forced or even a bit awkward at times, but Dio had always had a natural ability to mesh different songs together. Two other absolutely essential components of this record are the just under 13-minute rendition of “Sacred Heart”, which is without a doubt the greatest version of this track ever put to recording. The other is a track called “Time to Burn”, which made its first appearance on record with its inclusion in this particular set. A simple, straightforward piece; Dio had done many of these in his career before becoming the ultimate portrayer of the epic (Anybody remember Elf?) and this song resonates with an ease and a smoothness which comes through the warmth of Dio’s vocals.
Needless to say, this live recording is the best way to experience the material from ‘Sacred Heart’ and it proves that much of the material from that record wasn’t so much poorly written as it was a victim of what can really only be described as the ‘being too ’80s syndrome’ (Trademarked, baby.); something that many respected, prominent artists were guilty of during the mid-late ’80s era of popular music. This was an era where MTV had run amok, the music video was less about artistic expression and more about keeping up with the latest hair band or new wave act that was hot at the moment, and the record labels were at a peak level of corporate control. That’s why this live recording sounds so much better than ‘Sacred Heart’ did; it’s free of the trappings of ’80s studio material and gets back to the intimate art of the live performance, which is something that metal cultivated far better than any other genre in the ’80s and a key element of why it survived. As for Dio, he would go on to record many other high-quality studio recordings after the this first incarnation of his solo project fell to the inevitable soon after the tour in which this recording had captured. This is essential live material.