Wednesday, June 29, 2011

CD Review – Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of A Madman, Blizzard of Oz

I didn’t think I’d review these CDs but I do feel the urge to post something. Basically, I had not bought the previous versions on CD because of the atrocious decision by Sharon Osbourne to replace the original bass and drums by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake in 2002 with new recordings by Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin who were in Ozzy’s band at the time. Daisley and Kerslake had sued Osbourne for unpaid royalties and this was Sharon’s big F-U.

I read that the new versions in 2002 sounded horrible, and I just couldn’t support that decision anyway. I mean, who does that? Would Pete Townshend go back and replace all of John Entwistle’s bass parts on Quadrophenia if the former Mrs. Entwistle sued Pete for more money? God I hope not.

Or maybe is was continued business genius on Sharon’s part, who let’s be fair saved Ozzy from certain death to forge a very successful solo career with her firmly in charge. Maybe she knew people would buy these discs twice – once in 2002 and again when the original music had been restored.

Well, I didn’t. But I did get these new remasters and I have to say, I am impressed. I actually hadn’t listened to these two releases all the way through in years, due to the aforementioned issue of not being able to get a good version on CD. They stand up very, very well over the years. The songs are Ozzy’s best by far and stand up against a lot of 70s Sabbath if you ask me.

Whose responsibility was that? Guitarist Randy Rhodes.

Now, I was always the first guy in high school to dismiss Rhodes as a totally overrated guitar player who only got so famous because he burned up in a plane crash. But I have to say, hearing these CDs with fresh ears gives me a whole new take on the young man.

While all the tracks on Blizzard are credited to Osbourne, Rhodes and Daisley, and the same plus Kerslake on Diary (result of the aforementioned lawsuit), I can only imagine Ozzy and Randy sitting down to put these tunes together. Rhodes had fantastic musical ideas and Ozzy somehow put together lyrics that spoke to what was going on in his life at the time.

With a lot of stuff, the image outshines the music – but get rid of those lame album covers of Ozzy looking crazy and you have a collection of fantastic songs – I Don’t Know, Crazy Train, Over The Mountain, You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll, Flying High Again, Diary of A Madman, Mr. Crowley, Tonight. I mean come on, that is a seriously good two-album run of classic tunes.

Blizzard of Oz is a great solo debut, but Diary is an even better CD than Blizzard – the songs are more developed and Rhodes’ music ranges from heavy to classical. And on the reissue, you get a bunch of live tunes from the Blizzard tour. This is where Rhodes really shines.

Pretty sure this is the classic Ozzy, Rhodes, Rudy Sarzo, Tommy Aldridge lineup on these live songs. I have no idea how much of it was cleaned up in the studio, but Rhodes’ performance is pretty spectacular. Made me realize, for better or worse, that all those 80s hair metal guitar players were not trying to be Eddie Van Halen – they were trying to be Randy Rhodes.

I mean, you can’t really do EVH – he is one of a kind. But Rhodes took Eddie’s tapping and whammy bar dives, made them his own and added that classical scale shredding thing that became mandatory in every heavy band in the 80s. Which sucks, because most of it was crap – just an exercise in how fast you could play a scale. But it came from Rhodes who actually used it well and put some soul into his playing overall.

Ozzy’s voice is strong on these two albums and as I said, the songs are true heavy rock classics. It reminded me that outside of the bickering between parties, what a win-win that happened when Ozzy got kicked out of Sabbath. We got Rhodes-era Ozzy, and we got Dio-era Sabbath. With Dio’s death and the recent Heaven and Hell concerts and releases, it’s been great reliving and enjoying that Dio Sabbath. But now we can go back and refresh our memories on what Ozzy was doing between pissing on the Alamo, eating bird heads in board meetings and snorting ants. He was making great music with Randy Rhodes.

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