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Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: Pop Rock
Starting Period: The Divided Eighties
Also active in: From Grunge To The Present Day



Disclaimer: this page is not written from the point of view of an Ozzy Osbourne fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Ozzy Osbourne fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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Year Of Release: 1980

So Don Airey is now officially a member of Deep Purple. None too soon, so it seems. Now, instead of Jon Lord's toccatas and fugues, Deep Purple concerts will begin with the goofy faux-Goth synth intro to 'Mr Crowley'. The times they are a-friggin' changin'.

I was all set up and ready to bash Blizzard Of Ozz to smithereens, when an angel of mercy (or somebody on the blessed Music Babble) fortunately whispered in my ear: "you know, it's an Ozzy Osbourne record. His first one". And I was all like, oh yeah? Why, I'd forgotten that. See, Ozzy Osbourne was that singing dude in Black Sabbath who's pretty rarely written anything. Tony Iommi wrote the riffs, Geezer Butler wrote the lyrics, and Ozzy just sang in his unexceptional, but not too irritating voice. That's all. When he came out with his first record, I guess the expectations were pretty much akin to those of Roger Daltrey's 1973 debut, and good or bad, Blizzard Of Ozz is certainly far more listenable than that abominable Leo Sayer-infested crapfest.

Blizzard Of Ozz isn't half-bad, in fact. A solid little pop-metal outing with one or two deserved classics, a bunch of energetic, but forgettable tunes, and only one or two truly abominable numbers. It just hardly deserves the legendary status that it has achieved in the metal world, and since the tragic death of Randy Rhoads the legend has naturally grown even stronger. Geez, it came out in 1980, a year glorious for the no-holds-barred metal classics like British Steel and Back In Black (and don't forget the joker, er, well, the Ace Of Spades), and by their standards, the sound throughout is pretty wimpy, even if the songwriting itself is more or less comparable in general. But that was Ozzy. He wasn't much of a metal screamer - he understood that, I guess. Could you imagine Ozzy roaring out: 'GRINDER! LOOKING FOR MEAT!' or 'HELL'S BELLS! SATAN'S COMING TO YOU!' Yeah, well, I guess not. Pop-metal was his only possible choice, and Blizzard set off a career that ultimately inspired Motley Crue, Poison, and Bon Jovi... eh? Not good news?

Tradition has it that every reviewer writing about Ozzy's solo career must praise Randy Rhoads and his unique playing talent. Well, he is... was good. Great speed, use of classical elements in his solos, an excellent mastery of chord and tonality changes, and some genuine emotion as well. That said, he's hardly a singular talent, and while we could cut our throats over whether he's better than Van Halen or those dudes from Iron Maiden, it'd only leave us with a bunch of cut throats and no positive advances at all. So just skip that, move over to the songs.

The first two are good ones. 'I Don't Know' has Ozzy in emotional overdrive, a very sincere and flameful "fuck you" to all those looking forward to Ozzy as the answer to all their questions. 'Don't ask me - I don't know, I don't know!' he yells in the ominous chorus, his words carried all over the place through the echo effect, and somehow I believe him. What a surprise. Well, okay, if there is a guy in this world not to know the 'future of mankind', it must be Ozzy, so that's easily the most credible statement he's ever made up to date. And it's well backed by Randy's chugging riffage, and Ozzy also remembers enough of Sabbath's classic experiments with song structure to throw in a seductive acoustic mid-section.

'Crazy Train' is Randy's showcase, with two terrific riffs that should be treasured by metal aficionados all over the world - the lyrics, all about Ozzy's paranoid confusion in the modern world, don't move me as much as they could move an average Ozzy diehard, but the vocal delivery is credible. Still, this is essentially one of the major reasons for us to remember Mr Rhoads, so let that be it.

After those two, however, the album starts sagging so dreadfully that I find it hard not to lower the rating. A sappy Eagles-like ballad in 'Goodbye To Romance', basically 'Changes Vol. 2', just slightly better because Rhoads' countryesque guitar playing is tasteful. It's not exactly without a vocal hook, but it's just so corny and syrupy, so defiantly sentimental I can't stomach it at all. Said to be a heartful goodbye to his pals in Black Sabbath, whoah, nice gesture. 'Suicide Solution' earned Ozzy a lot of legal trouble (you probably know that story about a teenager actually committing suicide under the influence of the song and Ozzy brough to court in the result), but as is oh so often the case, the shock value of the song far exceeds its musical value. Just a fat old mid-tempo rocker with a very generic chord sequence. The already mentioned eulogy/necrolog to "Mr Crowley" is also just a song written to tackle a questionable lyrical subject. Geez, not even Jimmy Page, a big fan of Mr Crowley, ever mentioned him directly in his songs.

At least 'No Bone Movies' has some genuine rock'n'roll energy - gotta dig the ferocious overdriven coda, with the refrain screamed over and over as Randy overdubs his hot leads and Lee Kerslake pounds his bones, er, drums like nowhere else on the album. Oh yeah, the song's actually an anti-pornographic rant, and the great humanitarian he is, Mr Osbourne then follows it with the eco-rocker 'Revelation (Mother Earth)', the lengthiest and most boring song on the album - who cares if it's multi-part if the acoustic part is just formulaic medievalistic strumming and the electric part a bunch of same-sounding speedy riffs, cliched further than Mother Earth herself? 'Steal Away (The Night)' at least has a fast tempo and arguably the album's best solo, with Randy hitting these high stingin' notes and carefully laying them over each other in a totally novel fashion.

Nothing's more boring than reading a review which discusses all the songs, for which I apologize, but I could make no floatin' generalization about this album. This is, unfortunately, often the case for "solid mediocrity with a couple highlights transcending it", which this album is. Or is it?



Year Of Release: 1981

Same old dipshit, er, rock'n'roll from the guy. Oh well, that wasn't even a good joke, so forget that. It was tragically the second and last album with Randy Rhoads as the guy perished in an air crash soon afterwards, leaving Ozzy stranded and disconcerted (and it was somewhere at the same time when the infamous accident with Ozzy biting a live bat's head off happened; I'm not sure if it was on tour with Randy or after Randy's death already).

However, Diary Of A Madman doesn't really show any strain because it was recorded in a fairly normal atmosphere, even if the sessions were rushed. It boasts basically the same quality of its predecessor, avoiding some of its obvious mistakes but piling up new ones. To make a risky generalization, I'd say Diary has no obvious high points like Blizzard (no 'Crazy Train'-style classics in particular), but it also manages to mostly eschew the gaffes; thus, there's no straightforward namecalling of the 'Mr Crowley' style, and no indigestible sappiness like 'Goodbye To Romance' either.

I also have a suspicion that Ozzy and Randy actually had plans to make this album trippier and far more complex, with Ozzy's penchant for the mystical and Randy's penchant for the classical feeding off each other. Apart from 'Mr Crowley', the previous album was basically just a rock'n'roll record of the pop-metal variety, no more, no less. Here, on some of the tracks you get the feeling Ozzy and Randy are trying to go for something more than that, although it's rather questionable whether their ambitions result in something good or not. I'm speaking of the title track in particular, a Goth-styled epic about madness and loneliness that has Randy using classical scales all over the place and ends in almost Bach-like choral chanting set to a metallic riffage pattern. Oh, and there are violins incorporated in the production, too. Is it a good song or a bad song? Goshdarnit if I know. Put it this way: I don't like it at all, but I do have to give credit for the overall inventiveness. After all, "doom" and "goth metal" and all that crap were still big news in 1981, and if anything, tracks like 'Diary Of A Madman' must have inspired a whole generation of bands like My Dying Bride and the rest. And as we know, no genre stinks by definition, so it was probably a good thing to do. (God knows I had to really force this sentence out of my poor self).

Elsewhere, you get much of the same old stuff. The obligatory ballad this time is notoriously better than 'Goodbye To Romance': 'Tonight' lacks the sap, but never threatens to become a generic power ballad either. It's more like a great uplifting pop number with a very spiritual chorus (yeah, I never said Ozzy wasn't capable of spirituality. For an untrivial guy who bites birds' heads off on a near-regular basis, Ozzy sure has earned the right to be as spiritual as Mahalia Jackson), and a supercatchy chorus, too. Of course, the song is overlong like pretty much every song on here, but all I notice is (a) the pretty chorus and (b) the extremely tasteful arrangement. The synths are pushed into the background, and the song mainly rolls along on the strength of a McCartney-esque piano track and acoustic tracks, plus Randy adds a couple distorted rhythms for the chorus and a kick-ass solo.

Speaking of the "basic rockers", 'Over The Mountain' is a good one, but when all of its aspects are taken together, it doesn't hit me nearly as hard as 'I Don't Know' or 'Crazy Train'. Randy chugs out a speedy riff and Ozzy sings with enough conviction about his imaginary paradise, but, uhm, well... okay, fine, it's a good song. You got me there. Now do I have to reevaluate my Bad Company ratings? Speaking of 'I Don't Know', Ozzy's obligatory "leave me alone you fuckers" number this time around is the pretentiously titled 'You Can't Kill Rock'n'Roll', which is saved from the pits of cliched banalities by the fact that it's actually a personal song: it's not an ode to rock music as an impersonal supreme force that breathes life into everyone, but rather just an honest statement - I like rock'n'roll and it's up to me what I like and what I don't. Whatever one might hate about Ozzy - his (relative) lack o' the gray stuff, his abysmal habits, his limited singing and composing abilities - you can't deny the man's sincerity and honesty when it comes to confessions like these.

Any other songs on the album? Nothing we haven't already talked about. 'Flying High Again' is for some reason sometimes extracted from the album to count as a highlight, but why? Not because of the stupid 'I can see it, I can see it' wimpy backing vocals, I hope? Randy plays a good solo on there, but dammit, his solos are always good, I've already lost count. A couple other rockers I really won't want to mention because I'm bored already. Final verdict is the same as above: Diary Of A Madman leaves me cold in general, but I can't help squeezing out a bit of respect for the musicianship and the sonic experimentation (particularly on the title track). It's just that for all it's worth, this album will never even hope to be the equal of, uh, Master Of Reality, for instance, even if as far as pure technique goes, Randy probably used to beat Iommi any time of day.



Year Of Release: 1982

In a sense, this is Ozzy Osbourne's best album ever. No, I'm not joking, really. Put it this way: no one will have the nerve to deny that Ozzy's best work was when he served as lead vocalist for Black Sabbath in their classic period. So what can be cooler than an entire double live album of Ozzy doing Sabbath tunes?

Anyway, history tells us that Ozzy was obliged to do a live album as part of his record contract, and originally he was planning on releasing an album of recent live performances with Randy Rhoads. However, Randy tragically perished in a plane crash in early '82, and his death totally threw Ozzy off his rocker. For some strange reason, the live Ozzy/Randy album was cancelled (it only surfaced half a decade later as the live Tribute), and instead of that, Ozzy arranged a couple club dates, hired a new guitarist, Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, spent all that time performing old Sabbath classics (rumours have it that he actually had to read the lyrics from a notebook during the concert!), and released the results as Speak Of The Devil, an album featuring the man's cheesiest album cover ever. Some also say that Ozzy was jealous of Tony Iommi performing old Sabbath tunes with Dio and releasing them on Live Evil, so this was his response.

I guess it might have been a smart move at the time, after all. And besides, good or bad those two Randy Rhoads albums were, this was cheesy pop-metal, after all, nothing that would present Ozzy as a real real tough guy. Speak Of The Devil could have done the trick. In retrospect, of course, I'm not sure what purposes the album might actually serve. At the very least, if you're so desperate to hear a Sabbath live album, you now have the 1998 Reunion record with Tony and Ozzy as good as ever; but even then, Sabbath weren't really about improvisation, and they were already so tough in the studio that no amount of live energy might have helped the originals 'come alive' on stage in a way they weren't already alive and ass-kicking in the studio environment. And this isn't even Sabbath!

Now let's cast some justice. Brad Gillis is an excellent guitarist, and for this performance he is able to step into Tony Iommi's shoes like no one else I've heard. All the riffs are played exactly, note-for-note, the way that Tony would have played them himself. The only significant differences I can tell is (a) the intro to 'Symptom Of The Universe' is kinda messed up, although Brad gets it just about right when the vocals actually come in, and (b) the guitar tone on 'Children Of The Revolution' is like a trillion times lighter than on the classic Sabbath version, so the song is nowhere near as ominous as it was intended to be. (To compensate for that, the intro to 'Iron Man' is played in a totally mind-blowing manner; for once, Gillis actually sounds heavier than Iommi, with a monster tone that promises to swallow you alive, boots and hat and all). Apart from that, I can't really accuse Gillis of anything - obviously, he'd been a Sabbath fan for a long time. (Or else I'd have to suppose these Iommi riffs are so fuckin' simple anybody can master them in a matter of several hours of rehearsing, but that would be Sabbath-denigrating, and I don't want to bring Lucifer's anger down on me). He's also a pretty good soloist, maybe even with a better technique than Iommi.

Add to this a kick-ass rhythm section, and also the fact that the Ozzman is in excellent vocal form throughout. Granted, though, the Ozzman is almost always in excellent vocal form, as is to be expected from a guy with next to no range at all. I mean, the only thing that could have happened to him is being stoned so much he'd start hitting all the wrong notes and stuff. Well, stoned he probably was, but it didn't prevent him from doing all the songs justice (even if there have been voiced suspicions about the album seriously 'doctored' with later vocal overdubs). And yeah, the song selection is actually pretty strong, if overall predictable. The two "surprises", for me at least, are 'Never Say Die' (not a particularly pleasant one, even) and 'The Wizard' (hey, a particularly pleasant one! And the guy still blows a good harmonica!). Another "surprise" is how 'Iron Man' and 'Children Of The Revolution' manage to be crammed together into one lengthy medley. Another "surprise" is how totally cool 'Black Sabbath' (the song) actually sounds. Another "surprise" is that they totally eliminate the soft acoustic section from 'Symptom Of The Universe', letting the song end with a grinding metallic solo instead.

And oh yeah, the biggest surprise of all is that - unless I'm much mistaken - Ozzy never even once swears throughout the whole album. Now this really took me by surprise. I mean, he rambles on a lot, with all the 'are we going crazy tonight?' and 'louder! louder! louder!', but he never even once says the F word. Okay, maybe I missed it one or two times, but you gotta just compare this to the Reunion album ('fucking clap your fucking hands!'). Is it true that the Ozzman never cussed on stage in the early Eighties, or was he just afraid that the record company would wipe out all the swearing? (Or maybe the record company did wipe out all the swearing?). Gee, such a simple album, and such a lot of questions. Anyway, solid performances and all, there's really no reason for anybody to bother except for completist reasons. But it could actually function as a decent intro to classic Sabbath, and that's certainly a compliment considering it isn't even a Sabbath album.



Year Of Release: 1983

The Ozzman rebounds again: the man may be as cartoonish as Minnie Mouse, but you gotta admire his tenaciousness, as after the death of Randy Rhoads many had hurried to bury his creative future again. But Ozzy takes all the piss, and hiring Jake E. Lee instead of Randy delivers either the second or even the first best album of his career. Most of the comments I've seen on this one vary around the "well it's okay, but it can't be better than what he did with Randy" formula. Well pardon me for my ignorance, but what would be the judgement of an average guy like me who does not worship Randy Rhoads as the best metal guitarist to have ever decorated the planet? What I see is that these songs easily match the quality of the Rhoads-era ones and sometimes actually surpass them. As for Jake E. Lee, he's just your average metal guy but he does not try to emulate Randy, at least not as far as Randy's guitar solos actually go. He's just a solid, but uninventive guitarist whose job is to perform all the riffs and insert an obligatory instrumental passage now and then. Bah.

But this record is also dark, and it's actually darker and angrier than the preceding two albums. The Ozzman was head to toe in problems at the time, drunk and drugged to half-death, with only his wife Sharon to pull him through somehow. Remember that episode with Ozzy biting the head of a dove at the celebration of his new deal with Epic Records? That was then all right. I guess now, with the man all cleaned up and joining the high rungs of society and hosting that goofy MTV show and all, it's hard to imagine what a croc of human shit the guy basically was, in all possible senses, in the early Eighties. And yet it is a typical rule that the best records are being made by crocs of shit - and Bark At The Moon is a typical solid emotionally harsh croc-a-shit record.

I mean, there's not one, but a whole two anthems here in which Ozzy bashes and trashes his maledictors. 'Rock'n'Roll Rebel' is the better of the two by far, a tight driving rocker where Ozzy rejects all the accusations of Satanism and everything else and proudly states that he's 'just a rock'n'roll rebel', and while Ozzy's actual "rebellion" might be questionable (after all, isn't all that goofiness just another sign of the give-the-people-what-they-want attitude?), there's no need to question the sincerity of the song: the guy really believes he's a rock'n'roll rebel, and he really passionately hates the dumb fuckers who assign him Satanic functions that he himself had never assigned himself (but - to be frank - had always toyed with in a very stupid way). And that helps the song. Same with the slower, synth-based confessional epic 'You're No Different', which is full of cliches and tritenesses lyrically but at least I can understand the need for creating it: when you're driven into the corner with guns pointed at your head, you have to fight back, doncha?

Of course, with one hand Ozzy slashes at the critics, while at the same time with the other hand giving them more material to feed upon, like the title track, with more of the classic cartoonish Ozzy posturing (the actual video had him disguised as a werewolf), or the album closer 'Waiting For Darkness'. But that's actually just the opening and closing track - everything in between deals with the realistic situation Ozzy has found himself in, and actually even 'Barking At The Moon', much like 'Diary Of A Madman' before it, is more autobiographic and self-referential than truly horror-related.

The big surprise for me was the album's ballad, 'So Tired'. More Bee Gees than Ozzy, with tinkling piano rhythms, swooping orchestrated riffs, and vocal hooks a-plenty, not to mention emotion. It's a tremendous improvement over the substance-less sappy sentimentality of 'Goodbye To Romance', and Louis Clarke's orchestral arrangements seem to have been made with a deliberate nod to Phil Spector's early Sixties recordings, which is really a big wonder considering that was the era of synth-pop and all. Maybe the best ballad of Ozzy's career.

Of course, Bark At The Moon isn't consistent. Slowly, but inevitably, it peters out towards the end, with the above-mentioned 'Waiting For Darkness' getting along as far as mood goes but really being way too confused as far as melody goes - what's that distortion soup boiling in the background while Ozzy sings the verse melody? Also, the CD re-issue tacks on a totally unnecessary ninth track, a pseudo-spooky pop-rocker 'Spiders In The Night' that only helps to further cement Ozzy's reputation as the ultimate cheesy goofman of rock'n'roll. But even with all the flaws and with Jake E. Lee instead of Randy, it's still a surprisingly strong statement from a man who was at the very bottom of a whiskey bottle at the time. At least, by Ozzy's own standards.


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