A key document on an explosive relationship
The relationship between Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads is one of the most memorable in the history of heavy and hard rock. From the way they first met: it’s said that Ozzy was totally smashed when he did the guitar audition and signed him up after just watching him tune his guitar (something like the moment when Ravi Shankar in ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ after getting a standing ovation upon going on stage said ironically, “ if you liked the tuning bit, I hope you enjoy the music more.”) to his sad farewell, when Rhoads was killed in a plane crash on tour with Ozzy.
The beginning of the record couldn’t be more apt, the ‘O Fortuna’ from Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’ at full volume while Ozzy screams, “Are you ready to rock ‘n roll?”. By the time the tremendous riff from Randy Rhoads kicks in on 'I Don’t Know' we know that this is one of those records that takes no prisoners. Originally released in 1987, five years after the early death of Rhoads, the album is a fine tribute to the guitarist and chronicles the best moment of Ozzy’s solo career, that which together with Rhoads he recorded their debut record alone, ‘The Blizzard of Ozz’, and its second part ‘Diary of a Madman’.
Most of the repertoire is based on the first one, including the iconic ‘Crazy Train’ that was the ‘single’ promoting the record, and ‘Mr. Crowley’ where Randy absolutely shines. Of course the solo most remembered from this record comes from another song on Ozzy’s debut album, ‘Suicide Solution’, with his iconic Sandoval polka-dotted Flying V. Lovers of the duel between 2 of the fastest pistoleros at the end of the 70s, beginning of the 80s (Randy and Eddie Van Halen) have a clear reference here. Another nice touch on the album is the nod to various Black Sabbath classics, ‘Iron Man’, ‘Children of the Grave’ and ‘Paranoid’ where Rhoads goes off on his white Les Paul Custom from ‘74 and cuts some solos completely different than those of Tony Iommi.
This tribute, in particular, is a marvel for fans of the guitarist and the early years of Ozzy, especially ‘The Blizzard of Ozz’ from which they play all his songs except the instrumental ‘Dee’, a piece by Rhoads, that appears at the end of the album on some of the ‘outtakes’. Here we can see Rhoads at his most basic form, the one he probably would have taken if he were still alive, a bit fed up with trying to keep up with the speed playing display ala Van Halen to make the kids go back home happy . The end of the album is also lovely because it links to another great guitarist who died before his time, the great Duane Allman, who before being killed in a bike accident, left a recording of the instrumental acoustic ‘Little Martha’ which appeared posthumously on ‘Eat a Peach’ from the Allman Brothers. On ‘Dee’ we can appreciate, far beyond its technique, and digitalisation, Rhoads had something much more important: soul.