REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil / Talk of the Devil (1983)


OZZY OSBOURNE – Speak of the Devil (1983 Epic)

After Randy Rhoads died, Ozzy really seemed to have gone into a tailspin. He just seems to have been completely miserable at the time and he really tries to bury the albums he made in this period. Speak Of The Devil, a live album featuring Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) on guitar, was not even included on Ozzy’s 2002 reissue program and went out of print.

Ozzy owed his label a live album, and had actually recorded one too (Randy Rhoads Tribute).  With fresh wounds from the loss of Randy, Ozzy didn’t want to do a live album at all.    So a compromise instead; Speak of the Devil (Talk of the Devil overseas) consisted entirely of Black Sabbath songs.  At the same time, Sabbath was releasing their own double live album, Live Evil.  This direct competition poured fuel over an already volatile feud.

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL_0003I always hate to compare Ozzy’s versions of Sabbath songs with the originals. Ozzy’s have always sounded different because of the guitar players he’s chosen to use over the years. These Gillis versions are about as authentic as Ozzy’s been, until the fortuitous discovery of Zakk Wylde five years later.  Gillis is a flashier player than Iommi, but without Randy’s intricate classical bent.

You absolutely cannot argue with the track list (from the Ritz, in New York). This is Sabbath boiled down to its black core. These are the desert island songs, and I love that “Never Say Die” and “Symptom of the Universe” were included.  Through the classics, Ozzy sounds tremendously drunk.  Colossally smashed, not quite completely out of his fucking head yet, but close.  Still lucid, not yet totally annihilated.  His voice takes on an angry shade when he starts reminiscing about the the groupies at the old Fillmore East (“The Wizard”).  (Sounds like a naughty word was awkwardly edited of out this ramble, too.)

I do love a moment when, just before breaking into the aforementioned “Wizard”, Ozzy says to somebody (a roadie?) “Hey, what’s happenin’ man?”

The vocals sound like they’ve been sweetened in the studio.  They’ve been double tracked, or manipulated to have that effect.  I’m normally not a fan of that kind of thing, but it’s still a great listen.  There’s some annoying feedback at points…it doesn’t bother me too much, hell, when I first heard this album (on cassette) in 1991, I couldn’t even hear the feedback, for the shitty fidelity of cassette tape.  I’m sure Ozzy considers the album to be sonically embarrassing, that seems to be his modus operandi.

Of note, “Sweet Leaf” did not manage to make the original CD release, but has been restored to this version, its CD debut.  It was on the original cassette version, a cassette-and-LP-only “bonus track” at the time.  (Aaron, that means you gotta buy remastered or LP.)

Band lineup: Osbourne/Gillis/Sarzo/Aldridge/Airey.

4.5/5 stars





  1. A lot of these versions I first heard on this release were for the first time when I was 16 the yr this came out. I was blown away with Gillis playing and this is a A list squad that Ozzy had put together or was it Sharon? Anyways like I said I heard these versions and than I bought Live Evil and I preferred Ozzys over Sabbaths versions….man this is a great live album,at the time I had no idea that Live albums weren’t always seemed that live but hey I loved the fact that it was a straight 4 piece….great classic….


    1. Same for me Deke…heard this album years before Live Evil, and I think it’s better too. I don’t like Live Evil as much as you’d think you should like a Dio live album.

      Some of these songs, such as Never Say Die and Symptom, I never heard before at all. I had the album We Sold Our Soul for Rock N’ Roll but I didn’t have many studio albums yet.


  2. You’re dead right, those vocals were seriously doctored after the fact; not as badly as Unleashed in the East though. It’s good but I just find I never play this one.


  3. A buddy of mine in high school had all those Ozzy solo records, so I surely heard this at several points. Probably while shooting hoops in the driveway. I don’t have any specific memories of it, though the track list does indeed look yummy. Also, thanks for the tip about the remaster.


    1. No prob. If it was anybody else, I wouldn’t say it was necessary. But Sweet Leaf was an original track on the vinyl, removed for the first CD version (time restraints). To me then, that’s still an essential part of the album. Gotta have Sweet Leaf on here.


  4. This was one of the first metal albums I bought. I’m not counting my Kiss and Sweet collection here though, because as a kid, Kiss and Sweet were everything I listenend to for a few years. This was the early 80’s and I had just begun my journey as a metalhead.
    I love this album and Brad Gillis is a totally underrated guitar player. I saw him last year at Sweden Rock Festival and the guy is still bloody awesome.
    I really need to get this on CD as my vinyl is ruined because I played it so much.


  5. I love the artwork and story behind this… I’m tmepted to get it, but I kind of feel like… I dunno, if Ozzy hates it why should I buy it, y’know?

    But then I like Crue’s Theater Of Pain and they hate that. So… Maybe?


        1. It varies a lot. But always up there in the top three are actually three underdogs: Black Sabbath – Born Again at #1. Rotating between #2 and #3 are Deep Purple’s Fireball and Kiss’ Hotter Than Hell.


        2. Fireball is amazing. As is Hotter Than Hell.

          To my shame I haven’t tried Born Again.

          I have a bit of a thing for Who Do We Think We Are? and side 2 of Dynasty too. ‘Dirty Livin’ and ‘Save Your Love’ …. absolute monster tunes!


  6. If you think Ozzy sounds smashed here, you should listen to the undoctored tapes from the two nights at the Ritz from which this album was made. The band’s performances are completely undoctored, but I think the vocals on the album are 100% fake. I don’t know why, he sounds pretty good most of the real live show outside of the opening song where he really struggles. His rants in between songs are even more unhinged and vulgar though.

    Listen at the end where he rants about “getting shitfaced every night” and fucking groupies.


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