REVIEW: Zakk Wylde – Book of Shadows (reissue)

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ZAKK WYLDE – Book of Shadows (1996, 1999 Spitfire reissue with bonus tracks)

There are many albums in my collection that I have bought more than once, just because I love them so much. Kiss Alive for example I’ve owned on LP and CD every time its been reissued. Likewise, Book of Shadows. When this album was issued with the 3 bonus tracks on an extra CD, I made sure I added it to my collection, because this is such an amazing collection of songs and I needed more.

Book of Shadows, Zakk’s second album outside Ozzy (Pride And Glory being the first) was a departure. Every song is largely acoustic, and electric guitar is usually only heard distantly in the mix, or in some of the solos. Instead of shredding, this album is driven by Zakk’s soulful voice, electrifying lyrics (very underrated!) and songwriting excellence.

I recall playing this for Tom and T-Rev when I first picked it up.  Tom’s immediate first reaction was, “This sounds like Hootie and the Blowfish.” The reason for that is Zakk’s deep voice, and the fact that these are mostly mellow acoustic songs. However a few more minutes in, and it was clear that this was a Zakk album. Especially when that first electric guitar solo kicked in. By the time the albums ends on the electric, grinding, Sabbathy-outro to “I Thank You Child”, we had been thoroughly blown away.

Zakk’s lyrics run the gamut from philosophical to funny. “The Things You Do”, for example, seems to be about an ex-girlfriend and contains the lyric, “How do you do the things you do? You make Satan look like Christ, you know it’s true.” Elsewhere, “Way Beyond Empty” is a powerful, mournful song with a chorus so good that it will not let you go. I also enjoyed “Throwin’ It All Away” for its drama and orchestration.  The three bonus tracks are just as good as anything else on the album, particularly “The Color Green”, an indictment of modern greed.  Lyrically the bonus tracks are more topical than the album in general.  They are “Evil Ways”, “The Color Green”, and “Peddlers of Death”.  A vastly different re-recorded version of “Peddlers of Death” later appeared on Black Label Society’s debut album Sonic Brew.

If you are a Zakk fan, obviously this purchase is a must. If you’re not a Zakk fan but you happen to stumble upon this review, do what you can to hear it.  I’m firmly convinced that if Book of Shadows had a larger overall awareness, it could have been a hit album with multiple successful singles.

Band lineup:
Zakk Wylde – lead vocals, guitars, piano
Joe Vitale – drums, keyboards
James Lomenzo – bass

5/5 stars

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40 comments

  1. Hmm, curious!
    I might be aging meself, but my Frosh kit at Western had a mixed CD in it that had various artists on it…one of which was Zakk Wilde and his Between Heaven and Hell…you say this album was 1996? The CD was from 1993, my friend! I still have it and listen to it! He does have a great voice!

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    1. Woah. That’s…interesting. Do you still have it? And yeah! This came out originally in 1996! That doesn’t mean there weren’t songs or earlier recordings out there sooner, but that would also put it high on my priority list! 1993? Could be an earlier demo? In 93 Zakk released some of his earliest solo music…a song called Farm Fiddlin’ had come out on a compilation.

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      1. STOP THE BUS!! I was mistaken!

        I went searching for it in the basement, and found the CD I was thinking of…it wasn’t the Western CD from 1993…it was a David Geffen sampler from 1996 (sorry I got everyone excited…) called “Music for Lawn, Lunch on Limbo: AAA sampler,” which included Zakk Wilde, Aimee Mann and Hayden. I had a friend who got the sampler free working at Backstage Pass. Some decent songs (and not-so-good ones…)

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        1. I don’t have that one, but I do have a few Geffen samplers including one with Zakk Wylde! As you say, some decent songs and some not so good ones. But it’s fun…I’ve been having a real 90’s Nostalgia lately and some of the obscure tracks really bring back memories. Watched Clerks last night. I’m not even supposed to be here today! HOW MANY TIMES DID I HAVE TO SAY THAT IN THE STORE???

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  2. Pride&Glory and Book Of Shadows (the original cd release) are the only two solo albums of Wylde I own. It was cool at the time as he shifted gears from Ozzy Rock to do southern and acoustic rock.
    Both worthy of owning……great review and flashback Mike….

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    1. Thanks Deke! There is a Black Label Society CD you might like, he went acoustic like Book of Shadows. I believe it was called VI: Hangover Music or something like that. It’s not bad. I haven’t played it in a long time but I remember having a similar vibe to this.

      Farm Fiddlin’ is also excellent.

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    1. Oh man! Pride & Glory was so good…southern rock heavy metal. He covered The Wizard on that one (bonus track). I strongly recommend both albums if you like Zakk, but want to hear something different from Black Label Society, because they are not like BLS.

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  3. Wouldn’t have every pictured Zakk & Hootie in the same sentence, interesting!
    I know it’s like asking a parent to pick a favourite child but if you had to choose, Ozzy/Wylde or Ozzy/Rhoads?

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        1. Have you heard this? I’m sorry to post this video again…but Zakk’s playing is the highlight of this terrible, terrible song. And yeah that’s Chad Kroeger on the second verse.

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  4. Oh man, I’m not sure about this. I have this CD, a burned version, though. I have listened to it quite a few times, but it just doesn’t stick, can’t remember one single song. It’s not bad, it just… is. In one ear, out the other, kinda. Thing is, I think that Zakk Wylde is slightly overrated as a solo artist. As a guitar player with Ozzy – Yes. But I prefer both Randy Rhoads and Jake E Lee to Zakk. The Pride And Glory album was ok, had some really good songs, but I find it uneven. And Black Label Society? Could be among the worst piece of crap I have ever laid my ears on ever. As I said, Wyklde is a great guitarist, but he is, to put it mildly, a singer with a limited voice. He really shouldn’t sing. Because, well, he really can’t sing properly – one dimensional with a low range. Sorry, I had to bring out ole chainie for poor Wylde….

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    1. I dunno Jon, yes he has a limited range but his voice has character. This will probably be one of those CDs that we won’t agree on, but I can at least explain what I like. Yes he has no range, but I’d rather hear him sing his own stuff and emote, rather than having a faceless singer in the band.

      Black Label did a couple albums I really like, but I find they suffer from a LOT of sameness from album to album and song to song.

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        1. True…I think that could apply to a band setting like BLS. For something like this, a solo album, I think I prefer Zakk’s voice. It’s well suited to this kind of direction I think. But I’d be into Zakk working with a band again, with different writers and a singer.

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  5. I got a copy of this album on your recommendation ages ago, it’s on a CD-R here somewhere. Haven’t played it in a long time, but my memory tells me I’m with Jon on this one. It’s good, very good, but it just didn’t stick, somehow. Maybe I just missed him adding a guitar squealie every four bars (I’m looking at you, No More Tears!). :)

    I’ll see if I can dig up that copy, give it another spin. Failing that, the youtubes seem to be hosting the full album…

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  6. Ah, this sound like a good album. Definitely one of those mellow albums which I do enjoy, knowing my tastes are very eclectic.

    Also, I’m glad you know KingCrimsonProg. He originally inspired me to start writing reviews.

    I’ve just gotten “Born Again” so this album might be on the back burner of things to buy.

    You’ve done it again, Mike.

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    1. Cool! I only recently discovered his blog. I’m following him now.

      Keep it on the back burning but if you find it cheap somewhere, definitely pick it up, you won’t regret that!

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        1. He’s been Joe Walsh’s main drummer since the 70’s. Co-wrote Rocky Mountain Way, done a lot of other stuff but thats what he’s most known for.

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