Ozzy Osbourne has done lots and lots of tours since his “No More Tours Tour”. It seemed special at the time, because we thought Live & Loud was going to be the last live album. It was not. What was supposed to be a definitive and indispensable capstone is just another live album, only really notable for its packaging.
Let’s start there. If you buy this album, don’t buy the remastered edition in the jewel case. This album didn’t need remastering a couple years later. Why would it? Instead search for the original digipack with the metal speaker grille cover. Finding one in good shape can be a challenge. Unfortunately, the metal grille is not removable although the VHS release did have a removable grille. The release also came with two Ozzy “temporary tattoos” on little 2″ x 2″ sheets of paper. These are the first things to get lost and you might want to consider that you’ll never find them.
Live & Loud scores an A+ for packaging, but gets mediocre grades for the music. This is patched together from a variety of recordings, and it sounds like a lot of fixing was done after the fact. It’s bogged down with over-long guitar and drum solos (Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo) and too much talking. There is only so much that one needs to be told to “go fucking crazy”. Ozzy proclaims that he loves us so often that it loses all meaning. He’s more of a cheerleader than a singer at times, constantly badgering the crowd to get “louder”! There is also an annoyingly long intro that means nothing without the visual accompaniment that’s supposed to go with it. I will admit that my buddy Peter and I were amused when Ozzy said “Let me see your fucking cigarette lighters” during “Mr. Crowley”.
On the plus side, this particular lineup of Ozzy’s band was one of his strongest. Zakk and Randy were joined by bassist Mike Inez who was invited to join Alice in Chains in 1993. Another plus is the presence of Black Sabbath. The second to last song is “Black Sabbath”, performed by the original Black Sabbath, at the final show on the tour. Fans will recall that Sabbath were touring their incredible Dehumanizer album, which frankly blows away Ozzy’s No More Tears. When Sabbath (then including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio) were asked to open for Ozzy at his final two concerts, Dio bailed. He was replaced for those shows by a little known metal singer named Rob Halford. At the last of the two shows, the original Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward reunited to play a three song set. It was their first time together since Live Aid in 1985.
Unfortunately, a couple tracks aside, Live & Loud is flat and uninspired. “Black Sabbath” isn’t brilliant but at least it’s historic. All the important songs are there, with maybe a few too many from No More Tears. There is one surprise in “Changes”, the old Sabbath classic. This is performed by Zakk on piano and Ozzy. It’s brilliant and was used as the single. “Mr. Crowley”, “Shot in the Dark” and “Desire” are pretty good, but drummer Randy Castillo was killing it. He was the perfect drummer for that band. Rest in peace Randy.
Live & Loud is for the serious fan only, who will really want to get the grille cover. Live & Loud is not consistent enough for the average listener and gets bogged down in spots making it a very long run.