Lee Kerslake

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Best of Ozz (1989 Japanese exlusive)

Second of an Ozzy double shot! For the other review, Randy Rhoads Tribute, click here.  

OZZY OSBOURNE – Best of Ozz (1989 CBS Japan exclusive)

Japanese releases are such interesting things.  Sometimes they are chock full of bonus tracks and additional goodies, and sometimes they are not.  This CD is one that is not.

Even though this album came out after No Rest for the Wicked (1988),  this Best Of Ozz includes no songs from that album or with guitarist Zakk Wylde.  The songs are drawn from the first four Ozzy studio albums only, and the CD contains only 10 tracks.  You have to shrug your shoulders at some of the song selections.  “Secret Loser” and “Centre of Eternity” are on this, but not “Suicide Solution” or “I Don’t Know”.

Those two aside, however, this ain’t a bad but brief run through the land of Ozz.  “Crazy Train”: check.  “Bark at the Moon”: check.  “Mr. Crowley”: check.  “Shot in the Dark”: check.  They get some bonus points for deeper cuts such as “Diary of a Madman”, “Over the Mountain” and “Goodbye to Romance”.   I’m also glad “The Ulimate Sin” was included, as that song has sort of been erased from Ozzy’s canon since then, in a manner of speaking.  He doesn’t like reissuing any songs from that album.

Interestingly, each track alternates guitar players: Randy, Jake, Randy, Jake, through the whole BEST OF OZZ_0005album.  The result is an uneven listen.  I don’t know why they did that.

The tracks are most likely the original CD masters.  There are no liner notes indicating they had been remastered and I think it would be highly unlikely.  Since there is nothing exclusive to be had on Best of Ozz, and since it is limited to just 10 tracks and lacks Zakk Wylde, this CD is nothing more than a collectible to me.  I don’t remember what I paid for it, but I bought it from T-Rev’s store.  I probably paid about $16.99 or so.  The CD itself is scratched a little bit, but not bad enough to skip or play defectively.  Most appealing to me, the original obi strip was intact, and there’s a lyric sheet with Japanese writing and amusing sketches.  Bizarrely, some of these sketches are of Zakk Wylde, even though he’s not on the album.

I’ve listened to Best of Ozz exactly twice: when I purchased it, and when I reviewed it.

2/5 stars

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REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Randy Rhoads Tribute (1987, 2002 remaster)

Originally, I got this for my birthday in 1987.  This is the first of a two-day OZZY DOUBLE SHOT!

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0001OZZY OSBOURNE – Randy Rhoads Tribute (1987, 2002 Sony remastered edition)

It took years for Ozzy to be emotionally ready to release this live album, recorded for intentional release in 1982.  When Randy died, it was quickly shelved and replaced by Speak of the Devil, an album consisting entirely of live Black Sabbath covers.  When Tribute was released in ’87, it was my first real exposure to the talent of Randy Rhoads.  I think Tribute still stands as the very best testament to Randy.

Finally restored to CD was the concert opening featuring a recording of “O Fortuna” from Orff’s Carmina Burana. This essential part of the concert was edited off the 1995 remastered edition, a CD which I advise everyone to stay away from. If you have it, get rid of it and replace it with this one.

“I Don’t Know” is a dynamite opener.  Ozzy’s vocal sounds heavily processed and thickened up in the mix.  Whatever tampering is done with it, I don’t know (pun intended).  What I do know is that Randy Rhoads’ live guitar is so much more than it was in the studio.  Unleashed, Randy makes every lick that much more different from the last, unafraid to throw every trick in his very large book out for you to hear.  His live sound seemed thicker, but it’s his playing that steals the show, as it should. It’s looser live, Randy pulling off wild sounds midstream at all times. He was obviously someone who had clear ideas about what he wanted to play along with the ability to execute them.

The single/video from this live album was “Crazy Train”, featuring Ozzy’s new 1987 hair cut.  The album version is longer but no less definitive.  Not only is Randy’s playing at its peak, but I like drummer Tommy Aldridge’s busier fills.  In my mind, the live version of “Crazy Train” kills the original.

“Believer” is a bit of a slow point in the show.  That’s Rudy Sarzo, Randy’s old Quiet Riot bandmate, on that bass intro.  Future Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey is also present, providing the haunting opening to the classic “Mr. Crowley”.  What an astounding version, too.  Once again, I’d call this one pretty close to definitive.  Lifting the clouds away, the set goes to the party anthem “Flying High Again”.  Revealing my naivete at the time, I had no idea what Ozzy was talking about when he said, “It’s a  number entitled ‘Flying High’ so keep on smokin’ them joints!”  I truly did not know what a joint was, or what “flying high” referred to.  I assumed the song was about feeling good, and I suppose that it is.  My friends and I didn’t know, and I think that’s the great thing about rock lyrics.

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0004When I was really young, I didn’t like ballads or slow songs that much, but Ozzy was one of the exceptions.  “Revelation (Mother Earth)” might be somber but it is also powerful, and with Randy Rhoads on guitar, you can never get to be too soft!  Going back to Black Sabbath, Ozzy was always an anti-war crusader.  “Mother Earth” seems to be a continuation of that theme.  I always found it funny that during the 80’s, Ozzy was always being accused of devil worship by people who had no clue.  Meanwhile, Ozzy’s singing about nuclear disarmament.

Two long-bombers in a row follow: complete with drum solo, it’s “Steal Away (The Night)” followed by an extended “Suicide Solution” with Randy’s solo.  The “Steal Away” drum solo is still classic to me, but it’s “Suicide Solution” that no serious rock fan should be without.

The setlist detours to Sabbath covers next: a trio of “Iron Man”, “Children of the Grave”, and “Paranoid”.  The two Ozzy guitarists who handle Sabbath best are Zakk and Randy.  Randy doesn’t play by the rules at all.  He throws in licks and tricks that were not on the Sabbath originals in any way, but somehow it all works.  Randy was just untouchable in that way.  Everything he played was classy and perfect.

RANDY RHOADS TRIBUTE_0003Two older recordings conclude the live portion of this album:  “Goodbye to Romance” and “No Bone Movies”, recorded earlier with Bob Daisley on bass and Lee Kerslake on drums.  I don’t see that in the credits anywhere, nor do I remember seeing it on the original CD’s credits.  “SHARON!”  I will say that “Goodbye to Romance” blows the original away in my books.

The album closes with an alternate studio version of the acoustic Randy piece “Dee”, named for his mother Delores Rhoads.  This version includes outtakes of mistakes and Randy speaking, and it’s a haunting way to end the album.  Especially when Randy says, “Let’s hear that,” takes off his guitar and headphones, and goes into the control room, ending the track.  It feels interrupted, like Randy’s life.

In the liner notes, Ozzy himself states that “What you are about to hear are the only live recordings of Randy and I,” but that was clearly incorrect, since there was already the Mr. Crowley EP, and later on, a whole other live album included with the deluxe Diary of a Madman.  The booklet also includes an insightful letter from Mrs. Rhoads to the fans.  Rest in peace, Randy.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive single)

FLYING HIGH AGAIN_0003

OZZY OSBOURNE – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive)

Here’s something of an underappreciated item.  Everybody knows that Ozzy and Sharon re-recorded the drums and bass on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman back in 2002.  In retrospect this was a shrewd move despite the fan backlash.  In Lucas-esque fashion, it enabled them to restore the original versions for much-hyped reissues in 2011.  To usher in these new/old releases, Record Store Day shoppers were able to buy a replica original “Flying High Again” single.

Both the reissue and the original 1981 single featured the B-side, “I Don’t Know”, recorded live at an unspecified gig.  Like Diary of a Madman itself, this B-side had its bass and drums re-recorded in 2002.  It is difficult to hear the differences, but listen to the bass tracks right around the 2:10 minute mark.  Where Bob Daisley plays lots of interesting harmonics, the re-recorded version has Rob Trujillo hitting the lows.  The bass parts are very different.

DIARY_0001

The credits on the 2002 edition of Diary indicate all tracks, “live” one included, were remixed with new bass and drums.

When Diary was reissued in 2011, it did not include this B-side, but instead an entire (different) concert on a bonus CD. Therefore the original version of the “I Don’t Know” B-side remains a vinyl exclusive.  Cool.  I am not sure why this was not advertised on the single sleeve or in the media.  In fact, I’ve owned this single for two years without putting 2 + 2 together.  The “Flying High Again” vinyl single is the only place you can get the original, untampered “I Don’t Know” live B-side!

For that reason alone:

5/5 stars

But is this worth $12 as per the price tag?  That’s one thing that bugs me about these singles today.  I understand that manufacturing costs have changed and it’s a niche item, but still!  $12 for one song.    One song, because they were going to sell us all “Flying High Again” itself on the Diary reissue, as advertised on the front.

Price: 2/5 stars