Randy Rhoads Tribute

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

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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

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL_0004

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – iTunes Festival London 2010 / “How?” (iTunes exclusives)

Today, T-Rev, Wes and I are attending The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale in Mississauga, Ontario. Wish us luck in our musical quests! For today, an Ozzy rarities review.

OZZY OZBOURNE – iTunes Festival 2010 (iTunes exclusive EP)

Jesus Murphy!  How much live product does Ozzy need?  Remember back in the 80’s when he used to moan and moan about record companies who wanted to release live stuff with his hits and Sabbath tunes?  Well, for a guy who complained about it, he sure didn’t break the cycle.

This is Ozzy’s third live EP (after Live E.P. and Just Say Ozzy).  For those keeping score, Ozzy also has four full length or double live albums, a live bonus disc to the Diary of a Madman album, and several live bonus tracks.  But who’s keeping track?  I guess it’s kind of cool that this EP was released three days after it was recorded on July 3, 2010…if you were there…or even knew it was happening…I guess.

Anyway this live EP was cool at least because it was the first live product available with Ozzy’s new guitar wizard Gus G.  The band was rounded out by Blasko (bass), Tommy Clufetos (drums) and Adam Wakeman (keys).  Hmm, didn’t two of those guys also play on the last Black Sabbath tour?

It’s entertaining enough, but any Ozzy live product in the last 20 years has felt like “just another live album” to me.  Even with the new lineup on this one, I can’t feel too excited.  At least I got one song that I didn’t have any live versions of:  the new “Let Me Hear You Scream”.  Oh, wait, hold on — another live version was on the Scream tour edition that was released a few months later!  Jesus!  This iTunes version sound like it has loads of taped backing vocals.  Too bad.

“Mr. Crowley” is next, a fine version, nothing wrong with it, after all these years nothing can compete with the version on Randy Rhoads Tribute.  Gus G plays the solo pretty much perfectly, but something’s missing.  Maybe it’s that the song is tuned down for Ozzy’s voice.  Ozzy reminds us that he wants to see “some fuckin’ hands”.  Another Blizzard of Ozz track follows, “I Don’t Know”.  Gus G gets to do some more original shredding here, as he puts his own spin on an Ozzy classic.  This guy will be a guitarist to watch, as he grows.

“Suicide Solution” is the third of three tracks from Blizzard.  I think it’s a shame that Ozzy keeps playing the oldies while leaving more recent songs behind him.  On this EP, only “Let Me Hear You Scream” is newer than 1991.  I for one would probably poop if I got to hear something like “Perry Mason” or “Trap Door”.  At least Gus G breaks the world landspeed record with his solo.

One song I never liked, ever, is “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from No More Tears.  This is the fifth version I own now.  It’s just…I dunno…I hate the chorus.  It’s too pop for Ozzy.  It’s like Bon Ozzy, or something.  Ozz Jovi.

My favourite track is last:  “War Pigs”.  Even though “War Pigs” is on pretty much every Ozzy live album ever made, this version is one of the most fun!  I just love when Ozzy tells the audience this:

“Clap your fuckin’ hands, come on you fuckin’ assholes!”

That is just hilarious!  I always laugh.  When I put this song on mix discs, I always label it “War Pigs (‘You fuckin’ assholes’ version)”.

OZZY OZBOURNE – “How?” (2010 iTunes single)

The last thing I want to talk about is Ozzy’s studio version of John Lennon’s “How?”.  This is also an iTunes exclusive, released in October 2010, shortly after the EP.  It was released on what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, with the proceeds going to Amnesty International.

Causes and good intentions aside, I think this version is just as crappy as anything on Ozzy’s dreadful Under Cover CD.  This is just…dull, boring, and not good.  I don’t know who played on it or produced it because there are no credits.  (Physical product!  This is why I care!)

iTunes Festival London 2010:  2.5/5 stars

“How?”:  1/5 stars

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – The Randy Rhoads Years (1993)

QR FRONT

QUIET RIOT – The Randy Rhoads Years (1993 Rhino)

Growing up in the 1980’s, Quiet Riot was the first “metal” band I liked.  Back then, we were aware that Quiet Riot had two albums prior to Metal Health.  These albums seemed unobtainable forever at best, mythical at worst!  The first two, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II, were released in Japan only.  Later on, I did manage to get both albums, so I have a unique perspective on this CD:  The Randy Rhoads Years, by Quiet Riot.

See, here’s a nutshell version of the story:  QR lead howler and co-founder Kevin DuBrow had wanted to re-release the Randy material for years.   Randy himself was never happy with those albums, nor his guitar sound on those albums.  In light of this, the late guitarist’s mother Delores was very guarded of Randy’s legacy.  She knew that Randy felt the albums consisted of sub-par songs with horrible production. DuBrow eventually won her blessing to re-release some of the old Quiet Riot material, but on one condition only: Get the quality of the songs up to snuff so it doesn’t tarnish Randy’s legacy.

So that’s what he did, using all the means available, and the result is a highly modified collection of Quiet Riot songs with Randy Rhoads.

I can tell people out there who haven’t heard the first two albums that they do sound awful. That’s not a myth. Randy’s guitar is but a shadow of what it would become, and the songs are mostly pretty bad, especially on the first album. The second is much better (particularly in the songwriting category) but it is still hampered by poor production. So what could DuBrow do to get permission to do a re-release?

He started by picking out six of the better songs from the first two records:  “Mama’s Little Angels”, “It’s Not So Funny”, and “Look in Any Window” from Quiet Riot, and  “Trouble”, “Killer Girls”, and “Afterglow (Of Your Love)” from Quiet Riot II.  All of these songs were heavily remixed, with completely re-recorded vocals, from scratch.  DuBrow felt, probably  correctly, that his original singing voice on those albums was too “boy-ish”.

DuBrow re-sampled all the drums, and re-recorded all of Randy’s guitar tracks through a Marshall stack.  Randy had confided with Kevin that he was happiest with the way his guitar sounded live with Ozzy, so Kevin recorded the original, sterile guitar tracks through Carlos Cavazo’s amps.  They used the Randy Rhoads Tribute CD as a guide.

On one guitar solo, Kevin knew that Randy wished he had used a wah-wah, but couldn’t afford the pedal at the time.  Kevin played the wah-wah pedal himself, using Randy’s guitar tracks, a unique form of collaboration between two friends.

With the Small Faces cover, “Afterglow”, Kevin came up with a cool idea.  “Unplugged” albums were on trend, so Kevin stripped all the drums and electric instruments off the track, leaving just Randy’s bare acoustic guitar.  It is like stripping a layer of paint off old beautiful old wood:  the bare guitar track reveals previously unheard warmth.  Kevin re-sang the vocal, kept the electric guitar solo intact, and used a triangle sample to cover up places where the original drums had leaked into Randy’s mike.  This painstaking work created from the ground up an incredible alternate version that Randy would hopefully have been very proud of.

None of these people are Frankie Banali.

None of these people are Frankie Banali.

One of Quiet Riot II‘s best songs is “Trouble”.  Kevin felt that it plodded too much, so he slightly sped it up which also raised its pitch.  He then re-sang it, and the result is a much better song.  Suddenly “Trouble” is a rich sounding hit-worthy rock track.

“Killer Girls” had some minor tampering, a blast of guitar where previously there was nothing.  It is “Last Call For Rock ‘n’ Roll” that is most changed.  Previously titled “Mama’s Little Angels” on Quiet Riot, Kevin re-wrote what he thought was a juvenile lyric.  (It was about trashing the house playing a game of “indoor baseball”.)  Bobby Rondinelli, who was working with Kevin on a Quiet Riot album called Terrified at the time, helped him re-write the tune.  Unfortunately, regardless of all this work, the song is still just a stock sounding track, nothing special, aside from Randy’s always classy if underplayed guitar work.

The rest of the album consists of unreleased songs.  One of the most exciting is a live take of “Laughing Gas” which Quiet Riot never cut in the studio.  It comprised an evolving, extended Randy Rhoads guitar solo.  Within it, you can hear the kernels of ideas that later became Ozzy Osbourne classics such as “Dee” and “Crazy Train”.  Even this “live” track is tampered with:  Kevin re-recorded his lead vocals (even the “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Randy Rhoads!” part) and actually spliced two different guitar solos together into one.  You can hear the splice point between the two quite clearly.  Of course this makes the solo no less jaw-dropping.

“Picking Up the Pieces” and “Breaking Up is a Heartbreak” are two of a kind.  Kevin says these come from their “pop” period after the second album, just before Randy was off to work with Ozzy.  They were getting more desperate for hits, and wrote these two melodic, radio-ready tunes.  Both are excellent.  Much like “Trouble”, these two songs are world-class.  Kevin re-recorded the vocals and so on just as he did with the other tracks.  At this time, bassist Kelly Garni had left the band and Randy played bass himself.

Lastly, “Force of Habit” is the only bare, untampered song.  In the liner notes, Kevin says they lost the original master tapes, so he was unable to remix or re-record any of it.  I think it’s an excellent heavy song on its own.  In fact, Ozzy Osbourne must have thought so as well, since parts of this song later became “Suicide Solution”!

This work,  and “Laughing Gas” in particular were enough to convince the Rhoads family to go forward with this album. If Kevin hadn’t done this, undoubtedly we would never have seen this release. On the other hand, this isn’t the way Randy recorded it, and Randy obviously had no input to how the tracks were mixed.  This has polarized fans, some of whom thought Kevin was the great Satan, others just enjoying the album for what it is.

I enjoy the album for what it is.  I like it a lot, actually.  I do have misgivings about the tampering, but since I own the first two albums, that feeling has subsided.  I can back up the claims that the first two albums are pretty poor.

Kevin had planned on a second volume, including such treasures as Quiet Riot’s metallic cover of “The Mighty Quinn”.  He had also mentioned a home video, including the extended “Laughing Gas” guitar solo.  Sadly DuBrow, will never get to complete these Rhoads reissues.

4/5 stars