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