By 1997, Ozzy had reclaimed his crown as the prince of darkness. The successful Ozzfest, including a partial Black Sabbath reunion (Mike Bordin instead of Bill Ward) had introduced Ozzy to a wave of nu-metal youngesters. Why not cap the year off with a greatest hits album? It wasn’t Ozzy’s first (1989’s Best of Ozz preceding it) but it was his first for most of the world. Incredibly, given the Ozzy camp’s ability to muck up important releases from time to time, it was a particularly good package.
The Ozzman Cometh has had a number of issues over the years, but we won’t get into the ones that came after Sharon meddled around with re-recorded tracks. Initially there was a limited edition 2 CD set and a standard single disc. The lucky fans in Japan got an expanded 2 CD set with two bonus tracks. That’s the one you see pictured here. It comes in a non-standard extra thick jewel case due to the extra Japanese booklet inside.
The big deal of this new compilation was the inclusion of recently discovered early Black Sabbath tapes — “Ozzy’s 1970 basement tapes”. Wikipedia tells us that these are actually BBC recordings: “The John Peel Sessions” of 26 April 1970. These have yet to be included on any Sabbath deluxe, so you have to be sure to get The Ozzman Cometh to complete your Sabbath collections. “Black Sabbath” and “War Pigs” commence the set right out of the gate. These tapes are raw but clean, and Geezer Butler has remarkable presence. It’s a very sharp picture of what young Black Sabbath sounded like. The lyrics are still a work in progress for those who love such differences, but Ozzy sounds even more like a man possessed. “War Pigs” is still in its “Walpurgis” form, the “Satanic” version, and this is the clearest you will likely hear it.
Onto the hits: Ozzy’s grudge against The Ultimate Sin was apparently already in play. On the US CD, only one track from the Jake E. Lee era was included and it’s “Bark at the Moon”. In Japan, “Shot in the Dark” is substituted in replacing Zakk Wylde’s “Miracle Man”, bringing the Lee content to two. However the Randy Rhoads era is the star of the disc, with his version of “Paranoid” lifted from the Tribute album. Included are, for the most part, the expected usual Rhoads songs: “Crazy Train”, “Goodbye to Romance”, and “Mr. Crowley”, but no “I Don’t Know”. Instead it’s the more interesting “Over the Mountain”.
As for Zakk Wylde’s legacy, it’s hobbled by the missing “Miracle Man”, since “Crazy Babies” doesn’t adequately capture his madness. “No More Tears” is present as a single edit, and “Mama, I’m Coming Home” is necessary for any hits CD catering to people who just want some Ozzy songs they like. It’s unfortunate that “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from Live & Loud takes up space. The Zakk era ends with two good songs: “I Just Want You”, the excellent dark ballad from Ozzmosis, and “new” song “Back on Earth”. You had to have a new song, and according to the liner notes this was an unreleased one from the Ozzmosis era featuring Geezer Butler on bass. Fortunately it doesn’t sound like an inferior song, just one too many ballads for the album. (It’s written by Taylor Rhodes and Richie Supa.)
The second CD contains more treasure. “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” are bonus Sabbath songs from the same Peel session. Like the first two, they are crisp and probably essential to any serious fan of the original lineup.
Japan got two extra songs from movie soundtracks, enabling you to get them on an Ozzy CD. The first is the excellent “Walk on Water”, Ozzy’s only studio recording with Zakk Wylde’s replacement Joe Holmes. If you wanted to know what an Ozzy album with Holmes would have sounded like, here’s a good indication. It would have been not too dissimilar from Ozzmosis but with some really different guitar playing. Sure sounds like Mike Bordin on drums! The other soundtrack song is “Pictures of Matchstick Men” featuring Type O Negative as the backing band. It’s pretty forgettable.
The Ozzy interview from 1988 is 17 minutes of nothing special. Here’s an interesting fact for you. When stores were solicited for this album in 1997, I can distinctly remember the papers saying the interview would be a new one conducted by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I no longer have that piece of paper, and memory is what it is these days, but that’s what it said. For whatever reason the 1988 one was used instead. Go ahead and let me know how often you play it. You can tell it was taped in the UK, at a rehearsal or soundcheck, because you can hear Zakk wailing away in the background.
The Japanese CD also comes with a neat sticker sheet with all of Ozzy’s album artwork on it. I think the US CD has some screen savers. I’d rather have the stickers.
Ozzy and company did the greatest hits thing right and have never actually done it this well since. May as well track down a 2 CD Ozzman Cometh and get those Black Sabbath tracks you’re missing.
GETTING MORE TALE #804: Freestylin’
I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write. I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers. I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys. Just listening; not reviewing. You have to spend time just listening.
I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days. My main room music setup is seldom used anymore. Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns. Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones. It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window. Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white. It is December 20th, 2019.
I dared go to the mall today. Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock). Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission. It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless. I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack. I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.
I do know this. A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March. Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set. I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care! I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box. The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga. That’s 9 films. Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set. That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays? That’s one possibility. With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special. Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.
This Quiet Riot album is decent. I liked Jamed Durbin with that band. You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill. I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come. You can do this, Frankie. The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks. You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written. I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics. Those two are not bad. They hold up better than I thought they would. It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar. Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue. The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle. The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.
In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001). I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested. Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review. I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles. I like having B-sides.
I think I’ve rambled long enough. Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader. Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!
And may the Force be with you, always.
WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXIX: jeff vwcj edition
It’s time for 10 more WTF Search Terms! WTF Search Terms are those weird and wacky things that people typed into search engines to get here. This instalment is a mixed bag, some of which I can explain and some I cannot!
1. is jeff vwcj bliw vy blow valuable
This person, with fingers too large for their phone, is asking if Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow album is valuable. Would you have figured it out?
2. what year did ozzy do the randy rhodes tribute tour
A reasonable question — except there was no such “tribute” tour. The Randy Rhoads Tribute live album came out in 1987 and there was no tour to support it. It was recorded on 1982’s Diary of a Madman tour.
3. has bret michaels and richie kotzen made up
Again, a minor detail is wrong here — Richie Kotzen had an affair with Rikki Rockett’s fiance, not Bret’s. And I doubt they have spoken since!
4. gucci gang song, rhetorical analysis
You’re in luck! I already did a lyrical analysis of this Lil’ Pump hit song. There wasn’t much to analyse in “Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang, Gucci gang.”
It’s all downhill from here, though. A series of dirty searches from dirty minds make up the remainder:
5. mary wiseman ass
Mary Wiseman is one of the cast members on the new Star Trek. No pictures of her ass here, sorry.
6. xxx kissing videos in hd bluray
Wait…xxx kissing videos? Xxx rated videos of people kissing? Just trying to understand, here. Glad you’re onto HD though….
7. fuaking juniar
It just sounds dirty.
8. amanda seyfried feet porn
Jesus not again!? This is the second time! Well, here is the picture you like, one more time:
9. new boys fucking
10. bigbas porn
It’s all about the bass? I dunno. I’m reaching here!
You lucky, lucky readers! Guess what? It’s….
THE BEST FUCKING COLLABORATION WEEK EVER!
All week, Aaron over at the KeepsMeAlive and I will be colluding. Monday to Friday, we will be talking about the same CDs. He hasn’t read my reviews, and I haven’t read his. Today, we’re both discussing Quiet Riot‘s landmark Metal Health. Be sure to check both reviews each day this week!
Aaron’s installment: QUIET RIOT – Metal Health
QUIET RIOT – Metal Health (1983, 2001 Sony remastered edition)
While my first rock album ever was Kilroy Was Here, by Styx, my first metal album ever was this one: Metal Health, by Quiet Riot. Although I was really into Styx, Quiet Riot were the first band that I “loved”. Some music that people liked when they were in grade school embarrasses them today that they ever owned it. Not me, not this album. Since buying it in ’84, I’ve owned this album on cassette, LP and twice on CD. And I’ll probably buy it again; I understand there is a more recent reissue out with more bonus tracks. Metal Health was the crucial cornerstone in my musical development, and always will be one of my all-time favourites. Read on!
The opening drum crash to “Metal Health”, sometimes also referred to as “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)”, instantly transports me back in time. Chuck Wright played bass on this one, extra slinky and funky (although Rudy Sarzo plays on most of the album). Suddenly I’m in the basement at my parents’ house, listening to this cassette on my old Sanyo ghetto blaster. I still recall, the cassette shell was white. I played the crap out of it, annoying everyone.
“I got a mouth like an alligator” sings lead howler Kevin DuBrow, and how accurate he was. I had no idea that Kevin’s mouth would cause the band to oust him only a few years down the road. I liked the attitude of the lyrics, and the aggression of the guitars. Impossible to ignore was new drummer Frankie Banali, who to this day is an absolute ballcrusher of a hard rock drummer. His metronomic groove on Metal Health gave it the drive. I wouldn’t have been able to break it down and articulate it like that when I was a kid, but these are the factors that attracted me to the song.
“Cum On Feel The Noize”, the Slade cover, is now more famous than the Slade original or Oasis’ version for that matter. It’s a great tune, but Quiet Riot and producer Spencer Proffer nailed the sound and the vibe. The gang vocals are irresistible. The cover was a huge hit, but it painted them into a corner.
Much like my first rock purchase Kilroy Was Here, there were songs I liked and songs I hated. I don’t think I was the only 12 year old kid who didn’t have the patience for ballads. Girls? Who cares! So I also hated “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. I wasn’t obsessive about listening to whole albums back then, since I was brought up in the LP age where we just dropped the needle. So I often fast-forwarded through “Don’t Wanna Let You Go”. Or we would play side one of the cassette, rewind, and play it again. (“Don’t Wanna Let You Go” was on side two of the cassette version). Shortly after I suddenly noticed girls were EVERYWHERE, the song started to click with me. Its sparse arrangement driven by Frankie’s drums make it a really special song. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar solo had melody and composition to it, and drew my attention to the fact that a guitar solo wasn’t just a 30 second bore, but a micro-structure within the song, like a song all its own.
“Slick Black Cadillac” is a remake of a song from the second Quiet Riot album (cleverly titled Quiet Riot II) although we didn’t know that at the time. “Slick Black Cadillac” is simply a classic today, and even though there isn’t a Randy Rhoads writing credit on it, you can hear the echo of his influence in Carlos’ guitar fills. The lyrics to this song are so catchy, and soon you too will be singin’ about those solid gold hubcaps. I was attracted to songs that told a story, and the rudimentary story here is a guy in a Caddy runnin’ from the “coppers on his trail”. There’s no Dylanesque poetry, and DuBrow was never a crooner. This is about loud guitars and drums, a singer who is screaming his face off, and songs about cars and rocking!
You know I got a fully equipped rock ‘n’ roll machine,
At speeds that take me high, high, high,
At dead man’s curve,
I only hear one word, drive, drive, drive!
Love’s A Bitch” is less successful but it has a mournful quality that isn’t bad. “Breathless” is better, a fast rocker featuring Frankie’s breakneck but steady pounding of the skins. Following at the same pace, “Run for Cover” is just as furious, but lacking in melody. Carlos Cavazo’s guitar showcase “Battle Axe” used to precede “Slick Black Cadillac” on my cassette version, which it was perfectly suited for. On the original LP and the CD, it opens “Let’s Get Crazy”. Because the running order of the cassette is permanently branded into my memory, it’s hard to get used to. “Let’s Get Crazy” is goofy, seemingly an attempt to have another song like “Metal Health” on the same album. As such it’s filler.
Finally there is “Thunderbird”, the piano-based ballad that Kevin wrote for the late Randy Rhoads. Didn’t like it then, love it today.* It’s a beautiful song and maybe the best thing DuBrow’s ever written. It’s cheesy as hell, but who cares? The heart is there.
CD bonus tracks include a fun live take of “Slick Black Cadillac” (complete with DuBrow’s “vrroooom, vrrrrroooom!”) taken from a radio promo release. Also present is “Danger Zone”, an outtake that is not quite up to the album standards, but certainly close. Remastering is loud and clear, and liner notes are informative enough.
Enjoy. Doesn’t matter if it’s 1984 or 2015, this is a great album.
* When we were kids, my sister and I used to play ‘air bands’ to this album. I’d always make her sing “Thunderbird” while I would get the ‘better’ songs!
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 album. 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.
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.
Happy Hallowe’en! AAHOOOOOOOH! Bark at the moon!
OZZY OSBOURNE – Bark at the Moon (2002 Sony, unadvertised remixed)
Much like Diary and Blizzard, when Bark At The Moon was reissued in 2002, it was also remixed. People who own my preferred edition of this beloved Ozzy classic have noticed the unadvertised remix. (There was no sticker on the cover indicating this album was remixed, and it was also ignored in press releases. The liner notes claim this was mixed by Tony Bongiovi, like the original.) Why this was done is a mystery to me, I’ve never read anything about it. All I can say is that you’ll notice particularly on Jake E. Lee’s solos, the overall sonics, and some keyboard parts as well. The ending to some songs, and the beginnings of others are very different. Maybe Ozzy thought the album sounded dated? The remix seems as if they were trying for the drums and effects to sound “current”. Which is silly, of course. This year’s “current” is next year’s out of date, but classic will always be classic.
Either way, the original mix of Bark has been an underdog favourite for many years. Ozzy seems to really want to bury the Jake years. He only plays the title track live, none of the other songs. Granted, “Bark at the Moon” is clearly an outstanding track. There are still some lesser-known classics here equally good as the album tracks on Diary or Blizzard. For example, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel”. This riff monster sounds like the natural successor to some of the best moments on Diary. There are a ton of great songs here. “You’re No Different”, which is one of those great Ozz slow burners is another one. I’ve always liked “Slow Down” and of course “Waiting for Darkness”. Ozzy had gothed out his sound a lot more on this album and you’ll hear a lot more keyboards and even strings.
Ozzy was in a bad place back in ’83. Still hurting from the death of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was forced to audition players again, a process he hated. Jake E. Lee (ex-Ruff Cutt) was selected, perhaps due to his ability to meld white hot riffs with neoclassical shredding. Bassist Bob Daisley returned, as did drummer Tommy Aldridge, who had played on the last tour. Don Airey returned for keyboard duties, creating a spooky atmosphere for the Ozzman to prowl.
And prowl he did. This is a hard rocking album, probably harder than the two Rhoads discs. It is also a dark sounding album. Blizzard has a lot of musical joy on it; you can hear that these guys were stoked to be playing those songs. Bark sounds a bit tired by comparison, a bit like a druggy haze. “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)” is an example of a song that has all these qualities. It has a hard, almost Sabbathy guitar riff, but is cloaked in darkness.
“Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel” is the most upbeat song. Who doesn’t like a song about rebellion in the name of rock and roll? It also has obvious references to the TV preachers who were out to get Ozzy at the time, so the song is like a big middle finger from Ozzy. “I’m a just a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, I’ll tell you no lies. They say I worship the devil, they must be stupid or blind.”
Then you have the jokey weird ballad, “So Tired”. At least that’s how I heard it then, and still hear it now. The video seems to emphasize the jokey aspect. Who doesn’t love to see Ozzy dressed up as monsters? As far as the song goes, I have no idea what they were thinking at the time. Maybe it was the drugs? Another weird thing — even thought I think the song is a joke, I love it!
As mentioned, since the remix changes the sound of the album and swaps out solos here and there, pick up one of the earlier CD editions. The 1995 remaster is pretty good; it contained the B-side “Spiders” (sometimes written as “Spiders In The Night”). Unfortunately even though it’s a well sought rarity, it’s not one of Ozzy’s better songs. It’s an obvious B-side. Better (because it’s funnier) is “One Up The B-Side” which makes its CD debut on this edition. “The bent overture”. Heh.
Now that Ozzy and Sharon have seen the light and finally reissued the original mixes of Blizzard and Diary, one can always hope for a long term Ozzy reissue program. I’d like to see the original mix of Bark At The Moon made available again. I think it’s a shame that Ozzy seems to have disowned most of the Jake E. Lee era. Jake was and remains a great guitarist — check out his work on the incredible Badlands album.
4.5/5 stars (original)
3.5/5 stars (remix)
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.
I 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.