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.