Thursday, June 2, 2011

Pick Of The Week: Ozzy Osbourne Reissues

It has been awhile since I last offered a pick of the week post but this pick is far too excellent to pass up. In a week, highlighted by new albums from Black Lips and My Morning Jacket as well as a stateside release of Kate Bush's newest release, it a reissued pair of early 80's headbanging classics that truly shine this week. No matter which reissued variation you buy, the separate albums or the box set, the 2011 editions of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman are worthy additions to your collection..

Although I really hate to use this comparison but Blizzard of Ozz was for Ozzy Osbourne in 1980 what Black Sabbath was for Black Sabbath, Osbourne's former band, 10 years earlier, a proper introduction to a force that would help shape a new generation of rockers and headbangers. Fresh from Black Sabbath (who at the time also reinvented themselves with the assistance of Ronnie James Dio on vocals thus resulting in the phenomenal Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules), Osbourne created a debut album very different from yet strangely familiar to his previous work. The familiarity comes from Osbourne's voice which sounds fresher and revitalized after his last two albums with Sabbath (Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die) and is found in the tones and material of such tracks as "Suicide Solution" and "Mr. Crowley," which are reminiscent of Sabbath. The difference is found in the performance of guitarist Randy Rhodes. Rhodes (along with Motley Crue's Mick Mars) set the tone and sound of many L.A. based rockers of the 80's with his chugging riffs on "I Don't Know" and melodic finesse and showmanship on "Revelation (Mother Earth)." His inspired performance brought Osbourne back from the musically dead and the two of them created a monster of a debut album.

The Black Sabbath comparison stops with Diary of a Madman as it nowhere close to being like their sophomore album, Paranoid. Instead, it is more like Devo's Duty Now For the Future or B-52's Wild Planet in the sense that it is not breaking any new ground or even surpassing the debut. What it does is provide a very impressive follow-up that, while close to the mold of the debut, manages to create its own identity. It is a much more melodic album than the debut but thanks to "Believer" and "Over the Mountain," it also has some muscle.  Then, of course, there is that title track which is undeniably one of the highlights of Osbourne's career. Everything about "Diary of a Madman" says classic from the almost-Gothic main riff to the almost cadence marching drum rhythm throughout the bridge to the choir closing out the song. It is, hands down, the greatest track to come out of the short-lived union of Osbourne and Rhodes. Granted, this album does not feature anything close to the memorable riff of "Crazy Train" but it is one very impressive, monster of an album.

So why are the reissues of Osbourne's first two albums the pick of the week? I will give you three reasons. Reason one is that they restore and remaster the original bass and drum tracks recorded by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake instead of replacing them with members of the current lineup as was the case with the 2002 reissues which was heavily criticized by fans. Not that having Suicidal Tendencies/Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo and Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin on your album is a bad thing but completely rewrites a history that need not be rewritten. So the original performances are back and sound better than ever. Reason two are the bonuses. While the expanded edition of Blizzard of Ozz features three bonus tracks, it is the Legacy edition of Diary of a Madman that really sticks out by adding a second disc featuring a live set recorded during the Blizzard of Ozz tour that makes the single reissues worth your time. This unreleased live set showcases the live lineup (Osbourne, Rhoades, bassist Rudy Sarzo and drummer Tommy Aldridge) in their prime and, more importantly, shows what could have been had Rhodes lived to see another album and tour. In a live setting, Rhodes truly set the bar for many 80's metal guitarists and, along with the stellar band, managed to transform the classic Black Sabbath into something entirely magical outside of the realm of that band. The reissues can also be purchased as part of a box set which also features vinyl editions of the albums, the 30 Years After the Blizzard documentary, a large coffee table book and a replica of Osbourne's crucifix. So no matter which version you buy, you are guaranteed some excellent bonuses.

Lastly, the third reason is it is on sale this week at Best Buy with Blizzard of Ozz (Expanded Edition) going for $7.99 and Diary of a Madman (Legacy Edition) going for $11.99 (as opposed to their regular prices of $9.99 and $16.99). If that is not a reason to purchase them this week, I do not know what else to tell you. They say it takes a lifetime to write your debut and a few months to write your sophomore album.  These classic 80's metal albums were written and recorded within two years and serve as a perfect introduction to Osbourne as the influential solo artist and not as the former vocalist for Black Sabbath. For that, the 30th anniversary reissues of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman are the picks of the week.

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