The year was 1979. John Michael ‘Ozzy’ Osbourne had just experienced the loss of his father and a turbulent termination from Black Sabbath due to his increasingly problematic substance abuse.
Contrary to popular belief, Ozzy had been toying with the idea of a solo endeavor prior to his fateful ejection from Sabbath. The name suggested by his late father had been “The Blizzard of Ozz.”
Signed to a new record label, under new management, wife Sharon introduced into the picture, and with a new lineup of musicians including a relatively unheard-of young guitar player named Randy Rhoads – the hour of reckoning was at hand. Ozzy Osbourne had quite a chip on his shoulder and a hell of a lot to prove, lest he fail and ultimately descend into nostalgic obscurity.
Blizzard of Ozz was released September 20, 1980, and any initial skepticism was promptly silenced.
“I Don’t Know” begins with a razor sharp Van Halen-esque guitar assault, effectively shattering any preconceived notion that the record is going to be any sort of “Black Sabbath Jr.” The album singles “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley” feature some of the most instantly recognizable and catchy guitar riffs ever recorded, while even the standard metal jams “Suicide Solution” and “Steal Away (The Night)” have the potential to warrant repeat listens.
The mellow tracks “Goodbye to Romance,” “Dee,” and “Revelation (Mother Earth),” the latter featuring beautiful layers of symphonic instruments, thoroughly showcase Rhoads’ classical background and provide fresh contrast to keep the listening experience from growing stale.
The crazed, caped Ozz grasping a crucifix on the album cover compliments the overwhelming lyrical fixation on the darker side of life. “Heirs of the cold war, that’s what we’ve become, inherited troubles, I’m mentally numb” perfectly encapsulates “Crazy Train’s” theme of the insanity amid the mutually assured destruction of the Cold War era.
Depression and suicide are subtly alluded to in the downcast “Goodbye to Romance,” and more explicitly in the ode to the (then) recently deceased Bon Scott, “Suicide Solution.” Along with “Suicide Solution,” “No Bone Movies” details the horrors of addiction (alcohol and pornography, respectively.) “Mr. Crowley” is an ode to notorious English occultist Aleister Crowley, whom the press of his time dubbed “The Wickedest Man in the World.”
Finally, “Revelation (Mother Earth)” revisits the Cold War theme on a broader scale, offering a bleak apocalyptic outlook regarding the fate of the human race.
This was both an album of redemption and rejuvenation for Ozzy and the metal world will forever embrace this release.
As if helping to invent heavy metal a decade earlier wasn’t enough to retire with a lifetime achievement award, Ozzy managed to discover one of the most influential heavy metal guitarist to have ever graced the stage.
Randy Rhoades’s playing gave Ozzy’s solo music a unique new sound of its own. While Tony Iommi’s Sabbath riffs had been almost entirely rooted in the blues, Randy’s application of classical scales and techniques gave Blizzard of Ozz a technical, melodic edge to usher in the new decade.
Groundbreaking guitar work, alternating upbeat and mellow songs, and the voice of the Prince of Darkness in his prime keep the listener engaged from start to finish.
Blizzard of Oz is Ozzy’s most commercially successful solo album to date (notably one of the very few multi-platinum albums of the 1980s lacking a Top 40 single.) The album spawned “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley,” two signature Ozzy songs that remain both concert and classic-rock radio staples to this day.
Blizzard of Ozz is considered an essential heavy metal recording, and has gone on to influence countless prolific rock guitarists including George Lynch, ‘Dimebag’ Darrell Abbott, and Tom Morello.
Ozzy quickly released his second solo album, Diary of a Madman, in November 1981. Unfortunately, Diary of a Madman would signal the end of the Randy Rhoads era.
Less than six months after the album was released, Rhoads perished in a tragic plane crash while the band was on tour in Florida. Never one to be incapacitated in the face of tragedy, Ozzy soldiered on.
His pattern of discovering groundbreaking guitar players continued as well, most notably Rhoads’ immediate successor Jake E. Lee, followed by a (then) 20 year old Jersey kid known as Zakk Wylde.
Ozzy has been consistently releasing solo music for the better part of 34 years, all while leading a lifestyle that would have likely killed the average person six hundred and sixty six times over.
Ozzy recently reunited with Black Sabbath and released 13 in June 2013, their first record together since 1978. If you haven’t checked it out …I would get on that. In regards to pivotal historic albums in the career of Ozzy, this one is clearly the most notable.
Reviewer: Gavin T. Hairgrove
IRC: Bill Pulice
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