Friday, October 15, 2010

Rocktober Album #11: Ozzy Osbourne - Blizzard of Ozz (1980)

In 1980, Ozzy Osbourne was reeling. Alcohol and drugs were causing problems. He had parted ways with Black Sabbath, and in his absence, they had hired Ronnie James Dio (rest in peace) as their new frontman and released a great album in early 1980, Heaven and Hell, which had done well on the charts. He needed to reinvent himself and show the metal world that he could be something outside of Black Sabbath.

Managed by his future wife, Ozzy assembled a solid band, with drummer Lee Kerslake (of Uriah Heep), bassist and lyricist Bob Daisley (of Rainbow), keyboardist Don Airey (of Rainbow and who had also been a session keyboardist on Black Sabbath's Never Say Die! album), and, of course, young guitar wunderkind Randy Rhoads, who had been in Quiet Riot (before they hit it big).

Released in September 1980 in the UK and March 1981 in the U.S., Blizzard of Ozz was Ozzy's reintroduction to the music world. The songs are metal standards, and the album propelled him into solo superstardom. Of course, Ozzy has one of the more distinctive voices, and it never ceases to pierce you. Thankfully for the music world, Ozzy united with Randy Rhoads (rest in peace), who laid down some phenomenal guitar work on this album (and in the next album, Diary of a Madman, Rhoads's last album before his untimely death in 1982). The other musicians bring it all together for a tight package that every hard rock or metal fan should own.

Interesting tidbit: Blizzard of Ozz is one of the few albums to go multi-platinum without a Top 40 single.

1. I Don't Know
This is a solid start to the album. Rhoads starts off with a nice riff, and Ozzy's trademark shrill voice kicks in. The song seems to be Ozzy telling the world "I don't have all the answers, but I will continue to rock. Follow me on my journey."

2. Crazy Train
I'm not sure there's much to say about "Crazy Train," since I'm sure you all know it and know that it's one of the greatest metal songs of all-time. This is the song that put Ozzy back on the map, and the riff that made Randy Rhoads a guitar god. In the video, of course, Ozzy has a haircut that makes him look like a possessed housewife, but I guess that's not too far from his normal look.

3. Goodbye to Romance
This is a slower ballad. Perhaps it relates in some way to "No Bone Movies" (see #7 below).

4. Dee
This is a relatively short (49 seconds) instrumental written by Rhoads for his mother (Dee). It's only Rhoads playing an acoustic guitar, and it's really more of a classical guitar

5. Suicide Solution
Far and away, this is the most controversial song of Ozzy's career. It was written as tribute Bon Scott, AC/DC's lead singer who drank himself to death a few months before this album was released. The opening line is "Wine is fine / Whiskey's quicker." Unfortunately, in 1984, a 14-year-old boy committed suicide while listening to this song (not with alcohol, interestingly). Music doesn't make people kill themselves. Nonetheless, some bastard lawyer filed suit against Ozzy on behalf of the kid's estate, claiming that the song was the reason this depressed teenager shot himself in the head and claiming there was backmasking in the song with the subliminal message "Get the gun. Get the gun. Shoot, shoot, shoot." I get livid whenever I see that lawyer's face on documentaries, watching him try to explain his bullshit theory. He looks like Nosferatu – soulless and evil, his eyes filled with concern, not for the real reason why his client's son killed himself, but for how much money he stood to make. Yes, I myself am a lawyer, but it's people like this guy that bring the profession down in the eyes of the public, in my opinion. Thankfully, the court dismissed the complaint. In any event, the term "solution" in the title and lyrics was meant as a liquid solvent (i.e., alcohol) and not as an answer to a problem. If anyone reads the lyrics to the song, it is clearly an anti-alcohol abuse song, written in part by a man who himself had serious issues with alcohol. Any reading of it as an command to commit suicide is delusional. All right, I'm off my soap box.

6. Mr. Crowley
The "Mr. Crowley" in this song's title refers to Aleister Crowley, an infamous British occultist. The song itself starts out with eerie, Castlevania-esque organs, letting you know that something weird is amiss. Then the organs drop off as Ozzy's voice comes in with "Mr. Crowley, what went down in your head? / Oh, Mr. Crowley, did you talk to the dead?" The rest of the song seems to be calling Crowley a charlatan. Rhoads's guitar solos are awesome, as expected.

7. No Bone Movies
In case you were unclear about the subject matter from the title, "No Bone Movies" is about stag films – or, more accurately, about trying to kick an addition to stag films. "Voyeur straining in love with his hand / A poison passion a pulsating gland." Yep, those are lines from the song. I have no idea why Ozzy wrote this song or why he was vehemently against watching people bone on film. Only the live version was on, so I included that.

8. Revelation (Mother Earth)
This is a weird song. It's slow and dark for most of the song. For about the last minute, the band goes off on what I would call a pre-Metallica Metallica jam. Rhoads whales on his guitar while the rhythm section keeps it going, presumably while Ozzy shorted lines of coke or possibly ants.

9. Steal Away (The Night)
This is one of those songs you hear and you ask why this wasn't a single. Not only is it fast-paced, but it's catchy as hell. The guitars are awesome. It's a great song that would seem to have captured both metal fans and non-metal fans.

10. You Lookin' At Me Lookin' At You
This is a bonus track on the 2002 remaster of the album. To be honest, I don't know why this wasn't on the original album. It's a great song, and it's another one of those that I think could have done well as a single. It rocks and it's catchy, and it gives you pause as to who is looking at me and who is looking at you. Plus, Rhoads has a Thin Lizzy-esque guitar solo that I particularly enjoy. There's something about this song that, when I hear it, it's more familiar than it should be – like it meant something to me when I was a teenager in the early '80s. The only problem is that I was barely three when this album was released in the U.S., and I don't even think this song was released in any form until 2002 (but I could be wrong).

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