One of the founding fathers of heavy metal, Ozzy Osbourne, will be embarking upon his final European tour early next year, with fellow legends Judas Priest in tow. The occasion promises to look back over his entire career, so we’ve cast our eyes and ears over Prince of Darkness’ solo catalogue and picked out some of his best records. Whether you’re new to the material or just need to brush up on the classics, here’s what you’d do well to check out.
Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
Ozzy’s first solo venture is an undeniable classic. Randy Rhoads’ guitar heroics made him an instant icon, with blistering riffs and leads that still resonate with fans around the world today. “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Suicide Solution” and “Mr. Crowley” stand tall as genre heavyweights all these years later, with the latter having arguably the greatest solos ever composed. “Revelation (Mother Earth)” is a sombre, hard hitting half ballad, whilst “Goodbye to Romance” possesses a bittersweet feel; both tied together by some masterful guitar wizardry from Rhoads. Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake take the role of unsung heroes with their sublime rhythmic thrust, injecting the songs with an energy that really make Rhoads’ performances come to life. One of Ozzy’s most cherished recordings, and for good reason.
Diary of a Madman (1981)
Delivered barely a year after his debut, Diary picked up where Blizzard left off. Rhoads’ swansong showcased the flair he had previously exhibited, pushing the material into darker territory with the punishing riffs on “Little Dolls” and “S.A.T.O.”. The towering, classically influenced title track is the most chilling song of Ozzy’s career, “Tonight” ranks amongst Ozzy’s best ballads, whilst “Over the Mountain”, “Flying High Again” and “Believer” – carried by Bob Daisley’s plundering bass line – are the more enduring tracks on offer. Every inch as good as its predecessor whilst only receiving half the plaudits, history will surely see Diary as Blizzard’s equal in due time.
Bark at the Moon (1983)
Jake E. Lee had the unenviable task of stepping into Randy Rhoads’ shoes, but he did a fantastic job on Ozzy’s third solo effort. He will forever be immortalised by the savage riffs and searing leads of the title track, but the album has far more depth than it is usually given credit for. The breathless speed of “Forever”, the brazen strut of “Now You See It, Now You Don’t” and the defiant pulse of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel” all deliver on the riff front, with the likes of “You’re No Different”, “Spiders” and the utterly superb “Waiting for Darkness” offering more atmospheric numbers. The keyboards may date it somewhat, but there’s no denying Bark is a great metal album at its core.
No More Tears (1991)
Planned to be his final record before retirement, No More Tears was a big step up from 1988’s solid but unspectacular No Rest for the Wicked. Dispensing the minor thrash leanings of its predecessor, it roots itself in straightforward, rock tinged heavy metal, with a polished production job making the songs sound larger than life. The album is home to many fan favourites which still populate his setlist to this day, including the driving, Grammy winning rocker “I Don’t Want to Change the World”, the unnerving title track and the tender “Mama, I’m Coming Home”. Zakk Wylde’s playing is typically masterful, with scores of sumptuous licks (“Road to Nowhere”) and footstomping rhythms (“Zombie Stomp”, “Desire”) showing why he was headhunted by Guns n’ Roses. Had this closed his career, it would have seen Ozzy off in style.
Down to Earth (2001)
This choice is sure to raise a few eyebrows, but Down to Earth doesn’t get the recognition it deserves. Delivered six years after the somewhat patchy Ozzmosis, it, along with The Osbournes TV phenomenon, introduced a new generation to Ozzy’s music. Despite being put together with the aid of various external writers, the album still manages to sound like a singular work. “You Know…” is a throwaway piece, granted, but everything else rises to the occasion, with the introspective balladry of “Running Out of Time”, the grinding groove of “Gets Me Through” and the simmering tension of closer “Can You Hear Them?” among the highlights. Perhaps it’s nostalgia at play, but I feel this is the closest Ozzy has come to matching the quality of the Randy / Jake era.
You can find tickets for Ozzy Osbourne’s tour here.