Blizzard of Ozz
Jet Records 36812
Released September 1980 in the UK, March 1981 in the US.
Reached #7 in the UK, #21 in the US
Produced by Osbourne, Daisley (bass), Kerslake (drums), and Rhoads (guitar).
••••• Sounds Good
The aging dinosaurs of the early 1970s had left their mark but their time had come and gone as the decade rolled on, certainly by the time it rolled over to the new decade. Even hard-rockers who weren’t interesting in looking for new bands weren’t expecting their idols to return to their thrones. Most were happy to get high and listen to their old albums. To make it even more challenging for folks such as Ozzy, few fans of hard rock gave a rat’s ass about singers, especially singers who didn’t play instruments. Vocalists were for fans of soul music and old music. Hard rock focused on the guitar players: J. Geils, Robin Trower, Montrose, Nugent, Van Halen…70s hard-rock bands were usually named after the guitarists not the singers.
When Ozzy’s debut solo hit the American shops, the label obviously had big plans. When I entered Boogie Records in the spring of 1981, I was greeted by a life-size cutout of Ozzy–a giant version of the Blizzard of Ozz album. While I’d been raised on Sabbath–listening to their albums nearly every week for the years that lead up to 1981–I had no idea who Ozzy was. Sure, I recognized him from somewhere, had rolled countless numbers on the Paranoid gatefold, but Ozzy hadn’t bitten off any heads at this point, and eight tracks didn’t offer song credits or names of band members and the photos were pretty dinky. Reading about singers or bands were activities for teeny-boppers looking through glossy snapshots of Shawn Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers. And even when I discovered that Ozzy had been the singer for Black Sabbath, that didn’t really spike my interest. I’d just seen the Sabbath 1980 tour with Rainbow’s singer (Dio), and that was fine with me. They had fire and menace and loud music. Who cares about the old singer who used to sing for them. That was like caring what Robert Plant was doing without Zeppelin.
But Ozzy wasn’t ready to give up the ghost and likely had noticed what Alice Cooper had done when he’d gone solo years before this. Alice had always managed to place himself above the guitarists, and while the band might not have been named after him, he was wise enough to name himself after the band. That had helped Alice considerably: when he went solo, most people just saw the release as another Alice Cooper album. Of course, fans might have noticed the complete change in the line-up if Alice hadn’t made another wide decision. He made sure that he launched his solo career with a good album. Ozzy followed that example.
Ozzy’s debut might not be as classic as Alice’s Welcome to My Nightmare, but like Alice’s debut solo, this wasn’t as good as the best from his past but it was close enough for rock and roll. Like Alice’s debut solo, this was also the best Ozzy would ever offer. Like Alice, Ozzy’s career as a solo artist was built on theatrics on stage and off, a reputation as a bad boy on stage and off, and perhaps mostly because of the first album.
When most of these aging rockers turned 30 and/or went solo, they took a more mature approach. Meanwhile, Ozzy followed Alice’s example and went in the other direction, made his solo career more juvenile. When most artists went solo, they offered new sounds, but while Ozzy didn’t mimic Sabbath, he certainly maintained the main ideas. He retained some of the old fans while pulling in new ones. Like with most solo albums, this was more personal than what we’d heard with his previous band, but for so many reasons, it was hardly a complete departure from his years with Sabbath.
On one hand, it’s not surprising that this album (perhaps more than anything) helped launch his long-term success as a solo artist. On the other hand, it’s a little crazy that this could happen…crazy like a “Crazy Train.”
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