Ozzy Osbourne (1980) Blizzard of Ozz (LP) Jet Records 36812

Ozzy Osbourne

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.”

— winch

 

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The Cramps (1986) A Date With Elvis (LP) New Rose 81

The Cramps
A Date With Elvis
New Rose 81
Produced by The Cramps
1986
Good Shit *****

While other bands from this era were running out of steam by this time, the Cramps keep the engines pumping and pull this classic into the station.  Everybody, jump on board.

Ivy, Lux and others focus and polish the sound a bit, but keep the original fuzz and stomp intact.  Another essential set for fans, and not a bad introduction for the non-initiated.

— winch

Bert Jansch (1965) Lucky Thirteen (LP) Vanguard 79212

Bert Jansch
Lucky Thirteen
Vanguard 79212 
1965 

 

Good Shit *****



First U.S. release by this folk guitarist from Scotland, half of the selections from Bert Jansch(1965), the others from It Don’t Bother Me (1965), this collection alternating between vocal cuts and acoustic guitar solos, the latter especially strong but the vocal cuts powerful as well, some of them strong enough to put a chill to your bones. 

The cautionary tale “Needle of Death,” is as poignant as any drug song, ranks up there with Lou Reed’s song about the same subject matter, this one in sharp contrast to the celebratory drug songs of the 60s.  Other highlights include the traveling tales “Running From Home” and “Rambling’s Gonna Be the Death of Me.”

While the selections come from two albums, they fit together like cars in a freight train, the instrumentals chiming like chains, the sequencing creating a musical journey, a train ride through various landscapes, occasionally slowing down to gaze at people along the way.

This clearly influenced much of the music that followed, not just folk singers but rock artists as well.  It puts most of the competition to shame.

— winch

Agression (LP) Don’t Be Mistaken (1983) BYO 003

Agression
Don’t Be Mistaken
Better Youth Organization 003
Produced by Kenny Felton, Agression, & BYO
Recorded Feb-March 1983
1983
Good Shit *****

What this Oxnard, California outfit lacked in quantity, they delivered with power, as this album shows, kick set of skate speed rock, not a weak moment, concluding with the instrumental “Cat Killer, a great ending to a killer album.

Maybe you have to be a skateboard rider to understand just how much skate-punk kicks ass, doesn’t avoid the political, but never gets bogged down with intentions, and as this set shows, captures the fun, speed and freedom of rolling down concrete.  This is the greatest album that ever came out of California.
— Didn’t you say the same thing about Fear?
— Big deal, it’s still true.

— winch 

Mississippi John Hurt (LP) Folk Songs and Blues (1963) Piedmont (PLP13157)

Mississippi John Hurt
Folk Songs and Blues
Piedmont (PLP13157) 
1963
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
Hurt had recorded a few sides for Okey in the 1920s (not big sellers), and then returned to share cropping.  In 1963, two D.C. musicians heard the old sides and managed to find him in Mississippi, brought him back to D.C. to record this debut album.  He’d record a few more sets and then passed away in Mississippi.

Classic country blues.  While I’ve heard sides that can stand next to these, I can’t say I’ve heard anything better in this style.

— winch

The Kinks: Kinkdom (1965)

The Kinks
Kinkdom
Reprise 6184 
1965
Rating: ***** (Good Shit)
Fifth album, released December 1965 (US only), reached #47. 
This set was part of something we saw happening in England in 1965, bands leaving the copycat stuff to the blues purists (aka assholes) of the UK.  Meanwhile the Kinks and other groups pushed forward with pop music.  We see this with the Who’s classic debut album (also released in December ’65) and the changing sounds of the Yardbirds with their first three albums, all released in ’65 (especially the changes after they got rid of Clapton and started to focus on their original pop songs.)  Not only were the songs becoming more original, albums were beginning to be more than just homes for the hits with filler filling the rooms.  We can hear the changing times when we compare Beatles ’65 at the beginning of the year to Rubber Soul in December, or with the direction the Rolling Stones would take with Aftermath early the next year.  While some of the places these trends would take rock music should have been avoided, in 1965 change was creating more inventive music and better albums, especially in England.

While the Kinks were always more original than most British bands, this set really sees them focusing on their own songs and their own sound, what made them so interesting from the start.  The covers weren’t needed, but the entire set is enjoyable, and the strong cuts are great.  While there’s a sprinkling of social commentary in the collection, most of the songs focus on girls.  Most of the best pop songs are about girls.

A melancholy runs through several cuts, and this not only foreshadows some of their classic songs in the years to come, it’s easy to hear the influence this music had on other bands in the years and decades that followed.  This band also knew how to rock, instead of just offering watered-down versions of American R&B like too many other British Invasion bands.  The Kinks clearly came from the garage.  


 
The Kinks were one of the very best bands to ever come out of England, and this is one of their best albums.

Rating: ***** (Good Shit)

— winch

Blondie: Little Doll (LP) 1979 bootleg

Blondie
Little Doll
Barbie Records
1979
***** Good Shit


Pretty great bootleg from 1979 Dallas show, radio broadcast, top-notch sound capturing the band just before things would go wrong.

IMG_3833

Ignoring Plastic Letters, the set offers two cuts from each of the other albums from the 70s, concluding with a rocking ’60s medley that crashes into a version of Iggy Pop’s “Funtime.”

IMG_3835

 

The album ends with demo cuts from 1975, including a version of the Shangra-La’s 1965 “Out in the Streets” which is pure gold.

— winch

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