Ozzy Osbourne (1981) Diary of a Madman (LP) Jet Records 37492

Ozzy Osbourne

Diary of a Madman 

Jet Records 37492

Produced by Max Norman, Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads

1981

**** Recommended


Ozzy’s second solo album, without a doubt his second best.

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This would be his last with the Blizzard of Ozz band: guitarist Randy Rhoads (ex-Quiet Riot), bassist Bob Daisley (ex-Rainbow) and drummer Lee Kerslake (ex-Uriah Heep).  Most of the songs are credited to all four members, two credited to all except Kerslake.


Within a year’s time the entire band would depart, Rhoads the last to go–dying in a plane crash early in 1982.


After two mediocre albums (Bark at the Moon in 1983 and the Ultimate Sin in 1986), he’d hook up for a long-term relationship with guitarist Zakk Wylde for the forgettable No Rest For the Wicked album in 1988, two noteworthy albums in the 1990s (No More Tears in 1991 and Ozzmosis in 1995), and two halfway decent sets in the 21st century (Down to Earth in 2001 and Black Rain in 2007).  He’d eventually depart with Wilde and release a set of covers (Under Cover in 2015) and Scream in 2010, but his only truly essential studio albums were his first two with this Blizzard of Ozz band.

— winch (author of )

 

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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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Triumph (1976) S/T (LP) Attic Records (LAT 1012)

Triumph

Triumph

1976

Attic Records (LAT 1012)

Produced by Mike Levine and Doug Hill

*** noteworthy


Fairly awful derivative debut from this Canadian hard-rock power trio, tons more enjoyable than the superior junk they’d deliver during the decade that followed this set.


It’s really not all that different than the rest of their output, but little differences can make all the difference.

(And you have to appreciate that they take Sammy Hagar’s lead and sport their own band’s name across their T-shirts.)


Here, the influences appears to be Kiss, Grand Funk, Joe Walsh, Aerosmith, Mountain, Zeppelin, King Crimson, Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, Rush, Frank Marino, and Hendrix. In fact, they likely clocked in countless basement hours jamming tunes by those outfits because the licks and riffs and vocal delivery are clearly the five-finger-discount variety.


While 1979’s Just A Game might have featured their best sleeve, this was their best album. Fans of 70s hard rock will likely find plenty to enjoy.

–winch (author of

 

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Road (1972) S/T (LP) Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Road

Road

1972

Natural Resources (Motown) NR105L

Produced by Tom Wilson and Road

*** (noteworthy)

Featuring  Noel Redding (Jimi Hendrix Experience) on bass, Rod Richards (Rare Earth) on guitars, and Les Sampson on drums, this sole album by this Detroit/UK outfit clearly comes out of the 1960s power-trio acid-rock tradition established with the Hendrix Experience. This trio had the talent, power and energy to deliver the goods. Unfortunately, they appeared to have a lack of material.

And considering the era and the lyrics, they were perhaps too stoned to notice, or too stoned to care.

The set starts off promising enough with a Richards-penned number called “I’m Trying” that seems to come out of the Allman Brothers as much as Hendrix, but if one didn’t notice the void in the lyric department with the opener, it’s hard to miss with the second cut, a Redding-penned number about “Going to the Country.” (Of course, maybe that was the point: rock is about raw energy rather than clever comments.)

By the time you get deep into “Side 49” (aka side one) the Hendrix influence comes through loud and clear as a cranked Marshall amp, and Hendrix remains the primary influence as the band jams throughout “Side 17 1/3” (aka the second side).  While it sounds like they were a bit lost in a drug-induced haze, the Sampson/Redding engine provides plenty of power, and Richards does a pretty convincing Hendrix impersonation.

With the opener of side two, Richard’s “Spaceship Earth,” the Detroit influence can also be felt, both hints of the energy of bands like MC5 and the muscle of Norman Whitfield of Motown fame, and while this was co-produced with the legendary black-American producer Tom Wilson (one of the greatest producers of all time), one can’t help wonder what would have happened if this band would’ve hooked up with Whitfield.    As it sits, it’s a noteworthy chapter in the story of Rod Richards and the beginning of the team of Noel Redding/Leslie Sampson–a team that would record several albums together.


This also serves as an inferior companion set to the “Kapt. Kopter & The Fabulous Twirly Birds” which was released this same year, featured both Redding and Les Sampson (aka Clit McTorius and Henry Manchovitz) and applied the loud raw energy to songs by other artists (Simon and Garfunkle’s “Mother and Child Reunion” for example).

While some of the excesses on this sole album by Road are a bit much–such as the drum solo on Redding’s “Friends”–excess was an integral part of 1972 and we’ve heard a lot worse from this era of excess, and arguably the nine+ minute title track by Richards is a relatively strong conclusion to a fairly unremarkable album.  In its own way, it’s fairly consistent: the better cuts ain’t that great, but the weaker cuts ain’t that bad.  While this isn’t essential listening, fans of acid rock, hard rock, the power trio, and what would decades later be called stoner rock will likely find something to enjoy with the acid-rock jams of this set.

— winch (author of  

Copperhead (1973) S/T (LP) Columbia 32250

Copperhead

Copperhead

1973

Columbia 32250

*** noteworthy

While Quicksilver Messenger Service (aka Quicksilver) began as one of the more interesting and enjoyable bands of the 60s Frisco scene…soon the cracks were showing, and as the 60s turned to the 70s, guitarist John Cipollina had the sense to jump ship and form Copperhead. The band played together for years but only released this one album.

While Quicksilver seemed stuck in the 60s, Copperhead was aware of the past but clearly coming from the 70s. Instead of inventing new licks, they applied old hooks to new themes, the opener using Rolling Stone licks to offer a song about roller derby, perhaps showing that it was a fine line between a rock-and-roller and a roller derby star. The song sounds fairly serious and perhaps suggests that campy sports such as roller derby or wrestling could be taken more seriously (something that was explored decades later, but rarely in the 70s) and that perhaps rock and roll shouldn’t be taken so seriously. Next up , the band uses those licks that worked so well on QMS’s best album (Happy Trails from 1968)–the Bo Diddley beat to be exact.  After slowing it down for a hillbilly influenced ballad, they close the side with a song about Japanese Kamikaze pilots, the song concluding with dive-bomb explosions–the serious and silliness of these sound effects fitting this album well.

 The flip side continues in a similar mode–70s hard rock with clear elements of the past–and while fans of the more loose-jam feel of early Quicksilver might actually enjoy side two as much or even more than the first side, others will likely find the formula getting a bit tired.  The excesses definitely become pronounced, and while the extended few-minute jam that concludes the last cut recalls old Quicksilver and arguably works, even if you enjoy that bit of excess, the second side lacks the focus that made the first side enjoyable.

While this band didn’t leave us with a whole lot and the lack of success of this set probably had a lot to do with Columbia refusing to release their second album (which was reportedly recorded) and the band calling it quits, this album is worth a listen for hardcore fans Cipollina’s guitar playing or 70s hard rock.

— winch (author of

Flying Squad (1978) s/t (LP) Epic 82875

Flying Squad

Flying Squad

Epic 82875

1978

Produced by Francis Rossi (Status Quo)

*** noteworthy

Only album from this Scottish hard rock outfit which served as a launching pad for  vocalist Ian Muir (aka Finn Muir), best known as the vocalist of Waysted.


The lack of talent in the lyric department either subtracts or adds to the package, depending on the listener, and while the guitars are a huge part of the songs (which often appear to be heavily inspired by Thin Lizzy), they mostly keep a rein on excess.


While this set has some variety, it fortunately avoids going into ballads, and at its best seems to come out of a mix of UFO and Thin Lizzy. Unfortunately, this band never comes close to those outfits and while unintentional silliness runs through this set and some cuts are bad enough that it’s not even funny, other Lizzy-inspired cuts (“Backroom Boys” and “Glasshouse”) make this a worthwhile listen for hardcore fans of 70s hard rock.

— winch

author of

flying squad LP

Whizkey Stik (late 70s) On the Level (LP) NW Metalworx NWM 003 (2016)

Whizkey Stik

On the Level 

Late 1970s

NW Metalworx NWM 003 (2016)

**** (recommended)

This 2016 long player houses late-70s recordings from this outfit from Astoria, Oregon, all the cuts likely unreleased, unpretentious hard rock with the chops wrapped up in the songs rather than excessive reasons to show off.


While hard rock was in rather sad shape at the end of the 70s, a few outfits still knew how to do it–Thin Lizzy, AC/DC, Ritchie Blackmore, Rory Gallagher, UFO–and this outfit appears to have taken their cues from bands like those.  They were also clearly appeared to be aware of where the rock bands of this era came from–Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and all the other pioneers of the 50s.

While taking cues from others, this has a sound all its own and a charm that the pomp-rock and cock-rock outfits of this era clearly lacked. Fans of obscure 70s hard rock should give this set a listen.

— winch