A look back
By Tom MacIntosh
Ozzy Osbourne, rock God extraordinaire as lead singer of Black Sabbath, the band many say invented heavy metal, released his first solo album Blizzard of Ozz in 1980, it is a remarkable set of neo-classical metal that became a pillar of metal guitar.
Upon its release there was real doubt whether Ozzy was up to the task after his unceremonious firing from Sabbath for being lit all the time on drugs and booze leading to and from depression. However, his cleverly arranged Blizzard of Ozz and its sequel Diary of a Madman, dispelled any misgivings with a bang. I say `his`, but it was really the writing of Australian bassman Bob Daisley, who also wrote for Sabbath, that carries the album. Ozzy’s role was basically to sing, control the tussle between his thirst and liver, and leave the rest in the nimble hands of guitar wizard Randy Rhoads, keyboardist Don Airey, and drummer Lee Kerslake.
The relationship between Ozzy Osbourne and Randy Rhoads is one of the most memorable in the history of heavy metal rock. From the way they first met: it’s said that Ozzy was totally smashed when he heard the guitarist’s audition and signed him up after just watching him tune his guitar (something like the moment when Ravi Shankar in ‘Concert for Bangladesh’ after getting a standing ovation upon tuning on stage said ironically, “if you liked the tuning bit, I hope you enjoy the music more.”) to his sad farewell, when Rhoads was killed in a plane crash on tour with Ozzy.
The classics Crazy Train and Mr. Crowley, showcase Rhoads dexterity handsomely, but his solo work on Suicide Solution and Goodbye to Romance, with his iconic axe: the Karl Sandoval polka-dotted Flying V is mesmerising. On what may be the best 49 second song ever, Dee, is a lovely acoustic instrumental stroll in the park, reminiscent of what Tony Iommi used to do with Sabbath in years past.
The music is still in his signature palette: Osbourne Dark, but doesn’t get as black as Black Sabbath, but rather a lighter shade of it, coming close to pop metal at times. That said, things got very dark when there was legal controversy over Suicide Solution, when a teenager shot himself in the head after allegedly listening to this song. His parents sued the label for “encouraging self-destructive behavior”, but the case was dismissed on freedom of speech protections.
Other tracks that fall into ‘arena-rock’ standards include the hard-driving I Don’t Know and Steal Away, which don’t break new ground, but this was back in the 80s, so the loud wall of sound was well fed and let loose to metal madness, punctuated by Rhoads ripping solos.
Blizzard of Ozz made Osborne an even bigger star, a revelation, not despite his reputation as a wild child , but as solid metal material. The album went straight to #7 on the Brit charts and hit gold after just 100 days. Since then it has gone 4x platinum in the U.S., and has sold over 7 million copies worldwide. Rolling Stone Magazine slots it at #9 on its list of 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time. It was re-released in 2002 with a new drum and bass tracks, but due to public outcry, was then reinstated with the original takes, and put out in 2011.
At the end of the day, Blizzard of Ozz remains a milestone metal album for your collection.