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I didn’t own anything by Ozzy until the early 90’s when I bought Bark At The Moon on cassette from a second hand record shop for a pound or so. That copy is long gone now but I do remember being enchanted by the whole horror werewolf cover concept and especially Ozzy’s voice which was like nothing I’d heard before or since for that matter. I would lay in bed at night and listen to the track Forever’s chorus and be transported to another world of fantasy and horror. “Journey to the centre of eternity” indeed. Now I have a replacement Vinyl copy which as well as containing a lyric sheet finally allows me to study Steve Joule’s preposterous artwork in minute detail. Ozzy as wolf man climbing a tree on the front sleeve and backlit wolf man Ozzy pining (not barking) at the distant moon on the back. Definitely a case of so crap that it’s brilliant if there ever was one.
Ozzy had a huge hurdle to overcome after his lead guitarist and great friend Randy Rhoads died in a light aircraft crash in 1982. Firstly he had to find a replacement for the talented and individually styled technical player Rhoads and secondly he had to follow up the enormous success he had with the previous Diary Of A Madman album. After a few false starts he settled on former Ratt and Dio six stringer Jake E Lee. It is rumoured that Jake and bassist Don Airey wrote the music and the majority of lyrics and then sold them to Ozzy thus on the credits here it announces ‘All songs written by Ozzy Osbourne’. Even if this isn’t the case Jake’s contribution is immense. His playing lifts and is solid where Rhoads was sometimes twiddly and loose.
As for the record itself, the Opening wallop of Rock ’N’ Roll Rebel and Bark At The Moon is an incredible bombast of heavy rock gold. The riffs shredded by Jake E Lee are tight and commercial whilst still keeping the sound rooted in metal as not to alienate any long term fans. This formula is followed through out, just when you think the quality is dipping slightly like during the first verse of Now You See It (Now You Don’t) it’s followed by a killer chorus and so on. The horror movie feel plays throughout the record including choir and church bells for the minute long introduction of Forever. All this heathen like behaviour is broken up by the late period Beatles flavoured power ballad So Tired which is the albums only unnecessary moment in my opinion. Too saturated in it’s own pompousness to notice that this is a rock album, with a string section pumped up in the mix and a distinct lack of guitars until the by numbers solo, it tries far too hard to be the albums breakthrough song. Unfortunately it simply comes across as wet which is the complete opposite of Waiting For Darkness and Spiders that finish the album off. Here he creates a perfect couplet of tunes that feed into that Ozzy ‘Prince Of Darkness’ ethos that he was best known for before the MTV show with his family. The B Movie feel sits perfectly with the album title and artwork. Yeah it’s a childish cartoon fantasy. But it’s all the better for it. The metal world was very Dungeon And Dragons during 1983 and this was the first time this type of music had a big budget and a commercial sound to back it up. He sings in You’re No Different the line “Tell me where I belong in a sick Society?” On Bark At the Moon even with Rhodes now passed, Ozzy finally found his place.