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There are a few things that are just impossible to argue against because they are too obvious for there to be an opinion on the matter, and that is the historical significance of this single. Leaving aside the competition that developed between “Blizzard Of Ozz” and Black Sabbath’s magnum opus “Heaven And Hell”, “Crazy Train” was responsible for ushering a whole new guitar driven approach to heavy metal that allowed lead players to just cut loose and create extended passages of technical gymnastics. Naturally some would later take this a little bit far and the style started to get a little ridiculous, but here there is still a strong amount of attention paid to songwriting and musicality.
This song is basically a manifesto for Rhoades’ unique blend of hard rock riffing and neo-classical tendencies. Although his sense of tonality doesn’t go off into overt emulations of Baroque counterpoint the way Yngwie Malmsteen’s material would a couple years later, it definitely takes a few pointers from some of the old maestros who pioneered the idea of music being a high art form. His riffing style is very free flowing, littered with fills and ornamentation to keep the ears guessing, and essentially drives the entire song. The rhythm section is just sort of there, acting as a ground for Rhandy to stand on, while Ozzy just sort of does his job putting words to the music to keep the song from becoming a composition.
The b-side to this single, which was never included on “Blizzard Of Ozz” until the 2002 re-release (which sucks because of the re-recorded bass and drums), is actually better than several of the songs that ended up appearing on the debut. It’s got a really solid driving galloping rhythm to it and plenty of lead treats for guitar enthusiasts. The one thing that sort of makes the song atypical among Ozzy’s early 80s offerings is that it has one of those really happy sounding late 70s/early 80s choruses that were more common to bands like Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister. It probably would have sounded a bit out of place on an album with “Mr. Crowley” and “Suicide Solution” on it, but it isn’t really all that more party rock sounding than “Flying High Again”.
This is one of those rare occasions where it is necessary to seek out the original version of this single, probably via legal mp3 download. The bass and drum re-recordings on the 2002 reissue of “Blizzard Of Ozz” really screwed up the atmosphere that made the original the solid piece of metal that it was. It’s a historical release that paved the way to a whole new generation of amazing guitar oriented metal that made the 80s what it was. Perhaps we can’t have the old Ozzy back now, but we can still appreciate what he gave us during his lucid years.