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Say what you like about Ozzy's treatment of certain other bandmates from the Blizzard of Ozz/Diary of a Madman years - remember the debacle with the 2002 remasters? - but to his credit he's always been extremely respectful of the legacy of Randy Rhoads, the prodigiously talented guitarist whose shredding skills helped his solo career kick off with a bang. It's only appropriate, then, that Ozzy gives equal billing to Randy on the cover of Tribute, the definitive live document of the Blizzard and Diary tours which is assembled with a particular eye to showcasing Randy's abilities.
Those who've listened to Past Lives or Live At Last know that Ozzy was always an energetic and enthusiastic frontman, and that's true on Tribute as well, which sees him and the band investing the song selection - pretty much everything from Blizzard, plus the best tracks from Diary of a Madman and some well-chosen Sabbath classics - with an infectious vitality. The solo tracks are greatly improved in this live context, the extra energy and drive resulting in a heavier and more urgent performance than on the studio albums in question, whilst the band prove themselves more than capable of doing justice to the Sabbath tracks - in particular, Randy's riffing on Children of the Grave give Tony Iommi's performance on the original a run for its money.
It's often said that had he lived Rhodes could have been the next Malmsteen, and whilst we'll never know for sure whether or not that was the case it's certainly true that his performances elevate this album from being a decent Ozzy live set to being a top-flight live metal album. Capping off Suicide Solution with a blisteringly fast solo, Rhodes shows off his technical skills without milking the spotlight too much, delivering a solo which is long enough that you feel you got your money's worth whilst being short enough to avoid becoming redundant or tedious. Key to his talent was, of course, his parallel interest in classical guitar; the album closes with a collection of studio out-takes from the recording of Dee, the short classical guitar instrumental Rhodes provided for Blizzard of Ozz, and whilst it might make repetitive listening for those not particularly interested in behind-the-scenes outtakes and studio chatter it nonetheless provides an intriguing snapshot of the man at work.
Any solo career runs the risk of simply becoming a vehicle for the main artist's ego. Ozzy's certainly not alone in being accused of that, but Tribute is the perfect counterpoint to that - an acknowledgement that there were two key talents in making Ozzy a solo megastar, and unfortunately one of them died far, far too young. It's also a really great live album, and a strong contender for being Ozzy's best solo release; certainly, I'd recommend it over Blizzard of Ozz, since the content of that is presented here in a greatly enhanced form. The band are even able to make Goodbye to Romance sound like it isn't completely sappy and saccharine - now that's what I call talent.