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We're Off to See the Blizzard...! - 85%

octavarium, March 29th, 2013

By 1979, Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne seemed to have run its course. After a near-decade of legendary landmark albums such as Paranoid, Master of Reality, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and their eponymous debut, a combination of rampant drug and alcohol abuse, frustration, and apathy led to Osbourne's dismissal by the band. And while the Black Sabbath name would continuously juggle frontmen and musicians in the 1980's, Ozzy would embark on a highly-successful solo career. And while his life and career would become a mix of infamy and controversy, it is with his debut album that he solidified himself as a rock and metal legend. And oh yeah, Randy Rhoads does a pretty good job helping him out.

Ozzy has always made sure he's had a solid guitarist behind him, such as Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde. But it was because of Randy Rhoads' involvement with Ozzy's first two albums that he followed the trend of having a solid axeman. Rhoads may not be as memorable a riffer as Tony Iommi, but his technical skill playing and soloing rooted in classical music is what sets him apart from the rest. The end result is not grinding and brooding, but rather, an upbeat and epic rock sound. Even the album's darker moments, such as Mr. Crowley and Revelation (Mother Earth), feature Rhoads' epic style. His solos and riffs alone on Crazy Train, Mr. Crowley, Goodbye to Romance, Suicide Solution, and Steal Away the Night is what designates his status as an all-time great and essential piece to Blizzard's puzzle for success.

Blizzard of Ozz is basically a who's who of immortal metal classics. As often as it's played at every sports game imaginable, Crazy Train remains the sing-along arena staple that it was in 1980, with Ozzy's classic chorus and Randy's speedy solo. Mr. Crowley helped solidify Ozzy's status as a controversial rock icon with its lyrical content but features perhaps the two most celebrated guitar solos in metal history, and with good reason. And while not as memorable as good ol' Iommi, Randy flexes his riffing muscles in album opener I Don't Know, fun and fast-paced Steal Away the Night, and the infamous Suicide Solution, which became the center of a lawsuit against Mr. Osbourne. And while power ballads are often cliched and always tough to pull off successfully, that's exactly what Ozzy manages to do. Goodbye to Romance, Ozzy's farewell ode to Black Sabbath, is emotional and may sound schmaltzy, but it's 100 percent genuine. Dueling guitar and keyboard solos coupled with Ozzy's catchy yet heart-breaking lament of a chorus definitely set the standard of what a power ballad should be. And while Revelation (Mother Earth) may not be as memorable as Goodbye to Romance, it features its own share of experimentation with haunting acoustic and piano melodies and a great Rhoads guitar solo comes swinging out of nowhere. The only songs that could be considered "filler" are No Bone Movies and Dee. No Bone Movies is a mid to fast-paced rocker that seems to be about the dangers of porn addiction, or uses porn as a metaphor or drug addiction, I don't know. Still, it's a solid rocker and does its job. Dee is a 50 second acoustic instrumental piece which, nicely enough is dedicated to Randy's mother Delores. And even though it greatly contrasts with the rest of the album, Randy shows off his classical stylings and hey, it's a song dedicated to his mother, so you can't be too harsh.

One bit of controversy that continues to surround this album (and no, it's not the controversial 2002 reissue) is that Blizzard has more of a mainstream, arena, and (gasp!) "pop" feel than the Black Sabbath Ozzy material. But did Black Sabbath with Dio still sound like Black Sabbath? If they were allowed to reinvent themselves, why not Ozzy? In fact, it's because songs like Crazy Train, Mr. Crowley, and Goodbye to Romance are so catchy and "mainstream" that make them so memorable and beloved. The combination of quality and accessibility is truly a testament to Ozzy's career and music. And while Ozzy would continue to follow up with solid albums such as Diary of a Madman, Bark at the Moon (which is actually more "commercial" than Blizzard), and No Rest for the Wicked, Blizzard of Ozz shows the greatest diversity and technical ability.

To put it in the plainest terms, Blizzard of Ozz is basically the Ozzy and Randy show. Bob and Lee prove to be a solid support team with bass and drums, but it's Randy's guitar and Ozzy's singing which take center stage on the album. The riffs may not be as memorable as Sabbath's, but the solos are mind-blowing and absolutely unbelievable. And while Ozzy has never been heralded for being the most technically skilled vocalist (probably the least-skilled of any Sabbath frontman), he definitely proves to be consistent and reliable. Not bad considering what he'd done and continue to do to his body for the better part of 4 decades. For his debut album, it was make or break for Ozzy and he made the absolute most of it. Without Blizzard of Ozz, I honestly don't think you could say he'd be as big of a star as he is today.