Register Forgot login?

© 2002-2019
Encyclopaedia Metallum

Best viewed
without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
or higher.

Privacy Policy

Losing My Sanity, Again - 50%

Frankingsteins, July 16th, 2007

The second 'solo' album from the expelled Black Sabbath frontman would sadly be his last with guitarist Randy Rhoads, whose tragic death in a private plane accident would remove the neoclassical influence and bodacious guitar solos from Ozzy's material. The singer would subsequently choose, presumably as a result of these early albums' consistent theme of madness, to pursue a 'hair metal' glam direction.

The lyrical focus on insanity throughout much of the album makes it almost an accidental concept album, while also indicating a lack of creativity in deriving on what was basically the message of the band's earlier hit 'Crazy Train.' Ozzy and company's second release of 1981, 'Diary of a Madman' is in all respects a perfect example of a rushed sophomore slump, recycling ideas from 'Blizzard of Ozz' and failing entirely to recapture the high quality and simplistic charm of that predecessor. Then again, this rapid release allows a final swan song for Rhoads, less memorable than his work on the first album but still serving as the main highlight of a release sparingly peppered with fantastic solos and the occasional strong lead riff.

Only serving to further prove the desperate stretching of ideas, the first two songs not only deal with madness, or more specifically an alternative and criticised point of view, but are also, and this is the regrettable but admittedly ironic part, about flying. Planes have been a consistent subject in heavy metal, from Iron Maiden's appreciation of the Spitfire experience to Queensrÿche, and more recently Edguy, celebrating stewardesses. A drum intro leads into a great melodic guitar riff from Rhoads, before Ozzy's legendary voice (not for all the right reasons) harks back to the glory days of several months earlier, with the previous album. Deserving special attention is Bob Daisley's bass guitar, wrongly credited to Rudy Sarzo in the booklet, which makes its presence felt on both of these early albums more prominently than many similar bands would attempt, especially in the slower, and more blues-based songs like 'Flying High Again,' strongly reminiscent of the earlier material of Ozzy's Brummie brethren Judas Priest. If Ozzy’s ‘mama’ here is intended to be his wife as rumoured, the ‘flying’ is likely yet another lazy metaphor for drug use. These opening songs are catchy and almost up to the standard of the previous album, but even Randy Rhoads' excellent solos, at their best here, can't disguise the tired formula.

The third track, re-using the structure of the previous album, is the obligatory part-acoustic ballad, only this time it's a tribute to rock and roll, placing it immediately ahead of 'Goodbye to Romance.' The acoustic guitar sounds nicely but derivatively Mediterranean, but this is more likely due to early eighties production than anything intentional, as the same sound can be found in Iron Maiden's 'Prodigal Son.' The chorus is the most uplifting so far, pre-empting heavy metal bands' obsessions with celebrating heavy metal through lyrics in the eighties, particularly in the self-aggrandising work of Manowar, and it's hard not to empathise with the Ozzman. Nevertheless, the very next track 'Believer,' a middle-of-the-road song like most of the remaining tracks, marks the exact point at which Ozzy's wails became irritating to my ears, and I was disappointed that the song wasn't the controlled instrumental jam it initially hinted towards. The frustration continues with 'Little Dolls,' in which he sings a poorly conceived duet of sorts with himself, the primary reason seemingly to fit more into each verse than would be possible without overdubbing a different vocal take in-between. I've never been a fan of the high register Ozzy shifted into after performing perfectly well with a dingy monotone in the first four Black Sabbath albums, but I presume it has something to do with attracting the radar of bats, which he can then decapitate with his teeth.

'Tonight,' as can probably be deduced from the title, is another power ballad, but on that's heavier on the guitar noodling this time, eventually being forced to fade out on Rhoads' neoclassical mania in a similar manner to the earlier classic 'Mr. Crowley.' Daisley's bass is at its best here, driving the slow song along, and even Ozzy tones down a little, although this song is far from impressive or necessary by this point. Fortunately, the album pulls the 'strong beginning and end to disguise the weak middle half' trick, and the final two songs return to the speedy rock of the first song, climaxing in the excellent 'Diary of a Madman.' This song immediately hits the listener with the best riff on the album, but it's still only the forgotten middle brother between 'Crazy Train' and the later, inexplicably popular hit 'Bark at the Moon.'

I've spent the majority of this review slagging this album off in comparison to 'Blizzard of Ozz,' and considering the close proximity of the releases, and the essential fact that this an inferior copy of that classic album, it is entirely the right thing to do. The live 'Tribute to Randy Rhoads' album features the best of these songs amidst much better earlier material, with a couple of Sabbath classics thrown in to fill up the set-list of the burgeoning band, and for all but the die-hard Ozzy or Rhoads fan, 'Diary of a Madman' is the first piece in Ozzy Osbourne's back catalogue that can be justifiably ignored, along with almost everything the band would release thereafter in its many incarnations right up the present day, the exception being the single song 'Perry Mason' from 1997's Ozzmosis album, which is a great return to form, and is about Perry Mason.

Choice cuts from 'Diary of a Madman' are the title track, 'Over the Mountain' and, if you're feeling dreamy and a little cheesy, 'You Can't Kill Rock and Roll,' which the band thankfully didn't choose to title 'You Can't Kill Randy Rhoads.' I don't know what I'm talking about. The album clocks in at under forty minutes, so it won't take up too much of your time, and extensive re-releases of Ozzy Osbourne's back catalogue make it readily available in all places. Nevertheless, it would be wise to avoid the recent re-issue which replaced the original bass and drum recordings with those of Ozzy’s more recent band members due to legal disputes and, more generally, Sharon Osbourne.