Take Five: Ozzy in the Eighties

After nearly a decade fronting metal pioneers Black Sabbath, singer Ozzy Osbourne was dismissed from the band he co-founded. But after a period in which he (more or less) got himself together, Osbourne formed a group called Blizzard of Ozz. While the lineups of his bands would change throughout the decade – rebounding and persisting in the face of firings, tragic deaths and personal problems – Ozzy made some of the best music of his career during the 1980s. Here are five tracks that provide a sampling of Ozzy Osbourne’s work during that decade.

“Crazy Train” from Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
Released as a UK single in 1980 (and in February 1981 in the U.S.) this hit was the solo debut from Ozzy. Acclaimed as one of the greatest songs in heavy metal, “Crazy Train” owes much of its appeal to the memorable guitar work of Randy Rhoads. Former Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake and bassist Bob Daisley (previously of Chicken Shack and Rainbow, among other bands) did their part to make Ozzy’s first single one for the ages. And of course Ozzy’s maniacal intro kicks things off in style.

“Over the Mountain” from Diary of a Madman (1981)
The opening track on Ozzy’s second solo LP, “Over the Mountain” featured a remarkably different production aesthetic from his debut release. But everything clicked: with the same lineup, the album and single were successful; “Over the Mountain” reached #38 in the singles charts. Sadly, it would be one of the last singles to feature the prodigiously talented Rhoads, who died in a tragic airplane accident in 1982 at age 25.

“Bark at the Moon” from Bark at the Moon (1983)
For Ozzy’s third album – his first after the death of Rhoads – only he and Daisley remained from the original group’s lineup. New guitarist Jake E. Lee, journeyman drummer Tommy Aldridge and keyboardist Don Airey (later of Deep Purple) came on board for this record, noted for its prominent use of synthesizers. But fans of the hard-charging guitar sounds from earlier Ozzy records still found plenty to appreciate.

“The Utimate Sin” from The Ultimate Sin (1986)
This track marked a low period in Ozzy’s personal and musical journeys. More lineup changes ensued: for The Ultimate Sin, Ozzy kept Lee but let the other musicians go, replacing them with new players. The album sold well, but critical reception was more measured. At the conclusion of the tour in support of the album, Lee was sent packing as well. Despite all of that, the album’s title track has the elements that kept listeners interested in Ozzy’s music.

“Miracle Man” from No Rest for the Wicked (1988)
With fiery guitarist Zakk Wylde joining, Ozzy seemed to again find his footing. Bassist Bob Daisley returned to the lineup (though he’d be replaced on tour by Ozzy’s former Black Sabbath bandmate) and drummer Randy Castillo remained. No less than three singles were released from Ozzy’s fifth studio release. The record sold well and earned widespread critical praise. Seemingly patterned upon the style of his debut single, “Miracle Man” added some distinctive guitar effects to the mix.

You may also enjoy my interview with Ozzy Osbourne. I certainly did.