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You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll: 29 Years After his Passing…Randy Rhoads’ Guitar Legend Lives On

This morning, Ozzy Osbourne posted the following message on Facebook29 years ago today I lost my best friend, business partner and the greatest guitar player I have ever worked with. Loss is meant to get easier with time, it doesn’t.” Considering the talented guitarists who have played with Ozzy since Randy Rhoads’ untimely death in 1982, his message speaks volumes about what an incredible guitar player the world lost on that tragic day.

Over the years, Ozzy has put out numerous albums with a variety of different musicians, and while they were all memorable in their own way, none have come close to the legendary status of the two albums featuring Rhoads on guitar – “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman.”

Because he died so young, Rhoads is not always mentioned as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, but even with his limited body of work, he belongs in the discussion.  There is no doubt that he would be right up there with every other guitar hero if he were still alive today.

Rhoads could play shredding solos with the best of them, but that isn’t what made him unique.  His songwriting ability and infectious riffs are the reasons why “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman” are a level above all of Ozzy’s other solo records.  The chemistry between Ozzy and Rhoads is something that is nearly impossible to duplicate.

By combining the beauty and elegance of classical music with the power and energy of heavy metal, Rhoads created a sound so unique that it has never been captured again.  Many have learned to play the guitar parts that he created, but none have been able to create his magical sound in all of the years since his passing.

In an interview with Ozzy on the anniversary of Rhoads’ death a few years back, he talked about what it was like to hear him play guitar for the first time.  “It was so good that I thought that I was dreaming” said Ozzy.

After only three years and two albums together, Ozzy’s dream turned into a nightmare.  On March 19, 1982, a plane carrying Rhoads from Tennessee to Florida crashed into Ozzy’s tour bus.  The crash took the life of the rising star at the age of 25 and deprived music fans around the world of the chance to see him evolve into one of the greatest guitarists of all time.  No one knows for sure what Ozzy and Rhoads would have created over the years, but there is no doubt that it would have been legendary.

Although Rhoads died long before his time, his work still lives on today, and will continue to do so for many years to come…

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Ozzy Osbourne and Slash: 2011 Scream Tour Review

January 22, 2011 5 comments

The first time that I saw Ozzy Osbourne in concert was April of 1986.  Ozzy was touring in support of “The Ultimate Sin,” with Metallica as the opening act.  It was a night that I will never forget.

Five years later, in the same arena, I saw Slash for the first time in concert.  Guns N Roses was touring in support of “Use Your Illusion I and II,” with Skid Row as the opening act.  It was also a night that I will never forget.

Last night, I took my son to see Ozzy Osbourne and Slash.  Once again, the night was unforgettable, but not for the same reason.

My son has been exposed to hard rock and metal since he was in the womb.  While he didn’t come out flashing Dio’s “metal horns,” he may as well have.  It didn’t take long for him to gravitate towards the hard rock and metal that defined my youth.

Most 8-yr olds are familiar with Ozzy and Slash through hearing their music on video games like Rock Band and Guitar Hero, although some may know “Crazy Train” and “Welcome to the Jungle” from hearing it at sporting events.    It is unusual for kids his age to be familiar with the catalog of these legendary rock stars, so it came as no surprise to me that there weren’t many kids at the show.

Slash and his band (featuring Myles Kennedy on vocals) took the stage first

The stripped down stage offered no visual effects outside of various Slash logos appearing on the screen hovering above the drum riser.  But it didn’t matter.   Slash and his band let the music speak for itself.

The crowd appreciated the tracks off of Slash’s self-titled solo album, but not nearly as much as the five songs that the band played off of Guns N Roses’ timeless debut album – “Appetite For Destruction”:

  • “Mr. Brownstone”
  • “Rocket Queen”
  • “Night Train”
  • “Sweet Child O’ Mine”
  • “Paradise City”

One of the biggest surprises of the evening was the masterful vocals of Myles Kennedy.  It is no easy task to bring Guns N Roses songs to life without Axl Rose’s distinctive voice, but Kennedy did that and more.

At 41 years of age, Kennedy can still bring it as strongly as those that are half his age.  The only thing that held him back at all was the misfortune of dealing with the squashed sound that opening acts are forced to contend with.  If Slash, Kennedy and the rest of the band were allowed to play with the same mix that Ozzy had, jaws would have been dropping at how good they were.

Kennedy’s presence alone would be reason enough to buy tickets to see Alter Bridge (Kennedy’s band) whenever they come around.

The crowd was pumped and ready for Ozzy after Slash’s performance

Ozzy’s signature “Crazy Train” laugh echoed throughout the darkness of the arena.  The crowd’s energy was palpable as the show began with clips of Ozzy spliced into various scenes from recent movies and pop culture events.

When the introduction ended, the words “Let the Madness Begin” flashed on the screen as Ozzy and his band launched into “Bark at the Moon.”

It only took a few notes to notice that the sound was much brighter and louder for the headlining act, although Ozzy’s vocals were buried in the mix. When it wasn’t fixed after a few songs, it was obvious that the mix showcasing guitarist, Gus G, was no accident.

Time eventually catches up to all of us

Last night’s performance made it abundantly clear that time has finally caught up with the Prince of Darkness.  His once-frenetic stage presence no longer exists.  It has been replaced by an awkward shuffle and an occasional look of confusion.

Ozzy has always put together great bands, and this one was no exception.  Throughout the evening, I couldn’t help but wonder how good they would have sounded if they were being fronted by the Ozzy of yesteryear.

The setlist featured only one song off of Ozzy’s latest album “Scream.” The rest were a mixture of classic songs from Ozzy’s solo records and Black Sabbath.

With all eyes on Ozzy’s new lead guitarist, Gus G, the pressure for a great vocal performance simply didn’t exist.  Ozzy’s vocals, while not nearly as strong as they once were, served their purpose for all of the heavy songs, but they fell short on the songs where the vocals were prominent.  For that reason, Ozzy would have been better off leaving these songs off of the setlist:

  • “Road to Nowhere”
  • “Fire in the Sky”
  • “I Don’t Want to Change the World”
  • “Mama, I’m Coming Home”

The concert also would have been better without the extended, self-indulgent solos from Ozzy’s band members.  As talented as they all are, the solos did nothing to add to the concert experience.  In fact, I would venture to say that the solos were less about showcasing the band’s talent, and more about giving Ozzy a breather during the show.

Because there was no clear delineation between where the show ended and the encore(s) began, it was a little surprising to see the house lights come on when “Paranoid” came to an end.

Having seen Ozzy several times over the years, I left the show feeling a little bit disappointed.  However, I do not regret going to see it at all.

I have always believed, and still do to this day, that Ozzy and Black Sabbath are perhaps the most influential band in rock history.  As a fan of hard rock and metal, I know full well that many of my favorite bands exist today because of the trail that was blazed by the “Godfathers of Metal.”

Someday, Ozzy will stop performing live.  No one knows when that day will be for sure, but it may be approaching sooner than anyone realizes.

Years from now, my son will be able to reminisce about the time that he saw Ozzy Osbourne in concert.  He doesn’t have the basis of comparison to understand the difference between seeing Ozzy in his prime and Ozzy towards the tail-end of his career.

Because my son is such a big fan of hard rock and metal, it would have been “The Ultimate Sin” not to have taken him to see Ozzy and Slash.  After all, opportunities like this don’t come around very often.

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