The history of Ozzy Osbourne’s solo career starts with him being fired from Black Sabbath. His place in Metal history was already assured. He famously locked himself in a hotel room and tried to drink himself to death, and it was Sharon Osbourne who found him in this state and got him moving. Poaching Randy Rhoads from Quiet Riot, he quickly churned out two classic albums. The tragic death of Rhoads in a plane accident saw Osbourne briefly play with Brad Gillis and Bernie Tormé, before taking on Jake E Lee. This partnership was not successful, and he was fired after two albums. The arrival of Zakk Wylde represented a new beginning for Osbourne, and he quickly produced first an album that played to everything that people thought they wanted from Osbourne, and an album that was arguably his best, and certainly his most successful. A Parkinson’s scare saw Osbourne announce his retirement, but when that faded he continued to record and tour with Wylde until he moved on to recording with Firewind guitarist, Gus G, in 2010. From here he took part in a lengthy reunion with Black Sabbath, which has recently ended. Wylde is once again playing guitar and Osbourne is again touring solo.
Along the way, he was part of a hugely successful reality TV show which has cast his personal life significantly into the spotlight. His struggles with addiction, including sex addiction, have been widely reported. He continues to be married to Sharon, whose management is certainly part of the reason for his success.
Osbourne has often said that his main musical influence was The Beatles. As he doesn’t play an instrument, his sound has been shaped by those he works with, creating reasonably unique eras in his sound, all pulled together by the unique qualities of his voice. His covers CD included songs from bands like Mountain and King Crimson, as well as 60s acts like Cream and Arthur Brown, giving a reasonable window into the various sounds that have influenced him.
Classics(the albums even a casual fan owns)
Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
This album was meant to be named after the band, Osbourne still not comfortable as a solo artist or sure of his future. However, he knew he’d found something special in his new guitar player and Rhoads knew this was his time to shine. This is arguably one of the strongest debut albums in history, and at least four songs off it are guaranteed to be played at any Ozzy Osbourne gig, to this day. In true 80s fashion, the keyboard player (Don Airey) was not credited or made obvious, although it’s not clear what else the opening to ‘Mr Crowley’ could have been played on. Songs like ‘Crazy Train’ and ‘Suicide Solution’ cemented the success of Osbourne’s new band and his solo career. Controversially, the remaster has Osbourne’s touring band of the day playing bass and drums, the result of a legal battle between the original members and Sharon Osbourne. Find the original recordings if you can.
Diary of a Madman (1981)
Although in some ways not as strong as the first album, and certainly with fewer tracks that made it into the long-term live set, this album shows a growing maturity in the band, especially in songs like the title track, while tracks like ‘Over the Mountain’ keep it heavy. Rhoads was talking about quitting to study classical guitar when he died, so we will never know if this band was going to fall apart anyhow, but we can be thankful that the breakneck pace the band maintained in their short existence led us to have two classic recordings of their original material.
No More Tears (1991)
By the late 80s, Osbourne was somewhat of an elder statesman, still creating music that was well received, but the truth was, his glory days were behind him and new bands were taking the spotlight. All that changed with this album, which was a massive success, and cemented Wylde’s position in the band. Every song on side one was a single, with Wylde’s country influence on ‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ (with lyrics by Lemmy Kilmister) and the slide guitar on the title track being particular standouts. However, side two was equally strong with tracks like ‘S.I.N.’ and ‘Road to Nowhere’ holding their head high. ‘Hellraiser’ was also written by Kilmister, and covered by Motorhead later. Kilmister said writing for this album made him more money than any thing he ever did with Motorhead.
Fan Favourite (the album that didn’t make it big, but every fan loves)
After years of frankly passable albums with Wylde, Osbourne decided to cut him loose to do his solo career and start again with a new guitar player. Gus G was a well known shredder from the Power Metal band Firewind, and his introduction breathed new life in to Osbourne’s latter works, producing a fourteen track album that was full of fresh ideas and strong melodies. This band has since ended, not least because of the Black Sabbath reunion.
Next Steps (One step below, but these albums still shine in the catalogue)
No Rest for the Wicked (1988)
If you asked an Ozzy Osbourne fan what sort of music they wanted him to make in the late 80s, they’d have described this album. The truth was, Wylde’s attempts to make sure the album was heavy made it a bit one-dimensional, but tracks like ‘Devil’s Daughter’ and ‘Miracle Man’ still were a delight after the more commercial sounds of ‘Ultimate Sin,’ and stood toe-to-toe with heavy music being made at the time.
Bark at the Moon (1983)
After the shock loss of Rhoads, and a lacklustre live album with Brad Gillis, fans were not sure what to expect. This album was patchy, but the title track alone made it an instant classic. With a playing style very different to Rhoads, Jake E Lee took control and ushered in a new era of Ozzy Osbourne.
When Rhoads died, Osbourne knew these tapes existed, but he sat on them for a while, scared of being accused of cashing in. He needn’t have worried. Fans wanted this album and they knew the love Osbourne had for the man he credited even more than Sharon with pulling him together and giving him a path to a new solo career. Unlike the Brad Gillis album (Speak of the Devil), this album had only three Sabbath covers (Rhoads hated playing them), and the rest of the album is a sweeping tour through the top tracks from both solo albums.
Controversial (The one fans disagree on)
The Ultimate Sin (1986)
As the relationship between Lee and Osbourne unravelled, hair Metal was taking over and Osbourne made an album that was clearly a play for that emerging market. Lee is still a great guitarist, and Osbourne is still Osbourne, and this album contains some strong tracks. The effect is most obvious in the film clips, where Osbourne looks something like an overweight Liberace. This album was not included in the most recent round of remasters, and the single, ‘Shot in the Dark,’ was not included in the DVD of Ozzy Osbourne video clips, but this was almost certainly in part because Sharon wanted to rob Lee of royalties. Nevertheless, some fans love this album and others consider it a disappointment. Certainly the move to more commercial sound is what inspired Wylde to make sure that his first album with Osbourne was uniformly heavy and a signal to fans that Ozzy Osbourne was moving back in to more familiar sounds.
Buy this last (Not all bands have a ‘bad’ album, but this is their least good one)
After the success of No More Tears, Osbourne announced his retirement with a live album. Once it became clear he was not as sick as he thought, he went back into the studio. It’s hard to know why this album is such a left turn from the work he did before. Certainly, while tracks like ‘Perry Mason’ were okay, there was nothing like ‘Desire’ or even ‘Party with the Animals’ going on here. Not a bad album, but not a great one.
Playlist (A killer playlist for your phone)
‘Crazy Train’ (Blizzard of Oz)
‘Suicide Solution’ (Blizzard of Oz)
‘I Don’t Know’ (Blizzard of Oz)
‘Mr Crowley’ (Blizzard of Oz)
‘Over the Mountain’ (Diary of a Madman)
‘Flying High Again’ (Diary of a Madman)
‘Diary of a Madman’ (Diary of a Madman)
‘Bark at the Moon’ (Bark at the Moon)
‘Shot in the Dark’ (The Ultimate Sin)
‘Miracle Man’ (No Rest for the Wicked)
‘Devil’s Daughter’ (No Rest for the Wicked)
‘Crazy Babies’ (No Rest for the Wicked)
‘Mr Tinkertrain’ (No More Tears)
‘I Don’t Want to Change the World’ (No More Tears)
‘Desire’ (No More Tears)
‘No More Tears’ (No More Tears)
‘Mama, I’m Coming Home’ (No More Tears)
‘Hellraiser’ (No More Tears)
‘S.I.N.’ (No More Tears)
‘Perry Mason’ (Ozzmosis)
‘I Don’t Wanna Stop’ (Black Rain)
‘Let Me Hear You Scream’ (Scream)