It’s Dealer’s Choice for Day 15 of the #mayvinylchallenge, so I clicked “Random” on my Discogs collection and lo and behold: the second solo album from Ozzy Osbourne. It’s easy to understand how Diary of a Madman gets lost in the shuffle of early Ozzy when just a few months earlier Blizzard of Ozz hit us with massive classics like “Crazy Train,” “I Don’t Know,” “Goodbye to Romance” and the stellar “Suicide Solution.” What I find fascinating about Dairy though is how in a few short months to tone already began to change: the songs are darker, heavier, and less commerce minded. Overall it makes for a sinister and great listen.
It all kicks off with “Over the Mountain” which, after the pop-infused punch of “I Don’t Know” and “Crazy Train” (despite the killer opening riff that basically drove em to metal as a kid, the rest of the song – especially the verse – is really friendly major-chord fun) this was a massive heavy trip. The production is beefier, and the band is arguably even tighter. Randy Rhodes will forever be the perfect complement to Ozzy, crafting incredible riffs solos that people will forever try to emulate in their own playing, only to fall short. Even when they move to the more overt popular strains of “Flying High Again” you have to marvel at the tones and licks he scatters throughout the track.
I never get tired of “You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll” – it’s a little long, but I love every minute of it. Moving from the balladry of the verses to the more rocking anthemic chorus it’s a blast. Ozzy’s doubled vocals are also fantastic: when he was in his prime his voice was amazing, and despite the fact that almost everything was written by other people, you can’t deny that without his singular voice it probably would never have worked. “Believer” and the KISS stomp of “Little Dolls” continue to bring the dark and the heavy, and sure…maybe there’s a small misstep with “Tonight” but who’s complaining with you end with the crushing “S.A.T.O” and the title track.
Oh man, that title track. For those who put Blizzard of Ozz over Diary of a Madman, let me remind you that Blizzard ends with “Steal Away (The Night)” which I guess is a fine song…but is that how you really close your debut album? Now let’s listen one more (or a thousand more) time to that opening to “Diary of a Madman.” How the acoustic intro bursts into flames as the drums kick in and the gain goes up to 11…there is nothing about the closer that doesn’t scream epic.
THAT is how you close out an album, folks. A terrific album, one that for my money outpaces its predecessor for balls and heaviness and – yeah – songwriting.