Written By Jason Voorhees
In this week's edition of Top Albums we will cover the Crown Prince of Metal...Ozzy Osbourne. The Prince of Darkness is one of the most iconic figures in heavy metal history. While Ozzy earned his early stripes fronting "Black Sabbath", it was his solo career that truly defined his fame and popularity in the mainstream world.
Over the years; Ozzy Osbourne has enjoyed quite a career while producing a definitive collection of timeless classics. While there have been numerous lineup changes in his band, its always included elite musicianship. There was no better example of this than his unrivaled ability to recruit world class guitar talent. Whether it was the super prodigy Randy Rhoads, or his successor Jake E Lee, to the longest tenured Zakk Wylde; all of these guitarists made it much easier for Ozzy to shine in the spotlight.
Last week we covered Ronnie James Dio, who ironically replaced Ozzy in Black Sabbath. This time we get to take a deep dive into his predecessor's solo career. As we embark on this latest challenge, there is no doubt that this trip down memory lane should be epic. So without further ado...let's take a look at the mind of the Crown Prince as we chronicle the diary of a madman...
11. Scream (2010)
Despite a new refreshing sound, this album unfortunately misses the mark. The departure of Zakk Wylde and less than stellar songwriting doomed this album before it ever began. That's not to say that its a terrible album, but clearly sub standard for the Prince of Darkness. Ozzy had recruited Gus G, previously from Firewind to replace Zakk so there was already huge shoes to fill. Add to that the over dubbed vocal overtones to enhance his lyrics and the album just couldn't live up to the hype. There were however a few winners on the record despite its poor reviews. Standout tracks include 'Let Me Hear You Scream', 'Diggin Me Down' and 'I Want it More.' As stated, not a poor record using an average band metric but certainly not one of Ozzy's finest hours.
10. Black Rain (2007)
Most people call this a black mark in Osbourne's catalog. I would say that "Black Rain" is more like the black sheep. Unfortunately it did mark the end of the road for sensational axe man Zakk Wylde. While the album clearly lacks creativity, it still has flashes of brilliance that only Ozzy can produce. The lead single 'I Don't Wanna Stop' absolutely brings the house down in typical fashion. The title track 'Black Rain' follows the classic formula as well. However; it's hidden gems like '11 Silver' and 'Countdown's Begun' that make this his most underrated album to date. Killer guitar and skillful songwriting. While many go left, Ozzy always goes right. This is an album that really gets better over time. Check it out...you may be pleasantly surprised.
9. Down to Earth (2001)
After producing "Ozzmosis", Ozzy embarked on a short Black Sabbath reunion. When he brought the solo band back together again, he also called upon a panel of collaborators to write the songs. The results was a mixed bag of nuggets and the album quality suffered. Yes, Zakk Wylde was still present on guitar but his unique songwriting style and technique was sadly missing. It's almost like Ozzy forgot the all important formula to making a great record. Nonetheless, the album did enjoy success on the charts as it hit #4 on the US Billboard Top 200. The album was not star exempt as he also recruited Mike Bordin (Faith No More) on drums and Robert Trujillo (Metallica) on bass. Standout tracks include 'Gets Me Through' and 'Running out of Time' as well as the super ballad 'Dreamer.'
8. Ordinary Man (2020)
It's safe to say that the Prince of Darkness has passed his better years. With that being said, this surprise out of nowhere release was his best album in many years. Post Malone's Andrew Watt helped produce the record and the result was nothing less than spectacular. Mr. Osbourne's vocals were the best we have saw since his glory days. The creative juices were flowing once again and the overflow spills into fantastic musicianship. 'Under the Graveyard' is a metal analogy to Ozzy's almost near death experience after leaving Sabbath to his eventual rise again in his solo career. Its a magnificent piece of art and he definitely shocked the world with this one. Kudos to Ozzy for his undying passion for music and this album is that sorta rebirth we've all been waiting for.
7. No Rest For The Wicked (1988)
Ozzy was running wild on this one as he commandeered Zakk Wylde to replace Jake E Lee on the axe. It was a match made in heaven as the band instantly clicked on "No Rest For The Wicked." Wylde brought a more aggressive approach and the songs were more on the edgy side. Likewise, Zakk had a knack for intense songwriting and you could see that expertise crawling out of every tune on the record. The final product was a double platinum masterpiece once again placing Ozzy at the top of the food chain. Many solid hits on this one including "Miracle Man", "Crazy Babies" and "Tattooed Dancer" while housing uncut gems like "Bloodbath in Paradise." This was definitely a better album than it often gets credit for and will always have a special place in every die hard fan's heart.
6. Ozzmosis (1995)
Many people would scoff at this album being so high on the list. However; true metal scholars realize the relevance of this smash hit wonder. It was a tremendous follow up to a predecessor that absolutely screamed gold standard. Although the album continued down the commercial mainstream track, it definitely had spurts of underground flavor. It was a strong mixture of heavy riff balls to the wall energy along with symmetrical melodic ballads with some raw and edgy noise in between. Definitely the most diverse album of Ozzy's career and beloved by even his most harshest critics. The albums lead track "Perry Mason" is an ode to the long lost "Mr. Crowley" while "See You on the Other Side" brought back memories of "Mama I'm Coming Home." Tremendous album by one of the best hands down.
5. Bark At The Moon (1983)
Losing Randy Rhoads would almost certainly spell doom for any other artist but not Ozzy. After Rhoads untimely death, Osbourne tapped Jake E Lee for the lead guitar gig and the rest was history. While Jake showed a bit of a difference in style, his skill would prove to be no flash in the pan. The lead title track may be the best opening track ever on any Ozzy record. Fast, heavy and straight to the point. Even if this was the only track on the album that would gain stardom, the rest of the record proved that Lee belonged to stay. It was a monumental record for the Prince as he showed that it was the music not the personnel that ultimately defined the band. "Center of Eternity" and "Waiting for Darkness" remain the bands most underrated tracks of all-time. Welcome aboard Jake!
4. The Ultimate Sin (1986)
This was an album that has gained more and more credit over time. It's release did not sit well with many of the faithful and did not fair particularly well on the charts. However; mainstream popularity is the last thing that should be measured when rating an album. And that's exactly the case with this one folks. Although the album did not have smash hits on the billboard chart, the record is littered with A list star power when applying the ear test. Tracks like "Secret Loser", "Never Know Why", "Thank God For the Bomb", "Lightning Strikes", "Killer of Giants" and "Shot in the Dark" are all stellar songs both lyrically and stylistically. While "The Ultimate Sin" and "Shot in the Dark" are bookend masterpieces. Zero filler and the tunes are killer. Mark of an excellent album.
3. No More Tears (1991)
This was an extremely tough pick for me as it almost made #2. It could have gone either way but nonetheless here we are. Not much to complain about on this effort. 4x Platinum. A title track that rivals any song in metal. Numerous hidden gems and little to no filter. While the album did still feature that raw energy we had grown accustomed to as Ozzy fans, it also featured the commercialized radio friendly focus that ultimately drove the popularity. The band called upon Lemmy Kilmeister to help produce the record and in doing so channeled their inner Motorhead. The creative aspects on this album are endless and circumventing. The results are priceless. An instant classic that would be any other band's Mount Rushmore...which even furthers the depths of the albums greatness.
2. Diary of A Madman (1981)
This would unfortunately be the swan song for Randy Rhoads who would tragically die one year later. How sweet that final lap was though. Another magnificent record for the Prince of Darkness that would definitely mark a more creative side for the band. Another blistering title track that would even send chills down Alister Crowley. And a lead track to die for in 'Over the Mountain.' It's those subtle sleepers that set this album apart though as another epic effort for the forefather. Randy flexes his muscles on those lesser known classics that truly endow him as a guitar god. However; the solo on the title track is an epic fortress the likes we may never see of again. Wow is all you can say as you gasp in awe. Another true metal album giant.
1. Blizzard of Ozz (1980)
This may be the easiest pick I have ever had to make for top albums. In fact, this album is in my Top 5 heavy metal albums of all-time so rightfully its Ozzy's best ever. The crème de le crème of Osbourne's mountain. A solid metal record from beginning to end. A timeless work of art that even gets better with time. "Crazy Train" may be the best anthem of all-time. "Mr. Crowley" is certainly the most well put together metal song we have ever heard. The list can keep going. Some of the best lyrics ever penned to paper as well; not to mention the super fine artwork. Everything that you could ask for in a debut album, probably the greatest debut album in music history and that's no stretch. Straight up Fire!
Hope you enjoyed this week's edition because we certainly had fun doing so! Ozzy is one of the near and dear figures of the entire metal community and we all adore him like a father!! Excellent catalog and one that will live on forever as we move into the next generation! As we look towards next week, we hope that you are all staying safe and sound in quarantine! And please don't forget...Check out Kevin Law and Johnny E on Thursday evenings 7PM-9PM as they count down all of your favorites from past and present as well as future!! And we leave you with one of Ozzy's classic masterpieces!!!! Rock On Mates!!!!!
Written By Jason Voorhees
In this week's edition we will tackle one of the most quintessential artists of heavy metal history...Mr. Ronnie James Dio.
While RJD carved out his legacy during his early years in Elf, Rainbow and Sabbath; it was during his solo career where he truly earned his stripes. During his stellar career, DIO created one of the most extensive catalogs that the metal genre has ever saw. While many people celebrate his work in those high profile gigs, some forget how truly magnificent his solo efforts actually were.
Over that same solo career, his band saw many lineup changes while suffering many ups and downs. One thing always remained constant though and that was Ronnie's vision. No matter what style of music, no matter what themes of choice, no matter who was playing the instruments, one could always recognize that the music was DIO. And that my friends is what makes this guy one of the legends of heavy metal. Simply put...a rock god.
Opinions are widespread on where his albums stack up when ranked to each other. Once again, a challenging project to undertake; nonetheless one that we are ready to take head on. So don't be the last in line as we lock up the wolves on this journey down these very strange highways!
10. Angry Machines (1996)
Released during the height of the grunge movement, this album was probably set up to fail before it ever began. While you could definitely hear a much different tone with elements of industrial and grunge present, the band still tried to stay true to its roots. Although this record comes in as the last on the list, it certainly is not a terrible effort. In fact, I would venture to say it's probably the band's most underrated. The piano ballad 'This Is Your Life' became a smash hit after his passing and encompasses Ronnie's brilliance when it comes to song writing. Tracks like 'Hunter of The Heart', 'Black', and 'Stay out of My Mind' still inject that Sabbath doom and gloom flavor that we all have grown to love. Definitely an undervalued album that grows on you the more that you listen...an aggressive assault on the senses.
9. Lock up the Wolves (1990)
With an entirely new lineup in toe it was time for a clean slate at the dawn of a new decade. 18 year old prodigy Rowan Robertson was ready to take the world by storm on this release. While anticipation was high, the results were a mixed bag of praise and criticism. Many fans were disappointed as the album took on a different style than the one they had grown accustomed to. Lacking the star power of a truly stand out track, the record is sometimes labeled dull and uninspired. Unfortunately, the expectations were not met on the album which is why its ranked close to the bottom. However; die hard DIO fans will tell you that its just misunderstood. Tracks like 'Hey Angel', 'Evil on Queen Street' as well as the title track continue to invoke the signature sound we all know. Good but not great...simply put.
8. Strange Highways (1993)
After another Sabbath reunion came suddenly crashing down, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice were once again left holding the bag. However; the controversial split would not mean the end, but instead a rebirth for the two stalwarts. The band added Tracy G on guitars and Jeff Pilson (formerly of Dokken) on bass. The result was Dehumanizer 2.0. Although the album did not match the success of it's Sabbath predecessor, it certainly sounded like a reboot. Definitely one of their most underrated pieces, 'Strange Highways' brings that signature doomy sound and style. Slow eloquent tempos with a mixture of grooves, bends and hooks. Plenty of hidden gems and not much filler on this one. While the title track firmly stands out, it's the sleepers that truly define this album among the best.
7. Sacred Heart (1985)
The third album for DIO was a bit of a step down from their previous efforts. As the saying goes, "The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Sometimes going to the well one too many times can be detrimental and that's exactly what happened on this album. That's not to say that the album was a failure because that would be a flat out lie. It was just too much of the same as the favorite recipe had become stagnant. With that being said, the album was still catchy and some tracks hit the nail. In fact, the title track remains one of the bands greatest overall tunes to this day. In retrospect, the sound production probably hurt the record's overall success. In a cruel twist of fate, this would mark the end of the road for Vivian Campbell in the band. Substandard for DIO, but still pretty solid.
6. Master of the Moon (2004)
Sadly this would be the last album for Dio but what a swan song it was. A solid album that featured frequent collaborators from the bands past. RJD's vocals aged like fine wine as he could still belt out lyrics with ferocious tone and synergy. And the rest of the band was able to match that intensity resulting in an epic finale of success. Consistent and focused, there is not one bad track on the album with little to no filler. Beginning with the opener 'One More For the Road' the record absolutely hits hard. Other standout songs include 'End of the World', 'Shivers', 'The Man Who Would Be King' and 'Death by Love' as well as the title track. While the album is overshadowed by the classics, there is definitely a place at the top for die hard fans. Its always nice to go out on top and this record fits that narrative.
5. Magica (2000)
How could Dio's legacy be complete without a concept album. RJD's love for the dramatic is encompassed entirely on this conceptual thriller. Record sales definitely do not tell the story for this one as they tanked. However, the album is littered with all of his most beloved musical trademarks and traits. The album has since gained a cult following among die hard fans and heavy metal analysts alike. A stellar mixture of heavy dark energy and soft ballad melodies make this one of their most underrated works of art. Of course the plan of a conceptual trilogy would never come to fruition so we may never fully understand the of the ending of the story. Nonetheless, this fantasy laden record sends chills down your spine. Pop it In and take a spin, be prepared to be blown away.
4. Dream Evil (1987)
Removing star guitarist Vivian Campbell from the lineup could have spelled doom for any other band. Not Dio. Adding Craig Goldy actually ignited a fire in the band and the result was an epic blast of heavy metal destruction. The newfound energy enabled the band to produce an A list record. The album once again featured top notch songwriting and elite musicianship. The band was back to the formula that helped them rise to the top of the metal food chain. The band's new guitarist embodied some similarities in style to Ritchie Blackmore which paid homage to Rainbow on a few tracks. The opener 'Night People' is a speed metal eulogy which features an absolutely epic solo. Other stand out songs include 'Dream Evil', 'Sunset Superman', 'All the Fools Sailed Away' and 'I Could Have Been a Dreamer'. Excellent album from an excellent band.
3. Killing The Dragon (2002)
This was a throwback to the classical era of Dio. This version of Dio featured Doug Aldrich on the axe and he did not disappoint. Crisp and tight musicianship that featured inspiring riffs and hard hitting bass lines. The band went away from commercialized mainstream style as they tried to emulate their roots. The finished product was a traditional metal album that fans would love. Its almost like Ronnie jumped into a time machine back to 1983 in one fellow swoop. The lyrics were once again more focused, the songs had more energy, the sound was more polished. This was an album that was released way after its time but yet one that could have followed the big 2. One of my personal favorites and definitely top of the list worthy. One of Dio's finest hours.
2. The Last In Line (1984)
So much for the sophomore jinx. There was no slumping on this album. Dio was in it to win it and there was no turning back. As their breakout debut became one of the greatest debuts of all-time, you could probably say that this one ranks among the best of sophomore metal lore. The album featured all of the classic Dio characteristics including themes of fantasy and mysticism. Far from a reboot though, it had its own attitude which sets it apart from its predecessor. The title track is the most notable but the true sleeper is the epic finale 'Egypt (The Chains Are On)' which once again features Vivian Campbell's dominance on the axe. Another prototype masterpiece for Dio and one that would further cement their place at the Mount Rushmore of Metal.
1. Holy Diver (1983)
This might as well have been titled the Holy Grail. The seminal album of Ronnie James Dio career marked the apex for the band album wise. Not only is this Dio's top album, many consider this as one of the top heavy metal albums of all-time history. Definitely one of the best debut albums of all-time as well. Simply a masterpiece in every way. The record featured every aspect of a great heavy metal album. Awesome musicianship. Top of the line songwriting. Multiple mega hits. Plenty of relevant substance. Zero Filler. All the marks of an excellent album. Dio struck gold on this one and the record lives on forever. Raw and edgy but to the point. Lyrically and stylistically elite. The top of the food chain for Dio and one many metal fans all time favorites no doubt. Bow to the King.
Once again, we hope that you enjoyed this edition of top album lists. Dio is one of the all-time greats and it was a treat going back in time to chronicle their catalog. Of course, as always this is a matter of opinion and hopefully you will share yours. We will continue to bring you the best of top album lists and we challenge you to request your favorite bands so that we can cover them in the future. As always, we hope that you will join Kevin Law and Johnny E every Thursday from 7PM-9PM as they pound out the best of metal old and new!! And in closing, we wish you continued safety during these unchartered times. As we close, please enjoy this special from Holy Diver!!! Rock on Mates!!
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