Speak Of The Devil

Ozzy Osbourne

Jet Records, 1982

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/23/2001

It's easy to sit back today and second-guess Ozzy Osbourne for his 1982 release Speak Of The Devil. Here was a man who had finally put the demons (no pun intended) of Black Sabbath behind him, as well as everyone who doubted he could be a success as a solo performer. He had two solid albums under his belt, and his reputation, good and bad, was growing. So what the hell was he thinking recording a double-live disc containing nothing but Black Sabbath tunes?

Yes, it would be easy to condemn Osbourne for this choice. But one has to remember that not terribly long before this disc was recorded in September of 1982, Osbourne's world collapsed in upon itself with the tragic death of guitarist Randy Rhoads in March of that year. (Plans for a live set with Rhoads were put on hold, and would not come to fruition until many years later with Tribute.) While Osbourne did return to the road with a re-tooled band, I'm guessing that Osbourne's heart wasn't quite into the solo material just yet. (I don't claim this is the reason for the all-Sabbath album, but it does seem to be the logical explanation.)nbtc__dv_250

In a sense, it would also be easy to condemn guitarist Brad Gillis (who would later return to Night Ranger) for not sounding like Tony Iommi in his soloing, or to write off bassist Rudy Sarzo (who'd later return to Quiet Riot) and drummer Tommy Aldridge as a semi-clone of Black Sabbath. But maybe - just maybe - Osbourne needed to do an album like this in order to fully exorcise his Black Sabbath past, and allow him to reclaim the glory of the songs, rather than be weighed down by them.

All of this makes Speak Of The Devil sound like a noble project. Sadly, it's not the greatest live album in the world - though it can hardly be called a failure, either.

Osbourne and crew plow through 13 of Black Sabbath's best-known songs from 1970 to 1978, doing a respectable job of keeping somewhat close to the originals. Yes, I admit I sometimes wish that Gillis had kept the guitar acrobatics to a minimum - but it's probably for the best that he didn't try to play Iommi's solos note-for-note. Osbourne was trying to put his own solo signature on these tracks, and it's only fair that Gillis be allowed the same courtesy. (I will, however, say that I wish Aldridge had kept to the same drum patterns as Bill Ward's, especially early on with songs like "Snowblind".)

The one thing that damns Speak Of The Devil is that it often sounds like Osbourne and crew are giving a rote performance, going through the motions as if they had been doing these same songs non-stop for a decade or more. (In a sense, though, one could forgive Osbourne for sounding a little bored at times - after all, he did perform these non-stop for almost a decade.) Only "The Wizard," a song Osbourne admits from the stage he hasn't played live since 1972, has an air of freshness about it, almost as if the band and audience were rediscovering it together. It also sounds like some of the vocals were double-tracked - I don't mind if they're doctored a little bit, but the fixes should be seamless, not this noticeable. (I understand the re-mastered CD, which is now out-of-print, features even more vocal doctoring.)

I hesitate to say that Speak Of The Devil is not required owning, for fans of Osbourne (and even Black Sabbath) will find enough on this disc to rejoice over. But while it seems to make sense to have done this disc nearly 20 years after the fact, it still occasionally seems like an odd decision - and it's not always a comfortable sounding one.

Rating: C

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© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Jet Records, and is used for informational purposes only.