Diary Of A Madman (Legacy Edition)
REVIEW BY: Ben McVicker
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 09/21/2011
Having outlined the backstory to the Legacy Edition remasters and offered some comments on the alternative ‘deluxe’ package in my review of Blizzard Of Ozz, I will refrain from repeating them here. And rightfully so: Diary Of A Madman is far and away Ozzy’s best solo album, and deserves more than a few words of praise.
Released within a year of Ozzy’s solo debut, Diary Of A Madman is a significant step forward in every way. While Blizzard was a bit loose around the edges and had the jammier feel of a new band finding its roots, Diary is a more complex and engaging affair: half the songs run over five minutes in length, Rhoads, Daisley, and Kerslake have a tighter chemistry, and Ozzy turns in his best vocal performance since 1975’s Sabotage during his time with Black Sabbath.
There is a remarkable diversity of tracks here for an Ozzy Osbourne record. “Over The Mountain” kicks things off with a bang. Rhoads offers some furious riffing on this one, yet has the musical sensibility to back off and allow for a poppier, melodic chorus. “Flying High Again” features some of his best soloing, and the enhanced, freshly-restored drumming from Lee Kerslake adds a new dimension of heaviness to things, decorating each verse with a flurry of hits. “Tonight” remains Ozzy’s best ballad, far superior to the overplayed “Goodbye To Romance” in this reviewer’s opinion. “Diary Of A Madman” meanwhile, represents the artistic peak of what Ozzy would achieve in his solo career. Rhoads switches seamlessly from a now trademark eerie acoustic phrase, to an evil, distorted riff, with things winding down in an epic conclusion featuring strings and a full-blown choir.
The question is, what has changed with this latest 2011 release?
As far as the studio album goes, not much. Much like the Legacy Edition of Blizzard, it’s got a bit more bite than the 1995 remasters, with the rhythm section being the greatest beneficiary. “Little Dolls” is especially nice. Daisley travels around the fretboard with subtle but clever fills, and Kerslake adds his own touch to things while holding down a nice groove. Likewise, I hadn’t remembered “S.A.T.O.” being so driven by the drums and bass. It’s a pity that Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge are still credited in the liners (Daisley and Kerslake were fired shortly after the album’s recording, before its release), but hardly surprising, given the icy business relationship between Sharon Osbourne and her husband’s former bandmates.
In terms of extras, it’s a slightly better deal than the Blizzard one. Although there aren’t any studio outtakes or the like, you do get a bonus disc simply entitled Ozzy Live. No info is given regarding the date or location of its recording, save for its being in the later stages of the Blizzard Of Ozz tour (the rhythm section was composed of Aldridge and Sarzo by this point). Rhoads is fantastic, as one would expect – did the man ever have an off night during his short time in the spotlight??
It’s a solid performance by the band, and yet there’s something unsatisfying about the live disc. In addition to being quite ‘cleaned up’ (the audience is rather distant in the mix, almost as if on a backing track) the show’s inclusion seems a bit lazy and redundant. Ozzy’s classic live album with Rhoads, Tribute (1987) has a much better vibe and features the same setlist as Ozzy Live. In fact, Tribute has the same setlist and then some, with three more tracks. Ozzy Live will be mere a footnote in the man’s discography, as even the six-song live EP Just Say Ozzy (1990) had a greater punch and atmosphere to it.
As with the Legacy Edition of Blizzard Of Ozz, I have mixed feelings assigning a grade to this latest packaging of Diary Of A Madman. The original is an A- in my books, and with the slightly improved sound, I have no qualms giving the album a solid A rating as it is Ozzy’s best solo effort. As for the value of the package, though, I have trouble recommending the Legacy Edition to anyone who already has the original recording or the 1995 release. The lack of bonus tracks and the humdrum Ozzy Live disc just aren’t worth the price of admission for longtime fans.