Today marks the 25th anniversary of Randy Rhoads’ passing. Five years afterwards, Ozzy Osbourne released Tribute, featuring live cuts recorded while on tour for Blizzard of Ozz. They’re good, not great. The band isn’t tight, and Tommy Aldridge turns in an amazingly boring drum solo. Amusingly, Ozzy keeps telling the crowd to stand up. But, of course, the focus of the album is Randy Rhoads.
His short discography (two albums each with Quiet Riot and Ozzy) documented an incredibly meteoric rise. In 1977, the first Quiet Riot album came out, a pleasant collection of glam rock. One could tell Rhoads was good, but he was just playing for the songs. His playing was slightly more colorful on the more accomplished, yet more jaded Quiet Riot II. Two years later was Blizzard of Ozz, an immense step up. Rhoads’ classical influences were coming out, and his playing felt much more “serious.” Working with Ozzy instead of Kevin DuBrow must have helped in that regard. Then came the mindblowing Diary of a Madman. That solo in “Over the Mountain” – jeezus!
Rhoads’ style was a lot like Eddie Van Halen’s. In fact, they had similar backgrounds. They were both classically trained, switching to electric guitar from other instruments, and they were the only guitarists in their bands, which gave them room for noises and embellishments. Their legacy was firebreathing guitarists who played rhythm, lead, and everything in between (e.g., Dimebag Darrell). Van Halen was bluesier, though, and if Rhoads had remained alive, he would have continued further on his classical path. There’s a great picture in a slideshow by Rudy Sarzo that shows Randy looking up classical guitar teachers in the Yellow Pages. While on tour, he would take lessons from local teachers – imagine getting that phone call!
The Rhoads-related bits on Tribute actually aren’t his best moments. His unaccompanied solo in “Suicide Solution” is rather short (for some reason, the song was edited so Ozzy gave the same intro twice). I haven’t heard the “Laughing Gas” solo from Quiet Riot’s The Randy Rhoads Years, but I’ve read that it’s longer, yet substantially similar. As a child, I saw a transcription of the “Laughing Gas” solo and was in awe of how physical it was, with hammer-ons, pull-offs, two-handed tapping, and bending at the headstock (I think). The studio outtakes of “Dee” are kind of painful. You hear Rhoads screw up for four minutes, with tons of reverb. However, you also hear him talk, which is a treat. The guy was human, yet he somehow made polka-dotted guitars seem cool. RIP Randall William Rhoads (December 6, 1956 – March 19, 1982).