The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
I do not think it is an exaggeration to say that no person in history has done more to shape heavy metal than Ozzy Osbourne. Legends like Ronnie James Dio and Lemmy Kilmister deserve their appropriate reverence, but Ozzy was there in the beginning.
Black Sabbath is regarded by most as the godfathers of metal. Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass and Bill Ward on drums formed a unit that delivered crushing power chords and trippy instrumentals alike. The band’s use of minor, sometimes dissonant chord progressions, thick with distortion, created a new style of music. Artists like Hendrix, Clapton and Led Zeppelin were already doing hard rock, but this was harder than hard rock. This was heavy metal.
Black Sabbath’s vocalist, and the prince of this dark new kingdom, was a young kid from Birmingham named John Michael Osbourne. You may know him better as Ozzy. Black Sabbath raged their way through the 1970s, releasing now-classic albums such as their self-titled debut Black Sabbath, Paranoid, Master of Reality and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. But by the end of the decade, the band was out of control, indulging in the usual substances and entrapments that doom rock musicians.
Ozzy was deemed the worst of the lot. He was fired from Black Sabbath in 1979 in an effort to keep the rest of the band together.
This could have been the end, and the last we’d heard of Ozzy Osbourne. But he bounced back as a solo musician, and the rest is history. Not only history but some of the most important history of rock music. In the forty years since Ozzy was dropped from Sabbath, he has discovered, hired and worked with some of the finest musicians in metal, including a handful of the greatest guitarists of all time. He has released eleven studio albums as of this writing, and five live records.
He’s become a cultural icon and, for better or worse, many people who know nothing about metal know his name. This article is my ranking of my top 10 Ozzy albums. I’ve included studio and live albums, and I’ll be focusing on the musicians and circumstances surrounding each record.
I started listening to Ozzy when I was twelve, and Bark at the Moon was my first record. I worked my way back to the first two albums, and Randy Rhoads quickly became one of my biggest influences as a guitar player. In fact, all of Ozzy's music has been hugely influential for me as a musician and music fan.
If you don’t know much about Ozzy I hope you can consider this as a guide for getting into his music.
10. Down to Earth
Down to Earth was released in 2001. It is a dark record, yet singles Get Me Through and Dreamer did well with mainstream audiences, as did the album as a whole. The song Junkie was also well received.
This album marked a point where Ozzy’s music began to take on a different vibe. Zakk has no songwriting credits on this album, as Joe Holmes and outside songwriters had completed the writing process before he re-joined the band.
Perhaps this is the reason the album seems a bit off, at least to me. Zakk Wylde has a definite style, and it did seem like his playing was beginning to move in a different direction. This is by no means a bad album, but not one of Ozzy’s best, in my opinion.
Notably, future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo appears on this album
Ozzy decided to retire following No More Tears and the subsequent tour, or at least he tried to trick us into thinking he was retiring. He was soon back with Ozzmosis in 1995, an album once again featuring Zakk Wylde on lead guitar.
He also brought in Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler. In addition to the usual suspects, Butler shares some songwriting credits, as does Motorhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister and guitar wizard Steve Vai.
Kilmister and Osbourne had collaborated before, notably on the song Hellraiser which appeared on No More Tears as well as the Motorhead album March or Die.
Ozzmosis is a decent album, with strong songs such as See You on the Other Side, Perry Mason and I Just Want You. To me, this record marks the beginning of a change in Ozzy’s music, possibly because Zakk Wylde’s playing seemed to be moving to a darker, heavier style.
Zakk would form his own band called Black Label Society in 1998. BLS’s music is heavier, meaner, and a little rougher around the edges than anything he’d released with Osbourne at that point. Soon, Ozzy’s music would take on a little bit of that nastiness as well.
8. No Rest for the Wicked
1988’s No Rest for the Wicked was the first to feature Zakk Wylde on lead guitar. Then a skinny, blonde-headed kid barely past drinking age, through the years he has become a legend in the metal community.
It all started here, with the opening riff of Miracle Man, a song Ozzy directed at Jimmy Swaggart, a prominent televangelist at the time. Swaggart had taken shots at Osbourne prior to this, causing a mini-feud between the two.
For those who weren’t around in (or can’t remember) the ‘80s, this was a time when heavy metal artists were under constant fire from religious leaders, law firms and the mainstream media. Ozzy was at top of the Most Wanted List and accused of an array of horrible deeds (and it didn't help that some of them were true). Given the culture we live in today and the outlandish behavior of celebrities it seems crazy, but that’s how it was.
Along with Miracle Man, other standout songs on this album include Crazy Babies, Fire in the Sky, and Hero. All in all, this was a good album made great by the introduction of a rare talent in Zakk Wylde.
7. The Ultimate Sin
Jake E. Lee proved he had what it took to stand in for the late, great Randy Rhoads with the release of Bark at the Moon in 1983. It helped that Lee was a very different guitar player, with a more flamboyant style and gunslinger-like approach. He wasn’t replacing Rhoads. Not really. Who could? But he was putting his own spin on the role, and he was very good.
Lee’s sophomore album with Ozzy was The Ultimate Sin, released in 1986. I have to admit I struggled with where to place this album on my list. As an Ozzy fan, I think it is a good album. There really isn’t a bad song here, from the opening track to the last.
With the exception of the title track and Shot in the Dark, they may not be all-time metal classics, but they are certainly classics for Ozzy fans. Over thirty years later, Killer of Giants still gives me chills, and Fool Like You still make me want to put my fist through a wall.
However, as a guitar player, I have always been really impressed with Lee’s playing on this record, including and especially his riffing and rhythm work. He’s nothing short of brilliant, and for that reason alone I feel like I could have put it as high as third on this list.
Unfortunately, Jake E. Lee parted ways with Ozzy after this album. It is unfortunate that we weren’t treated to more of his playing with Ozzy, but his departure ushered in the era of the man who would become Ozzy’s greatest collaborator and a guitar god: Zakk Wylde.
6. Live at Budokan
If Tribute is a virtual guitar clinic put on by Randy Rhoads, then Live at Budokan is the same at the hands of Zakk Wylde. This is actually the second live album to feature Wylde, but in my opinion, it is much more powerful than Live and Loud.
The one thing that strikes me when I listen to this album (and other live Ozzy records) is how songs written by former Ozzy guitarists are played differently by those who followed them. Randy played the main riff to Paranoid slightly differently than Tony Iommi wrote it. Zakk plays Crazy Train slightly differently than Randy wrote it.
They each put their own signature on classic riffs. It is perhaps how a classical violinist may play Bach in their own style, and I think it is a testament to the power of Ozzy’s music over the years.
Zakk is incredible on this recording, and I have little else to say about it. If you love metal guitar, metal music or just good appreciate good musicianship there is a lot here for you.
5. Bark at the Moon
Released in 1983, Bark at the Moon was Ozzy’s first studio album following the death of Randy Rhoads. The live album Speak of the Devil was released in late 1982, with Night Ranger shredder Brad Gillis appearing on lead guitar, as he had filled in on the Diary of a Madman tour following Rhoads’s tragic death.
But Ozzy needed a full-time guitarist, and the man chosen to fill the giant shoes left by Randy Rhoads was Jake E. Lee.
Bark at the Moon was just the album Ozzy fans needed to heal the wounds. The title track, with Lee’s ferocious riffing, has gone down as one of metal’s all-time classic tunes, but there is more here as well. Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel, Now You See It (Now You Don’t), Centre of Eternity and the ethereal Waiting for Darkness are all great tracks. So Tired is a notable ballad, though certainly not one of the best songs on the album.
With Bark at the Moon, Jake E. Lee cemented his place as the second in what would be a line of amazing guitar players hired by Ozzy Osbourne. Jake is a monster guitarist, and Ozzy knows how to pick them.
4. Randy Rhoads Tribute
If you are new to Ozzy's music you may be wondering whatever happened to Randy Rhoads. Why isn't he better known, and how come he isn't often spoken of outside of the guitar and metal communities?
Sadly, Randy died in a plane crash on March 19, 1982, at the age of 25. His two studio albums with Ozzy are left as his main contributions to music history. He isn’t known for his innovation like Van Halen or his mystique like Hendrix, but for rock and metal guitarists in many ways, he was just as important.
Randy Rhoads was an exceptional technical guitarist, and he influenced countless young musicians.
In addition to his records with Ozzy, he also played on a couple of studio albums in the late ‘70s as a member of Quiet Riot, which were only released in Japan. The song Thunderbird on Quiet Riot’s U.S. debut Metal Health is a tribute to Rhoads. He also shares writing credit for the song Slick Black Cadillac on that album. The album Quiet Riot: The Randy Rhoads Years was released in 1993 and featured Randy’s recordings with the band.
However, in my opinion, the live album Tribute, released by Ozzy Osbourne in 1987, is essential listening for anyone interested in understanding Rhoads’s brilliance. It was a huge influence on me as a young guitarist, as was Randy in general.
Tribute made my list of the most essential guitar albums of all time, and I highly recommend it for aspiring guitar players, or just anyone interested in great music.
3. No More Tears
By the end of the 1980s, Ozzy had earned a spot at outer edges the mainstream public’s consciousness, sometimes due to his music, and mostly due to his outlandish actions. He was already an icon of the heavy metal world, but other than the duet Close My Eyes Forever with Lita Ford in 1988 he hadn’t done a lot to appeal to the mainstream public.
That changed with the release of No More Tears in 1991. The albums reached a peak of number seven on the Billboard 200, with four Mainstream Rock top ten singles: Time After Time, No More Tears, Mama I’m Coming Home and Road to Nowhere.
This was a time period when heavy bands like Metallica, Megadeth, and Testament were getting increased attention, and Ozzy rode the wave. In my opinion, this was a great album regardless of the media accolades. Head-banging classics such as Desire, Hellraiser, Zombie Stomp, and the creepy Mr. Tinkertrain balance out the power ballads and make sure this remains a true metal record.
Personnel for No More Tears included Randy Castillo on drums, John Sinclair on keys, Bob Daisley on bass and the now-legendary Zakk Wylde on guitar.
2. Diary of a Madman
Ozzy’s next album was Diary of Madman, released in 1981. If not for Mr. Crowley I likely would have put this record at the top of the list. While there are no rock anthems or metal classics here, every song is solid.
Flying High and Over the Mountain are probably the two best-known tracks here, and both get classic rock radio airplay to this day. However, in my opinion, the rest of the disc is just as good.
You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll might be my favorite song on the album. It was a bit of a rallying cry for metalheads back in the day. As I get older I see it as a reminder that, no matter how bad music is today, they can’t take away the good stuff I grew up with.
You can’t kill rock and roll – Ozzy said so!
Nothing on this record rises to the level of a Mr. Crowley or Dee from Blizzard of Oz, but Rhoads’s playing is excellent throughout. Daisley, Airey, and Kerslake returned for the recording of Diary of a Madman. However, Daisley and Kerslake were let go before touring, replaced by Rhoads’s Quiet Riot bandmate Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums.
1. Blizzard of Ozz
In September of 1980, Ozzy Osbourne stepped back into the metal spotlight with his debut solo album called Blizzard of Ozz. His new band included bassist Bob Daisley, keyboardist Don Airey, and drummer Lee Kerslake, as well as a young guitarist named Randy Rhoads.
In contrast to Osbourne’s brash and over-the-top persona, Rhoads was a quiet, seemingly shy, classically trained musician. On both Blizzard of Ozz and the album that followed the two combined to create some of the most epic songs in rock history.
These days, anyone who has attended a sporting event knows the song Crazy Train. It has become a somewhat overplayed rock anthem, but there is no denying Rhoads’ brilliance throughout this track.
While this may be overly optimistic, I like to believe there are people who hear Crazy Train and look deeper into Ozzy’s music. On this album, they’ll find lesser-known gems like I Don’t Know, Steal Away (the Night), and the slow-moving Goodbye to Romance.
The song Dee is a classically influenced acoustic solo featuring Rhoads. However, the track that puts this record over the top in my opinion, and bumps it ahead of Ozzy’s second studio album, is Mr. Crowley.
Written by Osbourne, Rhoads, and Daisley, Mr. Crowley is a masterpiece from both a lyrical and musical standpoint. The song centers on legendary occultist Aleister Crowley, with appropriate dark imagery in the lyrics.
However, it is Rhoads’s playing that makes this track so great. His solos are brilliant throughout, and perfect examples of why he is regarded as one of the finest metal guitarists of all time.
So, are there kids out there who hear Crazy Train at a football game, then buy Blizzard of Ozz, discover Randy Rhoads and go on to become metal guitarists? I hope so, but again I am probably overly optimistic.
Still, if you are new to Ozzy's music, and especially if you are an aspiring guitar player, I highly recommend checking out Blizzard of Ozz, the album that started it all.
Ozzy Osbourne Studio and Live Albums
|Year of Release||Studio Albums||Live Albums|
Blizzard of Ozz
Diary of a Madman
Speak of the Devil
Bark at the Moon
The Ultimate Sin
No Rest for the Wicked
No More Tears
Live & Loud
Down to Earth
Live at Budokan
10 Best Ozzy Osbourne Albums
Here's a recap of my list:
- Blizzard of Ozz
- Diary of a Madman
- No More Tears
- Bark at the Moon
- Live at Budokan
- The Ultimate Sin
- No Rest for the Wicked
- Down to Earth
I have no doubt that you have your own story as an Ozzy fan, so feel free to tell it in the comments. Let me know where you would rank these albums as well!
Ozzy has released three more studio albums: Black Rain in 2007, Scream in 2010, and Ordinary Man in 2020, as well as a cover album called Under Cover in 2005. Black Rain was the last to include Zakk Wylde, though he has now returned as a member of Ozzy’s touring band. Scream featured power metal shredder Gus G on guitar.
Say what you will about his issues, decision making, and enunciation, Ozzy is a legend in the rock world. It is hard to imagine metal without him. Given the musical climate of today, it is equally hard to imagine another figure of his stature ever arising. He is the Prince of Darkness, one of the godfathers of heavy metal and a living legend. When he is gone he will leave a huge gap in the music world.
The Best Ozzy Osbourne Album
Guitar Gopher (author) on August 15, 2019:
@Wesman - I know what you mean. Ozzy is an icon and definitely has an aura about him. Maybe Lemmy from Motorhead and Ronnie James Dio were two others of similar stature, but they have sadly passed on. When we lose Ozzy it will be a dark day. People who aren't into the metal community might not get it, but he is like royalty.
I haven't been to a metal show in a while, but there is almost always that feeling of camaraderie at every one I've been to, like we are all brothers and sisters. I've seen some pretty aggressive bands, but everybody is always cool. We're all there for the same reason. It's no doubt a high-T atmosphere, but it's not the same as like a crowded bar or club where everyone is eyeballing each other and seems like they are looking for a fight.
"Normal" people don't understand that about metal. Guys like Ozzy bring us all together.
Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on August 14, 2019:
I've got to start paying more attention to your profile. Something like this article should show up in my feed, but I never knew about it.
Oh man, for some years Black Sabbath and Ozzy's solo stuff was what I constantly listened to in order to unwind my head from all the craziness going on in there. And I'm probably not the most happy go lucky person. I'm just wound up pretty tight, and have a tendency to dwell on things and blow up.
I always felt like there was something about Ozzy to where he and I were on the same sort of page. We were at least in the same book. I felt I understood everything he would be singing about, and that we were kindred persons. One could read into this I'm saying I'm an addict. Well okay.
I took my younger brother to his very first rock concert. I was always glad I did that, and he goes to concerts constantly now, and I never do. It was called 'The Freaker's Ball,' and this was basically Ozzfest before there was Ozzfest.
I don't remember who all was there, but I do remember Danzig was there, and it was the second time I'd seen Danzig, but Danzig was in this goofy industrial metal phase.
When Ozzy's set started, and this was at Starplex in Dallas, Tx; my brother and I moved from the green grass hill to as close to the front as possible. There was this weird feeling I'd never felt before, maybe I was the only person who felt it, but I suddenly felt like everyone around me was my own family. Just an amazing feeling.
Ha, I could go on and tell some more stories here, but I'm not sure it would be proper. I'm attempting to behave myself online in my middle years. I'm not sure Ozzy would entirely approve.