OZZY OSBOURNE Blizzard Of Ozz (Epic)

Ozzy's debut solo album, "Blizzard Of Ozz", replaces the slow-motion seriousness of prime Black Sabbath with a kind of chugging commercial heavy metal, although the man's hand of doom is always in evidence. Opening track "I Don't Know" leavens proceedings with a quieter interlude, Ozzy shrugging off any spokesman-for-a-generation mantle that might be offered him. (It's a little reminiscent of Graham Chapman's address to the masses in "The Life Of Brian" - "You're all individuals!") When "Blizzard Of Ozz" strays, however briefly, from the template it's more satisfying. "Goodbye To Romance" is a gentle farewell to former bandmates, the same kind of shockingly affecting ballad moment as "Changes" on "Vol 4". "Dee" is a mere 49 seconds of acoustic sorcery courtesy of former Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads - of whom Ozzy recalls "He started to play and it was like God coming into my life" - decorated with some fierce Steve Howe-style string plucking. The bonus b-side "You Lookin' At Me Lookin' At You" is chunkily serviceable too. However, the main feature is not quite identical to the original 1980 issue, as the bass and percussion parts have been, rather pointlessly, re-recorded by new musicians (was it really necessary to wheel rentacred producer Danny Saber in to perform the tubular bell parts?).

OZZY OSBOURNE Diary Of A Madman (Epic)

Ozzy's second album was recorded back to back with his first, and on the evidence of this new reissue he kept all the best tunes for his debut. "Blizzard Of Ozz" was at least blessed with the occasional stylistic quirk and genre-bending trick to keep proceedings interesting. "Diary Of A Madman", in contrast, sounds like generic heavy metal from the opening drum volley inwards.

There's the odd moment of respite, though. The blustery AOR balladry of "Tonight" is a surprising source of relief in this context. The closing title track is a six-minute melting pot of acoustic guitar picking (more than an echo of The Doors' "Spanish Caravan"), alien time signatures, orchestral arrangements (which, bizarrely, prefigure Laurie Anderson's "Born, Never Asked") and choral blow-out, the whole being pleasantly reminiscent of the kind of experimental epic Sabbath pulled out all the stops for circa "Volume 4" and "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath".

As with the reissued "Blizzard Of Ozz" the original bass and drum parts have been re-recorded by new musicians, apparently in a scurrilous attempt to deny the original contributors further royalties, which leaves something of a nasty taste in the mouth, although whether it's bat or dove I'm unqualified to comment.

Black Sabbath