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Ozzy Osbourne: Diary Of A Madman - Album Of The Week Club review

Ozzy Osbourne's second solo album Diary Of A Madman has lived in the shadow of Blizzard Of Oz for decades: does it deserve better?

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman cover art
(Image: © Sony Music)
Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman

Ozzy Osbourne - Diary Of A Madman cover art

(Image credit: Sony Music)

Over the Mountain
Flying High Again
You Can't Kill Rock and Roll
Believer
Little Dolls
Tonight
S.A.T.O.
Diary of a Madman

Ozzy Osbourne’s first post-Black Sabbath band – himself, Randy Rhoads, ex-Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake and ex-Rainbow bassist/lyricist ‘Bomber’ Bob Daisley – formed such a tight writing unit that they cut two albums in less than a year. 

Blizzard Of Oz came first, and Diary Of A Madman emerged in November 1981, but a surprise lay in store for Daisley and Kerslake. Fired just weeks after recording was finished, they were shocked when they saw the finished album: Tommy Aldridge and Rudy Sarzo were credited as drummer and bassist; production was credited to Ozzy, Randy and Max Norman. “We were all hands-on with the production,” Daisley says, “but Lee and I didn’t get credited for anything. We’d been written out of history.”

Despite all the shenanigans – the fallout from a firing Kerslake referred to as a "bombshell" would continue for decades – Ozzy was in vintage form, rejoicing in his wild lifestyle on the self-explanatory Flying High Again, sticking it to The Man with heartfelt emotion on You Can’t Kill Rock And Roll, and wailing “Sanity now is beyond me!” on the title track. The latter, a bizarre gothic metal masterpiece with neo-classical flourishes, is perhaps Randy Rhoads’ crowning glory.

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Other albums released in November 1981

  • Re·ac·tor - Neil Young and Crazy Horse
  • Mob Rules - Black Sabbath
  • Shake It Up - The Cars
  • Tonight I'm Yours - Rod Stewart
  • La Folie - The Stranglers
  • Music from "The Elder" - Kiss
  • Too Fast for Love - Motley Crue
  • Till Deaf Do Us Part - Slade
  • Renegade - Thin Lizzy
  • I Love Rock 'n' Roll - Joan Jett & the Blackhearts
  • Stop and Smell the Roses - Ringo Starr
  • For Those About to Rock We Salute You - AC/DC
  • Ten Out of 10 - 10cc
  • Take No Prisoners - Molly Hatchet

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What they said...

"Even if parts of the album don't quite live up to the band's previous (and incredibly high) standards, they're by no means bad; moreover, the production is fuller, and the instruments better recorded this time around. It's not uncommon to find fans who prefer Diary to Blizzard, since it sets an even more mystical, eerie mood, and since Rhoads' playing is progressing to an even higher level." (AllMusic (opens in new tab))

"There is an understandably high amount of nostalgia for the first two releases, and questions of "What if?" will always surround his career. As far as unintentional swansongs go, though, nearly anybody could do a lot worse than Rhoads did with Diary Of A Madman, and the album's placement at the top of the Ozzy mountain is a fine testament to his short, great legacy." (Metal Storm (opens in new tab))

"This album is undoubtedly Rhoads' from start to finish. And what an eerie finish indeed, with the haunting title song. That traverses through a few haunting verses and a very haunting mid section. Then the outtro – when Rhoads' furious riff is accompanied by a chorus of spiritual voices that escort his very last performance on record to a bone-chilling end." (Classic Rock Review (opens in new tab))

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What you said...

John Davidson: You can't judge a book by its cover (although I often do) and the same is true of music albums.

Diary Of A Madman portrays Ozzy in pantomime horror make-up, giving the impression of equally daft and schlocky music. It couldn't be further from the truth.

Ozzy sounds as good here as he ever has, and Randy Rhoads' guitars offer a sublime backdrop (as well as taking centre stage themselves).

The songwriting and vocal delivery reminds me of Sabotage at times which is high praise.

The two stand out tracks are Flying High Again and You Can't Kill Rock n Roll. The latter could so easily have been a cheesy Saxon-style bullet belt singalong, but is instead a heartfelt personal love song and pledge of commitment to rock'n'roll . The rest of the album is pretty good too , particularly the closing title track, and there is no obvious filler.

Listening to this in context (as a follow up to Blizzard) it doesn't open as strongly as I Don't know, nor does it have the iconic singalongs like Crazy Train or Mr Crowley, but the overall quality is on a par.

Gus Schultz: I far more enjoyed Blizzard than Diary. Bought both albums at time of release. Diary was was well performed, but for me didn’t have the magic Blizzard had. Diary was the last Ozzy album I bought as the quality of the music was lacking after it. I think even if Randy Rhoads hadn't died Ozzy’s self destructive behaviour would have borne the same results. Still not a bad album.

Uli Hassinger: I am astonished that a lot of you guys rate this album higher than Blizzard. I can't get along with that. For me Blizzard of Ozz is his masterpiece. The songwriting is outstanding and it's a definite 10.

This doesn't mean I don't like this album. It has no bad songs on it and it belongs with the best Ozzy records. But only two songs (Over The Mountain and the title track) maintain the class of the debut album. On the title track the music captures the lunatic atmosphere of the song text perfectly. Over The Mountain is just a great Ozzy rocker. The rest of the songs are good but not overwhelming. Even the ballad Tonight can't match Goodbye To Romance.

What makes the album stand out is that it is the last one with Randy before a drunk pilot killed him. Ozzy's vocals and the guitar playing of Randy are both so recognisable, and makes it very special. I would bet they'd still be making music together till this very day if fate had not separated them. Score 8/10.

Chris Downie: For a myriad of reasons, Diary Of A Madman has often been dismissed as the stereotypical sophomore slump, when viewed in the context of Ozzy Osbourne's seminal early works. In retrospect, to endorse this view as the general consensus does an injustice to the collective contributions of what is perhaps the strongest lineup assembled in his post-Sabbath years.

While there is no denying the impact made by the undisputed classic that is Blizzard Of Ozz (which quickly and ruthlessly dispelled any lingering notions that Ozzy would sink without the band that made his name) or the triumph in the face of adversity that was Bark At The Moon, a significant number of fans have always lamented the fact this effort did not capitalise on the early promise, in a purely commercial sense. Yet it is to the band's eternal credit that, far from repeating a successful formula, or copping out and going straight for the fledgling MTV audience, they delivered an album that is altogether less immediate and darker than its predecessor.

By way of comparison, this is the Empire Strikes Back of the Ozzy canon, an effort that, exemplified by its haunting title track, took the formula of its immediate predecessor and twisted it into something altogether deeper and more demanding of its audience. If there is one regret, it is that Diary Of A Madman leaves the more discerning listener wondering what might have been, had events not taken such a tragic turn. If Blizzard, Bark and No More Tears are the populist picks in Ozzy's solo career, Diary is the connoisseur's choice. 9/10.

Brian Carr: For a guitar geek like me, Ozzy’s second solo outing gets a perfect 10 simply for the sensational guitar work of Randy Rhoads. But Diary Of A Madman is more than guitar - it is loaded with songs that resonate with me. I remember in high school learning to play Believer on bass (in the days before I was very familiar and with the album). S.A.T.O. begins in haunting Ozzy fashion before kicking into a higher gear. And the title track is a masterpiece that blows me away every time I listen - easily one of my favourite hard rock songs of all time. And those are the songs you won’t typically hear on the radio!

If I have any complaints, it would be that the album is just too damned short. But that’s the deal - it is difficult to listen to this or Blizzard without thinking of what might have been. Would Randy have turned a generation of guitarists onto the wonders of classical guitar? Would he bounce between the two worlds of classical and hard rock? I can only wonder, and be thankful that we have the music he left.

Andrew Cumming: Tremendous album. Great reminder, now we just have gimmicks, caricatures and weird duets, that Ozzy was capable of making proper, really strong rock albums. Also makes you wonder what could have been if Randy had lived.

Greg Schwepe: Can’t believe I’d never read, er, listened to Ozzy’s “Diary” until this review selection. Now I know all his deep, dark secrets. Of course, the diary didn’t tell me why he released a different version of this album at one point with different musicians credited. Oh, that crazy Ozzy!

Right off the bat (um, no pun intended!) when I heard the opening riff of Over The Mountain, I thought to myself “chugging buzzsaw guitar… remember that when you write your review.” And yes, Randy Rhoads’ chugging buzzsaw guitar riff totally locks you in from the get go. You could spend days writing about Randy’s influence, how he was gone all too soon, but first and foremost, how he helped Ozzy get his solo career off the ground.

The quick one-two punch and pummelling of Over The Mountain and Flying High Again makes way to the slower and melodic You Can’t Kill Rock And Roll where we find Mr. Osbourne in a slightly plaintive mode. Excellent instrumentation on this seven minute adventure.

Believer and Little Dolls find Ozzy treading close to his Sabbath roots a little with some sludgy riffs. You hear a few pinch harmonic squeals in Little Dolls which I bet a certain high school aged guitar player in New Jersey named Jeffrey Wielandt must have heard and filed away for later use.

Tonight= is the album’s ballad entry, and while I don’t not like the song, I can only envision it being played in concert while lighter waving fans sway in unison. Too clichéd for me!

I was surprised at the length of some of these songs. Five, six and seven minutes in some cases. Not the normal “Three minutes and we’re outta here” structure. You can tell that Ozzy decided (with Randy’s input too?) to make his solo albums not sound like “Sabbath II” and provide a little more depth and variation.

While I do appreciate the dynamics and pace of an album, I would’ve really liked to hear what this album would have sounded like if you kept up the pace of the first two songs. That would’ve been a nice aural assault.

This is a good follow up to Blizzard Of Ozz that I had never heard in its entirety. After borrowing and taping Blizzard from someone in my college dorm right when it was released, I never had the urge to actually purchase any of his music on whatever medium was popular at the time after that. But anything new I heard on the radio I always liked and cranked up. 9 out of 10 on this one.

Richard Cardenas: I remember when this came out. I was a Sabbath fan and I was pumped. At this age, however, I was still biased towards Black Sabbath and thought this was too polished. I felt it was missing the sludge that exemplified the darkness of his music.

The tour itself was incredible. The back and forth between Ozzy and Randy brought out an energy that I did not get from the record. For me, this is a seven or eight.

Elad Winberg: My favourite Ozzy Osbourne album, and one of my favourite albums of all time! I love how Randy Rhoads' playing became much more complex and dark on here, and how this album marked a huge improvement over Blizzard Of Ozz in terms of lyrics, music and even production. In my opinion, except for No More Tears and Bark At The Moon, Ozzy never came close to this level of music again, and I'll even dare to say that Diary Of A Madman is better than most Black Sabbath albums including the classics with Ozzy in the 70s

Alex Hayes: As fandabbydozy as Diary Of A Madman is, there's a version of the album out there that I'm gonna recommend people avoid like the plague, despite having never even heard it myself.

In 2002, the powers that be (let's just leave it at that) saw to it that this album was re-issued with Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake's original bass and drum parts unceremoniously wiped and replaced with Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin respectively, the latter two musicians being a part of Ozzy's band at that particular time.

With respect to Trujillo and Bordin, none of this was their fault, this 2002 re-issue is to be given the widest of wide berths, given the circumstances involved. Don't give 'them' the satisfaction.

What about the Diary Of A Madman album itself? When it comes to this absolute stonker, I can only regurgitate all the common points made by others. Top album, probably Ozzy's finest, superb showcase for the talents of the late (and sublimely great) Randy Rhoads, etc. I will never grow tired of throwing superlatives at this album. Gods below, that title track.

You know that great bass line in Tonight though? Imagine that being played by someone other than Daisley. Bloody sacrilege!

Paul Hutchings: I was obsessed with this as an 11-year-old. From the crazy cover and the Krusher Joule designs through to a selection of the best songs Ozzy ever wrote. For me, this is Randy's masterpiece, a tragic swansong. There are so many little gems that still jump out when listening today. I'm going to enjoy heading back to my youth with this one. A high score beckons.

Bill Griffin: This album has arguably (even in my own head) the single best Ozzy sung song in his entire career: the title track. There is less filler on this compared to the debut but it still has one or two. Bob and Lee were great writers and it's a shame Sharon tried to weasel them out of their well deserved royalties.

Adam Ranger: When I was younger, I always thought Blizzard was better. I don't know, maybe it was the more comical cover that always made me think that and so didn't listen to this as much as Blizzard.

However in recent years I have reappraised my view. Diary is every bit the equal of Blizzard. And quite probably better. As a solo artist Ozzy never reached these heights again.

Mark Tucker: Stone cold classic! Sounds like nothing else released before or since. The song structures are epic even on the shorter numbers. Lyrically exceptional. Everyone was at the top of their game. As much as I love Ozzy, nothing he has released since has come close to it. We can but wonder what he would have sounded like if not for the death of Randy. 10/10

Stefan Aquilina: Yes, even for me, liked it less than Blizzard the first time I discovered it, and thought it was mellow, especially the songs in the middle. But now I often listen to it!

Laura Marilyn: Love this one. 10/10 as far as I’m concerned

Danny Evans: An absolute masterpiece, not a weak song to be found! I literally wore out the first cassette copy I bought, and had to replace it. Not only is this by far my favourite Ozzy album, it’s my favourite album ever!

Philip Qvist: I decided to give Blizzard of Oz, Diary of a Madman and Bark at the Moon all a spin today and my verdict?

Bark At The Moon definitely misses Randy Rhoads (not that Jake E Lee was a slouch on guitar) and the drums were very muffled, and it does scream 80s. The weakest of the three albums, but that is relative, it's still a very good album - and a 7.5/10 here.

As for Blizzard; what a great debut, Ozzy sure pulled out the stops here and a case of if only Randy didn't try to fly that plane. A solid 8.5/10

And finally to Diary Of A Madman, what is my verdict here? Well this was definitely not a case of dropping the ball after a great debut - in fact I would say this was probably his best album.

The title track is magnificent, along with Over The Mountain and Flying High Again, while Can't Kill Rock And Roll starts off slowly but develops into an epic song.

There isn't a bad track on this album, but it's a pity that it has since been overshadowed by the nonsense about royalties and the subsequent scrubbing out of Bob and Lee on later pressings. The album deserves a better legacy than that. In my opinion Ozzy peaked on Diary - 9/10 for me.

Wade Babineau: Between Blizzard and Diary, I feel Randy was coming into his own on Diary. I can definitely tell the difference in playing (and his playing on Blizzard was fantastic). Truly a shame that the music world was robbed of his talent. Would have been interesting to see what Bark At The Moon would have been like with Aldrige, Sarzo, Rhodes instead of Daisley, Appice and Lee. For my money, not a bum track on the lot. 10/10 for the title track alone. Album still gets regular rotation on the stereo.

Evan Sanders: This album proved that Blizzard Of Ozz was no fluke, and was a showcase for Randy Rhoads' guitar playing. There are multiple strong songs, with my favourites being the bookends of Over The Mountain, Flying High Again, S.A.T.O., and the title track. Who knows what would have been if Randy hadn't died soon after the release. This album along with Blizzard re-established Ozzy's career. He was considered washed up after leaving Black Sabbath in 1978, and Sabbath was in resurgence after a successful album with Ronnie James Dio taking over the lead vocals. I saw Ozzy live on the Madman tour, in fine form, and my buddy declared "that's the real Sabbath". 8/10

Joe Cogan: This is arguably even better than Blizzard Of Ozz. Over The Mountain is one of the most stunning band performances ever recorded, You Can't Kill Rock And Roll, and Flying High Again are anthems that would have been standouts on any album, and the title track is a spooky tour-de-force of virtuoso performances in ever-shifting time signatures, likely the closest to prog that Ozzy came after Sabbath's Symptom Of The Universe. 10/10, thanks in no small part to Randy Rhoads, Bob Daisley, and Lee Kerslake's contributions.

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Final Score: 8.66 (187 votes cast, with a total score of 1621)

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