Music Appreciation - Randy Rhoads Tribute
He left behind a precious few gems of guitar wizardry. His innovations, techniques and trademark approaches defined the sound of heavy guitar ire the '80's and created a sphere of influence that continues to be felt today. Randy Rhoads' legacy and contribution to music have been well documented and acknowledged, but what has been conspicuously missing is a definitive live recording to form a comprehensive collection of this gifted artist's work. Now, after a five-year Ozz imposed moratorium, the long-awaited live Randy Rhoads Lp has been re-leased, and in a sense, completes the cycle. Ozzy Osboume-Randy Rhoads: Tribute is a cross-section of the man's talents, musical persona and energy in a two record set, which combines live performance of Blizzard of Ozz favorites with rejuvenated Black Sabbath standards and a surprise visit with Randy in the studio tracking the acoustic guitar basics for "Dee."
On Randy's live renditions of the Blizzard of Ozz / Diary of a Madman classics ("I Don't Know," "Crazy Train," "Believer," etc.), it is fascinating to examine and compare his procedures and techniques in converting the intricate and multi-layered guitar parts of the recorded versions to suitable on-stage counterparts. To do this he combined, re-edited and condensed parts to convey the impression of and, indeed, transcend the original multi-track format, an important component of his studio style. Two prime examples of his dealing with this problem can be heard in the bridge of "I Don't Know" and the rhythm guitar part of ‘Goodbye to Romance."
Randy had an instinctive feeling for correctness in recomposing what could be in the hands of lesser players cumbersome and chaotic chordal movements. This is testimony to his compositional values ever at work. In the prechorus of "Flying High Again," Randy combines individual multi-tracked lines to develop his live part which is essentially parallel thirds, creating a simple solution that satisfies the ear with an ensemble sound. Randy's condensing of guitar parts often resulted in chordal passages wherein arpeggiation implied multi-tracked guitars. The bridge to "Revelation Mother Earth" and the verse to "Goodbye to Romance" display this effective technique. As an example of re-editing, Randy omits the final measures of his guitar solo line in "Steal Away the Night" in favor of playing the stronger and more identifiable rhythm guitar riff with the band.
In virtually every tune, the listener can hear evidence of Randy's elaboration and embellishment of the basic song structure with countless additional fills, extending and intensifying existing sections with interesting new material. All the familiar Rhoads-isms are here but more plentiful: long, elastic bends, wailing artificial harmonics, switch flipping, pick slides, portamento glissandi, pull-offs flurries, trills and whammy bar manipulations of all types. In "Crazy Train" Randy elaborates on the basic song structure by adding two solos to the form which function as intro and outro, respectively. These new solo sections were given a freer treatment, producing statements which were more like an assortment of fills and noises than the constructed solos he was famous for.
Randy approached his solos in two ways. The first being a stylized classical concept of reproducing/duplicating the melodic and rhythmic entity intact, with little or no obvious variation. The solos to "I Don't Know," "Crazy Train," "Mr. Crowley," "Flying High Again," "Revelation Mother Earth," "Steal Away the Night" and "Goodbye to Romance" all share this approach. The second is one in which he paraphrases while extemporizing/improvising on the underlying solo mood, structure and thematic content. This more liberal attitude is employed in the solos of "Believer," "Suicide Solution," "Iron Man," "Children of the Grave," "Paranoid" and "No Bone Movies," where fragments from the original solos serve as inspiration for further invention.
Throughout his live performance, Randy used sound effects from his pedal board coloristically to add new dimension to the song (ie: the final chorus of "I Don't Know," where the wah-wah is heard prominently as a filter sweep) or to generally enhance solo lines and chord textures. His well-known arsenal of processors: wah, flanger, fuzz, chorus, EQ, echo and delay was exploited to an even greater extent than in the studio. Included in this collection is Randy's unaccompanied guitar solo which evolves from the closing bars of "Suicide Solution." The elaboration begun in the internal solo hints at the mood and substance of an a cappella spot, particularly in the usage of exotic intervals (tritones), feedback, quick ascending and descending phrases and whammy bar sounds. The unaccompanied solo combines virtuoso flash techniques with melodious episodes, culminating in a mixture of compositional and jammed styles. Key elements in this solo are: extremely fast minor pentatonic riffs which are moved through related tonal centers,, muted flurries, diminished 7th arpeggio out-lines, scalar triadic and chromatic runs, double-handed sequences and whammy bar growls and dives.
It is immediately obvious that the Black Sabbath selections in this set were particularly conducive to Randy's style by virtue of several aspects-the darker, quasi-classical (early Eurometal) mood in modality and melodic content; heavier driving rhythm feel (much like his to join Randy own riffs); and the backing chord progressions for solos, which complemented his penchant for signature melodic rolling scale passages and use of minor and exotic line forms. This suited his guitar playing more aptly than the pop-rock leanings of his Quiet Riot material, which relied in great part on I IV V chord progressions depictive of the major mode. In "Children of the Grave" the background harmony for the solo is I Vi Vii, an aeolian chord pattern, which seems to coax out of Randy the trademark style he developed with Ozzy. The solo to "Paranoid," again built over a driving minor riff, combines, humorously, Chuck Berry unison bend sequences with "out side" scale excursions, bent tap-ons and machine-gun quick picking ostinati. A clear example of Randy Rhoads' rootsier rock 'n' roll/blues side can be heard through out the straight ahead rocker "No t Bone Movies," which finds him using ideas from the basic A pentatonic/blues vocabulary effectively. Furthermore, a solid rock 'n' roll 12/8 triplet phrasing indicative of blues shuffle rhythm and soloing over a simple I IV chord progression strengthens this impression.
Possibly the most unique and unexpected treasure on this album is the personal experience offered the listener to join Randy in the studio during the tracking of "Dee." Here we share intimate moments of a thoughtful performance, resulting in two foundation tracks being laid down, over which he added over dubbed voices to create the familiar masterpiece. Admirers of Rhoads' studio technique will appreciate the insights, informality and candor of this all-too brief session with Randy.
In reevaluating his contributions, it be comes apparent that Randy Rhoads’ work is still as moving and significant as it was over five years ago. It is interesting to see the seeds Rhoads planted take root and bear fruit in so many contemporary guitarists' styles. His pioneering of the fusion of high-tech heavy metal with classical and exotic musics redefined and revitalized the idiom of modern rock guitar. For those who never had the opportunity to see or hear this star shine so brilliantly, and for those who wish to remember, this final encore deserves a standing ovation. We applaud you, Randy and Ozzy!