Various Artists Immortal Randy Rhoads – The Ultimate Tribute
Released: 2015, UDR Music
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Despite it's all-star line-up and the undeniably classic material with which they have to work with, this tribute to late guitar hero Randy Rhoads is a disappointingly underwhelming affair. Sure, the guitar playing – from the likes of Brad Gillis, Bernie Tormé and Gus G., who all have played in Rhoads' stead with Ozzy Osbourne over the years; Doug Aldrich; George Lynch; and some unusual but inspired choices like Rage Against The Machine's Tom Morello and Dweezil Zappa – is top notch and the solos inspired and spot on.
But the songs – nine from Rhoads' two albums with Ozzy and a couple pretty lame numbers from his time with Quiet Riot before that – come off, for that most part, as flat and workmanlike, with the only real spunk coming during the solos. The tempos – from Vinny Appice, Frankie Banali and Brett Chassen - are noticeably slower on nearly all of the Ozzy-era songs, sounding like they were recorded at three-quarter speed. Where is Tommy Aldridge when you need him?
The production, too, from Bob Kulick, who also contributes guitar here, is surprisingly toothless, with everything seeming somewhat muted and mushy, except, again, for the solos and the vocals of Tim “Ripper” Owens, who sings on three-quarters of the tracks here and damn sure makes himself heard.
Immortal gets off to a promising enough start, with the suitably off-kilter “Crazy Train.” System Of A Down frontman Serj Tankian and Morello definitely bring some “crazy” to the table with whimsical vocals and shrieking, loopy guitar histrionics that give this track in particular a personality many of the others lack – although its liberal reinterpretation of the original will no doubt infuriate purists and traditionalists. The revved up “Over The Mountain,” with Anthrax/Shadows Fall guitarist Jon Donais tearing it up over Frankie Banali's refreshingly athletic drumming, is a winner as well.
But things slow down with a sleep-walking “Mr. Crowley,” despite Testament frontman Chuck Billy's full-throated roar, and never really regain their momentum. “Believer” slogs along as well, and “I Don't Know” only explodes around George Lynch's incendiary solo. Ditto “S.A.T.O.,” with the Kulick and Zappa providing the fireworks here.
The perkier “Back To The Coast,” with Rhoads' brother Kelle on vocals, is just a “meh!” old school glam rocky song with a killer solo, as is the other Quiet Riot offering “Killer Girls.” Both are worthy as curiosities, I suppose, since they are from the band's first two albums that were released only in Japan, but that's about it.
Rhoads' immediate – and rather briefly tenured – successors in Ozzy's band, Tormé and Gillis, finish things off on “Flying High Again” and “Suicide Solution,” respectively, that - not to sound like a broken record - follow pretty much the same modus operandi as the rest of the material here: blasé jam sessions with cool leads and Owens singing his ass off. Given Owens' inspired work, the album seems as much a tribute to Ozzy as it does to Rhoads.
Indeed, perhaps a more fitting tribute to Rhoads would be for fans to just go out and get the real deal from the genuine article on the first two Ozzy albums - or Ozzy's live album, Tribute. And if you've got 'em already, just listen to them again and savor Rhoads' brilliance there.
1. Crazy Train (feat. Serj Tankian, Tom Morello, Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice)
2. Over the Mountain (feat. Ripper Owens, Jon Donais, Rudy Sarzo, Frankie Banali)
3. Mr Crowley (feat. Kelle Rhoads, Chuck Billy, Alexi Laiho, Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice)
4. Believer (feat. Ripper Owens, Doug Aldrich, Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice)
5. Back To The Coast (feat. Kelle Rhoads, Bruce Kulick, Rudy Sarzo, Frankie Banali)
6. I Don't Know (feat. Ripper Owens, George Lynch, Rudy Sarzo, Brett Chassen)
7. S A T 0 (feat. Ripper Owens, Bob Kulick, Dweezil Zappa, Rudy Sarzo, Vinny Appice)
8. Killer Girls (feat. Ripper Owens, Joel Hoekstra, Rudy Sarzo, Brett Chassen)
9. Goodbye to Romance (feat. Ripper Owens, Gus G, Rudy Sarzo, Brett Chassen)
10. Suicide Solution (feat. Ripper Owens, Brad Gillis, Rudy Sarzo, Brett Chassen)
11. Flying High Again (feat. Ripper Owens, Bernie Tormé, Rudy Sarzo, Brett Chassen)