Ozzy Osbourne is a man of many gifts. He is the man who gave voice to heavy metal, a frontman of voluminous charisma, a wit, and one of few people who can resist the distorting panopticon of reality TV and remain true to himself.
But one of his greatest gifts is for human resources. Ozzy is a fisher of men, somehow always finding the perfect electric guitar hot-shot to breathe life into his material. It helped that he started out with one of the best – arguably the best when it came to riffs – in Tony Iommi, amassing a legendary body of work over eight studio albums with Black Sabbath before the frontman’s ignominious exit from the band in 1979.
Ozzy was at a low ebb, and yet, through a storm of self-destruction and the fug of excess, Randy Rhoads arrived to change everything. Rhoads’ classical schooling and sense for the theatre of hard rock and metal composition gave Ozzy a sound to match his effervescence. Ozzy was born again.
Forty years after Rhoads’ dead in a plane crash, he remains the standard that all Ozzy guitarists are judged by, and yet, just look those who have followed him… The talent is unimpeachable.
With the Diary Of A Madman tour dates still to be filled, Bernie Tormé stepped in, only to leave shortly after and be replaced by Brad Gillis of Night Ranger, whose time in the band might have been short but still resulted in some ripping performances – not least in the storming Osaka set from July 1982 that closed the Japan leg of the tour in style.
Then Jake E Lee took over, recording Bark At The Moon and The Ultimate Sin, and one live album before Zakk Wylde established himself as a keeper of the Rhoads flame.
There were others. Joe Holmes, who took lessons from Rhoads, joined in time for the Ozzmosis tour, and spent six years in the band. Gus G was another full-timer with a pyro style, bringing power metal virtuosity to the table.
And then there were the guests, the likes of Jerry Cantrell, who hooked up with the Prince of Darkness for 2005’s Under Cover, and on new album Patient Number 9 Ozzy welcomes Clapton, Mike McCready, Jeff Beck and old friend Iommi into the studio for cameos, with Zakk Wylde reentering the scene too.
Also, in this Andrew Watt era, in which the producer (also a guitar player) has helmed 2020’s Ordinary Man, Slash was recruited for a guest spot. If this open-doors policy is to continue, we are very much there for that.
In future releases, who else could – and should – Ozzy Osbourne send an RSVP too? Who else is yet to cameo on an Ozzy record, and who could do the material justice? Here, we’ll suggest 10 players whose style would grace any Ozzy record.
That Steve Vai participated in the writing sessions for Ozzmosis only for him not to be called in to get the gig feels like one of the great sliding doors moments in metal history. One track, My Little Man, made the final release, and was performed by Zakk Wylde with lyrics written by Lemmy.
The episode was hardly ruinous to Vai’s career; he has always kept on trucking, harvesting the universe for inspiration and putting his unearthly talents into new musical ideas. But it might make him an unlikely choice for Ozzy. Would he take it on? Would he be asked? Would we be risking a singularity if he were to play the Hydra with Ozzy singing over it?
For a short while during the interregnum between leaving Alice Cooper’s band and joining up with pop superstar Demi Levato, Nita Strauss was up for grabs. She was a shredder without portfolio, and having dovetailed with the greatest showman in hard rock history, she would have been an obvious choice for Ozzy.
There is time yet for this power move to come to pass. Hurricane Nita tearing through Over The Mountain and I Don’t Know live would be one thing, but it would be fascinating to hear where she took Ozzy’s box-office metal sound. She has that rare quality, the high-energy and technical excellence, to make it work.
Tom Morello was demob happy in 2021 with the Rage Against The Machine guitarist going full Patient #9 and inviting anybody and everybody onboard his Atlas Underground double solo album project. Eddie Vedder and Bruce Springsteen on a cover of AC/DC’s Highway To Hell? Well, why not. Alex Lifeson and Kirk Hammett? Brilliant, but let’s get Dr Fresch in, too, lest the conversation run out.
This collaborative esprit de corps is exactly the vibe Ozzy needs in the studio. Musically, though, Morello would be fascinating. Him jamming War Pigs with the Foo Fighters saw him play it straight. On record, he could take Ozzy's sound off-road.
And those noise-rock tricks of his could be leveraged in search of an evil soundscape for the solo – it would be a neat contrast to the classicism of the Rhoads scholars. Either way, he can write a riff, and what he could do with a Sabbath-style riff, with Ozzy’s mournful bellow on top would be worth hearing.
Soundgarden’s early output was manna from heaven for Black Sabbath fans. Sure, it was not that they sounded as though their whole sound was Vol. 4: Part Deux – and there were legions of doom bands for that – but with Kim Thayil’s ear for an organic monster riff-groove and Chris Cornell’s Olympian vocals there was a similar dynamic to early Sabbath, a vibe refreshed and updated.
Thayil sharing studio space with Ozzy would be more likely to yield a track in the vein of Lord Of This World than Steal Away (The Night), but that is no bad thing. Having worked already with Jerry Cantrell and Mike McCready, Ozzy would do well to cast his net once more into the Seattle Sound alumni.
It’s no secret Ozzy wanted Jimmy Page on Patient #9. Having the Led Zeppelin guitarist on the record would have completed a trifecta of former Yardbirds, but maybe none of us deserve Clapton, Beck and Page on the one album.
What Page could bring to the table is evident across the Led Zeppelin discography. Led Zeppelin were more expansive than Sabbath but nonetheless applied a similar approach on those occasions when they built their sound around a Page riff, cutting loose with a sense of animalism that Sabbath had in Ozzy and Led Zep had in John Bonham’s drumming.
Page dropping one of his helter-skelter solos over an Ozzy track could be interesting. But who would not want to hear Ozzy covering When The Levee Breaks with Page on guitar?
The circus surrounding an Ozzy Osbourne solo release would not faze Gina Gleason. Before joining Baroness, Gleason performed with Cirque du Soleil in their production of Michael Jackson: One, and she has ridiculous chops to burn.
Gleason spend much of the pandemic downtime learning Randy Rhoads’ solos, and having admitted to HEAVY1 TV in 2020 that Blizzard Of Ozz is one of her favourite albums, the Ozzy sound is totally in her wheelhouse.
“I love the Randy Rhoads / Ozzy dynamic,” she said. “He wrote some incredible solos that were complex but were melodic and cool. There is some incredible footage on YouTube, it’s Ozzy live in Rochester in 1981, it’s a little bit of a different lineup from the recording lineup, so it’s Randy, Ozzy, Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge on drums and, dude! They just look awesome. They’re wearing amazing outfits. They look badass. And they’re killing it. It sounds amazing.”
Having provided guitar for Evil Elvis, there can be few guitarist on the planet who are more capable of lending the Prince of Darkness’ sound a languid, bluesy darkness that kind of references early Sabbath but is really something unholy unto itself.
Listen back to Danzig’s eponymous debut and tell us that those louche riffs, those solos and, goodness, that tone – the BC Rich through Marshall – would not complement Ozzy’s yowl.
Way back he had an Ozzy connection, too, playing in the short-lived Juice with former Ozzy drummer Randy Castillo. He surely must be available, and made a recovery in 2009 after a road accident damaged his hand. A show in which he played Wizard Of Oz. Too much time has past since for it to be an omen, but still.
What could be more marketable than getting Judas Priest’s Richie Faulkner point his Flying V in the Ozzman’s direction for one of the great blockbuster crossover events in heavy metal history? Faulkner’s resume is immaculate for this. His style would bolster Ozzy’s sound with stage-tested British steel, a complementary flavour for an album that would no doubt have a US feel.
Faulkner would bring aggression, a pure metal approach, fretboard pyro with a hint of hard rock past. This is the man who was so adrenalised by metal that he survived a goddamn aortic dissection! That’s character. Bring him on for a fast number, Ozzy, turn him loose on the solo.
The hair metal scene of the ‘80s ran parallel to Ozzy Osbourne’s cresting solo success and they both shared an appetite for excess, and an exuberance that took rock and metal to the brink of – and later into – self-parody. To borrow a phrase, it was a decade of decadence and aesthetic largesse. But also of virtuosity. Warren DeMartini could tap into that sense of anything goes and reanimate it for a 21st-century Ozzy album.
The former Ratt guitarist whose rhythm chops matched the leads, a player with game to make an OTT metal composition work, a player who’d give the fans what they want. Brad Gillis was awesome never stood a chance in the tumult after Rhoads’ passing. In the cold daylight of 2020-something, DeMartini, an O.G. ‘80s titan, could be unstoppable.
Yes it’s crazy talk. But then so was getting Jeff Beck and Clapton – the latter Ozzy suspected of stalking him! – to join the party. And if Ozzy’s career was launched upon the neoclassical rock grandeur of Randy Rhoads, summoning Blackmore out from the shadows would bring it full circle.
More commonly found performing medieval arrangements alongside his wife, Candice Night, Blackmore might not return the call. But if answered, and he brought that Stargazer-era brand of guitar genius to the studio, it could give Ozzy a canvas as wide and grand as Revelation (Mother Earth), and the opportunity to turn in an epic album centrepiece.
It’s unlikely, of course. In which case, well... We’d just have to put Yngwie forward for the gig.