Tag Archives: Randy Rhoads

Rocks In The Attic #610: Muse – ‘Origin Of Symmetry’ (2001)

RITA#610.jpgThis is it. This is the one. Out of all of the albums I got behind during my twenties, this is the one that resonated with me the most. It still strikes a nerve today, sixteen years later.

I seem to remember the very late ‘90s being a desolate wasteland in terms of guitar rock. The homemade ethic of Grunge had drifted into stadium-filling Alternative Rock, but the punk vibe was still very much there. It was almost a crime to be proficient at playing the guitar. That’s just not cool, man.

The turn of the century gave us the Strokes and the White Stripes, both bands making guitars cool again. But for all their posturing, both of these American imports still took a simplistic approach to guitar playing; Jack White from garage rock, blues and folk, and the Strokes’ Nick Valensi and Albert Hammond Jr. from the New York City New Wave of Television, Talking Heads and Blondie.

Something far more interesting was happening in England. I had heard tales of a Devon band featuring a hot-shot guitarist with dazzling effects pedals. By the time I finally heard their first record, Showbiz, in 1999, I was an instant fan but I wasn’t bowled over. Sunburn was an awesome song, but there was a fair bit of mediocre filler throughout the record.

Fast foward a year or so, and a friend passed me an advance promo single for Plug In Baby. I played it that night during my DJ set at 38 Bar, and instantly fell in love. I hadn’t heard such an off-kilter guitar riff since Randy Rhoads’ Crazy Train. This Bellamy kid definitely wasn’t hiding behind those pedals.

The next day, I drove (for no particular reason) over to Hadfield, the Royston Vasey of The League Of Gentleman. I played the song over and over in the car, and just couldn’t get over how good it was. It felt like it had been written for my tastes in mind.

Thankfully the rest of the album was much stronger than its predecessor. New Breed and Bliss were both riff-heavy, and there was even a heavy cover of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good introduced with a lovely bit of Wurlitzer piano. The record does get a little tired towards the end – a good 15 minutes could have been shaved off to make a truly awesome 35 minute record – but it was still a damn sight stronger than Showbiz.

I saw the band tour this record at 2001’s V Festival in Staffordshire. They headlined the second stage, and I managed to get up close to the front. After the set, I turned round to walk back to my tent and realised how many thousands of people had also been watching. This little band I had followed for a couple of years had grown beyond my expectations. I wouldn’t seem them again until 2010, touring album number five.

Hit: Plug In Baby

Hidden Gem: Hyper Music

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Rocks In The Attic #218: Ozzy Osbourne – ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’ (1980)

RITA#218Aside from a woeful album title – which is only really beaten in sheer awfulness by the likes of REO Speedwagon’s You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish – this album is fantastic. It also happens to be a master-class in the guitar.

A lot has been said of Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen. Who was first? Van Halen. Who was better? Rhoads. But at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter, they’re both very different. Randy Rhoads has one foot firmly placed in classical guitar, and for me that’s what makes him more interesting to listen to that the very soul-less Eddie Van Halen.

The loss of Randy Rhoads was just a crucial loss to the guitar, and to the music world in general, as was the similar departure of Stevie Ray Vaughan. My guitar teacher introduced me to this album – Randy Rhoads’ masterpiece – and taught me most of the riffs and licks from it. It suffers from a slightly top-heavy overdriven guitar sound, and if it had been recorded just a few years earlier it might have avoided that and sounded that little bit more timeless.

I’m not that familiar with the later Sabbath albums from Ozzy’s tenure, but this album has so much energy it sounds like a debut album. Breakaway solo albums seldom sound like that – they usually sound like a natural progression from the singer’s last album with their respective band, but here Ozzy, buoyed by the youth of his protégé, records a classic of its genre.

In terms of riffs, this album has them all. Rhoads is a progressive guitar player – just the sheer amount of licks that pepper a song like Crazy Train is testament to that; but quieter moments like Dee and monsters like I Don’t Know and Steal Away (The Night) show his incredible diversity – all with that pulsating, frenetic rhythm that is his trademark.

Hit: Crazy Train

Hidden Gem: Dee

Rocks In The Attic #68: Van Halen – ‘Van Halen’ (1978)

Rocks In The Attic #68: Van Halen - ‘Van Halen’ (1978)Aside from a slightly misplaced running order (I so would have opened this album with Eruption – something they would do in retrospect on their Best Of Volume 1 package), this is a killer rock album.

History – and Ozzy Osbourne – would try and have us believe that Randy Rhoads was the hottest new guitarist on the block at the time, but this debut by Van Halen came out a full two and a half years before Blizzard Of Ozz, and Eddie is on fire here. People say there’s no soul in the way that these guitarists play, but like any virtuoso, soul and feel will always take a backseat to speed and technique.

This album is also very California – although a lot of the music is in minor keys, it feels sunny and happy all the way through, with even some Beach Boys-esque harmonies employed on Feel Your Love Tonight.

When it comes to David Lee Roth versus Sammy Hagar on vocals, obviously the original frontman is the purist’s choice, but those crazy yelps and creams that Lee Roth peppers all over this album is a little off-putting. So the choice comes down to that, or the middle-of-the-road soulful vocals of Hagar. At the end of the day, I’m only listening to Eddie anyway.

Hit: Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love

Hidden Gem: Eruption