Ozzy Osbourne – Definitive Memphis (Zodiac 495)

Definitive Memphis (Zodiac 495)

Mid South Coliseum, Memphis, TN, USA – April 28, 1982

(78:44) Radio Introduction, Diary Of A Madman, Over The Mountain, Mr. Crowley, Crazy Train, Revelation (Mother Earth), Steal Away (The Night), Suicide Solution, Guitar Solo, Suicide Solution (Reprise), Drum Solo, Goodbye To Romance, I Don’t Know, Believer, Flying High Again, Iron Man, Children Of The Grave, Paranoid, Announcer

I’ve been a big fan of this concert for decades after getting a copy of it many years ago, my early copy was of much poorer quality than what currently circulates but the performance always shone through. This recording is very early in Brad Gillis’ tenure as lead guitarist in Ozzy Osbourne’s band. Randy Rhoads tragic death on March 19, 1982 left a hole in the band that no one has ever replaced, it was Irish guitarist Bernie Torme who first took the spot but his commitment was short lived. Brad was a young Californian guitar player who would follow Bernie and provide more stability, playing Randy’s iconic parts while interjecting his own unique style into the mix as well.

According to Rudy Sarzo’s excellent Off The Rails book Brad played his first gig with Ozzy on April 12 in Binghamton, New York, Rudy’s assessment of Brad’s playing that evening is confirmed on an excellent quality audience recording. Two weeks later the band play the famous Mid South Coliseum in Memphis, Tennessee, the show was broadcast on local radio station Rock 103. This version of the recording certainly comes from Wolfgang’s Vault as the quality is superb. There have been a few previous releases of this concert, The Axeman’s Cometh (Beech Martin Records BM 097), Silver Cross (Neptune 55931/2), and Speak Evil Of Ozz (Shades 509) are the ones I know of. I reviewed Speak Evil Of Ozz nearly ten years ago and at the time was the best version out there. This new title from the Zodiac label features the same source but with “Graf Zeppelin” mastering, this intrigued me as I have always though that as good as the Shades title was, it could be improved upon.

When I compare this new Zodiac version to the Shades there is no comparison, the Zodiac is much better in all areas. First off the Shades title seems overly compressed giving the cymbals a swish sound and making the overall sound rather thin. This new Zodiac title features the cymbals toned down and are now clear. The sound is much fuller with way better definition in the middle frequencies and the Graf Zeppelin mastering has added much needed bottom end. This recording now sounds powerful and dynamic and does not leave one fatigued. It seems like the person behind the “Graf Zeppelin” mastering has been lending their skills to many titles of late, and while I cannot speak for the majority of them, the work done on this title is excellent and unless mastering would be done on the actual master tapes (if they even exist), I do not see how this could be improved upon.

This recording features mixing while the concert is going on, during the first couple of songs Don Airey is a bit high in the mix, this would be slightly lowered as the concert goes on. The CD start off with a couple guys who introduce the start of the concert describing Ozzy in his “Satanic type of throne” that leads into the Diary intro commonly used on the tour, during which the Ozzman appears on stage and is already demanding the crowd to get their hands in the air. The set list is consistent for the tour, the opening of Over The Mountain followed nonstop by Mr. Crowley and it is here that Gillis shows his prowess on guitar, he rips through both solos with authority and homage to the fallen Rhoads and is nothing short of brilliant. Ozzy’s between song banter consists of telling the crowd they are live on the radio and they proceed to go crazy, and it will get crazier as the band play a dynamic Crazy Train, this is a song where the keyboard sounds a little high in the mix and we are able to hear Don Airey’s work in all its glory, there is a nice bottom end to the recording also and all the bands individual contributions can be nicely heard. Revelation and Steal Away are always highlights and things really heat up for Suicide Solution, the band’s vehicle for solos and a breather for Ozzy.

It starts with Ozzy introducing the band amidst air horns giving the effect of a party atmosphere, his vocals sound a little lethargic but the band is ready and the interaction between Airey and Gillis start right away with what sounds as a futuristic battle all the while Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge keep a steady beat. Gillis plays a nice solo using the familiar melodic theme Rhoads played and Aldridge pummels his kit with both sticks and bare hands to great effect. I Don’t Know and Flying High Again are terrific but it’s the old Sabbath numbers Iron Man and Children Of The Grave that really deliver. Gillis soars on them and delivers a great solo to end Children Of The Grave and the obligatory Paranoid finishes the concert in fine fashion.

This is my favorite of the Brad Gillis soundboards that circulate, the others are the June 12 Irvine Meadows immortalized on the Speak Of The Devil video and the September 26/27 Ritz NYC recordings that became the Speak Of The Devil 2LP release. Why I prefer the Memphis recording is that it’s raw and has that not polished sound and make over the others have. The performance is incredible, the band of Gillis, Sarzo, Airey, and Aldridge have fully gelled and are playing a very high level.

The packaging is very nice, live shots of Ozzy and Brad make up most of the inserts, the rear features a cool concert advertisement reproduction, always nice to see. The Speak Of The Devil layout is used and ties into the era perfectly, the CD is the shot used for the front cover and the sticker features the Speak Of The Devil bat, all housed in a slim lined jewel case. Is this an essential release if you already own the Shades title, probably not, but this is an excellent upgrade. If you do not have a copy of this show in your collection, this is the one to get. Now if they would just download and release the Binghamton recording.    

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