Ozzy Osbourne may be one of the luckiest people who ever lived. I will give him some credit for being a charismatic singer and personality, and he has some ability to compose pieces of songs that with the help of more talented performers and writers become great songs. He is also fortunate to have married a ruthless and evil woman who has helped further his career as his limited talent continues to dwindle.
Ozzy has been musically irrelevant for 20 years, but somehow he continues. This is all not to mention that due to the abuse of drugs and alcohol; the man should be dead 12 times over. Yes – he is a lucky man.
However, musically, Osbourne’s greatest fortune was when he completely stepped in shit and found Randy Rhoads. The newly formed band put together two records in one session, and the first of those was Blizzard of Ozz. Rhoads was an extraordinary talent and the rest of the band (Daisley, Kerslake and Airey) were seasoned pros. While I am certain Ozzy composed most of the lyrics, the music here was all Rhoads and Daisley.
Coming off of two terrific 1979 albums, Motörhead was on a roll in 1980. Enter, Ace of Spades, perhaps their finest hour. No disrespect to Phil Campbell, but Motörhead was at their best with Fast Eddie Clarke. Motörhead does not do ballads or epics, they aren’t pretty and they aren’t flashy. They just play good heavy metal with attitude.
I am not going to say it was all downhill from here, as Motörhead has released many great albums and songs after this, but Ace of Spades is a must have, all time classic.
If the debut from Iron Maiden was all they ever did, they still would have been one of the more accomplished bands from the NWOBHM. OF course Maiden went on to do much more, but this first album stands on its own quite well. Produced by Wil Malone, this is one of the better produced albums from all of the rookie bands. Steve Harris would later complain that the production was bad, but for the time I think it was quite good.
As for the songs, late arrivals Clive Burr on drums and Dennis Stratton on guitar were big upgrades and were the final pieces to making these songs fantastic. I can only imagine how Phantom of the Opera would sound with only one guitar and Doug Sampson on drums. This was a terrific beginning to a terrific career from Iron Maiden, and their story still has not been fully written.
Replacing a presence like Ozzy Osbourne was no easy task. Despite all of his shortcomings (and there are many) he knows how to front a metal band, and while not a great singer, his distinctive voice was perfect for the music. Ronnie James Dio was the perfect replacement. Dio was beyond competent, maybe one of the best singers in metal history. Furthermore Dio was a true professional. He was above the childish nonsense spewing from the Osbourne camp (i.e. every show Sharon’s husband would hang a midget named Ronnie).
As for the music – as soon as you put on the record and hear the opening riff of Neon Knights, you know that Sabbath never lost it and this was an album to be reckoned with. They lose it just a touch with the last track, but the other 7 are all classic metal tracks.
In 1980, Saxon was on a roll, and clearly the class of the NWOBHM. On the heels of the brilliant Wheels of Steel, Saxon continued to produce the best metal of the year. The history of this album is a little strange, as it was re-released in the US in 1982, with a different cover and different running order. The original UK cover and running order is better, so I am unsure as to why Carrere did that.
All eight of the tracks here are great. Sixth Form Girls, Dallas 1PM, and the title track are timeless NWOBHM classics and the remaining tracks are also fantastic. Although the players here are all above proficient, the musicianship will not blow you away here. The songs are all well written and put together and the sound great. A true gem, and the best album of 1980 as far as I am concerned.