Umberto Eco (5.1. 1932 – 19.2.2016), the Italian semiotician, essayist, philosopher, literary critic and novelist, was among the 14 personalities of whom the Italian magazine “L’ Espresso” asked to write a letter for 2014. Umberto Eco wrote a letter to his grandchild entitled: Cultivate your memory and you will live a thousand lives. Of course this letter has been famous and it is used as a compass for the cultivation of the intellect with simple, as it were, rules, but I am sure no reader has thought until now any kind of connection between Eco and Ozzy… Well, Ozzy, who I ‘ll be damned if he has ever trained his intellect, and even more for sure has lost his memory long ago, has managed to live through these one thousand lives and one of them (the one in which he discovered Zakk Wylde and in turn we discovered the blonde giant) is the one we are going to deal with now, in order to make the connection between the two names in the introduction sound not that odd at the end…
The year is 1987 and already 5 years have passed since Randy Rhoads’ death, two albums with guitarist Jake E. Lee have been released, but he has already been a past story for Ozzy’s band since 2 years. At the same time in some New Jersey apartment, the 21-year old Jeffrey Wielandt, a blonde talented guitar player – whose morning job was at a gas station and his night one was to play guitar in a local band – listens to the radio with his girlfriend. In The Howard Stern Show he hears that Ozzy Osbourne is looking for a new guitar player to take Jake E Lee’s place. His then girlfriend and today wife, Barbaranne, encouraged him to send a tape of his work to Ozzy. That wasn’t the easiest thing to do of course. But in a gig in Close Encounters café in New Jersey where the band Zyris, including Wielandt, who is no other than Zakk Wylde, was playing, luck smiled at him. Among the small crowd of around 100 people, there was Dave Feld. Later Feld will work for the great Atlantic Records (while thanks to him another band from New Jersey, Skid Row, came to the forefront and signed them also to Atlantic in 1989), but at that time he was scouting for bands and artists from around his area. He saw something in Zakk, so he suggested to him to make a demo tape and have his friend Mark Weiss to take some pictures of him, so he can send a complete package/portfolio to Ozzy’s manager. The idea, even though it seemed unrealistic to him since Feld didn’t promise anything, sounded tempting to Wylde, he didn’t have anything to lose anyway. So, some of his own original riffs and some solos, some acoustic renditions and leads from “Mr. Crowley”, “Flying High Again” played in his own way filled the demo tape of this young man.
Sharon’s phone call to Wylde’s parents’ house offering an invitation to L.A. for an audition was just the beginning, while at the same time Wylde thought this was a well set up prank from his homies. The ticket that Sharon sent made things more clear than ever. The chance of a lifetime was here. And now! Among 400 people that were pre-chosen, Wylde had a chance to live his dream, but also to set his life straight. At the same time Ozzy had once again to make the right choice. At the same audition Randy Castillo (drums) and Phil Soussan (bass) participated, the rhythm section of “Ultimate Sin” that is, and they played “Suicide Solution”, “Bark at the Moon” and “Crazy Train”. Ozzy didn’t want a Randy Rhoads clone in any case, so he urged the blonde giant to play from his heart and the rest is history. So, with a new guitar player, the band travelled soon to England and started recording songs for the upcoming record. But close to the studio in Birmingham, there was a pub that proved to be a hindrance for the progress of the recordings, so the band flew to a new destination, Albuquerque, New Mexico, in order to continue recording. At the same time another great move by Sharon and Ozzy completed the band’s line up in the best way. Soussan left and the old friend Bob Daisley came back, who, despite the legal dispute with the Osbourne family he was involved in, one that later will prove to be a dark page in Ozzy’s story and in the legacy he is leaving behind, he returned to cover the position of the bass player. Even if he never stopped to be a member of the band either playing or writing, since he participated in all 4 first Ozzman albums.
The change of producer from the neutral Ron Nevison of “The Ultimate Sin” to Roy Thomas Baker that has worked with Queen, along with Zakk Wylde’s addition, seemed that it would bring a whole new sound in the forefront. The collaboration with Baker wasn’t as rewarding as expected though. The guitars were sounding weak, very light for that era, while whining, complaints and fighting were comprising the puzzle of the recordings in Enterprise Studios in California. At that moment, Sharon took matters in her own hands. The recording tapes that she has listened to were indeed weak and after Wylde told her he would like to rewrite the guitars, she urged him to say it to Baker. This was one drop too many for the famous producer. This young rookie doubting his work… Then arrived Keith Olsen, already famous from his work with Fleetwood Mac, and that seemed redemptory, although it was just complementing since he was the co-producer. But the groove and the whole guitarwork that has been done in “No Rest for the Wicked” is an outcome of the cooperation of these two men. Wylde was thirsty to reach the top and leave his mark, while Olsen was jeopardizing his reputation. This was the perfect combination for Ozzy, who despite his commercial success was in declining course, to rise again. Everyone contributed in the songwriting, but the main contributors were Wylde and Daisley, the lyrics of whom have marked the first period of Ozzy’s band. The rest, even keyboardist John Sinclair, helped as well and only one song, “Devil’s Daughter (Holy War)” was written entirely from Osbourne. In this new era, young Jeffrey changed his name into Zakk Wylde, since Ozzy told him that “Weiland does not fit in Madison Square Garden’s marquee”. Zakk was an invention of his wife, Wylde was a sudden inspiration of him while listening to a Kim Wilde’s hit. But what changed even more was the musical identity and the sound of the madman. This became more American than ever and flirted with being charted, while it was in perfect harmony with the spirit of the era.
Wylde’s Les Paul was breathing fire with the first notes of “Miracle Man” that was one of the guitarist’s first ideas that found their way in the new album. There is also the famous video clip with the pigs in the church that was shot for this song. The lyrics are about tele-evangelist Jimmy Swaggart that became famous through his shows criticizing Osbourne’s music before being defrocked due to a scandal that included prostitutes. That song was also the first single of the album having “Demon Alcohol” as b-side. “Devil’s Daughter (Holy War)” has an uplifting groove and it is also single material as well as very much guitar based. As in the third song, “Crazy Babies”, actually all first 3 songs, have a cheesy mood that is in the same spirit of the era we were talking about before. Easy lyrics that are cutting from time to time, easy musical phrases besides the guitar that is leaning towards the poser side, but plays so well written parts, and mostly very well performed ones. This was the second single, also accompanied by a video clip, which had a cover very much representative of the declining state of the madman. The first side of the record closes with the best song of the album, “Breaking All Rules”, that seemed as if it came out of the “Bark At The Moon” sessions, has a somehow dark aura and Ozzy sounds like in the first records of his solo career. Here he sings like the real Ozzy, with the sharp guitars giving enough volume to the composition and its four and a half minutes being filled with melody. The second side is starting as usual with an aggressive song that immediately grabs the listener. The guitars are full of force again playing nice riffs, excellent drumming from Castillo with a lot of fills and a mediocre bridge before another simplistic chorus. Wylde’s solo that stands out is for some reason being interrupted by the keyboards… “Bloodbath In Paradise” is one of the best moments of the record and a song that keeps finding its way to Ozzy’s setlists from time to time. The way the album continues is almost magical.
Another song in the same vain as “Breakin’ all the Rules” and consequently with the same “Bark At The Moon” vibe, namely “Fire In The Sky”. This slow song has everything, performance, lyrics, guitars, feeling, an outbreak in the chorus and beautiful lyrics before the amazing solo. It is one of the best in “No Rest For The Wicked”. The tempo speeds up again with “Tattooed Dancer” that makes the second side sound more interesting than the first one and in which Ozzy is more grounded and the vocal lines are more aligned with his tortured voice. This song hasn’t been noted as a highlight, but it is an excellent one with a great bridge and solo and a very strong riff. In the end there is “Demon Alcohol”, who was also a b side, so it seems that the Ozzy camp didn’t think highly of it, which is a shame, because it is not a filler in any case. Especially the lyrics, that are very lively, although their topic is not something I really care about. On the other hand it might not be the most suitable song to close the record with. The actual closing track, “Hero”, is a hidden one –yes, a hidden one- and not even being mentioned in the back cover. Now we are talking about a commercial trick from a different age. The press and the fans thought its title was “Fools Know More”. Since in the subsequent editions the song was mentioned and not hidden at all, let’s say that this is another ‘serious’ and moderated song written with the same pattern as “Breaking all the Rules” and “Fire in the Sky”. This is the ideal closing following the vibe of the second side, which although less commercial, has more quality and is closer to the period 1980-1982.
“No Rest for the Wicked” was released on the 28th of September 1988 (first rerelease 22.08.1995 and second one 25.07.2002) and became golden within 3 months (12.1988) and since then has become platinum two times. After the recordings Bob Daisley was kicked out once again and his position for the upcoming tour was taken by none other than Geezer Butler.