Diary of a Madman (A Remastered Voyage w/ Ozzy Osbourne and a 6 Pack)
As any Ozzy Osbourne fan worth his salt knows, Sony has just released the 30th Anniversary re-issue and remaster of Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman — Ozzy’s first solo albums, and more importantly, his studio collaborations with the legendary Randy Rhoads. This re-issue is highly anticipated for several reasons, but mostly because the only version of these albums available have been the 2002 remaster where the original bass parts and drum parts provided by Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake, respectively, were replaced by members of of Ozzy’s then touring band, Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin. No pointing fingers (Sharon), but that just sucks donkey balls. This 30th Anniversary promises the restoration of the original drum and bass parts (Hell Yeah!) and a new digital remaster (what ever that means?).
For me personally, all this is really a none issue considering I have the original UK vinyl pressings and the first US CD releases of these albums. I’m pretty sure, I have decent enough versions of these albums to satisfy my late night mind benders, but just out of curiosity, I wonder how the new remaster sounds. I’ve gathered up a copy of Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman fresh off the presses with the sparkling new remaster touted by Ozzy himself as sounding fantastic. I have gathered up the CD and the vinyl…and for giggles I’ve pulled out the original UK vinyl pressing, the original US CD release, and the 1995 CD remaster. I long buried that 2002 reissue without Daisley and Kerslake… let’s not speak of it again. You are asking yourself, “Is this guy a madman?” Well, I am a bit of a madman. What do you expect?
Diary of a Madman was the third Ozzy album I owned… my first was Speak of the Devil, then Bark at the Moon (I’m not that old, ok?). Having said that, Diary of a Madman is one of my favorite albums of all time and I’m a bit of an audiophile (not the kind with a Macbook Air and a pair of Bose PC speakers). Audiophile, meaning someone who spends a lot of time with music and tries to make the best of that experience with the best equipment I can afford. Having said that, I have B&W speakers in my main room and AudioEngine speakers hooked to my PC. If I had more money, I would invest more into that experience. If I had more time to listen to music, I wouldn’t have such nice speakers. Anyway, I wanted to find out which release of the album sounded best on my system to my ears.
At this time, I would like to insert a disclaimer for the reason that listening to music is mostly a subjective exercise, despite my “Bose” remark. The opinion I have is subjective and I cannot back it up with scientific data (well, I probably could if I thought you would appreciate it). The bottom line is that whatever version of Diary of a Madman you have, play it and enjoy it… That is unless you have the 2002 version. I have not reviewed Diary of a Madman in the traditional sense. There are plenty of those reviews floating around declaring Randy Rhoads a guitar god and it is well established that Ozzy and company made a landmark, classic, and well defined rock n roll record. So, I won’t bother pissing up your leg on that.
Now, which version of the album do I prefer? We won’t pretend that Diary of a Madman is a Miles Davis record or released by Chesky Records but we will understand that this record was produced by true rock n roll musicians with a mission to deliver an emotional impact. However, don’t take for granted what heavy metal can deliver when executed properly.
- UK First Pressing on Vinyl – This version sounds the sweetest. I can hear the delicate Rhoads’ plucking on the opening of of the last track, “Diary of a Madman”, and the over the top pounding of Kerslake on “Little Dolls” without reaching for the volume knob. I can really feel the emotional impact of the music drawing me in. The music continually asks me to turn the volume up to hear every detail of Ozzy’s vocal, every Rhoads’ guitar part, every infectious bass line. The dynamic range is exceptional. I become completely seduced by the tone of the guitar waiting for each note and screech. I believe this version represents the closest interpretation of how Diary of a Madman was intended to sound.
- 1995 Digital Remaster — While this version doesn’t sound as sweet as the UK vinyl it is more detailed. The symbol crashes on “Over the Mountain” are sharp and add texture. The bass and drums are sharp and tight allowing the unique voice that is Ozzy’s swirl and soar revealing heavy metal poetry. This CD was released before the full onslaught of the loudness wars, therefor most of the dynamic range of the original master is left intact. If I had never heard the UK vinyl, this would be my go to version of Diary of a Madman.
- 30th Anniversary Vinyl — This version is easy to listen to and has plenty of dynamic range, but there is just something about it that leaves it a little lifeless and inferior to the UK vinyl. Honestly, it could be my equipment. The sound is detailed and overall a satisfactory experience, but the emotional impact is less than the UK vinyl and 1995 CD.
- Original US CD release — We really can’t blame the CD on this one. I suspect that the master for the vinyl was used for this CD release. When this was originally released, which was after the vinyl, CDs were a bit of an after thought. While the sound is similar to the UK vinyl, the CD doesn’t capture the same sweetness and leaves me wanting more from the little silver disk. If you are the owner of this version only, be happy, there’s is no need to upgrade unless you find a copy of the 1995 remaster.
- 30th Anniversary CD — In recent years I have become extremely weary of remasters and new CDs in general. I offer up a few examples: Metallica’s Death Magnetic, Ozzy’s Scream, and the remastered releases from The Cure’s catalog. All of these CDs sound squashed and more akin to listening to a static infested radio broadcast at full volume. Not something, I enjoy. To the credit of whom ever was in charge of this reissue, they did not stoop to those levels. The sound on this version of Diary of a Madman is similar to the 1995 CD, but it’s louder and more compressed. Listening to the album in one sitting is a bit fatiguing, but at least I didn’t celebrate when it was over. I suspect that the mix used in this release was a compromise. Not the best mix for audiophile Ozzy and Randy Rhoads fans, but it could have been a lot worse too.
After finishing my six pack of beer and listening to all five versions of this classic album, I have concluded that Diary of a Madman is still one of my favorite albums and is a true classic that should be in the collection of every rock n rolla. If you are one of those guys who only has a 128k mp3 version of this album left over from the Napster days, head straight out and buy this incredible album. (Diary Of A Madman (Legacy Edition) at Amazon) Please bypass the 2002 remaster at all cost. Cheers.