Remembering Randy Rhoads
Published on 19 March 2021
Guitarists come and go but some have a legacy that immortalises them forever. Certain players are so special that their music becomes the stuff of legend. It’s a select, elite group that undoubtedly includes the V shredding, polka dot loving, late, great, Randy Rhoads.
Everyone goes through an Ozzy phase at one point or another and when you do, it’s impossible to not notice the blistering guitar work Rhoads laid down on every track that he touched. Today marks the anniversary of the day he passed away and it’s only right that you get some of his tunes turned up as loud as possible. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry, we can help with that…
This is possibly Ozzy’s most well-known solo track and the guitar throughout sums up everything that was special about Randy. Although there’s some debate over how it’s timeless riff came about, with Quiet Riot’s Greg Leon claiming he helped Rhoads write it, this track is the perfect starting point for exploring his iconic sound.
Ozzy has recalled in the past how Rhoads had a knack for tailoring a song to his vocals but always putting his own spin on it. Looking at Crazy Train, the immense solo is of course a highlight but the way it was recorded is equally incredible. Not only does Randy play blindingly fast but he actually recorded three separate tracks, overdubbing each flawlessly. It was then layered up with a take panned left and right and the initial recording left bang in the centre. Most guitarists would cower in fear at the thought of laying down even a second take let alone a third but then, Randy wasn’t most guitarists.
As possibly Randy’s most iconic solo, the dark and evil Mr Crowley is proper greatest of all time material. From its haunting intro, wailing vocals and stupendously technical guitar parts, this song is a classic. Randy’s blisteringly fast solo was ranked 28th in Guitar World’s top solos of all time but honestly? We reckon he was robbed.
For us, it’s not just the speed or technicality that’s impressive here but the sheer style. His guitar parts have their own space in the song, their own melodic structure and their own voice, on top of sheer speed. If you only listen to one track today, make it this one.
Diary of a Madman
This full album is a work of art, with Randy really exploring his neoclassical background. However, its lead single is a standout. He was an absolute master at blending traditional classical style with full high gain rock without it ever seeming jarring. In fact, it’s what totally set him apart from any other guitarist then and now.
Throughout Diary of a Madman, he transitions seamlessly between complex picking sections and proper heavy electric guitar, climaxing in a lightning-fast solo that’s simply astonishing. At this point in his career, Randy’s relationship with Ozzy was strained and he had expressed interest in leaving the band to pursue a degree in classical guitar. Sadly he died about a year after the album came out and this record is probably as close as we’ll come to hearing the direction his playing was moving in.
Randy may be most well known for his solos but make no mistake, he knew his way around a riff too! The track SATO features one of his very finest with a hair raising high gain tone that just fits so perfectly. Also featured on Diary of a Madman, this track was sadly never played live but even on record, it’s incredible how detailed Randy’s playing was. Littered with harmonics and throwaway licks that most players could only dream of writing, this is pure metal energy.
Its solo is every bit as impressive and again embraces Randy’s classical style in the heaviest way possible. It also features one of the finest pick scrapes ever laid on wax as the solo finishes and some tasty Floyd Rose squeals to boot! They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.
Flying High Again
You may be noticing a pattern here… Our final choice Flying High Again is also featured on Diary of a Madman! Randy’s full career was spellbinding but this album, in particular, was just on another level. With frighteningly fast tapping, beautiful runs and some crushing rhythm playing throughout, Flying High Again may well be his finest moment.
This is one of those songs that we’d love to be able to play but even approaching it is a scary thought! Plenty of guitarists can shred but Rhoads set himself apart through his style and swagger. There truly will never be another like him.
We thought we’d leave you with a video we came across when geeking out on Randy’s greatest guitar tracks - an isolated take from a recording session that never made it onto an album.
In the clip, we see Ozzy hearing it for the first time and his reaction says it all. Although the song had finished, Randy still had something left to give and kept on shredding. There are so many reasons why he was a creative genius and this highlights the passion he had for his playing as well as the impact it had on the musicians around him. Rest in rock Randy.