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Music Review – Ozzy Osbourne: Live and Loud

Who would’ve thought someone with an appetite for rabid animals could turn out to be one of the greatest front men in Rock and Roll history? Nowhere is the extraordinary interplay between performer and audience more deftly displayed than on Ozzy’s 1993 release Live and Loud. Ozzy Osbourne built a rapport with his fans that I haven’t heard since the late James Brown’s 1962 performance on Live at the Apollo.

When I first heard Black Sabbath’s latest release, 13, it made me feel old. In my old age I can’t handle the modern Heavy Metal scene. So I had to go back and listen to some “classic”, mellower Ozzy. That inspired me to pull Live and Loud out of my CD collection and give it a listen. Just like every time I give Led Zeppelin discs a hearing, the monumental talent of the performer struck me just as it did the first time I heard his music.

Ozzy recorded Live and Loud during his 1991 – 1992 “retirement” tour. Fans now shed “No More Tears” as Ozzy thankfully re-considered. (If Ozzy is reading this: please stick to the music and give up television.) The audience can also be grateful for this monumental career retrospective from one of Rock’s most colorful characters.

This album had it all. The band played the classic Black Sabbath tracks us old timers can unwind to such as “Paranoid”, “War Pigs”, and even “Changes”. As an added bonus, the original members of the band re-united, thankfully not for the last time, to perform “Black Sabbath”.

Ozzy also included tracks from his solo career. The band cranked out killer versions of tunes from the Randy Rhoades era, as well. They included such gems as “Mr. Crowley”, “I Don’t Know” and “Flying High Again”. They also played many tracks from the No More Tears album as well as others.

I thought Ozzy’s back-up band outstanding. I liked the heavy bottom end tone Bassist Michael Inez used throughout the entire recording. To my ears it sounds like a lot of modern bass players put guitar strings on their instruments and crank the treble on their amps. It pleased me not hear that on this album. It always brings a smile to my face when the bass sounds like a bass.

I found Randy Castillo’s drumming competent. I did think him guilty of “overplaying” at several points throughout the album. I heard some bass rolls that seemed excessive. I thought he did some unnecessary snare rolls. Before readers comment and point out to me that’s what Heavy Metal drummers do, I still think some of Castillo’s playing excessive. I do concede, however, that he’s not as over-the-top as Mike Portnoy during his Dream Theater days.

The true highlight of Live and Loud was undoubtedly Zakk Wylde’s guitar playing. The tone he got out of his “Bull’s Eye” Les Paul Custom sounded both rough and clear at the same time. He got that legendary Gibson crunch tone on tracks like “Suicide Solution” while sounding great clean on “Goodbye to Romance”. While no Randy Rhoades or Tony Iommi, Wylde added his own unique voice to their guitar parts and made them his own.

The only criticism I have of this album is Ozzy’s repeated use of a certain four letter f-word.  (Hint: It wasn’t farm.) When I first purchased this album in the mid-1990s I lived with my parents. I positioned my sound system next to my bedroom window that overlooked my neighbors’ porch. While I thoroughly enjoyed the music on Live and Loud I couldn’t play it without head phones due to Ozzy’s repeated profanity. This was the one drawback to the album. Due to the sound quality, especially on the tone of Wylde’s guitar, this was an album I wanted to blast at full volume through my speakers. Unfortunately, it was only able to live up to half its title when I bought it.

Ozzy Osbourne’s tremendous passion for his music came through on every song. His sincere love of his fans was evident every time he addressed the audience. I’ve heard many live albums and been to my share of concerts. I’ve never heard a performer as effusive in his appreciation of his fans. After listening to the 1995 re-mastered version of Live and Loud, it’s we who should be thanking Ozzy.  

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When Good Enough Isn’t Good Enough

In the early 1940’s executives at Gibson USA decided that the company needed a new slogan. As one of the premiere guitar manufacturers in the world they wanted a catch phrase that would really capture the essence of what their company was all about. So their Marketing Department got together and came up with a phrase that they believed did just that. “Only a Gibson is good enough!” they proudly declared. It’s a good slogan: “Only a Gibson is good enough.” The company’s executives didn’t just like it: they loved it! They decided not to just use it in print advertisements; they had it painted it on the actual guitars during the production process. From that day forward, everyone who purchased a Gibson guitar would see the words, “Only a Gibson is good enough” featured prominently on the head stock. I don’t mean to repeat it so much, but it is a good slogan. I’d have to say that it’s almost the best I’ve ever heard.

Marketing Execs at Gibson’s chief rival thought that it was a pretty good slogan, also. In fact, executives at Epiphone were concerned that it was going to lure customers away from their company. So they realized they needed to come up with a new company catch phrase. After doing some research, and a very clever bit of benchmarking, they came with a new slogan: “Epiphone…when ‘good enough’ just isn’t good enough.” That’s the best slogan I ever heard. “Only a Gibson is good enough,” never appeared on another Gibson guitar.

Gibson learned the hard way that priding one’s self on mediocrity doesn’t lead down the path to success. As we’ve discussed here, we live in an era where the expression work ethic is an oxymoron. Dave Palmeroy, A Nashville session bassist, once commented that “Bass players should look at the minimum number of notes they can play in a song and then play half of them,” but many people today take that approach to their jobs and to life. That just isn’t going to cut it anymore these days. In order to be successful you have to push yourself to do your best all the time.

As an example of this philosophy, I’d like to use an anecdote from the life of a gentleman I work with. Bob Grazioli began his professional career as an electrician’s apprentice. On his first job in that field he worked for a gentleman whose daughter he happened to be dating. (You can say what you want about Bob, but you can’t tell me he’s not brave. My grandfather was awarded two Purple Hearts in WWII, but I’d have to say Bob is the bravest man I ever knew.) Bob was installing an electrical socket into a kitchen. After he put the box in he asked his boss if it was “good enough.” His boss looked at him and asked, “Is it perfect?” Bob replied, “I don’t know.” “Then how do you know if it’s good enough?” Bob got the message. He won his bosses’ respect, became a professional electrician, and he got the girl. (He and his then-bosses’ daughter have been married for over twenty years.) Bob Grazioli is currently a Maintenance Supervisor for an international manufacturing company. I guess that socket was perfect.

Gibson USA also got the message. In 1957 they were facing stiff competition from an upstart rival called Fender. At the time, all guitar companies used single coil pick-ups in their instruments. They enabled the sound of the guitar to be amplified and heard, but they also caused a humming or hissing noise to come through the amplifier, but the tone was “good enough” for musicians at the time. Gibson hired an engineer named Seth Loving to see if he could correct this anomaly. Sure enough he invented a device he called a “Humbuckler” that produced a cleaner tone that eliminated the hiss and the humming noise. Gibson got a head of the pack. And, oh yeah, around that same time, they bought Epiphone.

Legendary Marketing Guru Theodore Leavitt had a great expression: “It’s not whom we know, it’s how we are known by them.” Joe Girard exemplifies that. He is the world’s greatest salesman. He sold 13,001 cars to individual people. In one month in 1973 he sold 174 cars. That is a world record that stands to this day. How did he do it? He explained in a recent issue of the Harvard Business Review that, “When you bought a car from me, you just didn’t get a car. You got me. I would break my back to service a customer; I’d rather service a customer than sell another car.” Mr. Girard emphasized that he loved his customers. Unlike today where many companies view their customers as a hindrance, Mr. Girard saw the opportunity to put food on the table for his family. He was born poor and he was down on his luck when a manager at a car dealership decided to give him a shot at sales. And he never forgot it. Mr. Girard said that he sincerely appreciated every person who ever bought a car from him. He would tell customers, “I thank you, and my family thanks you. I love you.” Mr. Girard didn’t see a sale as the end result. He saw making a satisfied customer as the goal.

I’ve described Marketing strategies that work, the power of persistence, and success. I’ve talked about people and companies that are winners. I think it fitting to close with a remark by one of the greatest winners of them all. Vince Lombardi used to tell his players that “the day you can tolerate coming in second, it makes it that much easier to tolerate coming in third. And that makes it easier to accept coming in fourth and so on.” So the next time you do something, don’t ask yourself if it’s good enough, you ask yourself if it’s perfect.