15. Ozzy Osbourne, 'Diary of a Madman' (1981)
A year after proving he was still a vital musical force on his first post–Black Sabbath solo LP, 1980's Blizzard of Ozz, Ozzy Osbourne demonstrated it wasn't a one-time fluke with an album of poppy and gothic anthems like "Flying High Again" and the almost classical closing title track. Guitarist Randy Rhoads, who died in a plane crash while touring for Diary in 1982, had already proven himself a virtuoso on Blizzard; here, he worked even harder to find the rare nexus between showboat chops and clever songwriting. Trippy opener "Over the Mountain," which kicks off with a thunderous drum roll, chugs along at a furious pace, anticipating thrash metal. "Believer," with its plodding bass line, allows Rhoads to play eerie, spidery riffs, which, when combined with Osbourne's stentorian melodies, make for one of the weirdest yet catchiest songs in the singer's catalogue. "Tonight" is a beautiful ballad with a soaring solo; the rapid-paced, almost psychedelic "S.A.T.O." exudes mystery; and shadowy "Diary of a Madman," with its acoustic intro and crushing electric-guitar licks, is the ultimate Ozzy track. "When we were working on that one, Randy came to me, 'I'm not happy with the guitars,' so I said to work on it until you're happy," Osbourne once recalled. "He's in there for a couple of days and one day comes out with this big, shit-eating grin and goes, 'I think I've got it.' And when he played it, the hair on the back of my fucking neck stood up." K.G.