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Ozzy Osbourne’s Live Releases: The Definitive Ranking

Now that the Prince of Darkness is embarking on his final tour, we assess his solo live output from the ‘iTunes Festival’ to ‘Tribute’

British musician Ozzy Osbourne performs at the Alpine Valley Music Theater, East Troy, Wisconsin, May 29, 1982.

Now that Ozzy Osbourne is embarking on his final tour, Rolling Stone ranks every live release he's put out in his nearly four-decade solo career.

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After nearly four decades of defining and redefining heavy metal and terrorizing small winged animals as a solo artist, Ozzy Osbourne will launch his final tour this spring. The two-year trek, which bears the impish title “No More Tours 2,” as a throwback to his early-Nineties retirement tour, will kick off in Mexico in May before making its way to the States in August.

“I’m not retiring,” the singer told Rolling Stone on Tuesday. “It’s ‘No More Tours,’ so I’m just not doing world tours anymore. I’m still going to be doing gigs, but I’m not going on tour for six months at a time anymore. I’d like to spend some time at home.”

Before he sets out on one last big trek around the globe, we’ve decided to rank all the official live releases he’s put out in the 39 years since he proved he was more than just the singer of Black Sabbath. In that time, he has worked with several six-string virtuosi, including Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee and Zakk Wylde, the last of whom will be accompanying him on the final tour, and each of the guitarists left a unique stamp in their respective period in his career, inspiring Ozzy as a singer and lending to some unforgettable performances. Here’s how the 10 official documents shake out.

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‘Ozzy Live’ (2012)

First released as bonus content on the 2011 reissue of Diary of a Madman, this now-standalone compilation of Randy Rhoads–era live recordings was a perfect reminder of why he was such an integral part of Ozzy’s early-Eighties sound. Unlike on Tribute, Rhoads’ guitar is front and center in the mix and his playing still sounds like it leaps off his strings, especially during his “Suicide Solution” extended solo. The recording also features some of Ozzy’s best vocal performances; he sounds positively giddy on “Crazy Train” and “Steal Away (the Night).” Since audio from this recording isn’t online, we’ve included a 1981 performance of “Mr. Crowley” above, filmed for a Rochester, New York, TV show, though it doesn’t hold a candle to the one on Ozzy Live

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‘Tribute’ (1987)

Ozzy had intended to put out this double LP of live recordings from the Diary of a Madman tour as the original Speak of the Devil release, but he ultimately didn’t feel right doing so in the wake of Rhoads’ tragic death. He finally decided to release it when Rhoads’ mother, Delores, told Ozzy that she had been inundated with requests for live recordings that featured her son. Issued on the five-year anniversary of the plane accident, Tribute is the only solo Ozzy release to feature a double billing, placing Rhoads’ name alongside his. Rhoads’ playing throughout is marvelous, with fiery solos on “Mr. Crowley,” “Crazy Train” and a breathtaking extended bow in the middle of “Suicide Solution.” The renditions of “Iron Man,” “Children of the Grave” and “Paranoid” are raucous and fresh, since Rhoads reportedly wasn’t a Black Sabbath fan and decided to put his own spin on them. The record also contains some of Ozzy’s best vocal performances, as he sounds positively rejuvenated after surviving his dismissal from Black Sabbath. It’s the sound of a man reborn, paired with the foil he’d been waiting for his whole life. And it’s one of those rare live albums that leaves you wanting more. 

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