Two years after his departure from Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne cemented his status as a heavy-metal superstar in his own right with this action-packed second solo effort. Thanks to high-velocity standouts like “Flying High Again” and “Little Dolls,” Diary of a Madman proved Osbourne could compete with his ex-bandmates, who were having their own renaissance after recruiting Ronnie James Dio. It also set the pace for a new generation of hard-rock upstarts who were revitalizing the genre by ramping up the speeds and maximizing the hooks.
Though Osbourne himself would fly high through the decade to come, Diary of a Madman marks the end of the band behind his initial solo success. Under pressure to record a new album only a few months after the release of Blizzard of Ozz, Osbourne, guitarist Randy Rhoads, bassist Bob Daisley, and drummer Lee Kerslake rose to the occasion with a set that balanced the brute force of rockers such as “Over the Mountain” with the subtler likes of “Tonight,” Osbourne’s strongest ballad since Black Sabbath’s “Changes.” Yet Daisley and Kerslake were fired before the album’s release, resulting in them initially being denied credit for their contributions.
More tragically, this was Rhoads’ last studio recording with Osbourne before his accidental death in 1982. The guitarist’s astonishing dexterity and neoclassical leanings are on full display on the thunderous “You Can’t Kill Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Hearing how much Rhoads energized Osbourne’s own performances adds a surprising poignancy to Diary of a Madman’s potent blend of metal brio, pop immediacy, and cheeky malevolence. “Am I just a crazy guy?” Osbourne sings. It’s a question he answers himself: “You bet!”