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Just over thirty-three years ago we lost easily one of the most legendary guitarists to grace the Heavy Metal genre. Recording only two albums each with Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne, Randy Rhoads had created guitar riffs and solos that would stand the test of time. Unless they’ve been living under a rock I’m sure the average person could easily recall how the song ‘Crazy Train’ goes. With this much fame still held to his name, it’s not too surprising to see a tribute album. I am speaking of the Immortal Randy Rhoads The Ultimate Tribute (UDR) album.
Right from the start, I began to assume I was in for a nightmare. ‘Crazy Train’ is the first track. Featuring Serj Tankian of System of a Down, it’s about as awkward of a fit as you would expect. It’s not necessarily horrible, but he feels more like a guy at your local karaoke bar. It could be that I was just distracted by the very unfortunate choice for lead guitar. To me one of the most overrated guitar players out there, it’s none other than Tom Morello. He fills the classic with his usual incorporation of feedback and picking/tapping. It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you finally get to the solo just to hear he completely overwhelmed it with his own unique playing. Sounding more like your Atari is skipping beats rather than slightly resembling what may be considered Rhoads most classic guitar solo.
It’s only improvement from this point on right? Couldn’t possibly get any worse? Of the ten remaining tracks, Tim “Ripper” Owens handled vocals. Not a bad choice as his vocal ability is a good fit. But they settled on him for eight of the eleven tracks? Why not try and spice things up? Especially if you’re going to go with the disappointing choice of Serj. The main issue that I have with Owens is that the guitar players that he was paired with played their role note for note, tempo, and tuning just as in the originals. It’s a collection of covers that make you feel compelled to just return to the classic tracks instead.
As with most people I’m sure, I can be rather shallow when it comes to a cover song. Played note for note with the same pace and similar tuning, why bother? When you rework the song into your “signature” sound to the point that it doesn’t in any way resemble the original, why bother? Just a slight change can make the cover that much more enjoyable, which leads me to the one track that stands out. The only track that grabbed my attention and held it tight was ‘Mr. Crowley’ featuring Chuck Billy (Testament) on vocals. That unique, strong, and easily recognizable voice make this the lone track that is a stand out.
Immortal Randy Rhoads: The Ultimate Tribute is not a terrible album, but I would remove ultimate from the title. You finish the album with a feeling that this was a significant loss of great potential. Want to really pay the ultimate tribute to Randy Rhoads? Continue to enjoy the classics that he himself recorded.