Ozzy Osbourne was in a bad way both personally and professionally by the end of 1982, but he somehow managed to pull himself together long enough to release the Speak of the Devil album on Nov. 27, that same year.
Immediately following the tragic death of dear friend and guitarist Randy Rhoads, plans for a live album of recordings from the Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman tours were quickly scrapped. Ozzy felt it was too soon to release them, they would eventually come out in 1987 as the live album Tribute, but still he was obligated to deliver a live album. So the idea to perform a set of Sabbath classics to satisfy that obligation was born. Ozzy enlisted Night Ranger guitarist Brad Gillis to fill the role of Tony Iommi and the rest of his band was rounded out by bassist Rudy Sarzo (who went on to successful stints in Quiet Riot and Whitesnake, Quiet Riot of course being Randy’s former band) and drummer Tommy Aldridge. The classic combo of Sarzo and Aldridge, was undoubtedly one the best rhythm sections of Ozzy’s solo career. And immediately, it becomes obvious that Brad Gillis was the right man for the gig. Playing Iommi to a tee, Gillis effortlessly leads the band through some of the best from the Sabbath catalog; and Speak of the Devil ends up a solid live album throughout. Listening to the remastered version though, there’s no doubt that the vocals feature some heavily doctored patch-ups, but regardless, Ozzy proved his point to his ex-bandmates who considered him washed up. Following the recording, due to the uncertainty surrounding the Ozzy camp, Brad Gillis would jump ship and rejoin the ranks of Night Ranger.
The album sleeve states that it was recorded at The Ritz in New York on 26 and 27 September 1982, during the Speak of the Devil Tour, however all tracks with the exception of “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” were taken from the 27 September concert as verified against the soundboard recordings of both performances which exist as bootleg recordings. “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” was not played at either of the Ritz concerts. Producer Max Norman stated in 2007 that due to a limited budget, he had Ozzy perform an entire show in the afternoon (of which day he wasn’t clear) with no audience. That performance was recorded in the event that the actual live performance at night was not of suitable quality for release. According to Norman, the finished album does in feature three songs from that afternoon performance with crowd noise later added in post-production.
(There are no actual videos or audio for this album to be found on YouTube. So, instead I have loaded these bootleg/fan recordings. If you really wanna hear it… JUST GO BUY THE ALBUM!)
Speak of the Devil’s gatefold includes multiple photos of a member of Ozzy’s road crew (who took part in the stage show by bringing Ozzy drinks between songs and was even hung nightly) This little stage hand suffered from dwarfism and Ozzy nicknamed him “Ronnie”, a cruel joke aimed at Ronnie James Dio, who had of course replaced Ozzy as Black Sabbath’s lead singer and stood only 5′ 4″ tall.
Speak of the Devil was released one month before Black Sabbath released their own live album entitled Live Evil, which contributed to a growing rivalry between the two! In the US, sales of Speak of the Devil were much better than those of Live Evil, while in the UK it was Live Evil that attained the higher chart-placing. In the end, Ozzy’s live set and it’s ultimate sales surpassed that of his former band.