Speak Of The Devil was a live double LP released in 1982 consisting entirely of Black Sabbath tunes. It seems curious that after only two solo albums under his belt that Ozzy Osbourne would release an album of Sabbath covers (and so soon after guitarist Randy Rhoads’ tragic death). Turns out that Speak Of The Devil (titled Talk Of The Devil in the U.K.) was a contractual obligation. Here’s a quote from Ozzy himself on the matter (taken from the 2002 Tribute CD liner notes): “The label (Jet Records) wanted a live album… Randy had barely been buried and they wanted us to release these live tapes. I refused to do that. That’s how Talk Of The Devil came about… I told them I’d deliver a live album but it would have nothing to do with Randy. So I recorded two nights and gave them the tapes. Its just a bunch of bullshit Sabbath covers. I don’t recognize that album. I wasn’t there for the mix. I just delivered the tapes and that was it. I was under contract and don’t give a f*ck about that album.”
Speak Of The Devil was recorded in September 1982 over two nights at The Ritz in New York. It was just six months after Randy Rhoads’ death on the Diary Of A Madman tour. Brad Gillis was Ozzy’s guitarist for this recording. Gillis’ own band, Night Ranger, was still unsigned when Gillis accepted the job in the Ozzy Osbourne band. His performance during this tour with Ozzy actually helped Night Ranger get signed to a record deal (under the condition that Gillis remain in the band). At the end of the tour, Gillis chose to leave Ozzy’s band and return full-time to Night Ranger.
When I was a kid, I used to raid my older brother’s tape collection when he wasn’t around. He had a pretty healthy metal collection, and I would dub his tapes and listen to them on my Walkman. I remember I really wanted to hear Black Sabbath because I heard they were “Satanic” and that intrigued the hell out of me. It was like a forbidden fruit that I could not resist. He had the tape We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll (a greatest hits compilation). I snatched it from his bedroom and tried to record it but the damn tape broke on me. (I quietly returned it to its rightful place in my brother’s room as if nothing happened.) Needless to say, I was pissed. Then I found his Speak Of The Devil tape and saw that it had pretty much all the Black Sabbath songs from We Sold Our Soul For Rock ‘N’ Roll. I was psyched. I was ready for some Satan! I dubbed the tape and you could imagine how enthralled I was listening to these classic Sabbath tunes for the first time. And since this was how I first experienced Black Sabbath songs, I have always preferred the Speak Of The Devil versions to the originals (I eventually collected all the old Sabbath stuff, of course). So Speak Of The Devil probably holds a lot more meaning to me (who was very young at the time) than it does to someone who grew up with Black Sabbath in their ear.
Despite Ozzy’s dismissal of Speak Of The Devil (he has “deleted” it from his catalog; it is now out-of-print in the U.S.), it truly is a great live album. I’m not really a fan of live albums (you never know how truly “live” the final product really is), but this one is of one the best I’ve ever heard. The recording is almost studio quality with great fidelity. The songs, well, they are all classics of course! Can’t beat this set list! Speak Of The Devil features a great band plowing through an energetic set. Ozzy sounds impeccable, “skull-face” Tommy Aldridge destroys on drums, and Brad Gillis has no problem with Iommi’s unholy riffage. My all-time favorite track is the red hot version of Never Say Die. (Note: Producer Max Norman has stated that three of the tracks on Speak Of The Devil were recorded on-stage during the show’s rehearsal. He didn’t divulge which three songs. I listened closely but couldn’t tell.) My score: A