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This article was originally published in issue #3
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We sat around trying to come-up with something really special for our Zakk Wylde cover issue. After a while, Jamie Humphries said: “Hey! What if Ozzy’s most famous “Axe Men” got together for a jam?” Heads turned and off Jamie went to start laying down tracks for... The Wizards of Oz Jam!
Over the years the job of filling the position as Ozzy’s guitarist has been one of the most revered and well publicised guitar jobs in the business. I myself have always waited with baited breath to see who was the next hottest young gun slinger that the Dark Prince of Heavy Metal would pluck from obscurity and fire into the guitar spotlight!
Ozzy obviously started his career with heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath. Sabbath were formed in 1968 in Birmingham England, and although Ozzy was fired due to excessive alcohol and drug use in the late 70’s, the period with Ozzy as lead vocalist is still seen as the most classic period of the band. Guitar duties were occupied by Tony Iommi, who is seen as one of the pioneers of big heavy metal riffs. Iommi lost the tips of his middle and ring fingers at the age of 17 whilst work in a sheet metal factory. Iommi fashioned false finger tips, to extend his fingers and enabling him to continue to play. His style is based around very heavy riff based playing, and aggressive pentatonic soloing. Iommi’s has long been associated with SG style guitars, mainly a Jaydee custom. Iommi also plays various Gibson SG’s, including two prototype Gibson SG’s based on his famous Jaydee. The Gibson and Epiphone guitar companies also released the P94 Tony Iommi Signature model, as well as a custom shop Gibson Iommi SG. Tonys amp of choice is his signature Laney head.
Following Ozzy’s departure from Sabbath he embarked on his solo career, enlisting the talents of Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads. Randy was a master of both electric and classical guitar, fusing classical scale based lines and arpeggios with blues licks. Randy was a guitar teacher, but would seek out classical guitar lesson while on the road. Randy’s main choice of guitars was his white Les Paul custom, as well as his famous Polka Dot and white Jackson V’s. His amp choice where white 100 watt Marshall heads. Sadly Randy was tragically killed in a flying accident, and although he only recorded two studio albums with Ozzy, plus the posthumous release of the live Tribute album, Randy’s influence and legacy still have a huge timeless effect on the world of rock guitar.
Following Randy’s death Ozzy enlisted the talents of Jake E Lee. Lee recorded two very successful albums with Ozzy, which included two big singles. Lee’s style was quite different to Randy, still using blues based ideas, but with a very “American” sound. His signature lick included huge left
hand stretches, fretting notes with his thumb to achieve wider intervals. Lee’s choice of guitar was a Charvel strat with a fixed bridge, he would often emulate dive bombs by dropping the pitch of a string by drastically detuning it with the machine head! Lee used Marshall heads with a Boss distortion to achieve his aggressive metal tone. Following his final album with Ozzy, “The Ultimate Sin” he was fired by the Osbourne camp via a telegram.
Ozzy's next gun slinger, and longest standing guitarist to date, was Zakk Wylde who is extensively profiled in this issue. Zakk's relationship with Ozzy finally ended when Ozzy felt his own material was sounding more like Black Label Society!
Ozzy’s newest guitar sideman is Gus G, a Greek born ex-Berklee student. Gus was choosen to join Ozzy for his latest album, and as well as working with Ozzy he is the lead guitarist in his own metal band Firewind. Gus is renowned for his blistering technique, which include fast alternate picked lines, legato runs, sweep picking and tapping; his technique and contributions to rock/metal guitar have already earned him several awards in Guitar Magazine polls. Gus’s choice of guitars are his two ESP signature models, the Gus G “FR” and Gus G “NT” . Gus uses nine Blackstar Series One 200 watt heads, plus his signature Blackstar valve HT Blackfire pedal, a twin channel valve driven distortion unit.
Above I have listed the main guitarist’s associated with Ozzy, but he has worked with others including Steve Vai, Joe Holmes, Brad Gillis, and its rumoured he choose George Lynch as Randy’s replacement, but then went withJake E Lee.
Ok, now for the fun bit! The idea of this article was to have a dream jam; what if all of Ozzy’s guitarists got together and blasted over a track. I have presented five licks from each axeman, twenty five in total. I have composed a short backing track based around two sections. The first section is very Sabbath inspired and features a heavy riff based around E minor. The second section modulates up to F# minor, and is more in the style of earlier Ozzy, “Miracle Man” era.
Lick 1 demonstrates Tony’s use of unison bend, as well as his use of the E minor pentatonic scale. This lick is pretty straight forward, and as with many of Tony’s runs, is based around pretty straight forward two note per string pentatonic phrases. This lick moves around a lot, so make sure you’re up to speed with your pentatonic patterns.
Lick 2 is another pentatonic lick, but this lick has a slight twist, with a slightly tricky fast left hand slide between the 15th and 17th frets of the top E string.
Lick 1 is a classic Randy lick and is based around the F# minor pentatonic scale, but also includes the blues scale, plus notes from F# Aeolian. This lick is a little tricky so practise slowly to start.
Lick 2 illustrates Randy’s classical influences, with a descending figure based around a Diminished arpeggio. This lick covers a lot of the neck, so practice it in sections. The lick concludes with more F# minor pentatonic lines.Lick 1 is an E minor blues based lick that kicks off with a slow gradual bend. Make sure you dig in to this lick with lots of aggressive vibrato.
Lick 1 is an E minor blues based lick that kicks off with a slow gradual bend. Make sure you dig in to this lick with lots of aggressive vibrato.
Lick 2 is a pretty unusual lick, that starts off with notes performed by sliding into them, followed by a line where the fretted note is then re played by a right hand tapped note, giving a delay effect.
Lick 1 is a blues based figure that uses the F# minor pentatonic scale and includes double stops and classic bending phrases.
Lick 2 is another pentatonic based idea that shifts up the neck on the top two strings through all of the F# minor pentatonic positions. Be sure that you have your pentatonic patterns down, and take care with the slides at speed.
Lick 1 demonstrates one of Gus’s bluesy style licks, with a searing bend that rises gradually, before heading into a fast loop pattern, and concluding with a unison bend. This lick is based around the E minor pentatonic scale.
Lick 2 is another Gus G signature lick, and demonstrates how Gus negotiates the neck using 5th intervals on the top two strings. Take care with the position shifting slides.