Little Ozzy at Oasis on the River in Sanford, FL on 6/12/21 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

I’ll be completely blunt here; when it comes to tribute and/or cover bands, I can sometimes border on the “snob-ish” side (my attitude has always been, ‘why would I want to see imitators, if I’ve already seen the original?’). But when it’s done right, a tribute/cover act can sometimes come close to being as fun as the real thing. Such was the case with 4’10 singer Lin Doak, otherwise known to the world as Little Ozzy, who along with his band, rocked Oasis on the River in Sanford this past Saturday, June 12.

Over the course of just a few years, Little Ozzy has climbed his way to the top as one of the world’s leading Ozzy Osbourne tribute acts, even appearing on such multiple TV shows including America’s Got Talent and Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour. And while I have already seen the actual Prince of Darkness himself before, both solo and with Black Sabbath (in 1997 and 2004, respectively), I knew there was something special enough about Little Ozzy to get me to put my usual reservations towards tribute bands aside for one night.

My gut instincts quickly proved right, as the band – which also consists of guitarist Johnny Lawrence, bassist Aaron Rowe, and drummer Draven Blaq – took the stage just after 9:00pm, opening with a one-two punch of “I Don’t Know” and “Crazy Train” (really the only appropriate way to introduce a set of Ozzy classics at this point). Adding to the overall decadence of the evening was the atmosphere of the venue Oasis itself; with a pool filled with bathing beauties directly in front of the stage, there was plenty for the eyes to behold.

I was pleasantly surprised when the band followed up with a bit of a deep cut in the form of “Believer,” before segueing into a number of Sabbath staples that included “Iron Man,” “Children of the Grave” (one of my personal favorites), and “Sweet Leaf.” Solos from Blaq and Lawrence sandwiched more hits like “Mama I’m Coming Home,” “War Pigs,” and “Suicide Solution,” before Little Ozzy told a brief story of meeting late Ozzy guitarist Randy Rhoads’ brother, Kelly.

The band then slowed things down a bit for a spot-on version of “Goodbye to Romance” (always a favorite), before finally calling it a night with epic renditions of “Mr. Crowley,” “Shot in the Dark,” and “Fairies Wear Boots.” Although their set was nearly flawless, I found it odd that mega hit “Bark at the Moon” was omitted from the set, and I would personally love to hear more forgotten tracks like “Breaking All the Rules” included as well (but that’s just me).

Still, there really wasn’t all that much to complain about Saturday night’s show. So the next time Little Ozzy comes through your town, be sure to catch him and his band if you can; it’s sure to put an Ozzy-size smile on your face!

Album Review: Dio – Holy Diver: Live (BMG)

By: Jesse Striewski

Ronnie James Dio might be gone, but the music he left behind across multiple decades and via numerous staple bands (including Black Sabbath and Rainbow) will forever live on. This latest reissue of a 2008 Dio show is a perfect example of just that, showcasing the immense talents of one of the greatest frontmen in rock to ever step up to the microphone.

Originally recorded live at London Astoria, this collection contains not only all nine tracks from the original 1983 masterpiece album of the same name (as it’s title suggests), but a number of other essential cuts from throughout Dio’s career. Classic’s like Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” help make up this seventeen track collection. And even the physical editions come with some cool perks, including an album-sized, 3D lenticular art piece with the vinyl version.

There’s even another Dio reissue being released in tandem with this one, Evil or Divine: Live in New York City, but Holy Diver: Live is definitely the strongest of the two. But if you’re even half the Dio fan I am, you should be able to appreciate either of these collections.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Book Review: Confess: The Autobiography By Rob Halford with Ian Gittins (Hachette Books)

By: Jesse Striewski

The metal god himself, Rob Halford, leaves no stone unturned in this tell-all memoir, detailing his life as frontman for one of the biggest heavy metal bands on the planet, Judas Priest. And with Christmas just around the corner, it’s the perfect stocking-stuffer for your favorite headbanger.

From his bleak upbringing in post-war England, struggling with his own sexualty, to joining Priest in the early ’70s (and everything in between), Halford bares it all from start to finish (it’s not called Confess for nothing!). Fans should no doubt delight in many a story here (the early Priest stories are by far the most captivating).

When I saw Priest on the same bill as a re-united Black Sabbath back in 2004, I knew I was witnessing something truly special. These are the guys who laid the groundwork for heavy metal (still the best music genre ever created, for my money), and their tales deserve to be heard. Do yourself a favor, and take the trip down memory lane with Halford.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Zakk Sabbath – Vertigo (Magnetic Eye Records)

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By: Jesse Striewski

I tend to usually shy away from tribute/cover albums (always found them a tad too on the ‘gimmicky’ side), but this track-by-track rendition of Black Sabbath’s masterpiece 1970 debut album arranged by Zakk Wylde and company was way too irresistible to pass up.

Backed by former Ozzy Osbourne/Rob Zombie bassist Blasko and ex-Danzig drummer Joey Castillo, Wylde does justice (both vocally as well as musically) to not only classics like “N.I.B.” and the title track, but equally brilliant (yet sometimes overlooked) numbers such as “Wicked World,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” and “Sleeping Village,” all of which are a welcome trip back through time.

What’s also interesting is that instead of releasing Vertigo digitally, the band is only offering physical copies in an effort to bring back a more ‘authentic’ feel to the entire rock experience. Fifty years since it’s original release, Black Sabbath is still just as timeless as ever, and this new addition serves as one more reminder of it’s enduring legacy.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Dio Returns at The Plaza Live in Orlando, FL on 6/1/19 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

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Ever since the Dio Returns tour had first been announced there’s been an abundance of backlash from some fans calling it a ‘cash grab’ (I’d almost guarantee most of those complaining are the same people who went to see Bohemian Rhapsody when it came out last year, too). You can write tours like this off as such (it should also be noted that some of the profits from the tour are allegedly going towards the Ronnie James Dio Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund), or you can look at them the way I do; tributes meant to keep the memories alive of legends who rightfully deserve it. Ronnie James Dio was one such icon who I grew up admiring dearly, and unfortunately I was never able to see him perform live before his passing in 2010. The Dio Returns tour gives all those who never saw him the chance to finally experience his music live (and the last time I can remember looking forward to a tour as much as this much was probably when I caught the original lineup of one of Ronnie’s former bands, Black Sabbath, back in 2004).

Essentially, the band itself is one of two current versions of the Dio band that has been going for nearly ten years now (the other being Last in Line, with Vivian Campbell and Vinnie Appice at the helm) called Dio Disciples. This version of the band (which features Dio alumni Craig Goldy, Simon Wright, and Scott Warren) has been performing for years with multiple singers in place of Ronnie, including ex-Judas Priest/Iced Earth vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, and former Lynch Mob singer Oni Logan, who were both there trading off vocal duties (along with live recordings of Ronnie when his hologram was present) when the band came through The Plaza Live in Orlando this past Saturday, June 1.

Jizzy Pearl’s current incarnation of Love/Hate opened the show, and I was actually looking forward to finally catching Pearl live as well after interviewing him for Rewind It Magazine just last year (I found it strange however that none of the material from Pearl’s recent album that I interviewed him for made it into the set list).  At this point, the club was still fairly empty, and the band received only a modest response. But still, they played with all their might on tracks like “Straightjacket,” “Tumbleweed,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Fuel to Run,” “Mary Jane,” and “Wasted in America.” A seemingly set up (and awkward) moment found the band being told to leave the stage before declaring they were doing one more song, which ended up being “Blackout in the Red Room.”

After Pearl’s set, there was a sort of calm before the storm as the crowd sat anxiously to finally see what awaited them (this was only the second night of the tour, after all). It was quickly revealed as Ronnie’s hologram made its introduction by way of “King of Rock and Roll.” From there, it was one amazing moment after another from beginning to end.

A pair of Sabbath-era classics in the form of “Mob Rules” and “Children of the Sea,” sung by Owens and Logan, respectively, followed before Ronnie’s image made its way on the screen again for the classic Dio tracks “The Last in Line” and “Holy Diver.” After Owens belted out one more Dio classic (“Stand Up and Shout”), the stage was cleared for a drum solo by Wright, which was a tribute of sorts to Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture.

A tagged-team rendition of “Don’t Talk to Strangers” by Owens and Logan followed  before more Dio/Rainbow classics began making their way into the set, including “Rainbow in the Dark,” “Egypt (The Chains Are On),” “Gates of Babylon,” and “Invisible” (another duel effort from Owens and Logan). Goldy then treated the crowd to a guitar solo before a couple more Rainbow tracks (“Catch the Rainbow” and “Stargazer”) preceded an unforgettable version of Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” (which briefly segued into the classic “Man on the Silver Mountain”).

Owens and Logan then took the stage along with Ronnie’s hologram to close out the night on an epic note with “We Rock,” and finally (after a short reprieve) “Neon Knights.” The only thing I might have changed (other than include tracks like “Time to Burn” or anything off the Sacred Heart album in place of some of the other chosen tracks in the set, but that’s just my own personal taste!) would have been to market the tour itself a bit differently; even though the hologram does indeed play a prominent role, there’s so much more to the entire show than just that. Still, every person in attendance that night seemed to be in agreement of just how well-executed this show truly was.

After the show itself, my wife/photographer and I were extremely lucky to be invited backstage, where we were able to briefly meet and talk to every member of the band, as well as Dio’s own former wife, Wendy. It was apparent that this tour was a collective labor of love from all those involved, and the feelings resonating backstage were that of celebration, and triumph. And as far as all the closed-minded critics of the tour go, to quote Aesop; “The ignorant despise what is precious only because they cannot understand it.” I think if Ronnie were still here today, he would fully approve of what is being presented on stage in his honor right now.

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