When Quiet Riot released Metal Health in the spring of 1983, it was an instant success. By November the record had sold millions and became the first metal album to hold down the #1 position on the Billboard Top 100 Albums chart. The music had obviously made a huge impact upon metal fans but, without the legacy of Randy Rhoads, chances are the band would have never secured a deal or even had a shot at rock stardom.
Quiet Riot was formed in 1975 by guitarist Randy Rhoads and vocalist Kevin Dubrow. A year later the band signed with CBS/Sony Japan and subsequently released two albums, Quiet Riot I and Quiet Riot II that failed to gain the attention of major labels stateside. By 1978, Quiet Riot’s popularity on the L.A. scene was rivaled only by that of an unsigned club act named Van Halen. The focal point of Quiet Riot was Randy Rhoads. His mesmerizing onstage presence coupled with his amazing command of the instrument had already garnered him a legendary reputation on the local club circuit. In 1979, ex-Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne visited L.A. in search of a guitarist for his new solo band. After endless auditions Ozzy was about to give up and go back to England — until Randy Rhoads walked into the room. Rhoads was merely warming up when Osbourne told him that he had the job. Later Osbourne stated “that it was the greatest guitar exhibition I had ever witnessed”.
As for Quiet Riot, the band disbanded shortly after Rhoads’ departure and Kevin Dubrow formed his own band, Dubrow. With Randy Rhoads, Ozzy Osbourne released Blizzard of Ozz (1980) and Diary of a Madman (1981), two albums that are today considered classics. The strength of these albums made Randy Rhoads a star, and in the guitar community he was heralded as the most important rock guitarist since Jimi Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen. The Osbourne/Rhoads tandem had proven that they were a force to be reckoned with and the future of rock their trail to blaze.
However, in March 1982 Randy Rhoads was a passenger in single-engine plane that witnesses say was buzzing the band’s tour bus and, on a third pass, clipped the bus and slammed into the mansion located on the property. All on board were killed — Randy Rhoads was just 25 years old. The news of the tragedy made headlines around the world and in the ensuing months fans would clamor for rare copies of the early QR records as well as bootleg demos and live performances — anything that they could get their hands on. Later that year, Kevin Dubrow changed the name of his band back to Quiet Riot, except now, thanks to Rhoads’ legendary reputation, the name meant something, and a band once shunned by record companies suddenly had themselves a deal.
Dubrow, along with Carlos Cavazo (guitar), Frankie Banalli (drums) and Rudy Sarzo (bass), couldn’t have released their debut Metal Health at a more opportune time. The memory of Randy Rhoads was still at the forefront and the bang-your-head attitude of metal fans of the early ’80s made the record easy to embrace. Metal Health is laced with power-chord-furied, anthemic battle-cries like the thunderous title track and the impressive cover of Slade’s “Cum on Feel the Noize” which gave the band a Top 10 hit. And although there are several other solid tracks like “Let’s Get Crazy”, “Run For Cover” and “Slick Black Cadillac”(which originally appeared on Quiet Riot II with Rhoads on guitar), for the most part the album presents nothing that hadn’t already been heard — rock ‘n’ roll clichés, albeit ones that, in Quiet Riot’s case, worked like a charm. “Thunderbird” is the band’s attempt at their own “Free Bird”. A tribute to Rhoads, the song is lyrically poignant, but musically it’s boring and Dubrow’s vocals are absolutely annoying — totally wrong for a song of that nature.
The newly remastered Metal Health includes two previously unreleased bonus tracks in “Danger Zone”, from the original sessions, and a monster live version of “Slick Black Cadillac” which proves their prowess as live performers. But while the record certainly deserves credit for the massive success it was, it’s still lightweight music when compared to the groundbreaking rock created by Ozzy Osbourne/Randy Rhoads. That’s why you should balk at Metal Health and lay your hands on Blizzard of Ozz or Diary of a Madman — music that not only rocks, but truly stands the test of time.