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Book/DVD Review: Randy Rhoads: The Quiet Riot Years by Ron Sobol

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First up, if you’re not a diehard Randy Rhoads or Quiet Riot fan, thanks for stopping by. You need not read any further. However, if you are among the legions of Rhoads’ admirers, odds are you have already plunked down the pretty penny for Randy Rhoads, The Quiet Riot Years, Ron Sobol’s affectionate photo fest and DVD retrospective of the era when Quiet Riot couldn’t get the respect they craved.

If not, here are two things to consider. First is the oversize (12 x 12) hardcover coffee table collection of photographs by Ron Sobol, the photographer, friend, and confidante for Quiet Riot during the band’s formative years. It’s Glam-rock in glorious Technicolor complete with a large-scale poster and pictures of band memorabilia never seen before.

Of likely more interest to the less devoted fan is director Sobol’s accompanying DVD history of the group. At its core, it’s the story of the friendship between guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads and vocalist Kevin DuBrow and their desire to rise to rock stardom together. It’s an ironic tale as the story only covers the years 1973 to 1979 when Rhoads left the band. Those were the years when Quiet Riot was making a name for itself in LA clubs but couldn’t get a U.S. record deal to save its life. As a result, it’s the story of music few Americans have ever heard as the first two Quiet Riot records were only released in Japan and never, to this day, fully available in the States.

To be fair, the DVD and book could more accurately be called “Quiet Riot: The Randy Rhoads Years.” The band, after all, wasn’t a Rhoads project with sidemen—DuBrow was as equal a partner. In fact, DuBrow would keep the name going long after Rhoads’ departure and death and would take it to its most popular heights in the mid-80s. To tell this story, Sobol drew on interviews with many who were there. There’s DuBrow’s mother, Laura, Rhoads’ girlfriend and costume designer, Jodi Raskin Vigier, and Quiet Riot fan club president, Lori Hollen. Musical perspectives come from bassist Rudy Sarzo and original drummer Drew Forsyth.

From them, we hear how original bassist Kelly Garni was dropped when it became clear he wasn’t as serious about climbing the success ladder as the others and how Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen had a friendly rivalry. Sadly, we hear few samples of the music. It might be unkind to say the few snippets offered rather explain why a major record contract was never offered to this line-up, but, again, we’re hearing about the music, not seeing a bonus feature accompanying a concert disc.

Appropriately, after all the time devoted to Rhoads, DuBrow, and company polishing their chops and building their fan base, the short afterlife of Rhoads with Ozzy Osbourne is but a quick denouement for this film. There’s a brief interview with Osbourne eulogizing Rhoads who died in a plane crash in March 1982 while touring in his band. It was his tenure with Osbourne that established the Rhoads myth, and it’s this work for which he will be most remembered.

Because of this legacy, in 1993, DuBrow released The Randy Rhoads Years, a compilation of re-mixed Quiet Riot material for the first time outside of Japan. Apparently, due to the wishes of the Rhoads family, the tracks were seriously reworked as Rhoads was not happy with the sound of his guitars on the Quiet Riot albums. Then, on November 25, 2007, DuBrow died after an apparent accidental drug overdose. Even then, the Quiet Riot machine didn’t stop. While not a single original member is left in the group, a virtual tribute band is still out there. Fans can still go out and feel the noise created by Rhoads and DuBrow and the audience that made them a West Coast cult favorite.

In the end, Randy Rhoads, The Quiet Riot Years is a slick package for those really into the LA club scene of the late 1970s in general and Quiet Riot in particular. For others, all this might seem a glorified footnote detailing the pre-history of Ozzy Osbourne’s post-Sabbath rebirth. Still, if you know a metal head you really, really like, this might be an ideal gift to commemorate any holiday worthy of the price tag.

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