100 Greatest Guitar Solos: No. 9 "Crazy Train" (Randy Rhoads)
Guitarist Randy Rhoads employeed a two-part process when recording his solos for Blizzard of Ozz, Ozzy Osbourne’s first album following his ouster from Black Sabbath. First, the classically trained young shredder would take his customized Jackson guitars to a stone room downstairs at England’s Ridge Farm Studios where he would work out each of his solos, among them “Crazy Train.”
“This was after we did the backing tracks,” says Blizzard of Ozz engineer Max Norman. “Randy had a Marshall and a couple of 4x12s, and we had him set up in this room with the cabinets facing up out into the main studio. They were miked at various points: close, at three feet, and again at about 12 feet. I would make Randy a loop of the solo section and we’d just let that play into these big monitors downstairs, where he would just sit and jam away for hours and hours until he had composed his completed solo.”
With the solos arranged to his liking, Rhoads would then report upstairs to the control room to record them.
“We’d plug the guitar directly into the console,” recalls Norman. “We’d preamp it in the console and send it down to the amp from there. That way we could control the amount of gain that hit the amp, which is always a problem when running a remote amplifier and trying to get a good enough signal to it.
“Randy would put down his solos pretty quickly once he had them worked out. We’d do two or three takes to get the majority of the solo down, then maybe punch in a few little fix ups. He’d try to get the first take as good as possible, then he’d double it and triple it. Ozzy always wondered why Randy double tracked everything, and he really didn’t want him to. I must admit, at the time I really didn’t think it was a very good idea, either—but when you double and triple track a solo, it actually adds to the accuracy because it’s somewhat more forgiving as far as pitch and timing; it blurs the edges.
“Of the three tracks on each solo, the one that we liked the best would be pretty much down the center of the mix, and the other two would be ghosted back 3 or 4 db, swung out pretty wide on either side. What happens then is that it doesn’t become such an obvious double or triple track—it’s more of an effect, really, because you tend to get the phasing between the different pitches. In addition, with guitars two and three panned left and right, you get a fourth guitar—a phantom guitar—in the middle. So what Randy’s got on those solos is a double track of his main guitar, and the other two guitars attempting to create a ghost guitar. It actually averages out pretty well—it works better than you might think.”