Back in March, we decided to pinpoint and identify – perhaps once and for all, since the results aren’t about to change anytime soon – Randy Rhoads’ greatest guitar solo.
So we took two routes: 1. Ask our readers via a poll that appeared on Guitar World for most of the month (and then we shared the hell out of it on social media) and 2. ask our panel of experts. Let’s start with the poll.
Randy’s best, according to Guitar World readers
There was no contest at all. Mr. Crowley – from Ozzy’s Blizzard of Ozz – got off to an impressive start on the first day of the poll, and it never looked back, claiming more than 37 per cent of the overall vote – all by its lonesome.
As for the rest of the poll results, just check out the top 10 below. Also, please note that every Randy Rhoads recording got at least one vote, meaning that someone, somewhere, thinks his solo on Quiet Riot’s Face to Face is more deserving than his playing on, say, Ozzy’s Flying High Again. Just thought we’d mention that!
- Mr. Crowley (37%)
- Crazy Train (12%)
- Over The Mountain (8%)
- Revelation (Mother Earth) (7%)
- Diary Of A Madman (6%)
- Flying High Again (4%)
- S.A.T.O. (3%)
- Tonight (3%)
- Suicide Solution (3%)
- Goodbye To Romance (2%)
Randy’s best, according to the pros
“I love ’em all. To me, they’re all his versions of the solos in Hotel California or Stairway to Heaven – solos that are a song within a song. You could literally play any one of Randy’s leads and name the song; that’s how amazing his solos are. They’re all composed and worked out so they’re an integral part of the song.
“There’s a recording out there of him playing at the Whisky [A Go Go, L.A.] with Kevin DuBrow [Quiet Riot vocalist] and the guys right before he went out with Oz, and he’s actually playing the solo in Revelation without the band. It’s just him shredding that solo by himself in the club, and you immediately know what song it is. I rest my case!
“If I had to pick just one? Today I’d say Flying High Again, because it’s fun to play and also because of its composition. Plus, there’s the tapping bit over the chord changes at the end, which is just awesome. But if you ask me tomorrow, I might say Revelation.
“Then the next day I might pick S.A.T.O. or the outro solo in Tonight – the one you wish they didn’t fade! And then, on Friday [Laughs]... it never ends! My favorite Randy riff would have to be either the intro to I Don’t Know – that’s always a fun one to play – or the intro to Diary of a Madman.”
“My favorite Randy solo is the one in S.A.T.O. I love the dynamic way he changes with the chords behind him, and it has tons of ’tude! In terms of a favorite song, I happen to think Diary of a Madman is one of the finest heavy metal songs ever written. For emotion, technique and sheer spookiness, it gets my vote every time!”
“I know Crazy Train is a very predictable, generic answer, but I’m giving it for a pretty good reason. Just like many other guitar players, the Crazy Train solo was the one I first taught myself how to two-hand-tap with.
“I have a fond memory of being in the Hollywood Guitar Center and playing the Crazy Train riff like you do when you’re learning. And then some dude came up behind me and sarcastically goes, ‘Pfft! That’s great, but can you play the solo?’
“So I started playing the lead and when I looked up he’d left! [Laughs] So that one has always had a fond place in my heart as a little bit of an ‘F you!’ solo!”
“My two favorite Randy Rhoads solos are in the same song. That song is Mr. Crowley, and it contains two of the greatest rock ’n’ roll solos of all time. The compositional excellence, fire, passion and melodic fury of each of those solos is unmatched.”
“Flying High Again. It is a quick one, just in and out, yet it says so much in a short time. While some of it is obviously composed, especially the back half with its thematic, two-handed tapping lick, it captures a powerful, raw energy as though it were played ‘off the cuff.’
“The two-handed part and its classically influenced chord movement underneath showed the world that it was possible to take the new craze of two-handed tapping technique and use it in a totally unique, highly musical way.”
“I can’t pick one of his solos; to me, they’re all Randy talking at that moment. It’s a conversation. It’s a soliloquy. It’s Randy expressing himself musically at that particular moment in time.”
Jared James Nichols
“I always go back to the first solos and riffs that got me excited to play. Truth be told, they still get me fired up after all these years. The ripping intro to I Don’t Know, the solo to Over the Mountain or the heaviness of Revelation (Mother Earth). It all hits me hard. Even as much of a blues guy as I am, Randy had soul, and I can feel that.”
“I love the instrumental piece Randy did before his unaccompanied solo live; I don’t know if it had a name, though. I love the unaccompanied solo too; it has a short arpeggio part that sounded a bit classical, although Randy played it with full-blast distortion. That instantly caught my ear the very first time I heard it.”
”I think it would have to be from the first record, because of the way Ozzy held the world captive with this outrageously talented new band. Randy’s solos were seemingly all planned (written ahead of time) and yet they seemed absolutely perfect for whatever the riff called for. In terms of a favorite song, it’s either Over the Mountain or Crazy Train.”
“That’s a tough one. I could easily list five and tell you why. But if I have to pick just one, it’s Flying High Again. So much attitude! And then there’s the tapping part, but not because he tapped it. What made him think of that brilliant chord progression?”
“Mr. Crowley is probably my all-time favorite. That said, I also really love the solo in You Looking at Me Looking at You. I just love the way it’s constructed – how he incorporates major scales in the beginning, and then goes off into classical voicings the more the solo progresses.”
“Flying High because it’s so unorthodox – and at the same time so deeply satisfying because it all makes sense when you listen to it. It might not make sense on paper – or maybe it does? I don’t know [Laughs] – but it certainly had the effect he intended. And it was very different from the straight pentatonic stuff from the players we all know and love, who also do incredible stuff.
“Randy was coming from a more classical perspective, and then throwing in the rock tricks – the histrionics. He was very inventive with all the flamboyant stuff too, using it to punctuate his classically based pieces with. It was a really refreshing approach.”
“The guitar solo from the live album because it just shows everything. I just listened to it the other day – it’s amazing. He must have really planned out that solo. Of course, it’s got tons of flash but it’s so rhythmic too. In fact, all his solos had so much attack and rhythm. There are parts of that solo that could be instrumental songs because those passages are so cool, rhythmically perfect and inventive.”
“I’m always going to go with his lead in Revelation (Mother Earth). The way that solo builds and draws you in is amazing. In fact, I’m getting legitimate goose bumps right now just talking about it! It’s the perfectly constructed lead.”
“When I heard Over the Mountain, that initially struck me as one of my favorites, but then seeing him play Revelation (Mother Earth) was incredible. It’s really hard to narrow it down to just one.
“He would have a solo like Flying High Again that I don’t know if there’s even a bend in – there’s just great attack, note choice and phrasing, and then, of course, that tapping part that’s really classically influenced. Then there’s stuff like Diary of a Madman where it’s all about the feel. Then there’s Crazy Train! How can you pick just one Randy solo? They’re all my favorites!”
“Over the Mountain is my favorite Randy solo, and I’d imagine that’s a popular response. You know it’s coming up and you’re excited for it every time – even now, 40 years later!
“The way he starts it is really memorable, and then it goes into that beautifully played run before switching into that super-playful, whammy bar stuff. It’s a fun, exciting solo, but it’s also very musical. Randy really does a lot of things in a really short period of time. It really demonstrates the wide scope of his lead playing.”
Courtney Cox (Iron Maidens)
“I’m gonna go with Diary of a Madman. The solo and the entire song was just so dark, haunting and mesmerizing to a young C.C. – instant chills! It’s also proof that you don’t have to play at the speed of light when the composition is so perfect and the notes are just right.“