By Steve Newton
Since time immemorial–or at least since Dio replaced Ozzy in Sabbath back in ’79–armchair rock critics have debated the merits of the two singers. It’s hard to complain about anything Ozzy did with the band up until the awesome Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath album of 1973; then again, after three spotty LPs, Dio brought new fire to the group on 1980’s Heaven and Hell.
Some point to the sheer power of Dio’s vocals and musicality; others to Osbourne’s charisma and/or craziness.
Either way, there’s no denying both singers earned their titles as heavy-metal legends for their time with Black Sabbath–even before successful solo careers cemented that status.
Back in 2007, when I interviewed Tony Iommi–who at the time was calling the band Heaven and Hell to differentiate it from the Ozzy-fronted lineup–I asked him how he compared Dio to Ozzy as a songwriter. Of course, that was kinda dumb, since bassist Geezer Butler wrote the lyrics during the Ozzy era.
Iommi straightened me out, before complementing Dio’s songwriting contributions.
Then I asked him if he thought the albums he made with Dio were as strong as the ones he did with Ozzy, and he was pretty diplomatic in his response.
Have a listen: