STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Black Sabbath is supposedly on its final tour, and Ozzy Osbourne, 67, has had off-and-on health/substance abuse issues.
Enter The Land of Ozz, a band that focuses on Osbourne’s early solo works from the dawn of the ‘80s. Media resident and bassist Paul Piccari, a founding member of Led Zeppelin tribute Get the Led Out, said that The Land of Ozz performs every song from the iconic heavy metal albums “Blizzard of Ozz” and “Diary of a Madman.”
Guitarist and Delran, N.J. resident Mike Stanley added that their sets have also included “Bark at the Moon,” “Shot in the Dark,” “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” “Miracle Man,” and “No More Tears,” as well as Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid,” “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “N.I.B.” and “Children of the Grave.”
Stanley’s 17-year-old son, Matt, is the group’s lead guitarist. “He’s got this uncanny ability to hear music and be able to play it almost exact — instantly or within a few tries,” he said.
Stanley, who attended Berklee College of Music at the same time as members of the band Dream Theater, has grown used to people being skeptical of his son’s talent. Trying to tell Piccari, his long-time friend, that the then-15-year-old guitar wiz had mastered Randy Rhoads’ parts on all eight “Diary of a Madman” songs in a span of eight hours, his response was: “Is he good, or is he kid-good?”
Stephen “The Ozzman Cometh” Desko, Land of Ozz’s Ozzy look-alike and sound-alike front man, also had trouble wrapping his head around the idea. “What’s the deal? You’re the dad and he’s the guitar player?,” he reportedly said.
However, once they heard that Matt Stanley could, for example, perform any of the various Randy Rhoads spotlight solos, they became believers. Check out recordings and video at www.thelandofozz.com.
Piccari, who has also performed with a Journey tribute band and ill-fated ‘80s rockers Hit the Ground Runnin’ during his music career, said that Osbourne’s music is trickier to learn than Led Zeppelin’s. “Ozzy’s like: you do six of these and seven of these,” he said of the structure of the song “Diary of a Madman.”
Because Black Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi suffered a catastrophic injury to his fingers, that band’s songs typically feature an alternate drop-tuning. To cover both Ozzy and Sabbath, while keeping the show moving, Stanley said that he and his son both play five or six different guitars at each concert. The band’s guitar technician has worked with mid-’80s Ozzy lead guitarist Jake E. Lee.
Piccari said that Land of Ozz shows also have a video projection element with clips from “Perry Mason” (in honor of Ozzy’s song “Perry Mason”) and horror movies. He thinks The Land of Ozz is on the path to the same kind of success that Get the Led Out is enjoying now. “The kids love the ‘70s and ‘80s rock,” he remarked.
The band is also attempting to follow in the footsteps of “The Osbournes” by shooting a pilot episode for a reality show. The main plot line is Matt Stanley’s unorthodox daily life, as his father and Piccari mentor him, steering him clear of the trappings of rock star excess while the high school junior maintains honor-roll grades. “I grew up in clubs like The Galaxy and the Empire Rock Club. I don’t want him to go the same route,” said Stanley, a scientist at West-Ward Pharmaceutical.
The Stanley family include’s Matt’s mother and younger sister and brother, who could potentially find their way into show.
An intriguing subplot involves the “Odd Couple” roommate dynamic between Desko and Land of Ozz keyboardist Mike Vivial.
A potential laugh riot plot twist involves Desko, dressed as Osbourne, walking into a rural town off the Pennsylvania Turnpike in search of a part for the band’s SUV, which has broken down on the way to a festival.