In 1991, as Ozzy Osbourne wrapped up his “retirement” No More Tours tour, it seemed unlikely that guitarist Zakk Wylde would record three more albums with him and be a part of his band, in one way or another, for nearly 15 more years — though he had a brief courtship with Guns ‘n’ Roses in 1995 that led to his replacement by Joe Holmes in Ozzy’s touring band until 2000.
On that “farewell” tour, the seeds of Wylde’s next project, his first as a frontman, were sown.
It was an unlikely pairing for a Southern rock outfit. A Jersey boy, known for his shredding metal solos and wild harmonic squeals, teamed up with a couple of New Yorkers, bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo, the rhythm section from glam rockers White Lion. In its early incarnation, the band was known as Lynyrd Skynhead and did small shows on off-nights of the tour. By 1994, though, Wylde had begun to take it a little more seriously. Drummer Brian Tichy (Billy Idol, Whitesnake, Kenny Wayne Shepherd) had replaced D’Angelo behind the kit, and the band got a name change to Pride & Glory for its self-titled debut on Geffen.
At first blush, there wasn’t much about this record that said heavy metal guitar hero. The cover was strange, a photo of a dilapidated house with a few cows standing around in front of it (later replaced by an eagle illustration on the re-issue). The lead single, “Losin’ Your Mind,” was also a little bit of a shocker for fans of Wylde’s previous work, opening with a solo banjo piece, followed by a grooving Southern rock guitar riff. (The banjo hung around for the whole song, too). Most surprising, though, may have been Wylde’s vocals. At the time, Wylde was a clean-shaven, fresh-faced kid that, for his first few years with Ozzy, had sported a poofed-up 1980s glam hairdo. No one saw this gritty, soulful voice coming from him. It’s a little easier to believe these days, looking at the grizzled, grimy rocker he’s evolved into over the intervening years. Wylde, who had always wanted to sing as well as play, used that first single to full advantage, stretching out his vocal chops in a way that he’s rarely done since — as his style has become more of a deeper, gruffer imitation of Ozzy with his current longtime outfit Black Label Society.
The music here wasn’t all unfamiliar. The album’s best track, “Troubled Wine,” starts off with a slightly dirty slide lick that morphs into a heavy slab of a drop-D tuned riff that would make Tony Iommi proud. The verse chugs along with Wylde delivering more of a machine-gun style vocal, but the soulfulness comes back on the bridge and chorus. The song has an absolutely nasty groove to it, and in truth, might be the closest approximation I’ve ever heard to Ronnie Van Zant fronting Black Sabbath.
Pride and Glory also easily represents Wylde’s most diverse work. Over the course of his career, he’s hopped styles between full-blast heavy metal, blues rock, acoustic, piano ballads and Southern rock. You can find all of that on this one record, and even a tongue-in-cheek country song in “Hate Your Guts.”
There was plenty of hard rocking to be found with the aforementioned “Troubled Wine” and the high energy “Horse Called War,” which more closely resembled some of the songs that he’d written with Ozzy. “Shine On” is a heavily Lynyrd Skynyrd-influenced piece that has just a little bit of metal menace and more cowbell than a Saturday Night Live skit. “Harvester of Pain” is about the only place where Wylde fully pulls out his trademark squeals, but the verse plays a little bit like Creedence Clearwater Revival on steroids. “The Chosen One” is a heartfelt tribute to Wylde’s father, a World War II vet who died in 2009. (His Black Label Society album, 1919 Eternal, was also a tribute to his dad, named after the year he was born.) The tune opens with some Geezer Butler-inspired bass licks from Lomenzo, but also features some symphonics and some of Wylde’s strongest vocal work ever.
“Toe’n the Line” is the most fun track on the record — a strutting, swaggering rocker that has shades of early Aerosmith mixed in with the Southern rock influences. It also offers a bit of a more modern rock sound with the spoken pieces from Wylde on the chorus. It’s probably my second favorite song here, after “Troubled Wine.”
On the mellower end of the spectrum, “Lovin’ Woman” has something of a country flavor. “Sweet Jesus” and “Fadin’ Away” bring out the piano, which is one of the most effective weapons in Wylde’s storytelling arsenal. There’s something about the softer side of his vocals that meshes well with it. I like both, but prefer the more spry key work of “Fadin’ Away,” which shows a little of his admitted Elton John influence. It’s perhaps surprising from the title that “Machine Gun Man” isn’t a heavy hitter, but instead it’s a mid-paced, blues-tinged rocker that again owes a great deal to Skynyrd. There’s more CCR influence on “Cry Me a River,” which, with a John Fogerty vocal, would fit right in on any of that band’s records. “Found a Friend,” for some reason left off of the reissue, is a precursor to Hangover Music, Vol. 6, his mostly acoustic record with Black Label Society.
The end of Pride and Glory began shortly before they were set to tour the U.S. in mid-1994, when Lomenzo parted ways with the band. Wylde replaced him with longtime friend and later Black Label Society bandmate J.D. DeServio, but by the end of that year, Pride and Glory had pretty much faded away. Wylde went on to do an acoustic solo record, Book of Shadows in 1996, before forming BLS, which would become his primary band in 1998. He also played on Ozzy’s three studio albums between 1995 and 2007 — Ozzmosis, Down to Earth and Black Rain — before being replaced last year by Greek guitar hero Gus G. Pride and Glory had a one-off reunion show in ’98, but nothing ever came of it.
That’s a shame, too, because this record ranks among the guitarist’s finest moments, and 17 years later, I’m still wishing I could hear more from them.