20 years ago, before melting our faces with Black Label Society, Zakk Wylde released his solo debut, Book of Shadows. This led to my friends and I witnessing one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. It was a small venue. It seemed like an eternity as roadies lit the candles all over the stage. Finally, the show began. Two men with acoustic guitars playing by candlelight. He actually recreated the mood and vibe of the CD.
That certain feel that Book of Shadows has makes it the great CD as it is. It draws you in. It feels like he recorded it by candlelight during a thunderstorm (similar to Richie Sambora’s Stranger In This Town). He actually uses rain and thunder sounds in “Throwin’ It All Away.” From the first notes, you’re captured. For those that only knew Zakk Wylde as the guitarist for Ozzy Osbourne, especially if you didn’t hear his Pride and Glory album (another must-have for rock fans), this album may have taken them by surprise. But, even though it’s mostly acoustic, the album is heavy. There’s a depth to the songs that don’t let up.
With Book of Shadows, Wylde shows off his range of playing. Whether electric or acoustic guitar, piano, and singing, Wylde shines on them all. His voice has a strong southern rock sound and easily fits with these songs. Of course, his guitar solos are off the charts. However, for the most part, they stay within the structure of the songs (he extended them in concert). I’ll even go as far as to say that his solo for “Between Heaven and Hell” is a little short.
We all know Zakk Wylde would go back to his heavy ways with Black Label Society and create some amazing heavy electric rock. And, although he revisits his softer side on outstanding CDs like Hangover Music, Vol. VI, Unblackened and his latest Book of Shadows II, the vibe of the original Book of Shadows is what makes it my favorite Zakk Wylde CD.
This CD is one that is best listened to the whole way through. The highlights include “Between Heaven and Hell,” “Road Back Home,” “Throwin’ It All Away” and “I Thank You Child.” But, there are no bad songs here. Just straight up acoustic rock done the Zakk Wylde way. Go back and listen to this one. And, if you don’t have it, pick it up immediately.