Randy Rhoads as seen in Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon (Photos: VMI Releasing)

By Matt Brunson

★★★ (out of four)
STARS Randy Rhoads, Kevin DuBrow

Looking at the lengthy list that includes Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Otis Redding, Aaliyah, and members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, it’s rather disconcerting to note just how many celebrated musicians have died in airplane crashes. While all have been tragic, the 1982 death of Randy Rhoads stands apart simply because of the rampant stupidity involved. The fatal crash wasn’t caused by the usual reasons of faulty aircraft instruments or visibly poor flying conditions — it was because pilot Andrew Aycock engaged in needlessly idiotic behavior, repeatedly buzzing (i.e. flying close at a high speed) a tour bus until he accidentally clipped a wing against the vehicle. This resulted in a fiery crash into a barn, ending the lives of the 36-year-old Aycock and his two passengers, 58-year-old makeup artist Rachel Youngblood and the 25-year-old Rhoads.

The documentary Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon naturally spends time on the guitarist’s death, but it spends far more time on his life as well as his legacy. One of the founding members of Quiet Riot before opting to join Ozzy Osborne’s new band, Rhoads proved to be a guitar whiz right out the gate and continues to influence other musicians. Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine, and Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello have all sung his praises. (Indeed, only one fellow rocker has ever seemed to undermine his talents, and that was the late Eddie Van Halen.) Guitar World gave him an award early in his career and continued to regularly honor him long after his death, most notably by placing him #4 on its 2004 list of The 100 Greatest Heavy Metal Guitarists of All Time. Years later, Total Guitar went one better, elevating him to #3 on its similar list.

Quiet Riot bassist Rudy Sarzo, guitarist Randy Rhoads, lead vocalist Kevin DuBrow, and drummer Drew Forsyth

Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon uses vintage interview footage, new talking-heads material, and the occasional narration (by L.A. Guns and Guns N’ Roses founding member Tracii Guns) to detail the trajectory of Rhoads’ short life. With a mother who owned a Hollywood music studio (Musonia), music came naturally to young Randy, although it was catching an Alice Cooper concert that most birthed his desire to become a rock musician himself. He was one of the founding members of Quiet Riot, and, while the band was huge on the L.A. club scene, it ironically wasn’t until after he had left the group (and, subsequently, after his death) that it got signed to a major label and released 1983’s Metal Health, which made history as the first metal album to top the Billboard chart.

Rhoads may not have been involved with Quiet Riot when fame and fortune came calling, but he wasn’t exactly missing out. He had left the outfit following a successful audition for a new band formed by Ozzy Osborne after the unpredictable singer had been booted from Black Sabbath for his excessive drug and alcohol consumption. Given considerable freedom by Ozzy, Rhoads cemented his legacy with his work on the two albums recorded before his death, 1980’s Blizzard of Ozz (featuring Randy’s phenomenal playing on “Crazy Train” and “Mr. Crowley”) and 1981’s Diary of a Madman.

Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon is far from a tell-all, warts-and-all documentary, the type that wallows in the mire. Part of that is by design on the part of director Andre Relis — for instance, Quiet Riot lead singer Kevin DuBrow was despised by many, both inside and outside the band, but the movie only mentions such animosity in fleeting ways — but most of it is because of the nature of its central subject. Rhoads was the opposite of the established image of a rock ‘n’ roll bad boy: He barely drank, he didn’t do drugs, he was a devout Christian, he was a loving son, he was faithful to his girlfriend and then fiancée Jodi Raskin (they started dating after she was dumped by DuBrow), and he freely gave of his time even after his ascendancy (he would periodically head back to his mom’s music school to offer lessons to students). As evidenced by this touching documentary, Randy Rhoads was a rock star in all senses of the term.

(Randy Rhoads: Reflections of a Guitar Icon is available to stream on Amazon Prime.)

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