Best Cozy Powell Albums

Written by on November 3, 2021

Cozy Powell was and is one of the most influential and important drummers in the history of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, paving the way for a lot of artists in the genre when it comes to the way that drums are played and his attitude and power was something that became intrinsic to his playing style, almost second-nature in that regard.

Born in 1948 and sadly passed away in 1998, Powell’s career went through many different bands and he managed to play multiple genres, which cemented his legacy as a very versatile drummer and one that could adapt to the songwriters’ demands, thus making him a phenomenal asset for all the groups he was in and usually adding a bit of extra value.

But what were the best albums Cozy Powell ever played in? Which ones are the records that cemented his legacy as one of the finest drummers to have graced the world of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal? Well, I wanted to try something different in MusikHolics and I decided to make a list of what I consider the best albums the man himself played in, so I hope it works for you and that it can give you some interesting stuff to listen to.

It’s also worth pointing out that I’m just picking one album per band or artist to not make the list too long and to add a bit more of variety to the list.

Jeff Beck Group – Rough and Ready (1972).

Most music fans associate Powell with Metal music and rightfully so as the man mainly played that kind of music, but it would be doing him a disservice to think he was just a musician in that particular genre. And perhaps one of the most interesting albums to listen to and analyze Powell’s playing is his first album with the Jeff Beck Group, 1972’s Rough and Ready.

Certainly not the heaviness and rocking energy of, say, 70s Rainbow or Black Sabbath, but this is a great jazz fusion album where we get to hear a lot of Cozy’s phenomenal drumming, a lot of fun rhythm changes and a more technical approach to things where his playing is not only intense, but also quite varied.

The opener Got the Feeling is a personal favorite of mine, but I’m also quite taken by Max’s Tune and I’ve Been Used, although the entire album is definitely worth your time.

Cozy Powell – Octopuss (1983).

The title track.

It’s 1982 (time of the recording), you’re Cozy Powell and you’re one of the most in-demand drummers in the Rock business, with a lot of world class musicians wanting to play with you in their bands. So what do you do? You gather some of the finest musicians you know, such as Deep Purple’s Jon Lord, Gary Moore, Whitesnake and Trapeze’s Mel Galley or former Rainbow bandmate Don Airey and you release your own solo album, 1983’s Octopuss.

When a drummer makes a solo album, it can be a challenging task to make it a commercial success or even to get people’s attention because they are mostly instrumental-driven and they don’t have a lot of traditional hooks or even normal song structures to get people’s attention from the get-go. However, if you’re the kind of listener that likes to revel on instrumental passages, that pays attention to musical details or are you just a massive fan of Powell’s drumming, you can find a lot of interesting stuff in Octopuss.

The title track shows a bit of Cozy’s slower and more rhythmic drumming with great basslines by Colin Hodgkinson of Whitesnake and Jon Lord fame. Dartmoore has some soulful and melodic guitar playing by Gary Moore and it’s always to learn legends like these two and Lord playing together. The Rattler, which is co-written by Powell and Deep Purple and Whitesnake’s David Coverdale, is a straight up rocker with some delightful Mel Galley guitar licks and Cozy completely on his element as heaviness goes.

While instrumental albums might be harder to digest for some people, I think there are a lot of interesting stuff on Octopuss and you should give it a chance if you want some eclectic music but always with an emphasis on Rock and Roll.

Whitesnake – Slide It In (1984).

Music video for Whitesnake’s Love Ain’t No Stranger, with Cozy Powell on drums.

Cozy Powell’s time in Whitesnake is short, albeit a very interesting one. While he only did the one album with David Coverdale’s group, 1984’s Slide It In, it proved to be a pivotal record for the band’s future because it marked their first breakthrough in the American market with hit singles such as Love Ain’t No Stranger and Slow an’ Easy, especially because in the United States there was a reworked version of the album, with the always underrated John Sykes adding a certain heaviness and sharpness to the guitar side of things.

In terms of music, Whitesnake have two very marked eras: the early days where they played bluesy Hard Rock and the most popular and famous one which started with the self-titled 1987 album and that continues to the very day, which is a lot heavier and more in line with Heavy Metal and the 80s Glam scene, although maintaining some blues influences. However, Slide It In is famously viewed as the transition record and I very much agree with that as you can find a healthy balance between both eras of the band, thus becoming a very accessible album for a wide variety of listeners.

Love Ain’t No Stranger and Slow an’ Easy are the hits and they have some nice hooks and slow, attractive paces, but there is a lot more to like in this album, such as the opener Gambler with its catchy chorus, the powerful rhythm of Standing in the Shadow, the Hard Rock of Spit It Out… the list goes on. It is one of Whitesnake’s finest albums and it’s mightily consistent if you’re into 80s Hard Rock.

Definitely one of the most successful albums Cozy ever played in and while his drumming is not as powerful as in other releases of his, it is still quite good and very much in service of the songs, which is a key trait for any great drummer.

Michael Schenker Group – MSG (1981)

Michael Schenker and Cozy Powell is a winning combination, no matter how you look at it. Sure, they lasted only one album, but what an album! 1981’s MSG is one of the German guitarist’s finest records of his long and varied music career and Cozy’s drumming is certainly one of the key traits that make it work. Some people consider it the best album Schenker has ever done and while I don’t agree with that statement (I’m more of an Assault Attack kinda guy myself), MSG is certainly a phenomenal musical effort.

Best songs? Throw a dart! Ready to Rock is one of the best anthems Schenker has ever written and his guitar sounds as vicious as ever. Let Sleeping Dogs Lie, On and On, Never Trust A Stranger… very few albums can really capture what Hard Rock was in the early 80s and, funny enough, Cozy Powell played on many of them, so that you should tell you a lot about the man’s influence on the genre throughout the years.

This is definitely Schenker during his peak years and one of the best albums Powell ever did in his career, so this is a fundamental record in both musicians’ careers.

Graham Bonnet – Line-Up (1981).

Music video for Graham Bonnet’s Night Games, with Cozy Powell on drums.

Graham Bonnet has always been very vocal about his friendship with Cozy and it makes sense as both were playing together in Rainbow and the latter brought the former to the Michael Schenker Group, although they never played together in 1982’s Assault Attack. But they did play a year before in Bonnet’s solo album, Line-Up, which is a very interesting listen if you want to hear some great singing by the former Rainbow vocalist and Cozy once again trying something different.

Now, I won’t say this is one of the best albums Powell played on, but I admit that I have a weakness for Line-Up due to the fact that is very eclectic and that Bonnet can’t sing poorly even if his life depended on it. It is at times borderline Pop Rock, but it has some nice songwriting here and there and Bonnet has the input of top class musicians, such as Neil Murray, Micky Moody, Jon Lord, Russ Ballard, among many others.

Definitely an interesting little album from the early 80s by one of the most productive vocalists in the genre and Powell delivers like he always did.

Black Sabbath – Headless Cross (1989).

The Tony Martin era of Black Sabbath is one of the most underrated stints of any band in the history of Rock and there are lots of great albums to choose from that particular period of Sabbath’s history, but 1989’s Headless Cross is the jewel of the crown and a phenomenal mix of the band’s iconic doom-based riffing and the 80s Heavy Metal style they adopted at the time.

Part of the reason why this album is so good is because of Powell’s drumming, who finds completely in his element, pounding like it was the day of Armageddon and complementing Tony Iommi’s riffs like they had been together for years. Add to that the phenomenal vocal performance of Tony Martin, delivering some of the best singing in any Sabbath album and you have a winning formula that sadly didn’t materialize in commercial success and that is one of the greatest injustices of the music business.

The title track and its anthem-like nature, the power and epic feel of Devil and Daughter, the darkness of Nightwing, the powerhouse that is Kill in the Spirit World… every single song works on this album and it is definitely one of Iommi and Powell’s creative peaks in their respective careers, so if you haven’t given Headless Cross a chance due to the Tony Martin era not being very popular in the mainstream side of things, you’re doing yourself a massive disservice.

Rainbow – Rising (1976).

And here we are, folks. The definitive Cozy Powell album. And I could go as far as saying that there is a very good argument that this is not only the definitive Rainbow album, but also the one for guitarist and leader Ritchie Blackmore and vocalist Ronnie James Dio, but that’s a whole different discussion.

Rising is a key album in the history and development of Heavy Metal as a music genre as it was one of the first records to combine epic tracks with heaviness, technicality and shedding away the blues influence until fully becoming its own unique thing, which is why a lot of experts and fans consider this musical effort one of the first Metal albums of all time.

And from the very first seconds of Tarot Woman you know you’re in for a wild ride! The album goes on in epic fashion and reaches its climax with eternal pieces such as Stargazer and A Light in the Black, with all the musicians involved delivering some of the finest performances of their entire careers. And Powell is certainly one of them, with the drum intro of Stargazer being one of the most memorable and legendary pieces of music he ever recorded.

If you want to hear the likes of Blackmore, Dio and Powell, a historic trio of musicians, reaching their musical zenith, then Rising is where you need to head to.

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