The guy who was so whacked out of his gourd he snorted a line of ants off a pool sidewalk? The most normal dude in his house.
Nowadays, thanks to that cultural scourge-that-never-sleeps, the image of Ozzy Osbourne is married forever to that pasty weather balloon shuffling his way around his enormous kitchen after some dog or another, hands all-a-tangoin' and the Captain and Tennile on the house PA system while his soulless, uber-brat devil children attempt to hide their advancing drug addictions among 'Gee, mom, look! I got me anothah tattoo raht heah by my heart! It's Satan squatting and taking an enormous dump! And the dump is YOUR HEAD! I did it just for you, mum!'-style hijinks. I admit I, too, enjoyed the Osbournes for an episode or two back in 2002 when it first came on, the idea of an Ozzy Osbourne reality show on MTV of all places being too perfect and too delicious for me to ignore even when I had to decipher the thickest of alcohol-damaged Brummie dialects from underneath that ever-present Russian-language voice-over. Now, after attempting to hee-hee and haw-haw through real-life downers like Sharon's breast cancer and multiple trips to rehab (not to mention Kelly Osbourne's hope-destroying Mommy-bought-it-for-me singing career), the show is about as fun to watch as Beat-Down Day at the local nursing home. Considering the show only makes passing references to Ozzy's music career, it's quite easy to forget the man is still rolling on down the Metal Titan highway at a hair shy of 60 years old, long after it seems his Black Sabbath buddies have given it up for the barstool closest to the cricket match. Not that being Ozzy Osbourne the singer is particularly difficult, necessarily - he's almost always had the luck to surround himself with good bands willing to apply de-rigueur ass-pounding riffs to his skeletal vocal melodies, he's not necessarily 'Mr. Active' onstage, his manager and wife Sharon (who actually seems somewhat intelligent - except when it comes to her kids. I'd go on, but I won't stoop to damning someone who apparently has a 66% failure rate when it comes to producing decent human-type children.) handles all the dirty work, and he can certainly coast on his monumental reputation and back-catalogue whenever he feels a bit tuckered out with coming up with new material. But still, despite a lull of a couple of years in the mid-80's (along with every other musician alive), he's been damned consistent in his ability to be the best Ozzy Osbourne he can be. I sure understand why the man still has fans - he's embarrassed himself fewer times than almost any long-running heavy metal act and he's stayed true to his original vision - grab a virtuoso guitarist and make him play chunka-chunka Beatles rewrites with great globs of glorious fuzztone, graft on a dullard rhythm section on top, then apply the full three-note extent of your inimitable band-saw vocal cords, and head out to tour for decades at a time on a bill packed with well-known opening metal acts who all worship you. It's not too pretty, and on the 'art' scale the man is somewhere between Chuck Wollery and the spore mold growing on that tub of unused pumpkin pie filling in my fridge, but it gets the job done from a rock standpoint. Best of all for a record reviewer, the man's not so productive I have to wade through three dozen identical albums to wrap him up - two new studio albums in the Nineties? My patience thanks you, Sir!
Ozzy's solo career began as a complete industry joke in 1980, the former Black Sabbath frontman having spent most of the last year stuck in a tiny apartment cramming his head with as many booze and pills and powders as his orifices would accommodate. The smart money was on the other three members of Sabbath, who'd just scored mighty mite Dungeon Master Ronnie James Dio from Rainbow as a replacement. Ozzy was scrap-heap time, and no one except for Sharon 'the Bloody Battleaxe', his soon-to-be-wife and the daughter of his former manager, thought he had much of a chance. He formed the band Blizzard of Ozz with ex-Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads, cut a self-titled debut album, and hit the road. From there, the story degenerates into death (Rhoads and several winged animals with unfortunately bite-sized noggins), self-abuse (see the metal documentary The Fall of Western Civilization Part II and then tell me about it, because for some stupid reason I've never seen it), insanity, Pat Boone, Donohue, Lita Ford, lost trash cans, redneck asshole guitar players best suited for a revamped Molly Hatchet band, the Osmonds, and Cyndi Lauper covers.
Nah, you really shouldn't approach Ozzy Osbourne's solo career wanting anything resembling the type of artistry you'd get from even the most middling 'serious' rock writer. Compared to someone as enlightened and creative as, say, Alice Cooper (an obvious comparison), Ozzy's career since the last good Black Sabbath album came down the pike in 1975 is all that much plodding hackwork. The man's a huge Beatles fan, so some interesting melodies come along now and then, but for the most part it's riff rocker after riff rocker after nutrocker. The man's stuck to the same basic sound he first concocted on 1980's Blizzard of Ozz with a commendable ferocity, having learned a lesson from Black Sabbath's painful de-ballsing in the late 70's. I wouldn't say that his bands are even particularly hard as metal goes - the guitars are always loud, and can be pretty speedy (especially the '80-81 Randy Rhoads material), but they never thrash or, outside of a couple of solos, get too proggy for their own good. I guess what I'm fumbling around like Ted Kennedy looking for his housekey on St. Patrick's day is that Ozzy is a really good metal guy, but I wouldn't go expecting him to challenge your ideas on the superiority of John Lennon and Paul McCartney in the pantheon.
The first of two albums made with former Quiet 'Metal Health Will Make Your Bed' Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads was as close to a revolutionary record as these things got when it came out in 1980, and it's all Rhoads's fault. Rhoads, you see, took the popular double-tapping Edward Van technical ecstasy style of late-70's guitar hero-dom and added a totally new component to it - classical music. See, outside of Ace Frehley and your prog-rock axe-wielders, not too many rock guitar players interjected classical music lines in their playing, but there was Randy doing all of these fancy-pants diminished Assloadian minor ninth suspended fourth scale runs all over the ice-cream shop whenever Ozzy Osbourne paused for a breath. Yup - wanking has been a component of popular music ever since Homer let his lyre player keep going while he went and had a piss, but you see Randy Rhoads was one of the two creators (along with EVH) of the shred guitar player. No longer was it acceptable merely to twiddle across blues pentatonics at a zillion miles a second like Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page or Tom Petty - after Randy wrested control of the wheel a guitar player was expected not only to learn all those weird scales after the fourth page of the Guitar Grimoire, but was quite possibly expected to read music as well. God's knees! A guitarist read music! Next thing you know they'll be letting drummers out on the streets without diapers on!
Nah, Rhoads may have been the unfortunate progenitor of Yngwie Malmsteen and a whole host of overpracticing, humorless longhairs who still haunt the cover of Guitar World magazine to this very day (does that fucking Steve Vai do anything but do interviews for those stupid magazines? Holy Christ! Go on a goddamn tour or something! Learn how to play without sounding like a complete assplug! Something! Endorse another goddamn overpriced wah pedal? NO! Not that either!), but the man himself was a damn good player. In all seriousness, I put him right up there with Van Halen as second-generation guitar gods go. Smilin' Eddie was probably more absolutely creative, and was definitely more fun, but you could hum a Randy Rhoads guitar solo if you wanted to (and you had a blazing fast hum mechanism), and that's not something that can be said too often. He also came up with some of the best riffs of Ozzy's career, and this is a guy who spent nine years bumping elbows with a peaking Tony Iommi. The best thing for Ozzy was that Randy was a totally different sort than Iommi - rather than mash your bones into dust with detuned molasses-rolling-down-the-mountain grinding, Rhoads is like a middleweight boxing champ. He punches hard enough to separate you from your teeth (and your senses), but can bob and weave with surprising dexterity, too.
Anyhow, in 1980, metal had just recently absorbed the punk quickness of Iron Maiden and the New Romantics of British Haircut Metal clan and had had their doors blown off by Van Halen's wicked new techniques, but Ozzy's band was still a revelation. On paper, they were very similar to Rainbow - flashy guitarist, keyboardist, lyrics about spell books and other occult nonsense, but they had that certain pizzazz that the Dio-less 'bow would completely lack. From the tearing stutter-step opening to 'I Don't Know' through the first six or seven songs, Blizzard of Ozz is a near-flawless metal listening experience. The band sounds alive, especially on the two opening rockers, and all Ozzy has to do is be himself and it all falls together. The man has finally learned to sing outside of the melody of the riff (think how Ozzy's voice doubles the guitar line in 'Iron Man', and then think how it does the exact same fucking thing in every other early Sabbath song), and it's a good thing, too. Jay-Z would have nothing on Ozzy if he attempted to sing along with Randy's breakneck pickin'. Lyrically, 'I Don't Know' lets it on quite plainly that Ozzy wants to be known as just another former Black Sabbath singer (soon to be a rather large population), and not as some sort of prophet to the zit-faced denim jacket addicts that made up his audience. And why should they think of him as an enlightened human being, anyway? He's on the 'Crazy Train'! He's fucking nuts! He's so blitzed out on chemicals he makes those pussies in Led Zeppelin look like Girl Scouts. He's the Reggie Jackson of People Who Put Terrible Things Up Their Nose, just second to that guy I saw who fit an entire volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica up there. Whatever - he wouldn't be dropping his familiar 'I'm nuts' pose that he'd been hanging on ever since 'Paranoid' came out in 1970 until he finally quit drugs in the late 80's, but 'Crazy Train' is more about the 'train' part, anyway. You can keep your sad 'Locomotive Breath'...if I want visions of a massive steam locomotive screaming down a broken track straight into a children's hospital in a school zone, I'll listen to Randy's subtly shifting buzzsaw flail over the Tull any day. One of my favorite effects of heavy music is when the music sounds like hawk flying - it's either soaring or it's pumping furiously, dipping and diving, climbing and rolling. Too often, metal just poops on your head. Randy clinches the 'flying' effect brilliantly with 'Crazy Train', and throws a classic solo on top. Hell, I can ever hear screeching brakes (squawks?) when he hits his harmonics in the chorus.
As is the usual case with so many albums, nothing quite matches the opening melee on this album, but until the final two songs come dribbling along, nothing quite pulls a Fredo Corleone, either. 'Goodbye to Romance' and the short acoustic snippet 'Dee' serve the same purpose that 'Planet Caravan' or 'Changes' did on the ol' Sab albums - like sex scenes in a slasher flick, they give the audience enough time to let their collective guard down before the next baseball bat to the back of the skull comes a-whackin'. 'Dee' is a nice showcase for Randy's considerable good taste as a soloist, but 'Romance' falls victim to Ozzy's usual sing-songiness (remember 'Changes'? Christ! I've seen more articulate rhyming schemes on a Rand McNally road map!), and for all the band's attempts to keep it serious, Oz lets it degenerate to the level of a pub singalong pretty quickly. Still, I suppose it's painless. I just expect a little more beauty and a little less cheesy keyboard (from future Purple member Don Airey, no less) from a plodding, repetitive, 5-minute ballad, that's all.
If the slow section was all a bit too much courtship and not enough animalistic fucking, then the delightfully evil 'Suicide Solution', 'Mr. Crowley', and giddy 'No Bone Movies' will cure yer ills guar-on-tyeed. 'Suicide' gained notoriety when that moron dead-ender knocked himself off after hearing it back in the 80's. Every mother who had ever stumbled on their kid's secret stash of Marlboros or had lost sleep when their kid ditched a Glee Club practice was ready to lynch ol' Oz for writing such a...a...horrible, horrible song. I do suppose a song that says 'Suicide is the only way out' might be objectionable for a kid with an already fragile psyche, but what I've never understood was why the media never goes ten-megatons when some kid bites the end of a shotgun listening to Chicago or Brian Adams. I'm for good goddamn sure more people off themselves to sappy love songs they associate with the ex-girlfriend who recently dumped them than to some fast fucking Ozzy Osbourne song. Hell, every time I hear Peter Cetera's voice, I have to sit on my hands to resist wrapping the telephone cord around my neck, and no one's dragging his ass into court, are they?
Anyway, 'Suicide' is fast and sure sounds evil, a fast riff over a slow beat, and 'Mr. Crowley' is probably the closest thing to generic hard rock on the record (also the closest thing lyrically to a generic occult-worshipping pud-pumper), but it's got a cute sideshow atmosphere thanks to those winky synths, and Randy still sounds great. 'No Bone Movies' (as far as I can tell, Sharon wants him to stop watching porn all the time now that they're married) is a brainlessly catchy, metallic Southern Rock tune complete with a slide solo (Randy's no Gary Rossington) and some of the best raving on the entire album. With the next song ('Revelation (Mother Earth)'), the album takes a turn into the fucking irritating, as we somehow decide to turn into a Rick Wakeman wet dream of string-polluted, half-tempo piano molestation after a few minutes. Luckily, the hardcore-speed 'Steal Away (The Night)(No, Not the Fucking Afternoon, You Nitwit! The Night, I Said! It's a Helluva Lot Cheaper Than Peak Hours! Goddamn! Whaddya Think, I'm J.P. Morgan's Half Brother Or Sumthin'?! Get Yourself A Fucking Job and Then We'll Talk About Stealing Away the Afternoon)'), saves the day to kick us off the dock into the East River with a flourish.
Capn's Final Word: Blizzard is one damn fine metal album, probably one of the few a regular-dude non-metalhead music fan really needs. He'd go on to make it again at least two more times, with predictably diminishing returns, but the opening wind-tunnel howl of 'I Don't Know' and 'Crazy Train' have few equals in the metal world.
Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: A great album, lyrical melody lines were always a problem with Ozzy not a writer. Within Sabbath Geezer got round it by writing lyrical lines following the riff; here Bob Daisley succeeds in writing across the riff for Ozzy to sing. No-one did it better for Oz until Lemmy on the 'no More Tears' opus, a pity Daisley and the Ozzy organisation fell out over royalties.
One thing I'd like to do right about now is to acknowledge something that's bothered me for a long time about Ozzy's early solo albums - the album covers. To those of you out there with a lower-than-normal tolerance for heavy metal and its often ridiculous visual counterpart who have probably already begun to wince and clutch your abdomen in rejection of the Ozzy-as-Possessed Priest cover of Blizzard of Ozz or Ozzy-As-Werewolf of Bark at the Moon, I feel your heaves. Not since Black Sabbath's Homeless-Dude-In-A-Crash-Helmet-Waving-A-Cardboard-Sword cover of Paranoid have we seen such unconvincing album artwork. Listen, if they'd simply put 'OZZY' or 'OZZY 2' on the covers in white block letters over a black background, everyone would've thought of these albums as perfect examples of the growing 'sophistication' of heavy metal as an artform instead of dimestore driller thrillers full of things that go 'Boo!' like they did. Hell, Blizzard and Diary both are probably some of the best albums of 1980 and '81, respectively, metal or otherwise, and to hobble them with album covers better fit for the front of a Count Chocula cereal box is simply criminal. There. It's all outta my system. Now I can go back to grooving on bassist Bob Daisley's sexy ways with that single solitary note he's always playing.
Who needs a competent bass player when your guitarist is sun-surface hot like Randy Rhoads is, anyway? D. Lee Roth certainly didn't! Who listens to the bass and drums when you have Rhoads filling every available space with technically perfect little scale runs and wicked sounding pinch harmonic screeches all the time? The man's like a frigging drummer - he doesn't play riffs and leads, he plays fills, and the obvious lack of too much overdubbing makes it clear that he can do all this cool-sounding stuff at will. If anything, Diary of a Madman is a better overall album than Blizzard of Ozz was. For one thing, it takes the length of five whole gutbusting rock songs to finally get to the sucky change-of-pace ballad 'Tonight', and even that has more going for it than the sappy singalong 'Goodbye to Romance' did. Then it's back to the control panel of the Ass-Wholloper 2000 for yet another shift plating boots in between buttocks. I've really gotta say it - though the heights of 'Crazy Train' aren't ever reached on this album (and really wouldn't be reached anywhere else, either), the rockers on this album are of a monstrously good quality. The speedfreak opener 'Over the Mountain' has the stripped-down feel and single-midedness of the best mid-period Black Sabbath ('Symptom of the Universe', anyone?), the pro-drug anthem 'Flying High Again' has a nasty lowdown stripper groove that would later be copped by every hair metal band worth their fishnet jockstrap, and 'S.A.T.O.' (Sit Around and stonedly Try to figure this dumb acronym Out) is a hard-prog masterpiece that gives Rush a run for its money with deft use of opposing forces. Just listen to how the guitar and drums play off each other and then watch how my head separates itself from my spinal column. Something tells me that with a little more time, this album really could've been a heavy rock spectacular on the level of an In Rock, Fair Warning or Twin Peaks. Randy was reaching a new level of understanding with his playing, and what's already here is great enough. Unfortunately, this thing was produced in a notorious rush, forcing Oz and crew to leave the songs as merely 'excellent rockers' instead of bringing them further into the realms of experimentalism. Listen to the closing title track, itself a sort of Beatlesque improvement on 'Mr. Crowley', and try to imagine it with more psychedelic textures and more lush backgrounds. Mmmm, boy, did that Randy Rhoads have potential. So goddamn much potential.
As it is, I'll take it and say thank you. A few tracks, 'Tonight' and 'Believer' come immediately to mind, aren't maybe scoring too high on the ol' MENSA entry exam, but they're both better than the worst tracks on Blizzard. And just because I say this album has 'rockers' on it, don't make the mistake of assuming they all sound the same. 'You Can't Kill Rock 'n' Roll' might sound like a dumbshit rewrite of Rainbow's 'Long Live Rock 'n' Roll', but I guarantee you it's not what you expect. Also, and I say this with a great deal of respect, Randy's solos are better this time around - they sound as if he could've played the same four bars in a million different ways, all brilliant, and he just happened to play it this way this time. Totally off-the cuff and real, without the pre-planned sterility of so many metal soloists that followed his lead. He also plays more acoustic, mixing it up with his electric leads to give deeper, warmer textures to a lot of these songs. In short, he does everything all the big Guitar Gods ever did, and he does it without much of interest going on in his rhythm section, too.
Capn's Final Word: Of course, the talented young man with all that potential would die in a horrific plane crash on the Diary tour, sending Ozzy on a downward spiral of depression and self-abuse and opening the door to a host of cockroach-like replacements to join the scene. Such is rock 'n' roll, ladies and friends. Such is rock 'n' roll.
Michael Flatters Your
Any Short Comments?: Hey Capn,
I found most of what you said very insightful, and plenty of it funny as hell. However, you are dead wrong about Bob Daisley. That guy IS one of the best rock bass players of his generation. Don't believe me? Go listen to a copy of either Blizzard or Diary after Satan,er, Sharon had the gall to erase Daisley and Kerslake's parts, and rerecord them with Mike Bordin and Robert Trujillo. Trujillo is a great player in his own right, but there's times when he couldn't find the pocket in a baseball mitt. Daisley knows when to fill it up, and knows when to thump that one note. Plus he wrote 95% of the lyrics, for what that's worth.
Oh and S.A.T.O. stands for Sail Across The Ocean(just so ya know....cough)
A weird live album at a weird time of a weird performance by a weird band. Not that you can actually hear any of that weirdness when you put the album on, but bear with me. There's for sure some southern Louisiana bad juju broken mirror black cat weirdness going down here. A cheating of forces that dare not speak their name. A manipulation of the very fabric of time and space, even. Moreso than the last episode of Crossfire, anyway. Let's go through the points one-by-one, if you don't mind.
Weird live album - This cheapie-looking live album of Ozzy performing Black Sabbath covers with an entirely new band was apparently released to compete head-on with Black Sabbath's Live Evil (which featured not just Ronnie James Dio on vocals, but John McLaughlin and Wayne Shorter on guitars and saxophones. and I hear cameos by thrashmasters Diamond Head and 90's horrorcore rappers the Flatlinerz, all of whom want their album title back). Ozzy came out of a semi-stupor and assembled a new band to play two shows of exclusively Sabbath material just to record this album.
Weird Time - Ozzy'd just weathered the violent death of his close pal and artistic crutch Randy Rhoads and had come out of it, umm....let's just say if he were a dress shirt, he'd be marked 'Highly Irregular' and sold for 39 cents down at the Thrift Shop. Rushing in to perform a couple of live concerts out of the blue just to trump his former bandmates in the Sab seems kinda desperate, doesn't it? The entire first two years of his solo career are ignored completely on these performances, most likely because it was still too painful to imagine playing any of Randy's material with another guitarist.
Weird Band - Well, they don't sound weird, necessarily, but guitarist Brad Gillis was also in Night Ranger, one of my sister's favorite-ever bands and the hoodlums responsible for 'Sis-Tah Chris-Tyun', quite possibly the worst power ballad ever conceived by primates (narrowly outdoing 'Let Me Pry The Nits Out Of Your Back Fur' by Ennunukawungay the Gabonese spider monkey). Thing is, instead of indigestible hair metal designed to make your testicles crawl up into your body cavity in fear, Gillis does a pretty fair Tony Iommi impression and plays all the songs straight as an arrow. Neat trick. The rhythm section does a similarly good job of impersonating the plodding-but-great tempos of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler.
Weird Performance - If the rushed, half-baked concept and the foul '(You Can Still) Rock In America' odor aren't bad enough omens, the story goes that Ozzy had a spiral notebook full of Black Sabbath lyrics propped up on a chair where he could read them while singing. Now, I'm not naïve, and I know that rock artists have been using Tele-Prompt-Ters ever since Keith Richards zapped his 'Z-cells', but back in the early 80's, it was a point of pride that rock singers didn't need no stinking cues. If they forgot a lyric, there were four quick and dirty fixes you could employ to get yourself out of a jam:
A) The Mick Jagger Method - Garble all your lyrics so badly no one knows what you're blathering anyhow, thus saving you whenever you forget the third goddamn verse to 'Blinded by Rainbows'.
B) The Jimi Hendrix Method - When trouble ensues, simply stop singing and play a solo. Famously employed by the Grateful Dead for 30 years nonstop.
C) The Lou Reed Method - A variation on the Jimi Hendrix, here you just stop playing whenever the urge hits and immediately start jabbering into the microphone. About anything. Rock critics, Richard Nixon, Less Filling vs. Tastes Great...it's all fair game. People paid a lot of money to see you and want so desperately not to feel ripped off they'll usually enjoy anything you do as long as your name is big enough. A variation on this variation is the James Brown, in which no actual words even need to be said even when you're talking directly into the microphone. That's brilliance, my friends. No wonder he's Star Time! Of course, the James Brown may also be employed unwittingly by anyone too stoned to form syllables (I'm looking at YOU Fiona Crapple!)
D) The Jim Morrison Method - Fart and fall over. Howl uncontrollably. Expose genetalia. Fall asleep.
What I'm sayin' here is that Speak of the Devil probably should not have happened. You ever get the idea that fate is trying to tell you, quite plainly, not to do what you are in the process of trying to do? Imagine you're going to go on a date, but you scorch your shirt with the iron, cut a 3" gas across your upper lip while shaving, lose your keys, get a flat, get stopped for speeding, and finally get attacked by a roving horde of octogenarian leatherboys on the walk from the car to the front door. Now, do you think it's a good idea to date this girl? If you answer yes, you deserve the unannounced visits at work, 3 A.M. phone calls, missing credit cards, and cut brake lines you're bound to encounter. You simply don't buy the heavily discounted fresh fish, you don't ask the Blockbuster counter clerk 'Is this Pauly Shore movie any good?', and you don't record a live album under these conditions. You're asking for a beating, one that could actually end your career. Aren't you?
The thing is, in his own mundane way, on Speak of the Devil, Ozzy cheats the fates. He (or is it his band?) makes it work. This is much closer to what a real vintage Black Sabbath performance sounded like than whatever Dio and company put on Live Evil. The song listing is a brilliant amalgam of obvious hits ('War Pigs', Iron Man', 'Paranoid'), some fan favorites ('Symptom of the Universe', 'N.I.B.'), and even a rarity or two ('The Wizard', which Ozzy says hadn't been played since 1970. I wonder if Oz is still the one playing the harmonica intro on it.) Gillis, outside of a couple of solos, keeps his lame 80's tendencies in check and just plays the damn songs like they're supposed to be played. 'Symptom of the Universe' blares, the opening chords of 'War Pigs' ring like God's own pipe organ, and he even gets the guitar tone of 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' spot-on (as does bassist Rudy Sarzo, who nails the 'loose string' bawwwoingg! of the original). They simply do a marvelous job of channeling Black Sabbath's classic sound and vibe. Usually, I'd give an album that recreates the studio originals so closely a B+ for unoriginality, but the thing is - I never heard Black Sabbath play these songs live this well, either. They actually outdo the original masters! Alert the media! Stop the presses and then start them back up again! Get Marv Albert out here and make sure he has pants on!
Okay, so maybe Ozzy could use a little work. You can't tell at all that he was having trouble remembering the lyrics (though with the slow tempos that usually mark Black Sabbath songs, he'd have plenty of time to read the next line of lyrics during the pause between notes), but he does have trouble remembering not to yell out something idiotic between every line. I swear the motherfucker yells 'Cocaine!!' at least sixty fucking times during 'Snowblind', no doubt wishing to make every last cinderblock in the audience clear that 'snow' refers to 'powdered cocaine'. And his desperate-sounding pleas of 'Does anybody remember the Fillmore East?' before 'The Wizard' sound more like he wants someone to tell him what it was like than a call for nostalgic cheers from longtime fans. Ozzy's always been bad at keeping his dumb mouth shut so we can hear his band play, and at least he's not saying 'FUUUUCKKK!!' every other breath like he did in the 90's, but his exclamations remain the only black mark on an otherwise fantabulous live album. See, when he sings, he sounds great. Is there a better live version of, say, 'Iron Man' available? If so, I haven't heard it, and I seriously doubt it exists. He may have been blasted by his former Sab-mates as being unable to sing, but this clearly shows they're dead wrong. Not that it'd be the last time they'd be wrong about a singer. Ian Gillain? Glenn Hughes? I mean, come on. I know garden tools with better voices than those guys had in the 80's.
There's vibes-a-plenty here - a 'revenge' vibe, a 'healing' vibe, a 'Rock-can-save-me' desperation vibe. The whole thing is great. Anyway, if you want the best Black Sabbath live album performed by Black Sabbath, get 1998's Reunion. If you want the best Black Sabbath live album not performed by Black Sabbath, track this little high-wire act down.
Capn's Final Word: Mondo bizarro, but mucho bueno. Out Sabs the Sabs themselves. Who knew Night Ranger was hiding such a great Iommi impressionist?
firstname.lastname@example.org Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: i'll agree with the A part, but you gotta be joking about the brad gillis 'tony iommi impersonation thing'!!!!! i guess maybe you're right if you don't count the constant locking=nut dive-bombs, two handed tapping and whammy bar antics...not something i ever heard iommi do anyway....i can just picture brad gillis, with his red guitar, half crouched down with his whammy bar in his right hand, his mouth wide open with a look on a face like he just laid a load that a grand national winner would be proud of!
FYI, brad still does some ozzy with an ozzy/sabbath tribute band in the vegas area..my friend plays drums with him.
(Capn's Response: Dude, tell him I think he shoulda replaced Randy. I'm dead fucking serious.)
The death of Randy Rhoads marked the beginning of a sad and irreversible descent of Ozzy Osbourne's solo career to a level of mediocrity usually found in chain Mexican food restaurants and Holiday Inn lounge singers. Everything that made Ozzy truly special during his Black Sabbath and Randy Rhoads years seemed to crumble into a small mound of fine white powder of genericism. Okay, so Ozzy began a comeback in the early 90's that returned him so some level of respectability, but the vast majority of the mid-to-late 80's are a lifeless badland of dull riffs, offensively plastic 80's textures, and a distinct lack of engagement by the Prince of Fucking Darkness. At least one could reasonably expect that Bark at the Moon, his first release after the death, would be rough going. Oddly enough, it's still got a fair head of steam behind it, and though the unmistakable marks of generic metal bullpatoot are all over it like whores on a televangelist, this still has a small amount of the 'it' factor that made Buzzard of Roz and Diarrhea of Batman such blazing good fun to listen to. The signs of impending boredom are clearly visible, but if you aren't necessarily stopping the headbang just yet, I don't blame you. A generic metal album can't be all that bad, if you have a reasonably awake Ozzy Osbourne on vocals and a decent rhythm section.
Ozzy was lucky enough to retain super-steady backbeat drummer Tommy Aldridge from his Speak of the Devil shows, but the Night Ranger dude left to begin his 25-year $50/night pub residency. The new guitarist, some fool named Jake E. Lee, isn't anything special whatsoever. He sounds torn from any one of 10,000 early 80's metal bands, and though he has the good sense not to emulate Randy, he has bad enough chops not to sound like anyone else, either. His riffs are all of the galumphing Iron Maiden-type, with none of the cool little ornaments (like the screeching metallic muted strings of 'Crazy Train', say) or unmistakable tone (Tony Iommi's detuned La Brea tar monster) that made Ozzy's back catalogue so memorable. The greatest hit here is the speedy, moaning 'Bark at the Moon', which hides Lee's lack of imaginative chops behind enough speedy bashing to make even the synths sound good. The idea of Ozzy as a werewolf is admittedly pretty stupid (though he'd drag the idea out to unconscionable levels with an overplayed MTV video and the album cover, so much so that Ozzy would claim the 1983 'Dog of the Year' award, narrowly beating out Benji, Snoopy and that ugly bitch from Flashdance), especially since he spends so much time on 'You're No Different' and 'Rock 'n' Roll Rebel' complaining that anyone who thinks he's Satanic or evil is a fucking moron. Dude, you're the one with the fucking dog makeup on waving the crosses and decapitated bats around. You have the balls to wonder why Reverend Cletus Incestmonger of Cow's Belch, Arkansas might not think you're quite fit for the First Baptist Church Labor Day Pot Luck Picnic Lunch? Come on, Oz...we know you're thicker than a deluxe hardbound of War and Peace, but you're not that thick. You did a pretty good job getting some passable rockers out of your patchy band, no mean trick, and do a monster of an impression of ELO doing an impression of the Beatles on the string-slathered 'I'm So Tired', so why do you have to continue to cast yourself as the crucified scapegoat and whine like a little bitch that you're actually just a 'Rock and Roll Rebel' when the heat gets a little warm? Come on, Ozzy...fight back! Lay into those bastards!
Bark at the Postman is actually somewhat better than what I've laid it out here, because it's hard to argue with dumb, fast rockers like 'Center of Eternity' or 'Waiting for Darkness' (except when the dumb overcomes the fast, like on 'Slow Down', which actually features the line 'Your haste is making waste' as if he's turned into a spokesman for Smith-Barney Brokerage Firm or something. Isn't rock 'n' roll life supposed to be lived 'too fast', anyway? What's Ozzy so afraid of?), and even the completely ridiculous funk rocker 'Spiders In the Night' is pretty fun in a Jaycee's Haunted House Night sorta way. It's just that all of the thrills have become pathetic, obvious, gimmicky ones, and all of the multi-layered greatness of the Randy years seems gone forever. And I'm, you know, still in mourning and stuff.
Capn's Final Word: The Ozz-man rolls on Randy-less and loses more than half his IQ. Still, it takes a little while to coast down from warp speed, and they haven't quite ground to a halt yet.
The second and last of the Jake E. Lee-era Ozzy solo albums, this one doesn't even have as much of the reliable rocking that saved the otherwise hard-to-take-seriously Bark at the Moon. I could just say 'This album was released in 1986' and close down the review for good, that phrase having now shown at least two dozen times as proof positive that the album is going to be a heap of toothless, over-processed government cheese with drums faker than Paul McCartney's hair color and tons of 'heavy' guitar so thin and brittle it couldn't threaten a soggy cornflake. The overall sound of Ultimate Bargain Bin just simply isn't very hard or challenging at all. I realize Ozzy was trying to 'keep up with the times' and match wits with the Bon Jovis and whatsuch that had taken over the metal airwaves since Bark at the Moon came out in '83, but come on...Ozzy's music always seemed a little bit 'out of time', other than this sad release. Worst of all, Ozzy doesn't just descend into pure, overproduced mediocrity, bad enough but forgivable considering the tasteless haze everyone seemed to be in during that period, but the man almost dares you to compare this album to his previous ones. He screams out 'You'll never know why we rock!' during one chorus, and that may very well be true (they seem to be keeping it a pretty good secret on this album), but what is boggling Ryan Atkinson is why they even care to try.
Lee's guitar work is far closer to his predecessor in style this time around, but he always sounds like an imitator who happened to learn how to sweep pick some time in 1985 and wants to show it off any chance he can. Too many times he substitutes gimmick for true heavy riffing (listen to how the synths choke the everloving Jermaine Dupree out of his weak guitar squeals on the chorus of 'Lightning Strikes'). The hit 'Shot in the Dark' is nothing more than a Genesis song masquerading as a moody metal bust-out, a hazy, paint-by-numbers reverb exercise of the type that would be later be driven to the bank by assholes like David Coverdale or that guy in Slaughter. Too many of the rest of the songs, 'heavy' as they may be, sound too similar to each other, as if they've decided to save tape by reusing old backing tracks or something. 'Thank God for the Bomb' has an admittedly cool (and potentially interesting) hookline, but its married to a riff that's simply no-where. Okay, so maybe if you're really in the mood for generic 80's metal, produced terribly and helmed by a man so sloppy sopping wet he actually pissed on the Alamo (it is a church, after all) around this time, Ultimate Sin isn't a complete letdown, but my point is that Ozzy never was meant to make generic 80's metal. Luckily, Oz himself acknowledges it was a sad state of affairs, and we'll never really dip quite this low again. Heh...if you're bottoming-out level is a C+, you've already done better than 90% of the guys I've reviewed. Plus, since Ozzy began to pull out of his skid soon after, there's the added benefit that Ryan doesn't have to sit through the dozen or so crap albums, get bored, and rue the day he ever decided to review this crap-ass band. See, Ozzy's better than that! So you can take your one star reviews and floss your anus with them, 1983-edition Rolling Stone Album Guide!
Capn's Final Word: Ozzy did it doggishly on Moo at the Barf, but here's the real mutt of the litter. When he sings 'I'm a Secret Loser', it makes you wonder if this isn't the worst-kept secret in the history of mankind.
This is the live Diary of a Madman, Randy Rhoads-era live album Ozzy was preparing for release at the time of the accident, quickly shelved until Osbourne could face the prospect of cashing in on his friend's legendary corpse without flinching. Heh. Not really...what the hell - the world needs to have an album like this. Really great live albums by top-shelf hard rock guitar heroes are pretty goddamn rare when you think about it (Eddie never made one with Roth, for instance), and this is most definitely one of the chosen few. Randy is an absolute demon back there on his pointy-ass Jackson, manipulating a noxious soup of feedback, distortion, wacky pinch harmonics, and dive bombs whenever he's not playing semi-perfectly (or gloriously imperfectly) at a zillion miles an hour. Randy's role here is almost like a shred Pete Townshend - he plays his guitar in a symphonic fashion, so that it seems like multiple things are always happening at once. For members of the Cult of the Humbucker, this album might just be one of your holiest of holy grails. The rest of the band, including Ozzy, seems bent on simply keeping up with the torrent of chunk coming from the diminuitive Rhoads. Like a doily on a tank muzzle, Don Airey's synths are hopelessly, ridiculously outmatched, and if you ever bend you ear to what they're doing, you'll be met with a laughably twoiky 'pad' noise that probably took the man two fingers and not quite twice as many brain cells to manufacture. Ozzy's in good voice, as usual, and keeps his cries of 'Get Your Hands UP!!' and 'You CAN'T KILL ROCK 'n' ROLL!!!' to a reasonable minimum (for him). There's also allegedly a drum solo, but since my brain has an automatic cutoff valve whenever I hear that much unaccompanied drumming going on, all I remember is some stock mental pictures of boobies my brain decided to show me as a defense mechanism to the potential brain damage of too many splash cymbal hits in a short (or not-so-short) period of time.
Forget all that, because they're simply vestiges to the main attraction - this is Randy's show. From the delightful, nasty intro to 'Flying High Again' to his can-you-top-this classical note avalanche on the (tastefully short) 'Suicide Solution' guitar solo (even more impressive to me is his greasy, sleazy rhythm work on that song's riff. He's slightly less fantabulous when playing Black Sabbath's decidedly less shred-ready classics - a song with a riff as brilliantly boneheaded as 'Iron Man' just does not need 32nd note sweep-picked Ebm9 scale runs in between 'Can he walk at all' and 'Or if he moves will he fall?' He doesn't even try to keep 'Children of the Grave' in its original blood-dripping lope tempo - he realizes it's a fruitless pursuit and proceeds burns that motherfucker's eyes out. 'Paranoid', already more of a thrash tune anyway, is converted into a near-industrial level of buzzing noise with Randy's guitar torture. Brilliant, simply brilliant.
Okay, so not all of Tribute works flawlessly ('Goodbye to Romance' is still Ozzy's Tony Bennett moment), and people with an allergy to big-finger, flashy guitar virtuosity might balk at this from note one. Still, for a metal album, it's indispensable - a snapshot of a fantastic guitar technician on the top of his game and the cusp of real success, just before having it all taken away from him (and us).
Capn's Final Word: Three records to say so little? Don't they know using all that vinyl just supports those evil oil companies?
Though it starts out with one of Ozzy's best songs - the Jimmy Swaggart-skewering 'Miracle Man' (the reassuringly faithful "Evil" Ozzy laying into the whoring preacher's alligator tears being irony too delicious for words), No Rest still marks the continuation of Ozzy's mediocre late-80's descent into pop metal. There's another new guitarist, redneck-in-training Zakk Wylde, soon to be another one of those guitar mag favorites with his bullseye-painted Les Paul and his unwashed Marshall Tucker Band roadie/biker look. Based on looks alone, you'd think he'd be tearing great swaths of crunchy blooze licks ala, I dunno, Django Reinhardt or somebody, but he's just another one of those non-playing, gimmick-loving hair metal assholes who never met a pinch harmonic he didn't like. Wylde's tone, though more distinctive than Jake Lee's faceless morass, is less 'heavy' than 'loaded down', failing miserably to cut through the mix. He's simply not 'big' enough to make this music punch...production may have something to do with it, but even that is still better than on the Ultimate Yawn. Zakk being something like 19 years old at the time of Not Wicked, Need Some Rest didn't help much either, especially in the riff-writing department. Too much of this album sounds too much like some lowdown, 5th-rate metal band (I'm thinking Dokken here, who my sister used to worship back in the late 80's) rather than Ozzy Osbourne making Ozzy Osbourne music. Lucky for us, we get the chance to watch Zakk develop from a raw, derivative teenager into a derivative, bitter, alcoholic redneck adult - he's really pretty remarkable in his evolution, you know? Like how a one-celled animal became, after a million years, a small, malodorous multi-celled animal. That probably causes horrible diseases.
Luckily, this album falls more into the 'yet another hair metal album' category of dull genericism than the sucking-out-loud (call off Rob Halford, wouldja?) self-sabotage of Ultimate Sin. That said, the lyrics here are some of his worst yet if you make the unforgivable mistake of actually lending an ear to them. He's not calling himself a 'Secret Loser' anymore, but still spelunks the dank depths of poetry's rectum for hilariously macho one-liners on songs like 'Devil's Daughter' ('you don't want a holy war!!!'), 'Tattooed Dancer' ('Dance for me, bitch!!'). 'Crazy Babies', probably written by a proud father to his two brand new toxic pools, is corny as humanly possible. Listen, I'm also a father of a young baby, and believe me when I say that they do, in fact, rule to school. Their goggly eyes. Their inability to control their extremities. Their ability to smile at absolutely anything. But babies are Simply. Not. Rock and Roll. It's just not possible to include the word 'babies' in a rock song an make it sound cool. 'Baby', maybe. 'Baby Hold On', by Eddie Money, is not necessarily the shining peak of modern rock music. It's not even the shining peak of Mr Money's balding head (That's 'How the Fuck Did I Get A Legend Like Ronnie Spector to Sing With My Lame Ass'). 'Babe' is even better. 'Babe I'm Gonna Leave You'. 'It Ain't Me Babe'. Or, for those into brevity out there, just 'Babe', as available by Styx, Bob Marley, Take That, Bobby Gentry, and Young MC. But 'Babies' just brings up awful memories of the abominable sci-fi movie Solarbabies, which I had to sit through with my sister and her freaky Nyew Joisey friend Vicky when I was seven years old, trying not to claw my eyes out.
Funny, though, that these lyrics are so bad considering that the songs themselves, especially when you have Wicked on as a sort of 'molten wallpaper' (probably its best application), are more than passable. Things even improve to Ozzy's best three-song stretch since Diary of a Madman with the straight-ahead hair metal rocker 'Breaking All the Rules', the freaky-cool Alice Cooperish Manson-ode 'Bloodbath In Paradise', and the simply awesome 6:30 Queensryche-y epic 'Fire In The Sky' (which actually has a great line - 'Won't you help me 'cause my castles are burning!') Certainly, I'm very pleased to have a streak of songs as good as these three on an Ozzy Osbourne album, but my satisfaction is short-lived when I begin to wonder why Ozzy can't do more of these songs and less yak snot like 'Tattooed Dancer'. I mean, how motherfucking difficult is it to come up with these kinds of songs? They're cliched worse than the closet-gay British butler in Lindsey Lohan's Parent Trap (yes, I have a three year old, too), but just avoiding hot-button words like referring to yourself as a loser doesn't seem like something requiring a doctorate degree in Classics. Hell, he almost does it two more times, but insists on singing the title to 'Demon Alcohol' (not the Kinks song) like a lecherous dead-ender lounge singer intoning 'Demon of Her Heart'. We have to be satisfied with the sub-'Fire In The Sky' Zeppelin-y mini-epic 'Hero' instead. I guess I can capitulate.
Ozzy's pulse still beats on No Rest, and I've tried to be as charitable as I possibly can to what I consider to be one of the better pop-metal albums of the epoch, but even serious Oz fans might find that they have trouble stomaching the more despicable half of these songs. Still, 50/50 really ain't too bad, and when you consider that this album also takes a deplorable hypocrite like Jimmy Swaggart out behind the smoke shed and beats him like a red-headed stepchild, and I might even get pretty close to recommending this album.
Capn's Final Word: But still I don't. As close as some of this gets to goodness (or, in the case of 'Miracle Man', greatness), it's really hard for me to not feel embarrassed through about half of it.
Pageajj10@comcast.net Your Rating: B
Any Short Comments?: Well described, but I have two (small) beefs with your take on Crazy Babies. A., I think musically it's great, and deserves it's spot as the album's choice for Ozzman Cometh. Second, it's not about his kids, it's about kids in general who've been fucked up by their mothers' use of Coke during pregnancy. Although, I suppose it could theoretically be about his kids as well, after watching The Osbournes.
Ozzy's worst-ever live album, smelling like a ripoff and sounding like a poorly-recorded half-effort snuck out to beat the bootleggers to the punch. There are a piss-poor six songs on this thing, - two Sabbath classiques, one predictable ('War Pigs') and one not ('Sweet Leaf'). Three from No Rest ('Miracle Man', 'Bloodbath in Paradise', and for reasons known only to Ozzy and his $30,000 a month therapist, the shitheap 'Tattooed Dancer'), and another one from the recent batting slump ('Shot in the Dark').
I'll tell ya - if I hear just one more motherfucking pinch harmonic outta Zakk Wylde, I'm gonna bust his fucking mongrel Les Paul over his hick-wannabe skull. Believe me when I say that every other fucking note is a squealing horse-whinny noise sounding somewhere between a manatee mating call and Fran Drescher asking for another Evian. There has never been a less imaginative guitar player in all of rock and roll, at least when it comes to 'tricks', than Zakk Wylde. Considering his basic riffing technique is okay (he can still use a better tone, though), why he considers it necessary to pollute a riff as golden as the one on 'Sweet Leaf' with this fucking childish 'lookit me!' trick is answered best by 'Because he has absolutely nothing to say'. He does lay off a fair amount on the two Sabbath songs, probably because he feared that guest bassist Geezer Butler would brain him if he profanated his classics too badly.
Anyway, dumb and idiotic, but if you can somehow find an EQ setting on your stereo that allows you to cut out all frequencies above 'that which should be heard in a heavy metal song', hearing Oz blast through a monster version of 'Miracle Man' that crushes the original like so many saltine crackers may be worth the cost alone. But if you're considering buying a six-song 1990 live album of Ozzy Osbourne to hear a cool version of 'Miracle Man', you're already incurably addicted anyway.
Capn's Final Word: Six ugly sounding live songs from the regrettable era. If you pay more than $4, get yourself checked for brain tumors.
Wow, out of the blue comes one of Ozzy's better records, a fairly major success for the man. Johnson's and Johnson's Baby Shampoo placed our aging Brummie at the head of a rapidly diminishing metal class, leaving him as one of the few members of the hair metal clan with continued respectability following the Nirvana revolution of the early 90's. Ozzy had long since been considered an elder statesman by metal bands who grew up worshipping Sabbath, but only as of the early 90's was he taken somewhat seriously by everybody else. In '91 and '92, 'No More Tears' and, especially 'Mama I'm Coming Home' were inescapable on MTV and on hard rock radio - kids were once again discovering one of the oldest dudes in hard rock. Moreover, oddly enough, people who hadn't taken Ozzy seriously since Randy died were being yanked back into the fold. If Ozzy hadn't taken the bizarre step of 'retiring' after touring for this album but instead hat hit while the cashbox was hot, he might've really become huge. But his gut and his bad habits had beaten him to the punch, and as such his newfound widescale appeal vanished into Ozzy's mouth like so many gentle wilderness birds and he was given back to the hardcore metal fans where, apparently, he feels he belongs.
At heart, Tears is a rather ordinary Ozzy-ish metal album of pretty solid quality, not too much different from No Rest except Zakk seems to be playing slightly better (he hasn't given up on his pinch-harmonic vulgarities, though - listen to him ruin the great riff to 'I Don't Want To Change The World' with that stupid-ass right hand of his) and Ozzy eats up the CD's extra 15 minutes by writing several 'mature' ballads that, outside of modernized gee-whiz production, don't really sound all that much different from how 'Changes' did way back in '71. Ozzy's rhyming schemes still don't top the 'change'/'rearrange' level, but there's something sorta nice about an Ozzy power ballad - he never oversings like so many 'better' hair vocalists do (probably because Ozzy oversinging would sound like a Matchbox car caught in a garbage disposal and he knows it) and always has at least a tiny bit of melodic sense to his stuff. While 'Mama' and 'Time After Time' are restrained and reasonably tasteful examples of the Power Ballad (ten years earlier we coulda called 'em 'Powder Ballads', eh?), the closing 'Road to Nowhere' is a monstrosity of a Guns 'n' Roses 'Estranged' knockoff, except only half as long. Sheeit, man, I can almost see the Ozz man shuffle off the side of an ocean liner to go swimming with dolphins and smash a birthday cake in Sharon's face and stuff.
Okay, so outside of the ballads everyone goes donkeyfart over all the time, there's also some pretty darned creamy hard-butt teeth clinchers here, too. 'No More Tears' was the synth-y hit, a sort of unholy cross between the unabashed pop of 'Shot in the Dark' and the thin psychedelia of 'Mr. Crowley', resulting in....surprise! A pretty great hook, that's what we get. Zakk manages to make himself sound menacing and noisy with his down-tuned E-string surfing, and even the synths sound like Magical Mystery Tour at times. Of course, it also sounds like Elton John in one part, but I don't have a problem with that, and neither should you. Unless you just don't like fags, in case why are you reading about Zakk Wylde, anyway?
There's still seven whole songs I haven't mentioned, and, of those, only 'Zombie Stomp' is 'Crazy Babies'-type dumbness. 'Hellraiser' is usually singled out, too, but goddamn it, if I could make it through Ultimate Sin, I think I can handle a goofy, cheeseball horror-movie soundtrack tune and not grow warts on my brain. See, 1987 had ended for everyone but Ozzy, and he's gonna get his Alice Cooper Trash on if it kills 'im. The alphabet soup songs kick reliably if not spectacularly, and 'Desire' sounds more like Judas Priest than that band had in 10 years. Hell, the album doesn't even seem that long to me, another primary complaint, and I'm usually the first to start bitching like a premenstrual Naomi Campbell the second a record tops 45 minutes. Hell, maybe I just like it more than I'm willing to really admit. As such, I'll give it a B+, but that's just a hair over a 'I'll probably never listen to it again' B.
Capn's Final Word: Maybe Ozz just took my advice and stopped writing so much stupid shit. Not that this music isn't stupid on any reasonable scale of such things. Still, dammit, I don't feel stupid myself for listening to it.
FUCKYOU@YouAreAdouche.com Your Rating: A
Any Short Comments?: What the fuck's your problem? I haven't heard an album as great as No More Tears EVER! Ozzy IS the man and if you're not a metalhead, don't review it.
It's like me reviewing a freakin rap album. I'll say it sucks. YOU cannot be a metalhead, if you think can call yourself a metalhead and shun OZZY,you've got problems boy.
Why don't you go pop in your talentless Avenged Sevenshit CD and go "whoah, this is METAL!" With all your friend's mothers and go to the Wal Mart and tell them all about it.
(Capn's Response: It's No More Tears, not Master of Reality or Ace of Spades you're talking about here, you narrow little ucktard. Oh, and I tried to write your email but your mom kept replying instead. She was saying something about how you were too busy painting her walls. Or sugar walls. Something like that.)
There's really not much to say about Live and Loud that I haven't already said about Just Say Ozzy, since it's really just the same album, just at four times the length and recorded on the 'No More Tours' 'retirement' tour in '92. I'm also not feeling too goddamn standup comedy today (I've been run ragged at work the last few days, and listening to No Rest For the Wicked sixty god-fucking-forsaken million times hasn't helped), so I'll just keep it at a minimum. Ozzy's finally got his double-disc retrospective live album, with his solo band playing pretty much everything you could reasonably expect out of the man. No, he's not doing 'Symptom of the Universe' or 'Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath' or 'Fire In The Sky', my personal godhead of rare Ozz-isms, but you'll still be damned overfamiliar with more or less all of these tunes. Ozzy REALLY loves his audience (or 'fucking loves' them, as he would say), as he only hollers it at full lung after every song, before starting the next song after that, during the breaks between lines, during guitar solos, while his drummer shellacks his way through the shockingly poor display of melodicism called 'Drum Solo', during tune-up breaks, while standing next to a fan at the urinal, in the middle of the euthanasia scene of Million Dollar Baby, while meeting the President, and while shtupping Sharon. Always 'I FUCKING LOVE YOU MOTHERFUCKERS!' Okay, Ozzy, any more talk like that and I might just get an erection.
Live and Loud is, umm, pretty good and stuff. Hell, a double live album of safe material, whaddya gonna do? Zakk Wylde still underimpresses me for all his 'shredder' reputation, and the sound quality is boomy and doesn't pack enough whallop. Now that I think about it, which Ozzy albums have been really well produced, anyway? I'd say off the top of my head, only Diary falls in that category, and that one was a rush job! Of course, I think Master of Reality is a marvel of production of originality, too, but I could forgive you if you thought that it sounded like a Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra concert recorded from the arena parking lot played at half speed. But sheeit, man, that's what's lovable about it!
Capn's Final Word: Is there anything truly lovable about this competent but unexciting product? It's safe, that's for sure, but it ain't really lovable.
New directions for Ozzy as explored on Ozzmosis include playing dead-slow, oppressively heavy bass-heavy rock that some might classify as 'grungey'. There also might be some of you out there who would classify it as 'alternative', as befitting an album released in the afterglow of the 1992-1994 alt-rock heyday, in which every band with a Marshall stack and chronic halitosis got a major label record contract. I, however, will go the extra super-courageous step and call this a re-Sabbathing of Ozzy, ending up a sort of ballad-heavy cross between Bark at the Moon genericism and one of those super-brilliant-yet-not-quite-memorable mid-period Sabbath albums like Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Like that same mid-period Sabbath album, Ozzmosis lacks too many killer tunes (here the opening 'Perry Mason' is kaleidoscopically twisting and diamond-hard), but makes up for it in consistent vibe and a minimal level of quality. Like No More Tears, the number of times this album sucks is relatively miniscule, and I've been sitting here listening to it on repeat for a few days now with little permanent damage done. I suppose the real trick here is that Ozzy continues to 'grow up' in his choice of material, relying slightly more on his sub-Beatles late-60's psychedelia and straight up love/self-analysis/psycho-foo-foo lyrics rather than goin' off the rails on the werewolf brain again, mama. Ten years ago, Ozzy singing a song like 'I Just Want You' would've been laughable. For one thing, at that time he would've found some boneheaded way of sabotaging the reliable chord sequence and simplistic-yet-effective hook by screaming out something like 'I want you! To lick the cheese from 'neath my balls!' to be 'macho'. Well, Ozzy is thankfully macho free here, to a level that a lot of metalheads might be put off completely by the wussiness of this album. Now, believe me, this thing ain't necessarily 'light', and it's atmospheric as hell, but one distortion pedal turned off and 'Ghost Behind My Eyes' could pass for a Nelson song. I still think it's great, but I feel I need to warn whomever out there who eats carpet tacks for afternoon tea that this is NOT the place for unrequited rockers to begin with Ozzy.
Ozzmosis is also notable for a similar marginalization of the backing band's sound. Zakk 'Target Practice on MY BALLS!! Yeah!' Wylde is back, but he's toned down his despicable guitar-zaro histrionics considerably, replacing them with a sort of half-grunge, half thrash grind that I must say is pretty interesting. Again, due to the slow tempos and lack of ornamentation, lots of you might find these riffs as plain and shockingly unattractive as Sissy Spacek without makeup. Me? Well, I might not be quite as accepting if I were to hear, say, Motley Crue record an album that sounded like this, but since Ozzy was once the lead singer in one of the greatest and most original rock and roll bands in the history of the world and this thing halfway reminds me of some of that stuff, I'm willing to say it's pretty good stuff. Sure, Wylde equals Iommi like Schwinn equals Peterbilt, but these riffs are not without their considerable charms. I could listen to something like 'Thunder Underground', moody and psychedelic in its unrelenting muff, all day long. Hell, I could review the Melvins and do exactly that, but Ozzy's smart enough to put a song as hooky and oddly uplifting as 'See You On the Other Side' right after it. Jeez, should I say it? The genius shift between the grind of 'Thunder' and the Cure-y echoplex arpeggios that begin 'See You' reminds me of the way 'I Want You (She's So Heavy' explodes invisibly into 'Here Comes the Sun' on Abbey Road. Heh...there's my one-to-one Ozzy/Beatles comparison. Never again ask me to make another one.
So right now, you eagle-eyed cherries out there are looking at my grade and wondering why a nearly universally praised first side somehow translates into a B-grade for this album, and I say to you - Side B makes me tired as hell, almost unnaturally, like being dragged down instantaneously in a wonder-if-I-have-cancer way....like watching Jay Leno run over the same goddamn Clinton/womanizer jokes or hearing from my wife that it's time to send out Christmas cards again. Ozzy tries ridiculously overmuch to sound heavy on 'Tommorrow', but at least the molasses bends of the guitar lines sound interesting. 'Denial' marks the point when I realize that Zakk's guitar lines (and his use of the tremolo effect) have begun to really repeat themselves. You know how people call certain atheletes, Kevin Garnett, say, a 'five-tool-player'. Well Wylde's got no more than one dull screwdriver in his belt at any one time. Ask him to do more than one 'conceptual' thing on an album (here it's 'psychedelic grunge') and the man shuts down faster than a 486 playing Half Life 2. The man's only got so much RAM, dig? And most of that he spends down at the Blue Oyster Café anyway!
Okay, so Ozzmosis may begin as damn close to an A album, but the second side is like the morning after - you realize that underneath that knockout blonde (or cool, druggy riffing) you dragged home last night is a rapidly aging Walgreen's photo lab cashier who smells like stale cigarettes and body odor. Which, I suppose, is probably as good a description of Ozzy Osbourne as I've heard lately. Oh, and 'My Little Man' once again shows that when Ozzy decides to write about his kids, his brains roll out the side of his head like so much Spaghetti-Os and he writes with less good taste than a bowl of tapioca pudding. Plus, it makes Jack Osbourne sound like a pussy, and I'm sure that didn't help his psyche much. jis dad putting it on his album and all.
Old beer buddy Geezer Butler co-writes on a few of these tracks, but I'm not particularly convinced by that either - 'My Jekyll Doesn't Hide' sounds like a No More Tears outtake, and 'Whole World's Falling Down' goes mining all the way back to No Rest, when Zakk Wylde couldn't play actual notes yet. Color me bored.
Capn's Final Word: At first you say, 'Hey! This is draggy and adult sounding!' Then you realize it really is draggy. And adult sounding.
Now, after Ozzmosis came out to a somewhat mixed reaction in '95, Ozzy made a lot of noise (most of it belching and slobbering, but you know...) about how it was a 'lazy record' and how he was going to make his followup more ass-gallumphing, a return to the more energetic days of Randy California and Fender Rhodes. He then proceeded to launch six massive, endless summer festival tours, including a (very impressive) Black Sabbath reunion, before finally landing back in the studio six years later to record Down to Earth, which is to Ozzmosis like Alien: Ressurection is to Alien III - meaning both are grungey, slower than snot, relentlessly mediocre and even depressing, but with enough details to remind you of earlier, better days so as to not completely end up in the cat's box. Zakk "Don't You Dare Say 'Wylde Stallions'!" Wylde returns again, though apparently he wasn't very happy about it. He said a lot of shit about his reduced role in the songwriting process, but I have a feeling it's because Sharon tried to get him to stop drinking so goddamn much whiskey all the time. Whatever - six years on and not a snotbubble better than he was on Ozzmosis (except here he uses a phaser instead of a tremolo - way to evolve, Zakky!), the man has truly reached his limits as a guitarist. His riffs all sound way familiar, except where the terrible production makes everything cottony and vague, when you can barely tell the guitar from the bass anyway. Some of the rockers roll on by pleasantly and unassumingly, fading politely into the ether like
I dunno, goddamn...this album is exactly like a marginally less heavy and infinitely less interesting Ozzmosis. Hell, the feeling that Ozzmosis was a good idea didn't even survive past the first song on the second half of that record...how the motherfuck was an album as self-derivative as Down to Earth supposed to improve on that? Perhaps not shockingly, it absolutely does not. Ozzy's ballads ('Running Out of Time', 'Dreamer' sound like zombie versions of 'Goodbye to Romance'. And 'Goodbye to Romance' was terrible! God's knees! What's next? A sequel to the 'hit' 'Crazy Babies'?
As usually happens when an artist reaches modern times, waits a near-eternity between records, and then proceeds to trundle out a sad attempt at reproducing the last mediocre album they put out, I have so little desire to make heads or tails out of these individual songs that I almost feel compelled to give it a B-, just in case I've missed something. You know, maybe there's nothing to miss in an Ozzy Osbourne record. Perhaps riffs that don't work and songs I can't remember really do just suck ass. Eureka! Okay! Liberation!
Capn's Final Word: This album sucks ass! That's the opposite of kicking it, in case you're the Brother From Another Planet or William Safire or something.
Live at Budokan -
Now George Starostin, bless his little overproductive, multi-lingual, anal-retentive heart of granite, would've done things differently right about here. For one thing, there ain't a muffin's chance at a fat farm he would've given out three A's to Ozzy Osbourne records (not to mention that B+ I gave No More Tears). There's also no way he would've let Down to Earth slip through without giving it a full scrub down, identifying exactly where the melodies break down instead up just branding it as a leaky plastic bag of moose piss like I did. He'd also write at least 400 words about this particular live album, even if it was just to explain, in minute detail, how it's exactly like the last Ozzy Osbourne live album. Or not. Whatever. His ears, at times, hear completely different things than mine do. He, for instance, thinks (or, to be fair, thought) R&B is all a bunch of samey sounding, repetitive vamping with little or no re-listening value. He also thinks that Andrew Lloyd Webber deserves a serious discussion, with correct spelling and a complete dearth of profanity and periodic man-screams. I happen to think he's wrong on both counts. But let's get off of George - he asked to be left alone and that's where he'll stay. But there was no one in the history of the written word who would put more thought into a review of a throwaway live album than that man would. Mister, yer a better man than I.
Me? I think this live album sounds like absolute pig vomit. For all I say about live albums cheating the cash out of their poor fans by relying dishonestly on overdubbing and other sundry forms of error correction (can you literally say you know what, say, the Eagles sounded like live in their heyday? I sure as fuck can't...all I can tell you is how they wanted to be thought of as sounding live, after using so many overdubs on Eagles Live that 'Bohemian Rhapsody' started to get jealous.), if I were Ozzy and my band sounded like it does on Live at Budokan, I'd be running headlong for the Pro Tools - honesty be damned. It seems like after a short period of time in the mid- to late-90's when live albums actually sounded decent, there's been a recent movement towards a sound approaching unlistenable in its rawness - this isn't bootleg quality, because everything is crystalline and noise-free (ohh, to have some nice, warm white noise cover up some of this album's Ginsu-sharp edges and save my eardrums), but it sounds like you are REALLY THERE. And REALLY THERE in the acoustic Dumpster of the arena, where half the mix is cancelled out and all the shittiest parts bounce around until they form a laser of super-compressed banality. On one hand, there's way too much reverb (natural or otherwise) on the drums and bass, but Ozzy's (alarmingly deteriorating) vocals and, especially, the lead guitar are SO IN YOUR FACE that it sounds as if they positioned one microphone right in front of the Zakk PA speaker and left it at that. His vocals are even louder and even worse. If Zakk Wylde as a guitarist is an unimaginative leftover, as a singer he makes his guitar playing sound like John McLaughlin. If you ever feel a bit put out by the man's relentless moach posturing, just listen to his horrendous singing voice and realize that, no matter how bad a person you are, at least you're not up on stage at Budokan making Ozzy Osbourne sound like an asshole. Hell, maybe this terrible mix job is what Wylde's ear-monitor sounds like. No one else would be able to withstand this much Black Label Bullshit. Whatever it is, you can hear every last unmusical, gimmicky piece of attention-groveling Zakk Wylde wanks out of his humbuckered phallus substitute. The rest is just Just Say Loud same-old same-old. Ozzy still wants us to fuck loudly. Ozzy still can't hear us. Ozzy loves me, yes I know, Ozzy loves me because he FUCKING TELLS ME AFTER EVERY MOTHERFUCKING LINE HE FUCKING SINGS. There's no Sabbath songs here, those apparently having been bled dry by the Reunion tours of the late 90's, but several songs I simply do not remember but am convinced must've been on Down to Earth if only by process of elimination. Hell, they may as well be Blues Magoos covers for all I know...
Capn's Final Word: You buy Budokan for the same reason you buy the $49 Hanes t-shirt or the $29 non-embroidered baseball cap. You're either advertising the fact that you were there, or you're trying to provide yourself with a way to remember what the experience felt like. What I'm saying is that buying this live album as a substitute for actually seeing the show is a pretty terrible idea.