“Yes, the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man” – Ozzy Osbourne, “Ordinary Man”
I was reading random bullshit on the “social media” last week and I saw a question posed by a blogger. The guy had taken a break from his blog that started as a holiday and ran on for three or four years. He was asking the universe er, I mean his social media following if he should mention or explain his absence after such a long time gone, now that he was considering starting up again. I couldn’t imagine taking that much time off from B&V… I don’t have any other hobbies. I mean, the Rock Chick and I went on vacation last week… I haven’t blogged for two weeks and I feel compelled to mention my vacation as a matter of course so people know what happened… It’s another one of those “don’t pay the ransom, I’ve escaped” kinda things.
While I was on vacation, I was cutting through the beach bar at this resort (yes, I know how fortunate I am to be able to afford something like that once in a while) headed for the bathroom and I heard someone yell, “Hey, did you see them on that tour.” I suddenly realized it was the waitress and she was talking to me. I was wearing a Van Halen 2007 reunion tour t-shirt. “Why yes I did…” She wanted to know how Roth sounded. She’d seen some recent video of his Las Vegas show and said he was embarrassing himself. She went on, “You can only drink so much Jack Daniels over the years until your voice goes to crap.” She told me she still supports and loves all those old rockers out there performing. I said, “How about that new Ozzy?” She was all over it… she mentioned the new duet with Elton in mesmerized tones. Yes, even on vacation I have to engage total strangers into conversations about music…
I must admit, I’ve been dying to get back to the keyboard to share my thoughts on this new Ozzy album, Ordinary Man. It’s his first album in 10 years. He was beginning to rival the Who in terms of time between albums (LP Review: The Who, ‘WHO’ – A Triumphant Return & Perhaps Farewell?). Ozzy has put out a dozen solo albums. And with only a few exceptions his records are always pretty kick ass. I don’t know whose doing quality control down there but, kudos. You can say about Ozzy’s albums what Mel Brooks famously said about pizza being like sex: when it’s good it’s great, when it’s bad it’s still pretty good. His career is a little like his heavy metal brethren AC/DC… there are only a few misfires. The only Ozzy albums I couldn’t connect with were Ultimate Sin and Ozzmosis and even those have some great tunes (“Shot In the Dark,” “Perry Mason” and “See You On The Other Side” just to name a few). Ozzy has found more awesome guitarists than most singers can even count: Randy Rhoads, Jake E. Lee, Zakk Wylde (the Heavy Metal Viking), and now Andrew Watt.
When Ozzy’s first solo album came out in 1980 I didn’t even know he’d been in Sabbath. I thought Dio was the lead singer of Sabbath… I didn’t buy Blizzard of Ozz until years later but it was impossible to escape “Crazy Train.” Rhoads was the second coming of Eddie Van Halen as far as I was concerned. It wasn’t until the second album, Diary of a Madman that I fully got on the Ozzy bandwagon. I heard that track, “Flying High Again” with the lyric “Mama’s gonna worry, I’ve been a bad, bad boy, no use saying sorry, it’s something that I enjoy,” and I was hooked… It was hard to deny the appeal of that line when I was in high school. Ozzy sort of summed up my behavioral problems and my relationship with mom…I would crank that track up and laugh, laugh, laugh. Someone finally understood me! It wasn’t until The Ultimate Sin tour that I saw Ozzy. We were addled on No-Doz and beer and we watched Ozzy descend to the stage in a giant ghoul-Ozzy chair and I knew I was in the presence of greatness (Metaphysical Wisdom: The 1986 Ozzy Concert, The Preacher and the Pot Smoker).
I stuck with Ozzy on every release after that. Some albums were better than others, but like I said, his work has always been consistent hard rock/heavy metal. In 2007 he released Black Rain, (which would be his last album with Zakk, sadly) and the Rock Chick brought it home. The critics were a bit cool on that record, but we loved it. I thought it was some of his best work lyrically. It’s great, heavy, sludgy rock and roll. I went to see Ozzy on that tour and it was like hearing a plane land in your living room. I’m not sure my ears have ever recovered. In 2010, I was pumped when Scream came out but I have to admit, it’s on that short list of Ozzy LPs that disappointed me. Ozzy recruited Rob Zombie’s guitarist Gus G (the opening act on the Black Rain tour) and Scream had a lot of moments where it sounded like Ozzy was trying to sound like Zombie (especially the title track). I figured Ozzy would be back with his next guitar sensation in another three or four years… Boy I was wrong. Although I should mention that Ozzy rejoined Black Sabbath for the phenomenal album 13 and accompanying tour that I was delighted to see (Black Sabbath Live & The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse).
And now Ozzy has finally, finally returned after a ten year absence with his best album in…pick your last favorite Ozzy record… for me, 13 years (Black Rain). Most people would tell you this is best album in 20 years since Down To Earth. Ozzy was recruited by producer/guitarist Andrew Watt to provide some vocals on a song by Post Malone. Ozzy’s reaction was what mine would have been, “what the fuck is a Post Malone?” Apparently everyone hit it off. Watt approached Ozzy about recording an album and the Ozzman was up for it. It turns out Watt is a shredder on guitar. My friend Drummer Blake since me some YouTube footage of the guy playing on some earlier stuff… amazing. Watt recruited Red Hot Chili Pepper Chad Smith to play drums and in an inspired choice asked Duff McKagan of Guns N Roses to play bass. This band just jelled. They jammed over the course of 4 days and basically wrote the album. Then they brought in Ozzy for lyrical input.
It’s probably pretty obvious, I love this record. It’s Ozzy’s most Sabbath-y solo album. He was really heavy on some of those Zakk Wylde albums but this record really captures that Sabbath vibe. At the same time you can tell everyone involved is having fun here, especially Ozzy. This sounds like a labor of love. It’s got a spontaneous energy and I love the production. Yes, Ozzy’s over arching themes are death and goodbyes, but he never turns maudlin.
The album opens with “Straight to Hell” with those ‘Exorcist’ style backing vocals. It’s a rocking tune. Slash shows up in a cameo to play lead and he’s amazing. That track leads to “All My Life” one of those epic Ozzy tracks. It’s the Rock Chick’s favorite track, high praise indeed. “Goodbye” sounds like it could have come off of 13 it’s so Sabbath-like. It has a hard-slow-hard-slow tempo change cycle that I just love. “Under the Graveyard” remains my favorite track on this album. I gushed about it on an earlier post and I stand by everything I said, New Single: Ozzy’s Triumphant Return, “Under the Graveyard”.
The most surprising cameo here is Elton John on “Ordinary Man,” the title track. I love the song and I’m not a ballad guy. Full disclosure, the Rock Chick didn’t like the track, she feels Elton’s voice has dropped too low to be redeemed. But hey, a waitress in a beach bar I know loves the track. Slash shows up to play the guitar solo, and that is always a bonus. Elton and Ozzy have actually been friends for a long time. I love that they finally got to work together. “Holy For Tonight” is a more power-ballad type track but I like it too. I’ve been digging Ozzy power-ballads since “Goodbye to Romance.” And even the Longshot covered that song.
“Eat Me,” a song with lyrics inspired by an article about cannibalism that Ozzy read, is a real Sabbath-y, heavy track. It starts off with a bass line from McKagan that Geezer Butler would envy. It’s a heavy track but Chad Smith brings a lot swing to the drums on that track. “Scary Little Green Men” is a fast, fast romp where Ozzy imagines aliens arriving on Earth in a not so friendly fashion. It’s a nice lyrical break from his more heavy themes and a great tune. “It’s A Raid” is a song based on a true story… Ozzy did so much coke one time he accidentally called the cops on himself. Only Ozzy…
This one is a must have for fans of Ozzy or heavy metal. It’s the best album I’ve heard since the last Who release. With all the bad health issues we’ve heard about Ozzy, I’m delighted we’ve got this record at all. It’s great music played by great musicians. It packs a punch. I hear it’s number 1 on the rock charts and it sure as hell ought to be. One thing is for certain… Ozzy will never be considered an “Ordinary Man.”