Review: Ozzy’s ‘Blizzard of Ozz, 40th Anniversary Expanded’ – Is It Worth It?

I recently wrote a piece reflecting back on my first Led Zeppelin LP purchase (LP Lookback: In Praise of Led Zeppelin’s ‘In Through The Out Door’). In it, I discussed the uphill battle I faced trying to catch up with all the great music that had come out in the twenty years before my “rock awakening” in the late 70s. It’s not like I could stream back then. I was busy buying what was current and trying to selectively and quickly build an album collection of all those great, older records at the same time. I will admit, the emphasis of my purchases back then was more slanted toward what was current. I had the Stones’ Some Girls, Van Halen’s debut LP and ZZ Top’s Deguello, to name but a few. I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of what I was drawn to in the early stages was blues based. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I even had the Blues Brothers’ (John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd) LP, Briefcase Full of Blues. That was a great backing band – Steve Cropper and Matt “Guitar” Murphy on guitars. 

I don’t know why but I was very slow on the uptake when it came to a genre that I absolutely love now, Heavy Metal. Certainly the Van Halen album I had qualified as Heavy Metal, but not much else in the record crate really came close. Metal was where the link between blues and rock and roll was permanently severed, so maybe that was what caused my early hesitancy. My mother had a friend who I’ll call, “Mrs. Smith,” whose kids were the same age as my brother and I. My brother had been buying music for several years prior to my getting into music and I was always taping stuff from his collection. It was a cheap way to build my own music collection. I remember taping and subsequently wearing out Hot Rocks, the Stones greatest hits package that my brother owned. Mrs. Smith heard I was monastically up in my room taping any music I could get my hands on and kindly volunteered to bring a stack of her kids’ records over for me to tape. I’m sure my mom was down in the kitchen complaining about me being “music crazy,” when I should have been, in her mind, “girl crazy.” Mom probably wasn’t wrong. 

A few days later when Mrs Smith dropped by, and she always seemed to be dropping by, she had a stack of records with her. I thought I was open to anything and hauled them up to my room with some blank cassettes. I started glancing at some of these records and I will say, they gave me pause. I recall scratching my head when I looked at the cover art for the first album in the pile, Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: 

“What the Hell is this? Is that a 666? What is going on at the Smith house?” I wondered aloud. Anybody who knew me when I was younger would probably tell you, I was a bit of a wild child. Actually people would probably say that about me now as well. Most people would have assumed I’d see that album cover with its ghoulish images and been all in on Sabbath. Oddly, I had enough exposure to the Catholic church that the whole thing freaked me out a bit. I’m not proud of that. When I dropped the needle on the LP, I quickly stopped taping the album. The music sounded like an invading army. The lead singer, whoever that was (I had no idea who this Ozzy Osbourne was), sounded like he was in pain. The next record was Judas Priest’s British Steel and I’m sad to admit, it didn’t fare much better to my young, tender ears. It was too fast, too hard. I don’t think I taped any of those albums that day. 

As fate would have it, only a few months later I was in the car and heard this great track, “Neon Nights” on the car radio. Who is that? That’s a great track. I mean, this couldn’t have been more than six months after Mrs. Smith’s album visit and now I was into metal? I bought that great Black Sabbath LP, Heaven And Hell, their first with amazing vocalist Ronnie James Dio almost immediately after that (Artist Lookback: Black Sabbath, 1980-1981, The Superb Dio Era). The cover art on that album didn’t inspire fear in me… it made me smile. Oh, how soon I was corrupted! I’m not even sure I realized that I’d held an LP from the “classic” line-up of Black Sabbath merely six months earlier. In fact, with the change of vocalists I’m not sure I even knew they were the same band. Dio was so much more…operatic than Ozzy and I was a clueless teenager. 

Ozzy, mired in alcoholism and drug addiction had been fired from Black Sabbath. Living in a hotel, drinking and drugging, a record company guy Don Arden sent his daughter Sharon out to sign Ozzy. She would later become his manager… and his wife. Ozzy quickly formed a band that was supposed to have been a new group named Blizzard of Ozz. The record company wanted to call it “Sons of Sabbath,” which Ozzy rejected. Somehow Ozzy found one of the greatest guitarists ever, Randy Rhoads to lead the band (Artist Lookback – Ozzy & Randy Rhoads: A Match Made In 80s Metal Heaven). The guy played nothing like Sabbath’s Tony Iommi. He was powerful yet nimble… more in the Eddie Van Halen style. He also recruited Bob Daisley to play bass and Lee Kerslake (who just passed away, sadly) to play drums. Rhoads and Daisley wrote a majority of the songs that would appear on Blizzard of Ozz while Ozzy continued drinking and drugging (and mostly sleeping under the drum riser during rehearsals). The results were nothing short of spectacular. Blizzard of Ozz became the name of the album, not the band, and when released it was released as an Ozzy solo album. He was the name, but it’s a shame they couldn’t hold the band concept together. 

I was over at a friend’s house when he put Blizzard of Ozz on his mom’s stereo. I had heard “Crazy Train,” and for whatever reason didn’t take it seriously. Through out the years I was guilty of not taking Metal acts, songs or albums seriously, a malady I’m gladly over now. All I knew about Ozzy was this “wild and crazy guy” act. Yeah, we get it Ozzy, you’re crazy. But then I heard the album. It is simply one of the landmark Metal LPs of all time. “I Don’t Know,” “Mr. Crowley” and “Crazy Train” were radio staples and stone cold classics. “Goodbye to Romance” was a surprisingly great ballad, meant as a farewell to his former bandmates in Sabbath. It’s the deeper tracks that hooked me though… “Suicide Solution” about the late Bon Scott drinking himself to death was great had showed some depth. “No Bone Movies” was actually an anti-porn song. “Revelation (Mother Earth)” is probably the first Heavy Metal track about the environment. After hearing the album at my friend’s place… yes, I taped the album. Sadly, my first actual Ozzy LP purchase was to be the follow-up, the equally majestic Diary of a Madman. 

I find it hard to believe that it’s been forty years since this legendary album came out. In that time the LP has seen its share of controversy. Sharon Osbourne being the ghoul that she is tried to minimize Daisley and Kerslake’s contribution – going so far as to release the album with new bass/drum parts recorded by other musicians. A sin she fixed in the 30th anniversary edition. Daisley had to sue to get credit as a songwriter. Both Daisley and Kerslake helped write Diary of a Madman and played on the LP – but weren’t credited on the album sleeve, they weren’t even in the photos. Thanks Sharon. Those four guys – Rhoads, Daisley, Kerslake and Ozzy had an amazing chemistry. It would have been nice to see what would have happened if it’d been allowed to continue… Sharon’s greed and Randy’s untimely death will keep us all wondering it seems. 

To celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Blizzard of Ozz Ozzy had released an “Expanded Edition.” A momentous album of this stature deserves a big 40th anniversary package… If you don’t already own this album – by all means, purchase it immediately! However, if you do, and most of us do own this record, the question remains, is there anything in this package that would drive you to rebuy it? I have to say, no. There is a B-side track, “Looking At You, Looking At Me,” that’s been out for years that everyone should check out. There’s a live track “You Said It All” that was released previously on an Ozzy live EP. There’s a couple of studio outtakes that were included in the 30th Anniversary Edition. Then there is a handful of six live tracks from the Blizzard tour. They’re nice tracks but its all a bit disjointed. There just isn’t that much new material or compelling reasons to rebuy this 40th Anniversary package. It seems like this is Ghoul Sharon’s latest cash-in. I would have hoped they’d have an entire show from the Blizzard tour to include here, the way the Stones included Brussels Affair in the latest Goats Head Soup box. That would have been worth the price of admission here. I hear Daisley has some tapes but Sharon didn’t want to have to pay for them… I think she’s hurting Ozzy’s legacy. 

Regardless of Sharon’s shady financial motives, Blizzard of Ozz remains one of my favorite Ozzy albums and one of my favorite albums period. This is one to play extremely loud… maybe with a pint of something strong to nip at while you’re flying your Devil Horn hands in the air! 

Cheers! And be safe out there! RAWK from an acceptable, safe distance folks. 

 

 

 

 

Review: Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Ordinary Man’ – A Simply Extraordinary Album!

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“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.”

 

 

 

New Single: Ozzy’s Triumphant Return, “Under the Graveyard”

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“Today I woke up and I hate myself, Death doesn’t answer when I cry for help…” – Ozzy Osbourne, “Under the Graveyard”

You can always count on Ozzy Osbourne to deliver the goods…

I have to admit, my introduction to “heavy metal” did not go well. I didn’t get a stereo until Christmas of ’78 – well sort of a stereo, it was one of those “all-in-one” units (turntable/cassette/radio with hardwired speakers). I wasn’t even in high school yet. My first album, as I’ve documented, purchased with a little bit of my own cash I’d received for Christmas was the Stones’ Some Girls. After that I started to tentatively expand my record collection. Most of the stuff I had early on in my collection was “of that time,” or released in the late 70s. The idea of going back in time to buy an artist’s back catalog, like my brother had done with the Beatles or the Byrds, was inconceivable to me. Rather than realizing I could buy all the Stones’ albums, I just taped my brother’s copy of Hot Rocks and listened to it on the cassette player.

Beyond the Stones, I picked up ZZ Top’s Deguello, Queen’s News of the World and Supertramp’s Breakfast In America which I traded to my brother for Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors. I had heard the Blues Brothers’ Briefcase Full of Blues playing from the room of my friend’s older, beautiful, buxom sister so I bought it in the hopes that a musical connection would lead to a more…temporal connection. It didn’t, she was in high school and I was in junior high. Dare to dream big, young man. It did solidify my love of the blues. I also purchased the Doobie Brothers’ Minute By Minute not because I’m a Michael McDonald fan, but because I’d heard it at a party and saw that it had a joint on the inner sleeve art work, which gave it an instant stamp of “cool” or at least tacit approval, if you will. My record buying habit grew as quickly as my thirst for beer until my father once made a rare appearance in my room and scratching his head said, “You’ve got all of these records, why do you need any more?” Apparently he didn’t realize there was different music on each record.

My Sainted mother, on the other hand, didn’t seem to care. At the time, her best friend was this lady I’ll call Betsy (name changed to protect the guilty). Betsy had a daughter my age and a son my brother’s age. They were a bit more rough and tumble than we were. Betsy’s daughter was one of those hang around behind the school smoking cigarette types. Nice girl, just a bit too dangerous for my taste and speed. Betsy was a boozy woman who liked to smoke red Marlboro 100s. I would come home from school and more often than not, Betsy was sitting at our kitchen table, a few empty brews scattered in front of her, with an ashtray nearby. When she found out that I was suddenly “into music” she decided she was going to bring some of her children’s records over so I could listen to them and record them on cassette if I found them to my liking. I seem to remember nodding and thinking this was probably nothing but also being intrigued at getting to expand my music collection.

I was all of like, maybe 13 years old and the next thing I know I’m staring at a stack of vinyl from Betsy whose cover art images were like nothing I’d ever come across up to that point. I’m not sure what was going on over at Betsy’s house, but these were scary images. I wondered if Social Services had been called. I don’t remember all of the albums but the first one I saw was Black Sabbath’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. This is the image I beheld:

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While it was nice to see some of these rumored nipples, it depicts some poor bastard being ravaged and killed by demons, on a bed with a skull and a 666 on the headboard. I was still Catholic at the time and that put a little jolt of fear in me. I’ll admit, I read the Book of Revelation and these Sabbath characters scared me. I couldn’t help but think, what the fuck is this? I dropped the needle on the album and the sound emanating out of the headphones was not at all comforting. I couldn’t help but think…Betsy’s kids are listening to this noise? Where’s the melody, where’s the hook?

The stack went on. Judas Priest’s British Steel, I have a vague memory of some Iron Maiden and I think, Sabbath’s Volume 4. I know there was more, but after that mind numbing collection, I was done with Betsy’s kids’ records. I made a mental note… avoid Betsy’s kids, they’re Satanic. Oddly, all these years later, I own and love all of these albums.

Sometimes, it just takes a little time before we’re ready for certain music. It only took me a year until my tastes had turned to harder rock. I say harder rock because it’s increasingly difficult for me to identify what exactly Heavy Metal is supposed to be. I started listening to Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith who I’ve heard called Heavy Metal, but I consider more “hard rock.” I bought AC/DC’s Back In Black which may have crossed the line into Heavy Metal, but in my mind they’re too bluesy to be Metal. It wasn’t until the Dio fronted Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell that I bought my first metal album. I didn’t even know it was the same band as that frightening day with Betsy’s kids’ records. I had heard Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” and loved it, but for some reason never bought the album. I also never connected this Ozzy guy with Black Sabbath until much later. We all have to grow up in ignorance. And while I consider myself a fan of heavy metal… it’s not like I’m sitting around listening to Opeth or Samson. I need some melody. I hear that “cookie-monster” vocal stuff and I can’t turn it off fast enough…

I remember working at York Steak House in Oak Park Mall, near the house, when I heard on the back kitchen radio, “Flying High Again” by Ozzy. I bought the album the next day. “Mama’s gonna worry, I’ve been a bad, bad boy… no use sayin’ sorry, it’s something that I enjoy.” I was hooked. I realized this guy is the Prince of Darkness and I wanna bathe in that darkness. The music rocked, it was melodic, there was a sense of humor and yeah, I’ll say it again, the music rocked. I’ve been on the Ozzy bandwagon ever since. And while Ozzy has had some down moments in his career, for the most part his albums are of the highest quality. He always seems to find a great guitarist to play with him – from Randy Rhodes to Jake E. Lee to Zakk Wylde and so forth.

I was thrilled to discover the other day that Ozzy is back for the first time since 2010’s Scream, which was a solid record. I have to admit, I liked 2007’s Black Rain more than Scream and it is one of my all time favorite Ozzy records. I saw him on that tour and I can only tell you my hearing will never be the same. I can’t believe it’s been almost a decade without any new solo Ozzy. Although, he did reunite with Sabbath for a fantastic record, 13 and tour (Black Sabbath Live & The Four Horsemen of the Salinapocalypse).

Ozzy’s upcoming 2020 album is called Ordinary Man and he’s released the new single, “Under the Graveyard” and I love this track. Chad Smith from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays drums and, among others, helped write the track. Duff McKagan of GnR fame is on bass and producer Andrew Watt plays guitar. I guess he and Ozzy met while Ozzy was laying down some vocals for a Post Malone (?) song. I heard the track and Ozzy is the best part of it. It’s his best cameo since that Lita Ford duet back in the 80s.

“Under the Graveyard” starts off as an epic ballad. Ozzy’s vocals are introspective and vulnerable. It’s pretty amazing lyrically… and yes, I’m sure Ozzy had help writing the lyrics. I thought, well this is a pretty mellow comeback until about half way through the song when Watt unleashes this monster riff… I looked at the Rock Chick, a fellow Ozzy fan, and said, “Shit, that sounds like Sabbath!” I can’t believe I’ve come full circle from young tween afraid of Sabbath to elated that Ozzy sounds like them for a brief moment on the track. Watt’s guitar is fabulous and helps build this to a fabulous crescendo. This is probably the best thing I’ve heard from Ozzy in quite a while.

All of us here at B&V are thrilled Ozzy is coming back with a new album. I think this track is going to be a great harbinger of RAWK to come!! Turn this one up loud and remember… don’t be afraid kids. It’s only rock and roll… and you can’t kill rock n’ roll, you can only sing along.