REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Prince of Darkness (2005 Sony box set)

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0001OZZY OSBOURNE – Prince of Darkness (2005 Sony)

Let’s pretend that you’re involved with Ozzy Osbourne’s management or record label.  When it comes time to release that first “definitive” box set, I’m sure you’d have your own ideas for making it the best box that Ozzy could release.  Ozzy Osbourne in 2005 had eight mostly great studio albums, numerous live records, and more rarities than you could shake a stick at.  They certainly had a lot of music to choose from.  I greeted the eventual release of Prince of Darkness with great excitement at these rarities…but tremendous disappointment at the overall listening experience.

A 4-CD box set is a lot of listening and in order to keep it riveting from end to end, you have to pick the right tracks and sequence them for maximum firepower.  Somebody at Sony’s box set department didn’t get my memos on that, obviously, because Prince of Darkness is one of the most annoying box sets to listen to in its entirety.   They decided to do two discs “anthology” style, with live and rare tracks mixed in.  The third disc is a questionable collection of Ozzy collaborations.  The final CD is the worst of all:  covers that Ozzy recorded and later released on their own album, Under Cover!  A CD that was released only months after Prince of Darkness itself — with additional bonus tracks to milk it further, forcing the completist to buy it again!

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0004I have so many complaints about this set that I felt it best to list them all off in point form.

1. Never, ever start your box set off with a live track.  Even if that live track is “I Don’t Know” from Randy Rhoads Tribute.

2. Because this set was released in 2005, you are hearing the re-recorded bass and drums on all the songs from Blizzard and Diary…not the classic original versions.

3. Same with the tunes from Bark at the Moon.  These are the remixed versions found on the 2002 reissue of that album.  There are only two songs from that album anyway.  “Bark” itself is an unreleased live version.

4. Two CDs is not enough space to represent Ozzy’s album output in a box set, especially when you include the studio albums, live albums and rare tracks too.  The early Randy Rhoads material makes up the bulk of disc one, leaving the Jake E. Lee years under represented.  There are no songs from The Ultimate Sin at all, only the three live tracks originally for the Ultimate Live Ozzy EP.

5.  There are a few baffling exclusions, such as “Miracle Man” (first single with Zakk) and “I Just Want You”, in favour of also-rans such as “Spiders”.

6. The collaborations disc is a total mess.  “Purple Haze” is just a Hendrix cover from the No Rest For the Wicked era, by Ozzy’s band.  It’s not a collaboration, just a cover they did for the Make A Difference Foundation CD called Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell.  It’s a real challenge to listen to this whole CD in one sitting.  One moment you’re rocking out to a killer version of “N.I.B.” with Primus, the next you’re barfing through a piece of crap with Tony Iommi and Wu-Tang Clan.  From Was Not Was to Miss Piggy, at least the CD is diverse, and it does collect a lot of Ozzy’s singing from albums I don’t have.  I already had the Miss Piggy track but not the cover of “Stayin’ Alive” by Dweezil Zappa! Nor did I have “I Ain’t No Nice Guy” by Motörhead, from the mediocre March ör Die.  This disc is too jokey and not at all consistent.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0005

7. Even though the third disc collects a variety of tracks from a number of CDs, I am certain that Ozzy fans who buy this kind of box set already had some of them.  Including “Psycho Man” by Black Sabbath (not even a single remix version) from the Reunion CD (2008) is odd.  Many Ozzy and Sabbath collectors already have the Nativity in Black CDs, where the Primus and Therapy? tracks come from.

8. “Nowhere to Run (Vapor Trail)” by DMX, Ozzy Osbourne, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Crystal Method and Fuzzbubble is edited!  This track was from the South Park album and still features Isaac Hayes’ introduction, as “Chef”.  For reasons I cannot explain at all, the swearing and “n” words are blanked, and there were a lot of them.   It’s also missing ODB’s rant at the end, which itself was edited off later versions of the South Park CD.  (I have an earlier version with the rant intact.)

9. The packaging leaves a hell of a lot to be desired.  Inside the box which is just book-style, you will find a nice big booklet that just sits loose inside.  There is no way to secure it in, so it’ll fall out any time you pick it up!

10. Speaking of that booklet, the liner notes suck.  Ozzy has a brief note about each song, but not necessarily any useful information.  For example, regarding that South Park track, all we’re told is that Ozzy bit the head off Kenny.  Nothing about how that random assortment of artists was assembled.  The book is padded out with lyrics and shoddy credits that aren’t very accurate.  “Bark at the Moon” live for example was recorded in 1982-1983 according to the notes.  Come on, guys!  Not good enough for a box set.

11.  The entire fouth CD sucks.  You can read my review of the expanded Under Cover version of it here.  (Long story short: 1/5 stars.)  The only difference is that the box set includes Kelly Osbourne’s duet with daddy, on “Changes”.  This song was only included on the Japanese version of Under Cover but not the regular domestic.

Fortunately, Prince of Darkness is not a total bust.  Some of the unreleased tracks are real treasures, such as the demo of “S.I.N.” called “Won’t Be Coming Home”.  I prefer this to the album version from No More Tears by a long shot, as I do the twangier “I Don’t Want to Change the World”.  I also love the demo for the emotional ballad “See You On the Other Side”, which features previously unheard saxophone accompaniment.  I appreciated that they included the live version of “Perry Mason” from the Ozzfest 1 CD, which enabled me to sell off that pretty crappy album.

It’s easy to bitch and complain (don’t I know it?) but if I were to make a 4 CD Ozzy box from the same period, I would have done it very differently.  The covers CD would be axed completely and the rarities set aside to a disc all their own.  The first two “anthology” discs would be strictly studio versions, and original studio versions at that, with only a sprinkle of tracks from Randy Rhoads Tribute.  I would try to squeeze in more rare tracks from B-sides and EPs, and I would definitely try to mix them in with the collaborations so that you’re not left listening to so many of those novelty tunes in a row.

Buyer beware — Prince of Darkness is not the feast you were hoping for. This is a poorly executed package. When you have an artist like Ozzy Osbourne, you really gotta screw up bad to put out a set that is this hard to listen to. Prince of Darkness is going back on the shelf, for a good long while.

2/5 stars

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51 comments

    1. I would say it’s not worth that. Honestly I would. For me because I collect this shit, it’s worth owning. For you who doesn’t care as much, and has a lot of the albums…

      Will you ever play it?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Pahil Campbell said they did dozens of mixes of the title track in an effort to “get it right” but they couldn’t because the song “sucks”. And that was when the album came out, he said that! He also said Lemmy was bringing in acoustic songs that sounded like “Witchy Woman” by the Eagles and the band had to tell him no.

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  1. Hey hey! I have this boxed set! I got it at Christmas for $15 in one of those Amazon timed deals they have. I’m so glad you posted about this, it’ll give me perspective for when I try to write up my own blurb about it!

    I only own about 5 Ozzy albums, so there was enough here to keep me going. Some is silly, sure, but even that stuff has its charms, especially when the real meat of the work is so worth having. For a fan who doesn’t own too much, it’s still a fairly convenient place to get a bunch of tracks I didn’t have (and would be unlikely to buy all of the albums needed otherwise).

    Liked by 2 people

    1. $15? Then giver. Fuck, yeah, I’d still say buy it for $15. That’s the price of one Ozzy album. You’d be stupid NOT to!

      Thank you for this comment which has the perspective that mine lacks — somebody who doesn’t have every Ozzy album!

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      1. I counted, I own three Ozzy albums: Bark At The Moon, No More Tears and Black Rain. I also have the Just Say Ozzy EP, and this boxed set. It fills a lot of holes in my collection. I know I should probably get the albums, at some point.

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    1. I really think that was boneheaded. They could easily have segmented the live stuff off on its own in some way. Maybe the live and demo stuff would have fit on one CD.

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  2. Nice read thanks.

    Avoided this then will continue to avoid now ;) Although never knew about the No More Tears era demos (love S.IN. so that will be interesting) so unless that disc ever gets released as a stand alone might splash for those via digital. Otherwise happy with originals.

    Played NMT in full just the other day, a classic fer sure, still a 9.5 record fer this fan \m/

    And count me in with keepsmealive, nothing worse than live tracks sequenced in with studio cuts :(

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  3. I don’t own this and will now only buy it on the cheap & used side of the fence, due to this fine review you wrote. Sharon & Ozzy’s decision to re-record the bass and drums on those iconic albums is downright mean… anything to avoid giving credit to stellar musicians that they no longer like. You ROCK \m/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Stone I’m just a fan like yourself and I try to make sure I give people the truth about these products. Don’t want Sharon’s messing with the tracks? Then don’t buy this!! Cheers man!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I don’t believe General Sharon likes “The Ultimate Sin” album too, for whatever reason. I could not imagine living in the same house with her… life would be “the world according to General Sharon”. \m/\m/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. If something is a natural collaboration, I think you can usually hear it. When it’s forced, I think you can usually hear that too. These tracks sound forced in every way. I wonder if anyone was in the studio at the same time.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Let me know if you have! The we can discuss what ODB means by:

          “ha ha ha ha ha ha ha
          What you mother fuckers invented
          Is the craziest n—a that ever been invented
          ha ha ha ha ha
          Most know, don’t front on Ol’ Dity Bastard
          ha ha ha ha
          I call on Jesus”

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        3. WOW…brilliant analogy. Especially since Spider-Man 3 was on last weekend and I caught the tail end. I had Gwen Stacey, Mary Jane, the Sandman, Venom, and James freaking Franco all competing for my attention. And none of those can compete with Franco! (I’m a bit of a Franco fanboy even though he hasn’t done anything decent in years.)

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        4. I quite liked (although not my bag normally) the flick he was in with Jason Statham. Saw that recently. Pretty enjoyable, too.

          Also liked The Interview. Franco was brilliant.

          Liked by 1 person

        5. Oh man…I’m so torn on that one! I liked it…but I am just getting the feeling that Franco and Rogen are just hanging out for 2 hours and charging me money to see it!

          Didn’t know about the Statham movie. That’s cool.

          But back to The Interview, I’ve watched it twice now. I didn’t bother doing a review because everybody was doing it, better than I could. I just couldn’t get past certain story details…like when Rogen actually goes for a stroll outside Kim’s palace, looking for that drone. That just stretched the limits of credibility in my mind. But, this is a movie in which Kim Jong Un is defeated partly using the music of Katy Perry, so…carry on.

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        6. Rogen and Franco definitely were just hanging out and stretching the joke and I think if it was less preposterous I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much. Probably a tad too long, but I got a lot of kicks from it.

          Liked by 1 person

        7. That’s the one with the frat house next door. It was cute. Oh!! And Paul! Have you seen Paul?

          While we’re on the bromance genre, I’m absolutely a huge fan of Paul Rudd and Jason Segal.

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        8. Pegg and Frost, yes. With Jason Bateman and loads of other hilarious folks too. It’s actually quite excellent. Best line.

          Paul – “Be careful with this. This is the weed that killed Bob Dylan.”

          Simon – “But Bob Dylan’s not dead.”

          Paul (sly grin) – “Isn’t he?”

          Liked by 1 person

        9. It was a really clever comedy. Watched and approved by Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom. In fact I have a review of Paul that I wrote when it came out. Should I post it?

          Like

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