“Politicians make decisions, they’re the ones to blame, so don’t blame me.” — Ozzy Osbourne
No More Tears was a big hit for Ozzy and is usually hailed as a “comeback” and “his best album since Randy Rhoads”. But is it?
No More Tears certainly offers chills, thrills and new sounds. Slide guitar on an Ozzy album? Check out “Mr. Tinkertrain”. Zakk Wylde was starting to spread out and grow, really exploring his southern roots and adapting that to heavy metal. No More Tears might be the peak of Ozzy’s collaborations with Zakk, as they really did produce some magic here. Some of the stuff Zakk does on “Mr. Tinkertrain” alone is career-defining.
Ozzy was also trying to escape his “satanic” image, and No More Tears was his step away from that. It’s also a step towards the mainstream. Second track “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is an example of Ozzy’s turn to radio-ready hard rock. It’s a shame because after the chunky guitar assault of “Mr. Tinkertrain”, a speedy metal track like “Don’t Blame Me” would have been perfect in the second slot. “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is unfortunately not much better than a Motley Crue filler track. It’s repetitive and despite Zakk’s squeals and licks, fails to launch. His solo at least scorches hot. Then the whole thing gets stuck in the mud. “Mama, I’m Coming Home” (lyrics co-written by Lemmy) was the hit ballad that I never liked. “Mama” more than any of the other tracks really represented Ozzy’s desire to break free of the shackles of his own image. There are better ballads on the album. “Mama” is so generic it could have been recorded by literally anybody.
Moving past, the album catches a little air due to the groovy chugging riff of “Desire”. The stock melody doesn’t do it many favours, but momentum is restored.
Ozzy did well by discovering his newest member, bass player Mike Inez who later went on to Alice in Chains. Inez was a co-writer on the title track “No More Tears” and his bass line has become a signature hook. “No More Tears” is one of Ozzy’s greatest achievements as a recording artist. This is a direction he should have explored further. Even though it’s incredibly memorable and accessible, “No More Tears” has slightly progressive and psychedelic elements mixed in. Its groove was detuned and modern, but the samples and keys bring it levels above what most other mainstream bands were doing in 1991. And then there’s Zakk’s slippery slide guitar expertise. It just doesn’t get any better than “No More Tears”. Ozzy wanted to move beyond being the clown prince of devilish metal? Mission accomplished and then some, in a completely fearless 7:24. Ozzy was an innovator when he was in Black Sabbath, and in 1991 he became that again on “No More Tears”.
Opening side two, “S.I.N.” is great old-school Ozzy metal. Call it “S.I.N.” or just “Shadows in the Night”, this track has the kind of classic hooks and soaring vocals that Ozzy is so good at delivering. Ozzy had a core writing team of Zakk and drummer Randy Castillo, who wrote this killer. Lemmy stepped in to help out on “Hellraiser” which Motorhead recorded as well on 1992’s March ör Die. “Hellraiser” is too middle of the road to be classic. Even Motorhead’s version kind of sucks.
A stock ballad called “Time After Time” is a tad better than “Mama, I’m Coming Home”. It has some pretty sweet melodies and harmonies going for it, and another brilliant Zakk solo. “Zombie Stomp” brings back the heavy, simply by living up to its name. You got a name like that, you better stomp, and this one stomps like all the beasts in the jungle are coming for you now. It’s also plenty of fun. Surely an underappreciated Ozzy career highlight. Drummer Randy Castillo had a lot to be proud of on this one, as he took the spotlight for the two minute tribal intro. When that’s all over, Zakk powers the groove.
More fun ensues on “A.V.H.” (no idea what that stands for). A little bit of southern pickin’ from Zakk gives way to an adrenaline powered blast. It’s a shorty compared to some of the more epic lengthy songs. Finally “Road to Nowhere” ends the album with a retrospective. “I was looking back on my life, and all the things I’ve done to me.” It’s easily the strongest ballad on the album and one of Ozzy’s personal best. “The wreckage of my past keeps haunting me,” wrote Ozzy in 1991, perhaps not knowing that it always will.
There is no arguing the importance of the song “Mama, I’m Coming Home” in the career of Ozzy. It went top 30, and was huge on MTV. Would No More Tears be a better album without it? Should Ozzy have released it as a single or on a movie soundtrack? Try this. Remove “Mama” from the album, and put the B-side track “Don’t Blame Me”* in between “Mr. Tinkertrain” and “I Don’t Want to Change the World”. There is something to be said for a good B-side, and Ozzy has done a number over the years. Yet “Don’t Blame Me” is far too good for that fate. It combines riff with groove and hooks like nothing else on the album, and just listen to Zakk’s funky pickin’. Fortunately it’s on the 2002 Sony remastered CD, along with a lesser B-side called “Party With the Animals”. You might remember it from the 1992 soundtrack Buffy the Vampire Slayer. “Animals” is definite B-side material.
Back to our original question. Was No More Tears the “best album since Randy Rhoads”? It’s quite good and easily his biggest since Randy Rhoads. But it has filler, and some of that filler is downright annoying. The remastered edition is the one to get, since you don’t want to miss out on “Don’t Blame Me”. Bark at the Moon is likely the high water mark since the passing of Rhoads. No More Tears is still one to own, even if you have the hits, for some killer and underrated album tracks (and one B-side).
* Two early album titles used for this record were Don’t Blame Me and No Dogs Allowed.