Chad Smith

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Patient Number 9 (2022)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Patient Number 9 (2022 Epic)

It’s very easy to be cynical about any new Ozzy album since about Down To Earth and onwards.  Corporate constructions.  Special guest writers and performers. “Here Ozzy, sing these new songs we wrote for you.”  Prior to that, it felt like Ozzy had a band, and that band took different directions on each album.  Now Ozzy has Andrew Watt and a slate of big-namers.  It’s been this way a while.  This time the difference is, the process resulted in a pretty decent album.  Sure it’s still Watt at the helm, with special guests in big letters on the back cover and front stick.  Jeff Beck!  Eric Clapton!  Tony Iommi!  Zakk Wylde!  Of course without a real band, you don’t get that cohesive band sound, but what you do get ain’t bad indeed.

Each track (except for “Darkside Blues” which is either a new version or a new mix of the Japanese bonus track from Ordinary Man) has credits by Andrew Watt and professional songsmith Ali Tamposi.  She’s more known for Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback, and a slew of Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus hits.  She also co-wrote most of Ordinary Man so there’s a formula at work here.  Other co-writers include Ryan Tedder, Duff McKagan, Chad Smith, Robert Trujillo, Tony Iommi, Chris Chaney, and the late great Taylor Hawkins.

Ozzy falls into his comic horror persona a bit too much.  There was once a time when he was trying to shed that “crazy madman” image but he’s really leaned into it again for the last couple decades.  As such the album opens with silly “insane asylum” sound effects that only delay us getting to the good stuff.  The opening title track is over seven minutes long with that nonsense attached.  It’s also one of the poorer of the new songs, overly formulaic and modern with robotic hooks.  Jeff Beck’s unconventional and slippery solo work makes it worth a listen (Watt and Wylde play the rhythm and fills).

Things really get moving on track two, “Immortal” featuring Mike McCready of Pearl Jam and Duff on bass.  Good riffing and grooving going on here, and the first memorable chorus.  The Hawkins co-penned “Parasite” is another grooving highlight, featuring the Foo Fighter on drums.  The chorus is really solid and just moves like a ‘Vette on the highway.  That’s Zakk on lead guitar, but he’s instantly recognizable.  Former Ozzy bassist and currently Metallicer Rob Trujillo on bass.

What’s really amazing is that with the help of Tony Iommi, this hodge-podge of creators managed to write a seriously Sabbathy dirge called “No Escape From Now”.  You’d swear it’s Geezer Butler on bass, but it’s not.  It’s actually Watt.  It’s as Sabbathy, if not more so, than most of the 13 album.  It feels a bit “token”, like, “Oh hey Sabbath fans, here’s a song with the riffs and time changes that you like.”  Yet it’s one of the songs you’ll keep returning to, and probably for those reasons.  Of note, this is the only song without Andrew Watt on rhythm guitar.  It’s all Tony and only Tony which is the reason it feels heavy as a bloody brick.

In a throwback to Ozzmosis, “One of Those Days” with Eric Clapton really sounds a bit like “I Just Want You”.  Clapton really adds a touch of class.  One could imagine that the chorus will upset certain people with it’s refrain of “I don’t believe in Jesus”, but it is one hell of a chorus – pun intended.  Unfortunately the ballad that follows, “A Thousand Shades”, is a throwaway, aside from the brilliant Jeff Beck guitar solo.  One of the Hawkins co-penned tracks called “Mr. Darkness” takes a minute to get going, seemingly a song about fan letters that Ozzy once received.  It and the next two songs all feature Zakk Wylde on guitar.  Dull verses, but awesome chorus, with an awesome Sabbathy change towards the end.  The only dumb part is the silly ending where Ozzy speaks, “You don’t even know my name you asshole.”  Just…no.

“Nothing Feels Right” is another ballad, very Ozzmosis-y.  Decent song, good chorus, with all the production bells and whistles.  It really smokes during the solo section.  Another Sabbathy sounding riff emerges on “Evil Shuffle” and it really seems clear that Andrew Watt is trying to channel Geezer Butler’s bass playing on this album.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  Then it’s the much-hyped “Degradation Rules” with Tony Iommi, a song about masturbation, but not as good as the prior Iommi song.  The main hook here is Ozzy’s harmonica playing, a great throwback to “The Wizard”.

“Dead and Gone” is a deep cut highlight, with a latter-day Priest-like groove and lots of Zakk Wylde chunk.  An album highlight buried way in the back end.  Finally, “God Only Knows” is the last proper song, but unfortunately sort of a last gasp rather than a late highlight.  Kind of a ballad, with lush backing vocals, but not a “Road to Nowhere” kind of late album winner.

The outro music, “Darkside Blues”, appears to be a remix of the original version from Ordinary Man‘s Japanese release.  You can compare the waveforms below.  It’s a swampy track with more of Ozzy’s harmonica, just a coda to the album.

It’s pretty amazing at this stage of the game that Ozzy is still cranking out new music, but of course he has a huge support team behind him.  This time, the team produced an album better than the last one by a pretty fair margin.  They could have cut two tracks and made it a more engaging and concise listen.  It’s always a balancing act between giving the listener added value, or a streamlined experience.  A minor quibble at the end of the day.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man (2020 Japanese import)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Ordinary Man (2020 Epic Japanese import)

Expectations were low at LeBrain HQ for a new album by Ozzy Osbourne.  In that regard, Ozzy delivered.  Ordinary Man is an ordinary album.  It is Hard Rock 2020 distilled down to 50 minutes.  Nothing on this album comes close to challenging anything from the first six Ozzy albums.  It’s most comparable to 2001’s Down to Earth, an overly-modern affair put together by suits.

This time out, the suits assembled a band consisting of Duff McKagan (GN’R) on bass, Chad Smith (RHCP) on drums, and Andrew Watt (California Breed) on guitar.   These guys, plus a smattering of strangers, are responsible for the songwriting.  The melodies are very deliberate and calculated rather than natural sounding.  While things with Zakk Wylde were getting stale, at least Zakk tried to keep Ozzy on track.  I’m not sure Ozzy is on track here.  “I’ll make you scream, I’ll make you defecate.”  Who wrote that?

The glossy production covers up some pretty stellar playing.  Watt is fantastic when soloing, but sounds a bit like he’s trying to ape the Zakk vibe.  In the vocals department, you can hear some telltale signs of autotune, which I guess is OK now in 2020.  If Paul Stanley can lipsynch live and get away with it, then Ozzy can autotune his albums.  I suppose.

Some of the better tracks include the ballads, and the surprising “Scary Little Green Men”.  This one features some awesome lickity-licks from Tom Morello.  Slash appears elsewhere, not sounding at all like Slash.  The single “Under the Graveyard” is not bad.  The worst track has to be “It’s a Raid”, possibly an outtake from Blink 182’s Neighborhoods CD.

Elton John sings on one track, and it’s not bad at all, sounding like a classic Ozzy ballad from the 1990s.  I didn’t recognise Reginald Dwight’s voice at first.  It’s deeper these days.  Regarding Post Malone, he’s fine, has a decent voice albeit also autotuned.  I don’t know what the guy sounds like without enhancement, but he sounds like he’s probably a better singer than Ozzy recently.  I could do without his song “Take What You Want”, but at least the Japanese edition of the album ends on a better note.  A blues track called “Darkside Blues” is brief, but actually sounds like something more real, more genuine.

Think about your favourite Ozzy albums.  How often to do you spin Blizzard, Diary, or Tears?  Now think about how often you play Down to Earth, Black Rain, and Scream.  In two years’ time, you’ll be spinning Ordinary Man about as often as Black Rain, but you won’t be getting Wylde.

2/5 stars

REVIEW: Chickenfoot – “Divine Termination” (2017 single)

CHICKENFOOT – “Divine Termination” (2017 Edel coloured 7″ single)

For a band with only two albums, Chickenfoot sure do milk it.  After a single debut album, they did a live DVD called Get Your Buzz On.  Two albums in came a live album called Chickenfoot LV.  (Get it?  LV can mean both “live” and “55”, Sammy’s notable hit.)  Then another package called Best + Live, mixing the “greatest hits” with a new song and an audio release of Get Your Buzz On — which, by the way, was mined for five songs already on the previous LV album!

It’s all too much.  We like Chickenfoot here; really we do, but enough is enough.  Instead of buying all that stuff, we decided to just go for a 7″ single for the one “new” song called “Divine Termination”.  That seemed the most logical purchasing option, all things considered.  It’s a nicely packaged 45, on clear pink coloured vinyl.  The side A label depicts Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony.  Side B has Joe Satriani and Chad Smith.  It feels nice and heavy in hand.

Unfortunately, it’s not all rose-coloured.  These guys had five years to come up with one good new song.  “Divine Termination” is not it.  Although it does have a neat, vintage sounding Deep Purple riff, the Chickenfoot hooks and harmonies are missing.  The chorus has no meat.  “Divine Termination” is forgettable even though Joe Satriani plays as brilliantly as ever.

On the flipside is another release of “Highway Star”, the Deep Purple cover.  It’s available on Best + Live, but its first issue was on Re-Machined, the Deep Purple tribute album.  Too bad the B-side isn’t something exclusive, but it does blow away the A-side.  Listen to Joe somehow make his guitar resemble Jon Lord’s Hammond Organ.

Maybe Chickenfoot were too creatively spent after years of solo and other projects to come up with a memorable new song.  There’s talk of a third Chickenfoot album in the future.  If so, it has to be better than “Divine Termination”.

2/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Derek Smalls – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging)

DEREK SMALLS – Smalls Change (Meditations Upon Aging) (2018 BMG)

So very desperately, I wanted this to be good.  Alas, it is very very remotely far from anything good.  It’s not the line between clever and stupid; it’s just foul smelling putridity.  Spinal Tap’s bassist Derek Smalls, who might be best known for his “Jazz Odyssey”, cannot hold a tune.  There must be a reason why Smalls sings the fewest lead vocals of the three Spinal Tap members.  He’s all but unlistenable.

The gimmick on Smalls Change is twofold.  It’s a collection of songs about getting old, which is a crappy concept to start with.  There is nothing wrong with songs that have some life experience, but who wants to listen to a tune about an MRI?  Who wants to think about it all?  The second gimmick is the roster of guests:  old fogie buddies like David Crosby, Steve Lukather, Paul Shaffer, and so on.  There are few somewhat younger folks here too, such as Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriani, Chad Smith, and Phil X.  But the guest stars can’t save it.  Admittedly, the lyrics are sometimes funny.  “Butt Call” is about butt dialing!  “Nobody speaks, handset by the cheeks.”  “Memo to Willie” is about erectile disfunction (get it?), a subject I’m sure you like singing about as well.  Then there’s “Gummin’ the Gash” which you can figure out for yourself.

The biggest problem is the voice, which is a cross between a garbage disposal and Otto the bus driver.*  No amount of Spinal Tap references can save it.  When the singer cannot sing, then Houston we have a problem.  And the thing goes on for 14 tuneless tracks!  An hour of gargling words out in an English accent.  Without a David St. Hubbins or a Nigel Tufnel to carry the melody, Smalls is sunk.  When there is an actual melody, that is.

We sadly have to proclaim Smalls Change as the worst, most unlistenable album of 2018.  Clearly, a lot of time and money went into making it, but don’t invest any of yours.

1/5 stars

* Yes, of course we know that Derek Smalls is played by Simpsons actor Harry Shearer.  If Otto was British, this could have been his album.

 

REVIEW: Glenn Hughes – Resonate (2016 Japanese version)

scan_20170131-4GLENN HUGHES – Resonate (2016 Frontiers Japan)

Glenn Hughes has been consistently prolific since a mid-90s comeback.  Lean, clean n’ mean, Glenn Hughes has reclaimed his title as The Voice of Rock.  His latest solo album Resonate made numerous top albums of 2016 lists.  The only reason he didn’t make ours is that we were holding out to get the Japanese version with the exclusive track.  In Japan they call him “The God of Voice” and this CD easily demonstrates why.

It is pointless to break this CD down song by song.  They are all incredible.  They represent the kind of hard rock that Deep Purple made famous: riffs, heavy organ, and incredible lead vocals.  In the Deep Purple days, it seemed Glenn’s soulful croon didn’t always fit in with heavy rock, which made them that more unique.  Today, Glenn sounds at home.  Resonate is consistently heavy, and impressive at every turn.  There are no big star names in his band, but Glenn’s old buddy Chad Smith from Red Hot Chili Peppers has two guest shots:  “Heavy” and “Long Time Gone”, the opener and closer on the standard tracklist.  Smith is always a joy to listen to, and when he works with Glenn, it’s the heaviest Chad Smith gets.  Glenn on bass and Chad on drums:  it seldom gets better than that.

Everyone will pick their own favourites, but one that we can’t put down is “Landmines”.  The funky electric boogie is one of the album highlights; a real hard rock dance number to get down to.  On “Landmines”, Glenn’s current self meets his 70s persona.  That should create a time travel paradox, but it doesn’t.  All it fuels is one hell of a boogie woogie oogie.  Runner up:  “Steady”.  But any of these songs can slide in and out of the top spot on a given day.

The Japanese bonus track is an acoustic version of the ballad “When I Fall”.  In some respects it’s better than the album version, but it’s all just a matter of taste.  The Zeppelin-like mellotron is delightful.  The only bummer is that the Japanese version doesn’t have the song “Nothing’s the Same”.  That’s OK; the domestic version of Resonate has that and a bonus DVD.  It’s a killer acoustic cover of a lesser known Gary Moore song, and it is worth buying the album again for.  It doesn’t matter which version you go for.  Resonate kills.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Chickenfoot – Chickenfoot (CD/DVD set)

CHICKENFOOT_0001CHICKENFOOT – Chickenfoot (2009 Redline CD/DVD reissue)

This reissue of the fantastic debut Chickenfoot CD is a decent but imperfect repackage. The music is so good, I can’t stay mad about the double-dip. You can get this cheap if you hunt, so keep that in mind. First let’s talk about the music, before we get into the reissue.

I will go out on a limb and call this the best album Sammy Hagar had made in many years, and better than most (if not any) Van Hagar album. Part of the reason is the performances by this cast of pros (Sammy, Joe Satriani, Michael Anthony, Chad Smith), and part of the reason is solid songwriting. What’s left is youthful energy, which this band of old dudes has plenty of.

The first obvious highlight for me was the glorious return of the Van Hagar harmony vocals. Michael Anthony was responsible for a lot of that in Van Halen, and it was just a joy to hear him harmonizing with Sammy again. Close your eyes and you’d think you’re listening to some lost Halen track circa For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge. Then you recognize those warm Satriani guitar tones and tricks. Finally you hear Chad Smith on the drums, making it all sound easy. This actually sounds like a real band.

Highlights: The single “Oh Yeah”, “Sexy Little Thing”, “Runnin’ Out” (definite sounds like a long lost Halen tune), “My Kinda Girl” (my kinda chorus!), and “Turnin’ Left” (which just grooves).  “Bitten By The Wolf” has this bluesy Satriani-circa-Flying kind of vibe.  There are no weak songs, and nothing which doesn’t fit the direction of this band.  There’s no point going song by song.  Each one features the stellar playing, singing and melody that you would expect for this band of pros.  Satch’s tone is rich, beautiful and perfect.  This is most definitely hard rock.  There’s nothing too wussy about Chickenfoot.  Even the ballad “Learning to Fall” has the integrity of an outtake from Flying in a Blue Dream.  It’s hard not to enjoy something with Joe Satriani on guitar!

“Bitten By The Wolf”, of course, was the original bonus track on the vinyl and download versions of Chickenfoot. Now you can get it on a proper CD with this two-disc reissue. In addition you get an hour long DVD. This disc contains a couple fun music videos, interviews with each guy, and some excellent live stuff. Two things I noticed right away on the live stuff: One, Joe plays a lot more solos. Watching him play is a real treat. I’ve never seen Joe play up close on a DVD before. My God this man’s fingers move fast. Plus he’s entertaining as a showman. Two, Chad Smith is great to watch. On CD he makes it all sound easy. On DVD he makes it all look easy. This tower of a man just locks in and powers through. Awesome to watch. No wonder he is so in-demand with everybody from the Dixie Chicks on down.

Of note:  There are many who do not like this album as much as I.  Craig Fee from 107.5 Dave FM told me that this record was “disappointing, like seeing an all Toronto Maple Leafs NHL All-Star team, standing there in their blue jerseys.”

I only had two disappointments. One, the original CD had no booklet, only a link to download a pdf file. That remains so on this edition. I would have loved a booklet. Two, the original also had this awesome heat-sensitive packaging. The cover was almost entirely black, but when you placed your warm hand on it, pictures of the band members appeared. That packaging is not a part of this edition. Instead, the black has been replaced with white and now you can see the pictures unobscured. Two very small qualms. I still own the original CD and a vinyl copy to boot, so it’s not a big deal to me.

Get your buzz on!

5/5 stars