Diary of a Madman

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

Advertisements

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive single)

FLYING HIGH AGAIN_0003

OZZY OSBOURNE – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive)

Here’s something of an underappreciated item.  Everybody knows that Ozzy and Sharon re-recorded the drums and bass on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman back in 2002.  In retrospect this was a shrewd move despite the fan backlash.  In Lucas-esque fashion, it enabled them to restore the original versions for much-hyped reissues in 2011.  To usher in these new/old releases, Record Store Day shoppers were able to buy a replica original “Flying High Again” single.

Both the reissue and the original 1981 single featured the B-side, “I Don’t Know”, recorded live at an unspecified gig.  Like Diary of a Madman itself, this B-side had its bass and drums re-recorded in 2002.  It is difficult to hear the differences, but listen to the bass tracks right around the 2:10 minute mark.  Where Bob Daisley plays lots of interesting harmonics, the re-recorded version has Rob Trujillo hitting the lows.  The bass parts are very different.

DIARY_0001

The credits on the 2002 edition of Diary indicate all tracks, “live” one included, were remixed with new bass and drums.

When Diary was reissued in 2011, it did not include this B-side, but instead an entire (different) concert on a bonus CD. Therefore the original version of the “I Don’t Know” B-side remains a vinyl exclusive.  Cool.  I am not sure why this was not advertised on the single sleeve or in the media.  In fact, I’ve owned this single for two years without putting 2 + 2 together.  The “Flying High Again” vinyl single is the only place you can get the original, untampered “I Don’t Know” live B-side!

For that reason alone:

5/5 stars

But is this worth $12 as per the price tag?  That’s one thing that bugs me about these singles today.  I understand that manufacturing costs have changed and it’s a niche item, but still!  $12 for one song.    One song, because they were going to sell us all “Flying High Again” itself on the Diary reissue, as advertised on the front.

Price: 2/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – iTunes Festival London 2010 / “How?” (iTunes exclusives)

Today, T-Rev, Wes and I are attending The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale in Mississauga, Ontario. Wish us luck in our musical quests! For today, an Ozzy rarities review.

OZZY OZBOURNE – iTunes Festival 2010 (iTunes exclusive EP)

Jesus Murphy!  How much live product does Ozzy need?  Remember back in the 80’s when he used to moan and moan about record companies who wanted to release live stuff with his hits and Sabbath tunes?  Well, for a guy who complained about it, he sure didn’t break the cycle.

This is Ozzy’s third live EP (after Live E.P. and Just Say Ozzy).  For those keeping score, Ozzy also has four full length or double live albums, a live bonus disc to the Diary of a Madman album, and several live bonus tracks.  But who’s keeping track?  I guess it’s kind of cool that this EP was released three days after it was recorded on July 3, 2010…if you were there…or even knew it was happening…I guess.

Anyway this live EP was cool at least because it was the first live product available with Ozzy’s new guitar wizard Gus G.  The band was rounded out by Blasko (bass), Tommy Clufetos (drums) and Adam Wakeman (keys).  Hmm, didn’t two of those guys also play on the last Black Sabbath tour?

It’s entertaining enough, but any Ozzy live product in the last 20 years has felt like “just another live album” to me.  Even with the new lineup on this one, I can’t feel too excited.  At least I got one song that I didn’t have any live versions of:  the new “Let Me Hear You Scream”.  Oh, wait, hold on — another live version was on the Scream tour edition that was released a few months later!  Jesus!  This iTunes version sound like it has loads of taped backing vocals.  Too bad.

“Mr. Crowley” is next, a fine version, nothing wrong with it, after all these years nothing can compete with the version on Randy Rhoads Tribute.  Gus G plays the solo pretty much perfectly, but something’s missing.  Maybe it’s that the song is tuned down for Ozzy’s voice.  Ozzy reminds us that he wants to see “some fuckin’ hands”.  Another Blizzard of Ozz track follows, “I Don’t Know”.  Gus G gets to do some more original shredding here, as he puts his own spin on an Ozzy classic.  This guy will be a guitarist to watch, as he grows.

“Suicide Solution” is the third of three tracks from Blizzard.  I think it’s a shame that Ozzy keeps playing the oldies while leaving more recent songs behind him.  On this EP, only “Let Me Hear You Scream” is newer than 1991.  I for one would probably poop if I got to hear something like “Perry Mason” or “Trap Door”.  At least Gus G breaks the world landspeed record with his solo.

One song I never liked, ever, is “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from No More Tears.  This is the fifth version I own now.  It’s just…I dunno…I hate the chorus.  It’s too pop for Ozzy.  It’s like Bon Ozzy, or something.  Ozz Jovi.

My favourite track is last:  “War Pigs”.  Even though “War Pigs” is on pretty much every Ozzy live album ever made, this version is one of the most fun!  I just love when Ozzy tells the audience this:

“Clap your fuckin’ hands, come on you fuckin’ assholes!”

That is just hilarious!  I always laugh.  When I put this song on mix discs, I always label it “War Pigs (‘You fuckin’ assholes’ version)”.

OZZY OZBOURNE – “How?” (2010 iTunes single)

The last thing I want to talk about is Ozzy’s studio version of John Lennon’s “How?”.  This is also an iTunes exclusive, released in October 2010, shortly after the EP.  It was released on what would have been Lennon’s 70th birthday, with the proceeds going to Amnesty International.

Causes and good intentions aside, I think this version is just as crappy as anything on Ozzy’s dreadful Under Cover CD.  This is just…dull, boring, and not good.  I don’t know who played on it or produced it because there are no credits.  (Physical product!  This is why I care!)

iTunes Festival London 2010:  2.5/5 stars

“How?”:  1/5 stars