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.
You could tell Mrs. Powers didn’t like Elton John, and why.
I was just beginning my exploration of rock and roll, at a very young age. I knew who Elton John was. He had at least two songs that I knew and liked: “Sad Songs Say So Much” and “I’m Still Standing”. Although in the 80s he had toned down his image, my mom explained that he used to be known for his crazy hats and glasses.
I don’t know how Elton John came up, that day in Catholic school. It was grade 7 or 8, so 1985 or 1986. Powers was strict and believed in public shaming. Like the time she said “Shame on you!” to me for choosing a non-Catholic highschool, in front of everyone. My sister had Powers a few years later, and got in shit in front of the class because she wasn’t as good at math as (presumably) her dad, who was a bank manager. She was just a nasty teacher.
However Elton’s name came up that day, it doesn’t particularly matter. What I remember was what Mrs. Powers said about him: “And I don’t care that he’s BI-SEXUAL.” Emphasis on that “BI-SEXUAL” part. The immediate undertone was that she did care, very much, or she wouldn’t have brought it up. And her feelings on the matter were in the negative.
Questions swirled in my head. Elton John, the guy with the glasses and hats — was bisexual? Most importantly, what the fuck did that even mean?
If you think Catholic school sex-ed curriculum covered things such as bisexuality, or even homosexuality, you’d be sorely mistaken. She dropped that word, “bisexual” in a sentence and didn’t elaborate. My immediate assumption (and you can see how I got there in my thinking) was that Elton John probably had both genitalia. It’s not like I was going to raise my hand and ask.
I don’t know how many years I went about my life, thinking that Elton John had both a wiener and a vagina. But I did, and it was because of a Catholic school teacher. Nice, eh? In many regards, although I went to class every day like anyone else, I think I was largely homeschooled until I got to highschool. I learned more about history, science, and the arts at home thanks to my mom and dad. At a young age, I was watching Carl Sagan’s Cosmos with my dad, and listening to early Canadian rock and folk music with my mom.
The second takeaway from this story is the negative tone when Mrs. Powers said “BI-SEXUAL” like that. I don’t need to explain how that just reinforces negative stereotypes.
The irony of course is that, bisexual or not, Elton John has been with his husband David Furnish for over 25 years, and they have proven to be model parents to their two kids. I wonder if Mrs. Powers has since changed her tune on Elton John.
How rock and roll are shoes? Not very. But certainly some rock bands have had some exceptional footwear over the years. The wild, multi coloured cowboy boots of Poison, Cinderella, Bon Jovi, and the gang…remember those?
In a world where image matters, you needed a cool pair of shoes to complete the look. Glam rock bands went with cowboy boots, while thrashers and punks tended to go for skate shoes. But who has the best shoes in rock?
Robert Plant? For reals? Yes, for reals! Robert is about the only rock star to make sandals cool. Sandals are about as un-rock as shoes can get. But if you’re Robert Plant, it matters not. A bare-chested long-haired blonde blues screamer in sandals is still rock and roll. The sheer un-rock-ness of sandals combined with Robert Plant makes them infinitely rock and roll.
You might not consider her very rock, but she did perform with Metallica. Her outrageous footwear hasn’t caused her any broken ankles…yet. Hiking in high heels? Why not. She’s done that. In a Gaga world, anything goes.
Before there was Kiss, there was Elton John. People remember the outfits, wigs and glasses, but don’t forget the silver platform kicks!
I had my own pair of goth platform boots in the Record Store days. I remember I had them delivered right to the store, because I was never home to receive packages. When they arrived one of the bosses asked “Where do you think you’re going to wear those?!” Fuck you, that’s where! The boots were the centerpiece of my Paul Stanley costume.
At work, running shoes were the most comfortable. We were not allowed to sit, so you had to stand for your whole seven hour shift. The first time, it takes a little getting used to. After that you’re golden, but comfy kicks are the key. Lady Gaga could not work a shift at the Record Store.
When I was hit with a 12 hour shift, which was more frequent than you might imagine, I discovered that changing your shoes halfway through the shift helped. I’d bring a spare pair with me and change at the middle point of the day. It helped with the pain and felt like a fresh burst of energy.
Today I have a pair of heavy steel-toed boots at work and they’re great for the leg muscles. They are nice heavy shoes. Walk around in those all day and you will build some pretty awesome leg muscles. Not very rock and roll, but definitely heavy metal.
ERIC DANVILLE – The Official Heavy Metal Book of Lists (2009 Backbeat Books)
“Official”? How the hell does anyone claim to publish an “official” heavy metal book of lists? Maybe by getting Lemmy Kilmister to write your forward, perhaps? That will do for a start. Using the KISS font and putting a great illustration on your front cover always go a long way to looking “official”. That “parental advisory” stamp in the corner is the final touch.
This book is tremendous fun. I generally don’t go for “list” books. Mrs. LeBrain bought this book for Christmas one year, because she thought it looked cool. Always grateful, I gave it a shot. You will always have your own favourites to add to any list, but this book isn’t really like that.
These lists are far more entertaining, interesting, and page-turning than “top 10” this or that. For example:
The PMRC’s infamous “Filthy 15” songs and their ratings.
15 metal bands who got their name from J.R.R. Tolkien. I for one didn’t know that Burzum was an Orcish word for “darkness”. (And yes, Marillion is on this list.)
Oderus Urungus’ 10 sickest things to ever happen at a GWAR show. A fan in excruciating pain because he got his hair caught in Beefcake the Mighty’s tuning pegs had to have it cut on stage.
8 heavy metal songs the government has used to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. “Enter Sandman”? Really? Do terrorists hate the Black album too?
19 unlikely heavy metal pairings. Unfortunately, I do remember when Lil’ Kim appeared on Tommy Lee’s first album by Methods of Mayhem.
9 non-metal artists who do a song called “Heavy Metal”. Miles Davis!
12 people who found themselves on the business end of Sharon Osbourne. Elton John tried to bed the same man as Sharon, so she drove to his house, shit on his driveway, and then smeared the shit all over Elton’s Rolls.
Then there are lists assembled by people that some may have heard of. A porn director named Matt Zane lists 25 metalheads who were in porn movies. Twiggy Ramirez is somebody I never want to see naked. Then porn star Jasmin St. Claire lists 20 reasons that metal dudes and metal girls are so hot. Sasha Grey lists her 16 favourite metal albums, and she has some heavy tastes (she loves Rollins).
The book is rounded out by fun caricatures by Cliff Mott. He makes it pretty easy to identify the rock stars he’s depicting. Lemmy kind of looks like Lemmy no matter how you draw him.
RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #360: CHYM FM
In the beginning of my job at United Rentals, they had the radio set to local lite-rock station CHYM FM. It is a horrible station, unless you enjoy old Daughtry and Taylor Swift ballads coupled with the biggest hits by the dulcet Lady Gaga. Why, just the other day I was in my dentist’s office. They have CHYM on the radio, and I was treated to some “Bad Romance” by Miss Gaga. That’s dreadful enough, but the squeaky, bubbly on-air personalities are way too much for me to handle. Apparently this was also the case nine years ago when I started at United, according to this 2006 journal entry. We switched stations to Dave FM shortly thereafter. Thank fuck! CHYM TIME journal entry below.
Date: 2006/11/17 17:04
“96 minutes of continuous light rock…for your workday!”
That phrase, friends, is the sound of being welcomed into HELL!
Dear CHYM FM: This is something that I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time. Here it is. Sorry if I’m being rather harsh, but you had this coming.
#1. Nobody needs to hear three Kelly Clarkson songs in one day. Nor do we need three of Jann Arden, Chantal Kreviazuk, Celine Dion, or any other of these wonderful light-rock songstresses.
#2. Lionel Richie has a long, illustrious career. I’m pretty sure he has more than one song. Why then, do you insist on playing the same damn song of his every single day?
#3. Same goes with Elton John.
#4. Tara, from the morning George and Tara Show, is too fucking perky. She’s like a fucking toothpaste commercial! I don’t need that shit at 8:30 am before my coffee.
And finally #5. Why do you call your station “today’s light rock”? Are you not aware that Jann Arden hasn’t had a hit in over a decade?
JON BON JOVI – Blaze of Glory: Inspired by the film Young Guns II (1990 Mercury)
Billy the Kid was a fascinating character. Perhaps he was the embodiment of the Old West itself: a charismatic outlaw, who reportedly had a hair trigger temper but also a heart of gold. Unfortunately, the film Young Guns II seems more about a person called Brushy Bill, rather than William H. McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney, but best known as Billy the Kid. Having killed his first man at 18, the Kid earned his nickname with his boyish looks. He looked nothing at all like his screen counterpart Emilio Estevez, but it’s because of Emilio that Jon Bon Jovi recorded the soundtrack to Young Guns II.
A popular theory from the 1990’s was that Billy the Kid was not killed by Sheriff Patrick Frank Garrett in 1881. In 1948, a character called Brushy Bill Roberts emerged claiming to be the Kid, alive and well. There was enough facial resemblance, and also sworn statements from five people who knew the Kid. Roberts never proved that he was actually William McCarty, and today historians have dismissed his claims due to the number of facts that do not match (such as dates of birth). Young Guns II, the film, operated on the popular theory that Billy survived, and that he faked his death with the help of Pat Garrett.
In fact Garrett did shoot the Kid and lived a life of shame afterwards, as the details of the shooting of the popular Kid didn’t paint him in a positive light. Oddly enough, Garrett himself was shot and killed in 1908 by a rancher named Jesse Wayne Brazel, in New Mexico. The interesting coincidence about this is Brazel was uncle to a Mac Brazel, also a rancher in New Mexico, near the town of Roswell. It was on his ranch that something strange (almost certainly an actual UFO) crashed and was covered up. It is an amusing intersection of two of the great folk tales in American history.
Billy the Kid. Source: Wikipedia
Pat Garrett. Source: Wikipedia
So along came this movie. Emilio Estevez asked Jon Bon Jovi if they could use “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in the film. Jon declined and said, “The lyrics don’t make sense. That song is about touring, let me write you something more appropriate to the old west and Billy the Kid.” This turned into an entire album. Essentially Blaze of Glory is not a soundtrack album (since none of Jon’s songs are in the movie until the end credits) but a concept album based on the film.
The album begins with a snippet of dialogue: “Yoo-hoo!” says Emilio/Billy. “I’ll make ya famous.” A gunshot and the song “Billy Get Your Guns” begins. That’s Kenny Aranoff on drums in case you were wondering. “Billy Get Your Guns” isn’t a hard rock song like Bon Jovi was doing at the time. But it’s still rock and roll, featuring some great slide guitar riffing by Waddy Wachtel. Jon’s voice is young, strong and loud. It’s a sound I miss. I think it’s impossible to dislike the excellent “Billy Get Your Guns”, especially when topped by a Jeff Beck guitar solo, who plays on pretty much the whole album. (The album also features two Journey bassists: Randy Jackson and Bob Glaub.)
Jeff even appeared in the music video for “Miracle”, the hit ballad from the album. The lovely accordion and spare arrangement gives it quite a different feel from old Bon Jovi ballads. Once again I am reminded that Jon once possessed quite a powerful voice. It’s also worth noting that Jon wrote every song himself.
“William H. Bonney, you are not a god.” – Keifer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock
“Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.” – Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid
I still love “Blaze of Glory”. It’s timeless, more so than a lot of Bon Jovi’s hits from the time — “Bad Medicine” and so forth. I remember seeing Aldo Nova on TV playing the riff on an acoustic guitar, and it is perfect in its classic simplicity. Aldo is one of Jon’s oldest friends and he plays on the whole album as well. This dynamite hit song has become so loved that Bon Jovi play it live and included it on their greatest hits compilations, even though only Jon was part of it. Jeff Beck’s smoking solo is as much part of the song as Jon is. I cannot understate how great this song is. From quiet acoustic strumming to bombastic aplomb, the song is a great achievement.
“Blood Money” is a short ballad, with spare acoustics, tambourine and accordion. Jon sings as Billy the Kid, directly to Pat Garrett. Historically we don’t know if Garrett and McCarty were friends as they are portrayed in the film, but likely they were not. Regardless, even though the lyrics are implausible historically, it is still a powerful little song.
This leads into “Santa Fe”, which is from the perspective of Doc Scurlock. You want epic? Look no further. An album highlight, “Santa Fe” boasts strings, powerful Aranoff beats, and Jon’s most vivid lead vocal. If it had been on a Bon Jovi album, I think it would be regarded as highly as a song like “Dry County” which it resembles slightly.
Side two opened with Lou Diamond Phillips (Chavez y Chavez in the film) singing a native chant. The song “Justice in the Barrel” refers of course to the barrel of a gun, and Jeff Beck’s playing in the opening reminds us why he is one of rock’s most legendary gunslingers. The song however is more laid back, a slow rock groove. “Never Say Die” is the most straightforward rocker on the album, and it features Robbin Crosby of Ratt on electric guitar. This song most closely resembles Bon Jovi, the band, even lyrically. It is followed by a song that sounds nothing at all like them, and also my favourite: “You Really Got Me Now”. From first listen, way back in 1990, to today, this is a song that always puts a smile on my face. Imagine Jon Bon and Little Richard building a time machine, travelling back to 1881, and jamming in a saloon. That’s “You Really Got Me Now”. Richard plays piano and sings the second verse, and I love it. It’s a shame this little tune is only 2 1/2 minutes long, but I guess it was a bit of a novelty.
“Bang a Drum” is a pleasant soft soul rock anthem, but the Hammond organ and Jeff Beck help maintain its integrity. The soul comes from the backing vocals of Julia and Maxine Waters. This is the climax; the denoument is “Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Livin'”. The delicate piano is provided by one Elton John (before he would become Sir). Elton also joins Jon on backing vocals. “All this fame don’t bring ya freedom,” sings Jon, a line that may apply to a rock star life as well as an outlaw. The powerful song is a natural ending to a story such as this.
There’s a brief coda, an orchestral piece from the movie by composer Alan Silvestri called “Guano City”. I always wondered why this piece (as good as it is, sounding like some of John Williams’ more exciting segments) was on the album. Nevertheless, there it is, and the album is done.
Jon was very emphatic in stating that Blaze of Glory was not his true solo album. It was 10 songs written specifically for a movie, to fit that movie. His solo album would come seven years later with Destination Anywhere, but first it was time to get Bon Jovi, the band, back on track. This began with a 1991 live performance of “Blaze of Glory” at the Academy Awards, by the full Bon Jovi band, augmented by additional guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Danny Kortchmar.
If you consider solo albums and soundtracks as part of the overall catalog, Blaze of Glory still clocks in as one of my absolute favourites.
QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE – …Like Clockwork (2013 Matador)
Yeah, I’m one of those jaded pricks who “only liked Queens when Nick was in the band.” I bought the other albums too, but of those only the live CD really did anything for me. Until now. I really …Like Clockwork! It succeeds completely at taking the Queens down a somewhat quieter and more mature road, while maintaining every ounce of their integrity. They are still sometimes heavy, experimental and haunting. But now they are almost always melodic, too.
Opener “Keep Your Eyes Closed” starts off somewhat slowly, but morphs into a bizarre Queens-meet-Alice in Chains concoction. It’s actually the one song on the album that I didn’t like on first listen. Imagine my delight in finding that I liked the rest of the album much more!
The most immediate song is second: “I Sat by the Ocean”. I put it in a category with songs like “If Only Everything”; it’s memorable on first listen. “The Vampire of Time and Memory” is a space-age blues, but with some Queen-like moments (Queen, not Queens). Josh’s understated vocals are classy and the keyboards create atmosphere rather than distract.
Next, the strangely-titled “If I Had a Tail” could have been released in 1981, or 1983, some time during the New Wave movement. If I heard this on the radio, I’d think it was an 80’s band. Only the occasional blasts of electric guitar remind me that this is 2013. Here’s the cool thing — this track reunites the Songs For the Deaf lineup in a way. Homme is joined by Dave Grohl on drums (who appears on several tracks), as well as Mark Lanegan and Nick Oliveri on backing vocals.
“My God is the Sun” is one of the tunes that sound the most like vintage QOTSA, and it is also one of the songs featuring Dave Grohl on drums. It has some serious heaviness to it, as well as that stuttering, stammering Queens vibe. All topped by the smoove as glass Joshe Homme vocals.
“Kalopsia” is a weird underwater easy jazz slow dance. Trent Reznor duets, and suddenly its an explosive Bowie number. Great tune. “Fairweather Friends” has piano. O, it has piano alright — by Elton freakin’ John! There’s also lots of rich guitar. It even feels Zeppelin-y at times. Maybe JPJ rubbed off on Josh a bit? Then things get funky on “Smooth Sailing”, but it’s a heavy funk with Homme in vocal falsetto. Fucked-up Disco? Sure, why not. The guitar solo is pure noisy heaven, but Grohl’s heavy hitting keeps it in the world of rock.
Soft guitars and a whispery Homme introduce a song called “I Appear Missing”. It’s hauntingly powerful, and dramatic. The guitar work here is incredible and intense. It’s also perfect as the penultimate track on a strong album such as this. And when your second last song is as intense as “I Appear Missing”, then it’s often wise to end the album with something quiet. “Like Clockwork” exists as simply piano and Homme for a couple minutes, Josh using his voice is ways I’ve never heard before. Instruments build, and it’s a beautiful sunset-stained closer.
I don’t know what Josh was thinking in terms of the packaging. I know he likes the colour red. I got that part. But all you get is a slipcase, a jewel case and a little card cover inside with minimal credits. It says to go to quotsa.com for “extended credits”. I paid for a physical copy, you’d think they could at least print the credits.
Musically? 5/5 stars. With this and Sabbath already upon us, I have two contenders for album of the year so far.
1.“This is going to be worth a lot of money, one day.” Said in regards to Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind” remake single. Yeah. He sold about a zillion of them, which people bought multiple copies of (one to play and one to keep sealed!) and now are in every bargain bin across the continent…usually at 99 cents.
2. Phil Lynott proclaimed that “Tonight there’s gonna be a jailbreak, somewhere in this town.” One day while listening to this track at work, Neil retorted: “Somewhere in this town? Maybe they should start by checking at the jail.”
3. A wave of the hand. “You don’t need to see my identification.” This Jedi mind trick was cast upon me (jokingly, I assure you) by a witty young man after I asked him for ID while selling CDs. Fortunately, I am a Headbanger. Mind tricks do not work on me!
4.“I’m buying two CD’s. Do I get a discount?” Two discs? Really?
5. I came home from work one day with a CD sized bag in my hand. My very frugal father said to me (in “that tone”), “What did you go and waste your money on this time?” I said, “Dad, it’s the new album by Kiss!” His classic response: “Kiss? Don’t you already have them?”
I don’t know why he’s flapping his arms
6. While we’re on my dad. During the Pepsi Power Hour, he used to like to stroll into the living room, heads clasped to his ears in mock agony, and say, “What’s wrong with that man on the TV? He’s screaming like he’s in pain! Does he have appendicitis?”
7. Finally, my dad has a penchant for mispronouncing the names of things he dislikes. For example, “Who is this Lady Googoo person I see on TV?”
8.A guy in a green suit carrying a briefcase walked up to the counter. “I have to go to court tomorrow and I want some music to get me psyched up. Do you have the Clockwork Orange soundtrack?” (Same guy who, another time, asked us, “Do you like the drugs?”)
9.Some questions don’t bug you so much, unless the same person asks the same question over and over again. One guy kept asking me, “Do you have Black Sabbath, 1991?” I’d tell him that there is no such album. In fact 1991 was the first year in several that Sabbath failed to release an album. “Do you have Black Sabbath, 1991?” No! Nobody has it, because that’s a made up name!
10.“Hello, it’s Matt’s mother, would Matt be available?” This perfectly innocent question was asked of one of our new guys, Chris. Chris responded, “Yeah, he’s outside having a smoke, I’ll go get him.” Problem: Matt’s mother did not know he smoked!
1. “LARS! Stop that!” Said by a long-haired dad, to his rat-tailed little brat kid. The dad was wearing a Metallica shirt.
2. “Can you fix this CD?” We were presented a copy of disc 4 of the Led Zeppelin box set, almost snapped completely in half, so massive was the crack. For the record, if anyone’s curious: NO! You can’t fix a CD with a crack in it!
3. “Do you want to see a picture of me, dressed up as Snake Eyes, from G.I. Joe?” I really wish I could remember the context of this one!
4. “Do you have any nice music for the kids? Not that Backstreet Boys shit. We don’t like that black music.” Do I really need to comment?
5. I was buying a large quantity of discs from a lady, but she really wasn’t happy with the offer. The CD that I was paying the highest for happened to be an Elton John disc, Yellow Brick Road. One of the lady’s kids asked, “Mommy, why is he paying the most for that one?” The mother points at me and says, “Probably because he’s a fruit.”
6. Little known fact: 4 out of every 5 parents shopping in CD stores don’t watch their kids. Surprised? I bet you’re not! This one bad parent wasn’t watching as his kid systematically pulled every CD down from an entire section and threw them in a big pile on the floor. I was at the register and the section was not visible to me, and with the kid being so small I didn’t see anybody over there. When I saw him, I said, “Oh, no!” The dad looked over and said, “No big deal, it’s only a couple of discs. You’ll have them back up there in no time.” Perhaps, but doing it in alphabetical order took 4 hours.
7. “Can I light up in here?” Again, no comment required.
8. “What the fuck did you do to your head?” Said to me by a guy after I bleached my hair blonde the first time. (Can’t actually blame him on this one. It was memorable.)
9. “How much would it cost to buy every CD in here?” This very odd question was asked numerous times over the years by curious children. Why? I’m not really sure.
10. “Do you want to buy a picture of me with Phil Donahue?” Said to me, once again, by Snake the Tattoo Man.