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.
A humorous but important message regarding the current pandemic.
For a few albums starting with their fourth record Disillusion, Loudness began recording English lyrics for outside Japan. For the Japanese versions, the lyrics are a mixture of both languages with the choruses usually sung in English. Whichever version you hear, Disillusion will satisfy your craving for memorable heavy riffs, brilliant vocals, and incredible guitar shredding.
Guitarist Akira Takasaki was considered the Japanese Eddie Van Halen and you can hear why on Disillusion. Though Loudness are heavier than Van Halen, Takasaki employs techniques similar to King Edward. Disillusion opens with the thunderous “Crazy Doctor”, on which you can hear the Van Halen chords loud and clear, though the track sounds more like heavier vintage Dokken. As outstanding as Akira is, also unmistakable is singer Minoru Niihara. The original Loudness frontman could really sing with all the necessary panache and metal inflection.
The opening guitar shreddery on the speed metal “Esper” recalls St. Edward once again, but Loudness could have given Metallica a run for their money on this one. Completely over the top! A number of fans think that Loudness softened their sound when they released their American major label debut Thunder in the East in ’85. You can understand why they think that when you hear “Esper”. However this is a balanced album, and the more melodic “Butterfly” slows things down so you can catch your breath. Unfortunately “Butterfly” is the closest thing to a mistep on this otherwise brilliant disc.
There’s a Maiden-y vibe to “Revelation” circa Piece of Mind, but not just because of the name. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Loudness were influenced by Maiden. We do know that both Loudness and Maiden were influenced by Deep Purple so there might be some convergent evolution going on.
The parallels to Sir Edward continue on side two with an instrumental called “Erupt…” err, sorry, it’s called “Exploder”. Whatever the similarities, Takasaki is an enticing guitar player and he came to public attention exactly when this kind of playing was most popular. “Exploder” blows away most of the competition. Only a handful of players could do stuff like this and they usually had names like “Rhoads” and “Halen”.
Vocals return on “Dream Fantasy”, another blazing hot metal extravaganza, with solid chorus intact. It’s worth noting that Takasaki was not alone in musical excellence. Drummer Munetaka Higuchi (R.I.P.) was a heavy-hitter who could thrash it up and come up with interesting fills. Masayoshi Yamashita has a knack for a busy, melodic bassline, though mostly holds down the fort so Akira can fly.
“Milky Way” boasts a cool, smoother style of riff and another exemplary Minoru Niihara chorus. It’s a challenging arrangement with different rhythms and textures. Loudness were not simply banging out metal riffs for your rock and roll crazy nights. They were stretching the boundaries of their abilities, playing intelligent metal like the Scorpions and Priest did in the 70s. But they also weren’t afraid of getting down n’ dirty, as they do on “Satisfaction Guaranteed”. Though you can’t tell without the lyric sheet, it’s the only song that is completely sung in English. It’s not the lyrics, but the riff that will hook you. Note the passing Maiden-esque gallop.
This version of Disillusion concludes with an epic “Ares’ Lament”. It’s a cross between early Maiden and Scorpions with a touch of darkness, with a long shadowy outro reminiscent of “Child in Time”. It’s a brilliant end to a pretty stunning album.
Disillusion is not immediate, except for “Crazy Doctor” which will hook you at first listen. It’s a busy record, so you need to give it a couple proper listens to let the riffs and hooks come to the fore. Once they do, you will uncover many elements of pleasure in the grooves within. It sounds uncompromised and is more unique than the albums that followed. It’s a fine example of metal forged in integrity.
By 1997, Ozzy had reclaimed his crown as the prince of darkness. The successful Ozzfest, including a partial Black Sabbath reunion (Mike Bordin instead of Bill Ward) had introduced Ozzy to a wave of nu-metal youngesters. Why not cap the year off with a greatest hits album? It wasn’t Ozzy’s first (1989’s Best of Ozz preceding it) but it was his first for most of the world. Incredibly, given the Ozzy camp’s ability to muck up important releases from time to time, it was a particularly good package.
The Ozzman Cometh has had a number of issues over the years, but we won’t get into the ones that came after Sharon meddled around with re-recorded tracks. Initially there was a limited edition 2 CD set and a standard single disc. The lucky fans in Japan got an expanded 2 CD set with two bonus tracks. That’s the one you see pictured here. It comes in a non-standard extra thick jewel case due to the extra Japanese booklet inside.
The big deal of this new compilation was the inclusion of recently discovered early Black Sabbath tapes — “Ozzy’s 1970 basement tapes”. Wikipedia tells us that these are actually BBC recordings: “The John Peel Sessions” of 26 April 1970. These have yet to be included on any Sabbath deluxe, so you have to be sure to get The Ozzman Cometh to complete your Sabbath collections. “Black Sabbath” and “War Pigs” commence the set right out of the gate. These tapes are raw but clean, and Geezer Butler has remarkable presence. It’s a very sharp picture of what young Black Sabbath sounded like. The lyrics are still a work in progress for those who love such differences, but Ozzy sounds even more like a man possessed. “War Pigs” is still in its “Walpurgis” form, the “Satanic” version, and this is the clearest you will likely hear it.
Onto the hits: Ozzy’s grudge against The Ultimate Sin was apparently already in play. On the US CD, only one track from the Jake E. Lee era was included and it’s “Bark at the Moon”. In Japan, “Shot in the Dark” is substituted in replacing Zakk Wylde’s “Miracle Man”, bringing the Lee content to two. However the Randy Rhoads era is the star of the disc, with his version of “Paranoid” lifted from the Tribute album. Included are, for the most part, the expected usual Rhoads songs: “Crazy Train”, “Goodbye to Romance”, and “Mr. Crowley”, but no “I Don’t Know”. Instead it’s the more interesting “Over the Mountain”.
As for Zakk Wylde’s legacy, it’s hobbled by the missing “Miracle Man”, since “Crazy Babies” doesn’t adequately capture his madness. “No More Tears” is present as a single edit, and “Mama, I’m Coming Home” is necessary for any hits CD catering to people who just want some Ozzy songs they like. It’s unfortunate that “I Don’t Want to Change the World” from Live & Loud takes up space. The Zakk era ends with two good songs: “I Just Want You”, the excellent dark ballad from Ozzmosis, and “new” song “Back on Earth”. You had to have a new song, and according to the liner notes this was an unreleased one from the Ozzmosis era featuring Geezer Butler on bass. Fortunately it doesn’t sound like an inferior song, just one too many ballads for the album. (It’s written by Taylor Rhodes and Richie Supa.)
The second CD contains more treasure. “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” are bonus Sabbath songs from the same Peel session. Like the first two, they are crisp and probably essential to any serious fan of the original lineup.
Japan got two extra songs from movie soundtracks, enabling you to get them on an Ozzy CD. The first is the excellent “Walk on Water”, Ozzy’s only studio recording with Zakk Wylde’s replacement Joe Holmes. If you wanted to know what an Ozzy album with Holmes would have sounded like, here’s a good indication. It would have been not too dissimilar from Ozzmosis but with some really different guitar playing. Sure sounds like Mike Bordin on drums! The other soundtrack song is “Pictures of Matchstick Men” featuring Type O Negative as the backing band. It’s pretty forgettable.
The Ozzy interview from 1988 is 17 minutes of nothing special. Here’s an interesting fact for you. When stores were solicited for this album in 1997, I can distinctly remember the papers saying the interview would be a new one conducted by Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. I no longer have that piece of paper, and memory is what it is these days, but that’s what it said. For whatever reason the 1988 one was used instead. Go ahead and let me know how often you play it. You can tell it was taped in the UK, at a rehearsal or soundcheck, because you can hear Zakk wailing away in the background.
The Japanese CD also comes with a neat sticker sheet with all of Ozzy’s album artwork on it. I think the US CD has some screen savers. I’d rather have the stickers.
Ozzy and company did the greatest hits thing right and have never actually done it this well since. May as well track down a 2 CD Ozzman Cometh and get those Black Sabbath tracks you’re missing.
GETTING MORE TALE #804: Freestylin’
I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write. I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers. I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys. Just listening; not reviewing. You have to spend time just listening.
I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days. My main room music setup is seldom used anymore. Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns. Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones. It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window. Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white. It is December 20th, 2019.
I dared go to the mall today. Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock). Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission. It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless. I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack. I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.
I do know this. A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March. Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set. I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care! I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box. The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga. That’s 9 films. Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set. That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays? That’s one possibility. With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special. Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.
This Quiet Riot album is decent. I liked Jamed Durbin with that band. You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill. I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come. You can do this, Frankie. The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks. You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written. I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics. Those two are not bad. They hold up better than I thought they would. It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar. Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue. The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle. The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.
In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001). I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested. Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review. I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles. I like having B-sides.
I think I’ve rambled long enough. Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader. Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!
And may the Force be with you, always.
Part two of a two part review
How do you do a Japanese edition up right? How about including 21 bonus tracks in the form of a double live album? Get your credit cards out, folks.
Hollywood Vampires Live unfortunately lacks any English documentation, but Japanese readers might know when and where this show was recorded. It focuses on the covers with a handful of originals, the basis of the first Hollywood Vampires album. Unfortunately a few more fallen heroes have been added to the list of rock casualties, and so Lemmy and Bowie are among the stars honoured.
The original tune “Raise the Dead” (featuring an intro by the late Sir Christopher Lee) opens the show, but it’s just preamble for the better known covers. “I Got A Line On You” is the first track where you realize you’re listening to Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, The Cult) on drums. He’s unmistakable. The big surprise is that the bassist is Robert DeLeo (Stone Temple Pilots)! Alice first covered this tune back in ’88 and it sounds like it’s one of his own songs now. “20th Century Boy” has bite, a little more than the studio cut.
Alice pauses to explain the concept of the band. “We are the Hollywood Vampires,” he asserts. “We pay homage to all of our dead drunk friends. And here comes one now.” It’s Keith Moon and “Pinball Wizard”, a Who cover that was not on the Hollywood Vampires’ debut album. “My Generation” was however, and here it’s injected with the live fire of the sweaty concert stage. Jimi Hendrix is honoured next with “Manic Depression”. Joe Perry playing Jimi Hendrix. Cool. Alice Cooper has no problem jumping from style to style, expert performer that he is.
“This one’s for John,” states Alice. That would be John Lennon, with both “Cold Turkey” and “Come Together”. Joe Perry, of course, is no stranger to “Come Together” which Aerosmith scored a hit with themselves. “Come Together” is another nice bonus because it wasn’t on the Vampires album. It has a different feel from Aerosmith’s take even though it’s the same guitar player.
“Seven and Seven Is” (by Arthur Lee and Love) goes next, which is a late addition to the canon. The Vampires recorded it as an iTunes bonus track for the debut album where it remains an exclusive. The live version is a blitz; Matt Sorum’s sticks must have caught fire. Contrasting that is the band’s interpretation of “Whole Lotta Love”, with Alice and Tommy Henriksen singing lead instead of Brian Johnson.
“I met these guys in 1968. They were my best friends. And I drank a little bit with Jim Morrison…” The Doors are next to be saluted. “Five to One” and “Break On Through” kick ass; Alice really gives ‘er. David Bowie gets the nod on “Rebel Rebel” and “Suffragette City”. It all sounds natural to the Hollywood Vampires.
“As Bad As I Am” is an original song about Johnny Depp, and another track that was only on the iTunes version of Hollywood Vampires. It sounds a bit like “Reckless Life” by Guns N’ Roses. Joe Perry takes the next lead vocal on “Stop Messin’ Around”, the old Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac blues number. It’s an obvious choice since Aerosmith covered it on their 2004 blues album Honkin’ on Bobo. This one is an extended jam, far beyond what Aerosmith did with it.
“My Dead Drunk Friends” is a Vampires original, sort of their raison d’etre, that being paying tribute to Alice’s deceased drinking buddies. It pales in comparison to “Ace of Spades” (lead vocals by Henriksen), easily the heaviest song that Joe Perry’s ever played on. Possibly Alice too. Check out DeLeo on bass, doing his best Lemmy. It’s sad that Lemmy Kilmister joined the list of Rainbow regulars who didn’t make it, but holy shit, what a version!
Only now, at the end of the concert, do the Vampires roll out their own past hits. “I’m Eighteen”, “Sweet Emotion”, “Train Kept A Rollin'” and “School’s Out” sound brilliant. In particular, to hear “I’m Eighteen” with Joe Fucking Perry playing guitar? “Sweet Emotion” with Alice Cooper singing? Sweet Jesus Murphy, is this a fever dream? As usual, Alice melds “Another Brick in the Wall” to “School’s Out” pretty much making it the definitive “school” song.
Closing the show, Alice reminds us: “And remember, give blood! To us!”
If the Vampires keep putting out quality releases, then that’s a distinct possibility.
Part one of a two part review
The first Hollywood Vampires was a covers album with a few originals. The second is an originals album with a few covers! It’s a little strange and kind of sounds exactly how you think it would. Alice Cooper, Joe Perry, Johnny Depp and pals obviously set out to have fun, which is audible, but there’s also a weird bent that runs through. Interestingly some of the best songs are the ones that sound like Aerosmith riffs, done up far better than Aerosmith would have lately.
At the outset, the Aerosmith flavour dominates the stew that is “I Want My Now”. It’s “Draw The Line” meets Alice Cooper. You can hear what it would have been like with Joey Kramer on drums, Tom Hamilton on bass and Steven Tyler shrieking up front, but instead it’s Alice, who has had a much more consistent output of late than Aerosmith. In other words, Perry’s riffs are in good hands and the guy deserves to have a lil’ fun. His guitar work has the looseness that Aerosmith shed years ago.
“Who’s Laughing Now” is psychedelic Alice, which could be the Depp influence. It’s a really good tune accented by 8-string bass (by Tommy Henriksen) and Joe Perry’s unmistakable guitar expertise. It’s also bookended by two weird instrumentals that appear to be Depp creations. Unfortunately all this lead-up ends at the slow and stodgy “The Boogieman Surprise”, probably the weakest tune. This starts a lull. A farcicle “Welcome to Bushwackers”, featuring Jeff Beck, is a token hillbilly country tune that doesn’t live up to its promise. The highlight, obviously, is Jeff Beck.
Course is corrected on Joe Perry’s lead vocal, a surprising “You Can’t Put Your Arm Around A Memory”, the Johnny Thunders song previously covered by Duff McKagan. Joe’s version is poignant and wise. “Git From Round Me” is a pulsing, hypnotic charge through the gates with Johnny Depp sharing vocal duties with Alice and Tommy. Depp takes one by himself on the Bowie cover “Heroes”, a surprisingly outstanding version. According to Cooper, Johnny Depp (who is currently fighting an acrimonious divorce battle with two-way accusations of domestic violence) had a lot of emotion to put into Rise. Perhaps that’s what gives “Heroes” its weight, though it’s not a heavy song.
The best of the brief instrumentals is by second bassist Chris Wyse, called “A Pityful Beauty”. The song it precedes, “New Threat”, is OK. It is not up to the better material, sounding a bit like a stock riff & rhythm. Fortunately “Mr. Spider” has a classic Cooper atmosphere, brimming with drama and horror. Also sounding like classic Alice, but a different kind, is “We Gotta Rise”. It’s “Elected” all over again with a Billion Dollar Babies mold, starring “President” Alice Cooper. Alice isn’t political, but it’s hard to read these lyrics as anything but:
“We gotta rise, let’s rise,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies,
It’s you and I, it’s do or die,
We gotta rise, let’s rise above the lies.”
Maybe that’s reading too much into it, but it sure does sound like a call to arms. Regardless, “We Gotta Rise” is the best original song on the album. Depp’s next lead vocal, the Jim Carroll cover “People Who Died” is just about its equal. A rockabilly punk rocker, “People Who Died” is catchy as the flu, but better for you.
Rise concludes with an interesting spoken word track called “Congratulations”. It works because Alice, Johnny and Joe have rich speaking voices. Tommy Henriksen gets a spoken word portion too, using his more like a beat poet. What you’d think would be a boring slog turns out to be an album highlight.
It’s hard to fathom where Rise will sit in six months time or a year. It has moments less than stellar, where fat could have been cut, but the weirder escapades could warrant many returns. Bad press aside, Johnny Depp is charismatic on record. Joe Perry sounds like he’s having fun playing rock and roll away from Aerosmith. And Alice? When has he ever sounded like he wasn’t having fun?
Rise will probably have more longevity than the Hollywood Vampires’ covers album, it just needs to lose some dead weight.
Come back tomorrow for a look at the Japanese exclusive Discs 2 and 3: Hollywood Vampires Live.
Funny thing about some pretty bad albums: sometimes the bands con you into buying them twice. They do this with bonus tracks you may need and can’t find elsewhere. Aerosmith have been guilty of this on multiple occasions. You know what they say about fools and money.
In 2001, Aerosmith did it with Just Push Play. They placed a bonus track on the European CD (“Face”), and a completely different set of bonus tracks in Japan…but excluding “Face”. As one of the looser songs on a pretty stiff album, “Face” is pretty enjoyable. So what about Japan’s exclusive song, “Won’t Let You Down”? Well, for one it’s heavy. For Aerosmith, it’s really heavy. You could picture it on a better album like Nine Lives. Though not perfect it’s a damn fine latter-day Aerosmith track. It just needs another hook.
“Won’t Let You Down” and its associated Joe Perry guitar wizardry is the most interesting of the bonus tracks, but that doesn’t mean the rest are not. Though “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” is more than slightly boring today, it was Aerosmith’s biggest hit to date. This was the first time it appeared on an Aerosmith album, and only in Japan.
The second CD has a diverse stew of bonuses. The first is a 3:17 radio remix of “Just Push Play”. It’s mostly a matter of making the guitar, drums and other elements more prominent in the mix. It’s quite a bit better than the album cut, though just as silly. You gotta wonder if anybody in the studio told Steven to try it without the rasta accent. That’s the remix I want to hear, because the chorus is great.
Moving on to live rarities, Aerosmith included a handful of previously released tracks that weren’t necessarily already in your collection. First up: California Jam II. “Same Old Song and Dance”, “Draw the Line” and “Chip Away the Stone” were all available on the various artists album California Jam II. If you have this, you don’t need to buy that. The year was 1978 and Aerosmith were still cooking live. Whether it comes from youthful or chemical energy, these tracks are faster than their studio counterparts. Rough and dirty live Aerosmith without the backing tapes and fixes: what’s not to love? “Draw the Line” has more…definition?…than the original. Still, smoking so hot that Joe Perry probably melted his strings. It’s just plain great to any live version of “Chip Away the Stone“. Top five Aerosmith song? Welcome to the collection.
That’s not all folks, as we stick to 1978 and the famous Texxas Jam. “Big Ten-Inch Record” and “Lord of the Thighs” would be familiar if you own Pandora’s Box. Strange they included two tracks that were readily available, but here they are and there’s nothing wrong with ’em.
A brief word on the album Just Push Play itself. We’ve already reviewed it in full, so let’s not rehash. Joe Perry’s least favourite Aerosmith albumy panders for hits in the most embarrassing ways. Hi-tech recording and outside songwriters watered it down. The old Tyler/Perry combination was not to be found on a single track. The other three guys have not a single writing credit between them. It’s a sad state of affairs.
If you’re a masochist like me, you’ll want to get this one for the bonus tracks. If not, just stay away.
Just Push Play – 1/5 stars
Bonus CD – 3/5 stars
So you got the new Whitesnake. Think you got all the songs just because you got the deluxe version on CD or iTunes? Naw! Think again! Once again, it’s Japan with the hardest to find bonus tracks.
To be fair, it’s a give and take. While Japan often gets their own exclusive songs, they also miss out on others. In North America, we got a deluxe edition with “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong”, “If I Can’t Have You”, and three remixes of album tracks. The Japanese CD has none of those, but instead has its own exclusive remix.
The ballad “After All” is surely one of the highlights on Flesh & Blood. As a simple, fairly unadorned acoustic love song, it’s right in the wheelhouse of more recent “unzipped” ‘Snake. Well, the Japanese bonus remix is even more stripped down. The “Unzipped” mix is the same recording, just with less stuff in the mix — no electric guitars, no keyboards. An insignificant difference? Absolutely. But with an acoustic song this fucking good, you may enjoy the purity of the unembellished version. Up to you really, but if you’re the kind of collector that needs “all the tracks”, then you do need this, don’t you?
“I don’t care about bonus tracks,” you say. “Just tell me if the album is any good!”
Check out our track by track review for full details, but in short: fuck yes!
Flesh & Blood is being described by enthusiastic fans as “the best album since Slip of the Tongue. They are probably correct in that declaration. It’s stunningly good: diverse, well written and well played. It draws from a broader palette of sound than many of the past albums, and even dips back into the 1970s on “Can’t Do Right For Doing Wrong” (which isn’t on the Japanese CD). There are no songs to skip through, and while not all are equally strong, none suck. It has a high ratio of songs that could become future classics, like “Gonna Be Alright”, “Good To See You Again”, and “Sands of Time”. So yes, to answer your questions, it’s a bloody good album no matter what version you can afford.
The domestic CD is the best buy for its songs-per-dollar value (18 tracks on the deluxe), over the Japanese (14 tracks). Rating this purely as an album with its bonus track, it’s still a solid:
4.5/5 stars. Could be the album of the year.