No More Tears

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears (remaster)

“Politicians make decisions, they’re the ones to blame, so don’t blame me.”  — Ozzy Osbourne

OZZY OSBOURNE – No More Tears (originally 1991, 2002 Sony remastered edition)

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).

3.5/5 stars

* Two early album titles used for this record were Don’t Blame Me and No Dogs Allowed.

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REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Live & Loud (1993 grille cover)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Live & Loud (limited edition 1993 Epic speaker grille edition)

Ozzy Osbourne has done lots and lots of tours since his “No More Tours Tour”.  It seemed special at the time, because we thought Live & Loud was going to be the last live album.   It was not.   What was supposed to be a definitive and indispensable capstone is just another live album, only really notable for its packaging.

Let’s start there.  If you buy this album, don’t buy the remastered edition in the jewel case.  This album didn’t need remastering a couple years later.  Why would it?  Instead search for the original digipack with the metal speaker grille cover.  Finding one in good shape can be a challenge.  Unfortunately, the metal grille is not removable although the VHS release did have a removable grille.  The release also came with two Ozzy “temporary tattoos” on little 2″ x 2″ sheets of paper.  These are the first things to get lost and you might want to consider that you’ll never find them.

Live & Loud scores an A+ for packaging, but gets mediocre grades for the music.  This is patched together from a variety of recordings, and it sounds like a lot of fixing was done after the fact.  It’s bogged down with over-long guitar and drum solos (Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo) and too much talking.  There is only so much that one needs to be told to “go fucking crazy”.  Ozzy proclaims that he loves us so often that it loses all meaning.  He’s more of a cheerleader than a singer at times, constantly badgering the crowd to get “louder”!  There is also an annoyingly long intro that means nothing without the visual accompaniment that’s supposed to go with it.  I will admit that my buddy Peter and I were amused when Ozzy said “Let me see your fucking cigarette lighters” during “Mr. Crowley”.

On the plus side, this particular lineup of Ozzy’s band was one of his strongest.  Zakk and Randy were joined by bassist Mike Inez who was invited to join Alice in Chains in 1993.  Another plus is the presence of Black Sabbath.  The second to last song is “Black Sabbath”, performed by the original Black Sabbath, at the final show on the tour.  Fans will recall that Sabbath were touring their incredible Dehumanizer album, which frankly blows away Ozzy’s No More Tears.   When Sabbath (then including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio) were asked to open for Ozzy at his final two concerts, Dio bailed.  He was replaced for those shows by a little known metal singer named Rob Halford.  At the last of the two shows, the original Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward reunited to play a three song set.  It was their first time together since Live Aid in 1985.

Unfortunately, a couple tracks aside, Live & Loud is flat and uninspired.  “Black Sabbath” isn’t brilliant but at least it’s historic.  All the important songs are there, with maybe a few too many from No More Tears.  There is one surprise in “Changes”, the old Sabbath classic.  This is performed by Zakk on piano and Ozzy.  It’s brilliant and was used as the single.  “Mr. Crowley”, “Shot in the Dark” and “Desire” are pretty good, but drummer Randy Castillo was killing it.  He was the perfect drummer for that band.  Rest in peace Randy.

Live & Loud is for the serious fan only, who will really want to get the grille cover.  Live & Loud is not consistent enough for the average listener and gets bogged down in spots making it a very long run.

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