OZZY OSBOURNE – Ozzmosis (1995, 2002 Sony remaster)
It is fair to say that Ozzy’s solo recording career post-No More Tears is not considered as classic as the music from before. Admittedly it was a confusing time. Ozzy finished his “No More Tours” tour while all the talk was about a Sabbath reunion that never happened. Retirement wasn’t in the cards, so Ozzy re-teamed with a few former members of his band: Zakk Wylde on guitar, and Geezer Butler on bass. Joining the band behind the drums was a pre-Journey Deen Castronovo. Ozzy sat down to write with a number of talents including Steve Vai, and eventually produced the “post retirement” album Ozzmosis.
Ozzmosis was considered by some fans to be inferior to No More Tears, although song for song, No More Tears isn’t as great as people seem to remember it. Ozzmosis has a heavier, more bass-centric sound and certainly boasts at least four Ozzy classics in its grooves. Osbourne has gone on record as preferring the demo versions of some songs better than the album tracks, but Ozzmosis boasts a hell of a heavy sound.
Ozzy was also struggling with his public image. He didn’t want to be seen at the bat-biting madman anymore. I suppose that’s why we see songs like “Perry Mason” on Ozzmosis. Not a bad track, it was chosen as lead single. But the subject matter? Not sure why, but:
“Who can we get on this case?
We need Perry Mason,
Someone to put you in place,
Calling Perry Mason.”
Certainly a far cry lyrically from “Bark at the Moon”, but musically it’s still Ozzy prowling in the shadows, warning you of the dangers. It’s delightful to hear Geezer’s trademark slinky bass all over it. (I have often said that Ozzy’s best solo band, post-Randy, had Geezer and Zakk.) Ozzy was sufering from some vocal issues at the time, but “Perry Mason” isn’t one of the songs you can tell this from. Only Ozzy Osbourne & Co. could make a song about Perry Mason this cool.
“Perry Mason” would be one of the four album classics. Also up there is “I Just Want You”, which he wrote with Canadian songsmith Jim Vallance. Ozzy was rightfully proud of this heavy ballad. Rick Wakeman provided keys, classy and absolutely perfect. At times he’s playing synth parts that sound like mellotron, at others like a big fat Hammond organ (bigger than Orlando Bloom’s wang). At all times, it is awesome. Zakk Wylde plays an effects-laden solo that sounds underwater, but in a good way. It’s haunting and not robbed of its power. He utilises this “watery” sound on a number of tracks on Ozzmosis.
Standing with these songs is “See You on the Other Side”, another fab ballad from the dark side. Ozzy’s preferred demo version (with sax solo) can be found on his Prince of Darkness box set. There’s nothing wrong with this version though, haunting as it is. It was written by Ozzy, Zakk, and Lemmy Kilmister, who helped Ozzy out with the words.
The fourth and final classic is the album closer, “Old L.A. Tonight”. As one of Ozzy’s piano ballads, it has been largely forgotten over the years. The piano and Zakk’s very emotive playing only amplify what Ozzy’s singing. Zakk’s solo is one of his finest. Why some things become hits and not others, I don’t always understand. “Old L.A. Tonight” is superior in almost every way to a track like “Mama I’m Coming Home”, or “So Tired”. This is one of the tracks that does reveal cracks in the Ozzman’s voice, as he reaches for very high notes and quavers. I can’t hit the notes he’s hitting, though.
You’ll notice that of the four album classics, three are ballads, and that’s a problem. Yes, even as far back as “Changes” or “Planet Caravan”, Ozzy has been a master of the art of the heavy ballad. His core audience tends to buy albums for his heavy metal songs, and the heavy material on Ozzmosis is lacking. Few of those songs really congeal into something solidly memorable. The album sounds heavy on effects, and while that strategy worked on the four classics, it tends to choke and strangle the other songs, inhibiting Ozzy’s voice with a nasal muffler. It’s surprising how much time he spends singing higher than what sounds comfortable, and that too is a weakness.
Sony tacked on two bonus tracks for this 2002 reissue — a rip off, and I’ll explain why. The album includes two B-sides: “The Whole World’s Falling Down” and “Aimee”. (That makes two songs about Ozzy’s kids on this CD, including “My Little Man” about Jack.) There were however four B-sides released for this album, and two are not included for no good reason. Missing are “Living With the Enemy” and “Voodoo Dancer”, but fear not. None of Ozzy’s B-sides this time out were really keepers. “Aimee” isn’t bad, but Ozzy has done much better stuff for his B-sides in the past. Songs like “You Said It All”, “Don’t Blame Me”, and “Liar”.
Zakk Wylde didn’t do the tour for this album, even though he co-wrote and played on it. Zakk seemed to be trying to establish himself separate from Ozzy at the time, and so Ozzy toured with Joe Holmes who had finished up a stint with David Lee Roth. (Though Ozzy stuck with Holmes for five years, I never thought he sounded right playing the Ozzy or Sabbath material.) After a brief leg, Ozzy fired Deen Castronovo and re-hired his previous drummer Randy Castillo. Ozzy made a backhanded statement about Castronovo being a talented session drummer, and that’s what he should continue to do. Ouch.
It’s a mixed bag, but when you hit a gem in the grooves of Ozzmosis, it is worth the price of purchase. Shame about the stinky cover art.