Sharon Osbourne

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – The Ozzman Cometh (1997 Japanese import)

OZZY OSBOURNE – The Ozzman Cometh (1997 Sony Japan 2 CD set)

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.

4.5/5 stars

BOOK REVIEW: Eric Danville – The Official Heavy Metal Book of Lists

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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.

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  • 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.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon (2002 Remixed version)

Happy Hallowe’en! AAHOOOOOOOH! Bark at the moon!

OZZY OSBOURNE – Bark at the Moon (2002 Sony, unadvertised remixed)

Much like Diary and Blizzard, when Bark At The Moon was reissued in 2002, it was also remixed. People who own my preferred edition of this beloved Ozzy classic have noticed the unadvertised remix. (There was no sticker on the cover indicating this album was remixed, and it was also ignored in press releases.  The liner notes claim this was mixed by Tony Bongiovi, like the original.) Why this was done is a mystery to me, I’ve never read anything about it. All I can say is that you’ll notice particularly on Jake E. Lee’s solos, the overall sonics, and some keyboard parts as well. The ending to some songs, and the beginnings of others are very different.  Maybe Ozzy thought the album sounded dated?  The remix seems as if they were trying for the drums and effects to sound “current”.  Which is silly, of course.  This year’s “current” is next year’s out of date, but classic will always be classic.

Either way, the original mix of Bark has been an underdog favourite for many years.  Ozzy seems to really want to bury the Jake years.  He only plays the title track live, none of the other songs. Granted, “Bark at the Moon” is clearly an outstanding track.  There are still some lesser-known classics here equally good as the album tracks on Diary or Blizzard. For example, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel”. This riff monster sounds like the natural successor to some of the best moments on Diary. There are a ton of great songs here. “You’re No Different”, which is one of those great Ozz slow burners is another one. I’ve always liked “Slow Down” and of course “Waiting for Darkness”. Ozzy had gothed out his sound a lot more on this album and you’ll hear a lot more keyboards and even strings.

Ozzy was in a bad place back in ’83.  Still hurting from the death of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was forced to audition players again, a process he hated.  Jake E. Lee (ex-Ruff Cutt) was selected, perhaps due to his ability to meld white hot riffs with neoclassical shredding.  Bassist Bob Daisley returned, as did drummer Tommy Aldridge, who had played on the last tour.  Don Airey returned for keyboard duties, creating a spooky atmosphere for the Ozzman to prowl.

And prowl he did.  This is a hard rocking album, probably harder than the two Rhoads discs.  It is also a dark sounding album.  Blizzard has a lot of musical joy on it; you can hear that these guys were stoked to be playing those songs.  Bark sounds a bit tired by comparison, a bit like a druggy haze.  “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)” is an example of a song that has all these qualities.  It has a hard, almost Sabbathy guitar riff, but is cloaked in darkness.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel” is the most upbeat song.  Who doesn’t like a song about rebellion in the name of rock and roll?  It also has obvious references to the TV preachers who were out to get Ozzy at the time, so the song is like a big middle finger from Ozzy.  “I’m a just a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, I’ll tell you no lies.  They say I worship the devil, they must be stupid or blind.”

Then you have the jokey weird ballad, “So Tired”.  At least that’s how I heard it then, and still hear it now.  The video seems to emphasize the jokey aspect.  Who doesn’t love to see Ozzy dressed up as monsters?  As far as the song goes, I have no idea what they were thinking at the time.  Maybe it was the drugs?  Another weird thing — even  thought I think the song is a joke, I love it!

As mentioned, since the remix changes the sound of the album and swaps out solos here and there, pick up one of the earlier CD editions. The 1995 remaster is pretty good; it contained the B-side “Spiders” (sometimes written as “Spiders In The Night”).  Unfortunately even though it’s a well sought rarity, it’s not one of Ozzy’s better songs. It’s an obvious B-side. Better (because it’s funnier) is “One Up The B-Side” which makes its CD debut on this edition. “The bent overture”. Heh.

Now that Ozzy and Sharon have seen the light and finally reissued the original mixes of Blizzard and Diary, one can always hope for a long term Ozzy reissue program. I’d like to see the original mix of Bark At The Moon made available again. I think it’s a shame that Ozzy seems to have disowned most of the Jake E. Lee era. Jake was and remains a great guitarist — check out his work on the incredible Badlands album.

4.5/5 stars (original)
3.5/5 stars (remix)

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

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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.

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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