Sony

REVIEW: Tenacious D – Post-Apocalypto (2018)

TENACIOUS D – Post-Apocalypto (2018 Sony)

I don’t know how this is supposed to work. Do you have to watch an animated series in order to “get” Post-Apocalypto?  I’m not doing that.  I’m listening to an album; I’m reviewing an album.

21 tracks, half an hour.  Most of the tracks run a minute and a half.  So what’s the concept?  Humanity has destroyed the Earth in a nuclear holocaust.  Tenacious D survived, though their songwriting abilities did not.  Richard Branson, Elon Musk and Yo-Yo Ma have been saved, and now live on a space station.  Kyle Gass wasn’t good enough to make the cut and now has a two-headed dog named Hope to keep him company.  Unfortunately the KKK seems to have taken over security on what’s left of Earth.

Post-Apocalypto is part uninspired sketches, part uninspired songs.  Some are decent, or half-decent, like “Take Us Into Space” and “Woman Time”.  Most are too soft, light and forgettable, and the sketches are tired.  Jack Black’s “Arnold” accent isn’t bad, but the joke wears out.

Bottom line:  as stated by Uncle Meat, “18 minutes of music isn’t an album.”  Iron Tom adds, “Although I’ll listen to some tunes individually, I don’t see myself listening to it again as an entire album.”

1/5 stars

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – “Seven Days” (1995 promo single)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – “Seven Days” (1995 Sony promo CD single)

COC’s landmark album Deliverance spawned three singles, the least known of which was “Seven Days”.  The promo CD single contains a rarity that makes it worth tracking down.  It’s not expensive, and thanks to online stores not hard to find.

Deliverance is a heavy album even with a few slower songs on board.  “Seven Days” is one such track.  A slow, heavy dirge can often make for a good single.  This CD has two versions, the full-length album cut and a shorter single edit with a truncated fade-out.

The special track here is a “jam box tape” of “Fuel”, a track that was as yet unreleased.  COC recorded it properly for their next album, Wiseblood.  This early version is an identical arrangement, but way way more ragged.  Pepper sounds like James Hetfield on this one, but it has far more balls than the Metallica song of the same name.  Total smokeshow.  This is the proverbial “song you buy the single for.”

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Corrosion of Conformity – Deliverance (1994)

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY – Deliverance (1994 Sony)

Gre-ea-easy!  That’s how the molton hot guitars sound on this landmark album.  Greasy, in the most complimentary way.  Six-stringers Woody Weatherman and Pepper Keenan have a way of making their guitar licks sound slippery and heavy at the same time.

Corrosion of Conformity (“COC”) did something really smart when they set out to record this album.  After the departure of bassist Phil Swisher and singer Karl Agell (who both turned up later in Leadfoot), they promoted Pepper Keenan to lead vocals, and brought back founding member Mike Dean on bass.  Pepper scored a hit for COC last time out with a lead vocal on “Vote With a Bullet”, so it was a logical move.  As for Mike Dean, his punk roots and busy bass are important to the sound of this band.  Dean was also COC’s vocalist from time to time in the past, and gets a lead vocal once again on the title track.

The resulting album Deliverance is 14 tracks (give or take an instrumental or two) of heavy, dirty metal they way they make it in Raleigh, North Carolina.  Pepper’s vocals lent them a southern edge.  Metallica are fans — Pep auditioned for them on bass when Newsted left the band.  (What a sound Metallica could have had, with James Hetfield backed up by Pepper Keenan on vocals!)

Regardless of who’s singing or playing, COC nailed all 14 songs.  None of the proverbial “filler”.  This is one hell of a trip, an album that demands to be listened to from start to finish, no skipping.  John Custer’s crisp and chunky production brought out the metal side more than ever.


“Help me Jesus, help me clean my wounds. He said he cannot heal that kind.”

Check out the choppy riff on the single “Clean My Wounds”.  The song is a tour-de-force, a textbook example of all the right ingredients.  The riff is outstanding, but the verse and chorus melodies slay.  Drummer Reed Mullin has a spare groove, but he knows exactly when to accent it with some heavy hitting.  The multi-tracked vocal in the chorus (“Knock it down!”) is the perfect fit, but the Lizzy-ish guitar solos are an additional layer of perfection.

Another key track, “Albatross” is too heavy to be a ballad so let’s call it a dirge.  You can hear what Mike Dean brings to the table — a slinky, Geezer style of bass that provides subliminal melody.  “Albatross” flies on the wings of a strong melody and heavy performance.  It has a vibe similar to “Outshined” by Soundgarden but more mournful.

The aforementioned instrumentals are integral parts of the album.  Remember how a Black Sabbath album had key instrumental bits, usually introducing another song?  That’s what COC do here.  “Without Wings”, a dark acoustic guitar figure, leads into the heavy-as-fuck “Broken Man” exactly like a Sabbath song.  Later on, “#2121313”, an electric guitar piece, is joined directly onto “My Grain”.  “Mano de Mono”, another acoustic piece, is basically the front end of “Seven Days”, a mid-paced groove single.

Speaking of “My Grain”, it’s the most punk rock track, but even so it features a kickass bass solo!  Other noteworthy tracks include the wah-wah inflected title track (Mike Dean on vocals).  Jittery, jumpy riffs dominate “Señor Limpio”, another blistering blitz.  Finally there is “Pearls Before Swine”, the slowest and bluesiest of the tracks and a seriously heavy closer.

Corrosion of Conformity have made some good (albeit very different) albums over the years, but like many bands they have a clear peak.  That is Deliverance, the one perfect album they made.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Audioslave – Audioslave (2002)

AUDIOSLAVE – Audioslave (2002 Sony)

The brightest always burn out the quickest.  Audioslave lasted a mere five years but unleashed three albums in the same time most bands can only crank out one or two.  It was a collaboration that bore sweet fruit.  Ronnie James Dio used to say that when it came to collaborations, the first album was usually the best.  That’s true of Audioslave.

Their first, self-titled album checks all the boxes:  monster grooves, soaring vocals and wonky solos.  Since it’s produced by Rick Rubin you know it’s gonna be loud.  You can also count on a clear, big drum sound which Rubin achieves.  At 14 tracks, the album is swollen, but despite its long runtime there is nary a dud.

There are some who, at the time at least, felt that Rage Against The Machine’s style of abnormally funky rap-metal could not be adapted to hard rock.  They felt the fit between Chris Cornell and the Rage guys was forced and resulted in something that would only appeal to Soundgarden’s fans while alienating those of Rage.  While there is a smidgen of truth to that assertion, Rage have proven time and again that they can pretty much do anything.  No boundaries.

No tracks to skip, either, but some you may want to focus extra attention on.  “Cochise” about the revered Indian warrior, has a groove that can crack concrete.  Same with “Show Me How to Live” and “Gasoline”, heavier than the proverbial lead balloon, but infested with melodic vocals.  Audioslave could even pull off slower material, though you’d be hesitant to call them “ballads”.  “Like A Stone” is essential:  precision, smoky rock crooning.  The spare arrangement allows Chris’ vocals to make the impact, though the bass is certainly earth-moving.  As if that wasn’t enough, Tom Morello’s solo combines his trademark noisy note-work with epic composition.

Despite the quality tracks before and after, the best may be the angry “Set It Off”.  It slams. It’s closest to Rage’s anarchist tendencies.  It’s just pissed off.

He was standing at the rock,
Gathering the flock,
And getting there with no directions,
And underneath the arch,
It turned into a march,
And there he found the spark to set this fucker off.

A 14 track album this good could earn a 2000 word analysis, but we’ll save that for an inevitable deluxe edition.  There are lots of B-sides and bonus tracks from this album that need to be properly collected into a set, like the download-only “Give”, a rhythmic little extra.  Suffice to say, Audioslave is an essential album for anybody who ever liked rock music. There is a purity to it.  As the liner notes say, “all sounds made by guitar, bass, drums, and vocals.”  Even the weird squonky shit, so be ready for your mind and soul to be blown.  Sit back and absorb it a while, because there’s a lot here to assimilate into your blood.

5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Europe – “The Final Countdown 2000” (Single)

“Oh God!  What did I just listen to?” – J from Resurrection Songs

EUROPE – “The Final Countdown 2000” (1999 Sony single)

As we edge closer to the start of a new decade, it’s the perfect time to look back at the turn of the millennium, 20 whole years ago.   Sony decided that Europe’s “The Final Countdown” would make the ideal anthem for the millennium, and so had it remixed by the guy (Brian Rawling) who did Cher’s “Believe” a year earlier.  Joey Tempest was not amused, and tried to find another mixer without success.  Drummer Ian Haughland called the finished remix a “disaster”.

The full 5:45 remix was released as a single, while a 3:47 edit version was issued on a new version of Europe’s “greatest hits”, with title updated from 1982-1992 to 1982-2000.  At least the millennium led to a performance by a reunited Europe on New Year’s Eve featuring both guitarists John Norum and Kee Marcello.

The full length remix is the antithesis to rock music.  Sped up, with bouncy synth bass and drums, it was obviously calculated for dancing.  There are keyboards, weird sounds, and samples that have nothing to do with the song.  Of the original recording, Joey’s vocals remain, but the rest sounds completely digital.  It goes on, and on.  The edit is tolerably shorter, but barely.  “The Final Countdown 2000” is an affront to rock music and everything its fans enjoy.  It is pure pandering to people who would never have bought a Europe album in the first place.  Is that what Sony felt they had to do in order to make it a hit a second time?  Imagine if Europe recorded a new version with both guitarists instead.  The song was already pop enough to be a hit again on the wave of 80s nostalgia.  It didn’t need to be mutilated to fit into a dance remix.  It surely would have done better than this (#6 in Sweden, #36 in the UK).

As a consolation prize, this CD single includes a single edit of the original song.  All it’s missing is the countdown opening.  After hearing the dance version twice, it sounds strangely sluggish (even though it’s not).  It’s like taking an offramp from the highway into normal traffic.

Possibly the worst single I’ve ever bought.  And I’ve bought Puff Daddy.

0.5/5 stars

REVIEW: KISS – “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” (2014 McCartney tribute)

 – “Venus and Mars / Rock Show” (2014 Sony, from The Art of McCartney)

Kiss rarities can be so crushingly disappointing.  Some, like the Ramones cover “Rock and Roll Radio” are catalogue highlights.  Others, like “Don’t Touch My Ascot” are just curiosities.  Unfortunately the Paul McCartney medley of “Rock Show” and “Venus and Mars” fall into the latter category.  But why?

These tracks come from a Paul McCartney tribute album called The Art of McCartney.  On the back cover, the track is clearly listed as Kiss.  But Kiss must have had some lineup changes if that’s the case.  Doug Petty on bass!  Dan Petty on guitar!  Jason Paige on drums!  You’ll be forgiven if you don’t recognize those names as Kiss members last time you checked.  Only Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons from the real Kiss appear, and only in a vocal capacity.  Why the false advertising?  On the same album, Robin Zander and Rick Nielson “of Cheap Trick” are listed, but not Cheap Trick themselves.  Yet Paul and Gene are credited as Kiss, tricking the fans into thinking they were hearing the band, not just two of the singers.

How is it?

Well, it doesn’t sound like Kiss, that’s for sure!  Gene sings the “Venus and Mars” section, in his natural voice.  Then a raspy Paul comes in, bringing a Kiss-like vibe with him.  He gets to sing one of Paul McCartney’s coolest lyrics of all time:

What’s that man movin’ ‘cross the stage?
It looks a lot like the one used by Jimmy Page.

Or Ace Frehley!

At no point do Paul and Gene sing together or harmonize like they used to when covering the Beatles on the streets of New York City.  Doesn’t it seem like a colossal waste, having the two Kiss founding members appearing essentially separately?  Would have been even better with Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer playing, but…hey, nobody asks me ahead of time!

And here is another reason why physical media is important.  If you had just downloaded this from iTunes, you might never know that what you bought wasn’t really Kiss.  Then again, the front cover does say “The songs of Paul McCartney sung by the world’s greatest artists.”  Nothing in there about the playing part.

Buying this CD (to be reviewed separately at a later time) would still not be a bad idea.  You’ll get exclusives by Alice Cooper (double shot), Sammy Hagar, Joe Elliott of Def Leppard, actual Def Leppard, Jeff Lynne, Billy Joel, Willie Nelson, The Cure, B.B. King, Dylan, Heart, Dion and tons more.  Cooper’s “Eleanor Rigby” is worth the purchase alone.  This helps negate the soul-squashing disappointing of buying a “Kiss” song that isn’t.

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Angel of Retribution (2004 CD/DVD)

“Sabbath are heavy, but Priest are metal.” – K.K. Downing

JUDAS PRIEST – Angel of Retribution (2004  Sony CD/DVD deluxe set)

Like Iron Maiden before them, Judas Priest pulled off a successful reunion tour before venturing into the studio to record a new album.  When the new music finally came, a deluxe package was made available featuring live videos from the reunion tour.  In this deluxe-sized review, we’ll take a close look at both the CD and DVD content.


The CD

Pure anticipation preceded the arrival of the Angel of Retribution.  Two underwhelming albums with Tim “Ripper” Owens on lead vocals caused Judas Priest’s star to diminish in the 90s and 2000s.  The return of the Metal God, Rob Halford, meant a reunion of the successful 1990-1991 Painkiller lineup.  The new album cover even featured the return of the Painkiller character, now the Angel of Retribution.  But a long time had passed.  Could Priest hope to live up to the hype, and their legacy?

The answer is mixed.  While Angel of Retribution contains enough classic Judas Priest metal to consider it a success, it also has some truly legendary filler, of sub-Ram It Down quality.  Instead of running through the album track by track, let’s break it down in terms of song integrity.

Priest wrote a natural sounding album, with elements from virtually all eras of Priest past.  They say it came about organically, and it does sound that way.  Some of the best material are the songs that sound like variations of classic Priest.

The opening song “Judas Rising” brings it back to 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny with that fade-in opener inspired by “Victim of Changes”.  Then it transforms right into the Painkiller era, with something that sounds like a far more intense “Hell Patrol”.  Solid 5/5.

The slightly psychedelic first single “Revolution” ranks among the better songs, although perhaps it’s actually most similar to “Little Crazy” by Rob Halford’s Fight.  It has flavours of Rocka Rolla and Killing Machine, and is far from what anyone expected Priest to put out for a first single.  Dig that slide guitar bit in the solo!  Solid 5/5.

Worth Fighting For” isn’t a ballad; it’s a little harder edged than that.  It’s the one song that is unique in the Priest catalogue, and remarkably strong.  The riff has a nice chug to it, while Rob ably carries the melody to a higher place.  A special song, and a 5/5.

Demonizer” is Jugulator meets Painkiller, faster than a hellriding devil dog (whatever that is), but “the Painkiller rises again!”   So testifies Halford.  It’s so ridiculously over the top that it can only be worth a solid 5/5.  Likewise the similar “Hellrider” on side two.  Both feature double bass so fast that it’s almost a parody of itself, but both rock so hard you’ll break your neck keeping up.  “Hellrider” is also notable as the song where Rob Halford inexplicably name drops “Megatron”.  Similar songs, both solid 5/5’s.

The ballad “Angel” is a little soft, unexpectedly so on an album with so much heavy metal.  Yet, Priest can do anything.  The acoustic “Angel” could be the quietest ballad since the early days.  “Put sad wings around me now,” sings Rob to the angel, an appropriate callback.  As his voice aged it acquired more depth.  That helps make “Angel” a respectable 4/5.

Deal With the Devil” and “Wheels of Fire” fall in a netherworld of pedestrian Priest.  These both feel like filler from Point of Entry or Ram it Down.  Less explosive, less memorable.  The autobiographical “Deal With the Devil” is amusing for its many lyrical callbacks: “Under blood red skies”, “Took on all the world”, references to razor blades.  Likewise the short one, “Eulogy“, which is really an intro for another song that we’ll get to.  “They remain still as stained class”, “Guarded by the Sentinel”, and so on.  3/5 each.

The worst of all songs is “Loch Ness“, a mess so atrocious that we had to devote an entire entry just to that one song.  Combined with its intro “Eulogy”, it’s over 15 minutes of mire that has no reason to exist.  Many people simply stop the album after “Hellrider” and leave this foul turd to rot unheard.  “Loch Ness” could very well be the worst Judas Priest song of all time.  A flaming turd to extinguish all flaming turds.  The worst of all putrid, rancid filler songs ever foisted upon the faithful.  0/5.

 


“Reunited” DVD

It’s worth getting a copy of this album with the bonus DVD.  For one, there’s a documentary from the Priest Reunited tour.  Secondly, there are seven uncut live songs here for you to enjoy, and it’s the only official video release from the Reunited tour.  The live footage is something to see, especially if you own the robotic Rising in the East DVD.  In that concert, Rob Halford was a stiff mannequin instead of a frontman.  Here, he comfortably in charge and engaged.  The entire lineup is energized.  “Breaking the Law” sees them powered up and working hard.

But how did the seemingly unlikely reunion begin?  According to the documentary, the band and Halford met to discuss the forthcoming Metalogy box set.  Glenn Tipton states that they decided to reunite later the same day.  It was like they’d never been apart.  Terribly British, says Rob.  “Have a cup of tea, see you later.”  Rob does express regret for his actions (reportedly he gave Judas Priest his notice in 1992 by fax), but it seems all was forgiven over time.

Beware which version you buy.  This CD/DVD combo set contains the documentary plus the full live songs:  “Breaking the Law”, “Metal Gods”, “A Touch of Evil”, “Hell Bent for Leather”, “Eletric Eye:”, “Diamonds & Rust”, and “Living After Midnight”.  The DualDisc version does not; it only includes edited fragments of those tracks.  Which is a shame, because the band sounded fantastic and Rob was in full-lunged form.  This is probably the best live version of “A Touch of Evil” available, for example.  Not everyone likes the acoustic version of “Diamonds & Rust”, but it’s certainly different. The only bonus to DualDisc is that you also get the album in “enhanced stereo”.  Avoid that; get this.


Although Angel of Retribution is overall a very strong Judas Priest album, “Loch Ness” is impossible to ignore.  It does serious damage to an album that was otherwise an impressive listen.  In the included DVD, K.K. Downing says they had to pick and choose from an overabundance of songs.  Can you imagine how bad the leftovers are if “Loch Ness” made the album?

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Judas Priest – Firepower (2018)

JUDAS PRIEST – Firepower (2018 Sony)

It’s 2018 and the Priest is back.  The excitement for the mighty metal band’s return has been restrained by the knowledge that Glenn Tipton is too ill to tour.  Parkinson’s disease — what a bastard that is.  Co-producer Andy Sneap has stepped up to take over Glenn’s guitar parts on tour.

Meanwhile on album, Glenn’s contributions to Firepower can be heard.  Sneap and classic Priest producer Tom Allom recorded one of the most biting Priest albums to date.  More impressive than the sound they captured are the performances.  Rob Halford in particular is more expressive than he has been in years.

At 14 tracks and almost an hour, Firepower suffers only from too many tracks.  There are a couple that clearly could have been cut and left for B-sides or bonus tracks.  “Flame Thrower” (similar to “Hot For Love” from Turbo), though a cool title, would have been great on a B-side.  On album, I’d rather race ahead to some of the more exciting tracks.

Firepower throws it back to sounds of the past.  Sometimes it’s Painkiller, and sometimes Angel of Retribution.  Rock writer Heavy Metal Overload noticed sonic similarities to Halford’s Resurrection CD.   At other times it’s brand new, because guitarist Richie Faulkner brings new things to the table, such as slide.

There are many highlights among the 14 tracks.  “Evil Never Dies” and “Never the Heroes” both immediately jump out for their melodic mastery.  Rob is sounding better than he has on the last couple, with a few tasty screams to enjoy.  As time goes on, new favourites will replace old.  Perhaps it’ll be “Spectre”, “No Surrender”,  “Children of the Sun”, “Rising From the Ruins” or even “Flame Thrower”!  Another highlight:  mellow album closer “Sea of Red” which bears lyrical similarities to “Blood Red Skies” from 1988’s Ram It Down.  In general, Firepower is about fighting back.

The cover art by Claudio Bergamin is Priest’s new mascot, “Titanicus”.  Silly name aside, this one Priest’s best album cover in decades.  (Mark Wilkinson continues to contribute to the packaging art as well.)  Notice how Bergamin’s lines match up with the style of past Priest albums like Screaming for Vengeance.

It’s hard to imagine a better album this late in their career.  Priest have done it again.  Firepower lives up to its name.

4.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: The Essential Kinks (2014)

THE KINKS – The Essential (2014 Sony)

A question I often get is “Have you heard ‘x‘ by ‘band y’?”  I’m always eager to offer up opinions, but like any other music collector, there are albums I simply have not heard yet.  Friends and fellow writers continually offer fantastic suggestions, but time and money are always limited.  I like to listen to my old music too, and not just stuff that is new to me all the time.  Getting caught up on bands I may have missed is a time consuming process.

The Kinks are one such band.  Growing up as a rocker, I was aware of their hits and the overall narrative of their career.  As an adult, I wanted to start with a compilation.  When you have a band with a career as long and varied as The Kinks, I very much enjoy getting a snapshot of the whole thing rather than pick off albums one by one.  Sony’s double disc Essential Kinks is 48 tracks of rock from 1964 to 1993.  It’s a rather monolithic slab, but it does tell a story.

The beginning is hard and ragged British invasion rock and roll, and the road is windy.  Whether you know these tunes from movie soundtracks (“Nothin’ in This World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl”) or Van Halen riffs (several), many songs are familiar.  Early on, their pop and rock stylings could be compared with equal respect to that of those Beatles.  The songs are just as unique, memorable and British.  The charismatic vocals of Ray Davies immediately capture the imagination.  His knack for melody is uncanny.  As time goes on, their music becomes more unique and conceptual, but no less captivating.  It is here that I discovered my favourite Kinks song, “Apeman”.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be too surprised that I already knew many of these songs as covers.  Queens of the Stone Age did “Who’ll Be the Next in Line”.  Def Leppard did “Waterloo Sunset”.  The Jam tackled “David Watts”, and made a hit out of him again.  I can also hear a lot of Dave Davies’ guitar in the rock bands that followed.  There is no denying the influence of the Kinks.

The only imperfection with this compilation is that live tracks are substituted for studio ones on “Lola”, “Till the End of the Day” and “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”.  You’ll tell me “just buy the albums, then” and to that I respond, “OK”.  (“Lola” live is a single B-side.)

I’ll be lazing on a “Sunny Afternoon” with the Kinks.

4.5/5 stars

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.