The Ozzman Cometh

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

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Paranoid (deluxe edition with Quad mix)

I’m addicted to buying these deluxe editions.  And I have more Sabbath coming soon, too! Check out more of my Sabbath deluxe reviews by clicking here!

SAM_2187

BLACK SABBATH – Paranoid (2009 deluxe edition, 3 discs)

Wow, how many times have I bought Paranoid now? I would guess that this might be my sixth purchase of this album.  I mean…it’s Paranoid.

And what is Paranoid?  Only one of the most important rock albums of all time.  Regardless of the genre it helped spawn, this album is more important than just being a heavy metal album.  This is an important rock album.  I highly doubt any died-in-the-wool metal fan has not heard this album, but in case you’re young/been living on the moon, I’m happy to discuss these incredible tracks.

First up to bat is the unmistakable sludge of “War Pigs”.  “Generals gathered in their masses…just like witches at black masses…”  Bonus point to lyricist Geezer Butler for rhyming “masses” with “masses”! Joking aside, this is simply an incredible song, one which history has proven (as great as Dio was) that only Ozzy Osbourne can sing correctly.  Then, the brief punk rock explosion of “Paranoid”.  This was the first and only song I learned to play on guitar, simple are the chords.  But it is no less powerful for its simplicity!

The haunting “Planet Caravan” is a perfect example of Sabbath at their softest and darkest.  Ozzy’s distorted vocals send chills up the spine, while Geezer’s bass carries the melodic side.  I didn’t like this song as a kid (I hated the soft ones) but I sure grew to appreciate it since.  Iommi’s jazzy solo proves what an incredible player the man was and is.  In case you were falling asleep, Black Sabbath wake you up with the next track, “Iron Man”.  Everyone knows “Iron Man”, a monolithic slab of prototypical heavy metal!

“Electric Funeral” opens with Iommi’s Gibson puking wah-wah and distortion from the speakers, but like many Sabbath songs of the period, the track takes a careening turn into a fast section, before returning to its sludgy roots.  Bill Ward, one of the most underrated drummers ever, plays creatively throughout, his use of cymbals and fills endlessly interesting.

SAM_2196

“Hand Of Doom” is another one with different sections and tempos, and more of Ward’s jaw-dropping creativity on the tubs.  Ozzy howls like a banshee, the band behind him providing a heavy, frightening backdrop.

“Rat Salad” is a personal favourite, the album instrumental, and really a Bill Ward showcase.  You want to hear what Bill Ward could do?  This is the track to listen to, although Iommi is not to be underestimated.  His howling Gibson sends shivers up the spine.

“Fairies Wear Boots” closes the CD, the perfect mixture of riffage and melody.  All the while, Geezer and Ward continue to provide a rhythm section as interesting as the guitars and vocals.  Once again, Sabbath show their compositional prowess by creating a catchy, riffy heavy metal song with interesting sections and changes.  It is another perfect track, on an album of nothing but.

Liner notes and photos: A+. Awesome job. Lots of cool photos, facts, and figures that I was not previously aware of.

Packaging: C-. I have a 2CD/1DVD Clash set from this series where all three discs are packaged with a plastic tray to hold them in. Not so with Paranoid! Cost cutting may be the reason, but disc 3 slides into a cardboard sleeve while the other two discs have plastic trays.

Remastering: A+. My understanding is that this is a brand new remastering. That would be remastering #3 for Paranoid. (1996 Castle remasters, Black Box remasters.) Like the Black Box version, this sounds great, very clear, very powerful, very authentic. Can you tell the difference between this version and the Black Box version? Not really!

Bonus material: B+. Maybe it’s not anybody’s fault, but the bonus material is somewhat disappointing  Most are alternate takes with different lyrics or no lyrics at all. I guess that’s all that was available. Still, it’s not something I will listen to often. Including the DVD, keep in mind you’re going to be hearing these songs three times each! The alternate lyrics are interesting to say the least, but when you’re so used to hearing these songs a certain way, it is a little jarring.

SAM_2194

The DVD is an A. On this DVD, you get the original 1974 quad mix. Collectors rejoice, and people who are hoping for a 5.1 remix are going to have to keep waiting. I love the fact that we’re finally getting reissues of classic 1970’s quad mixes. Deep Purple have been releasing some as well. Personally I hope to hear some of the old Alice Cooper quad mixes some day, too.

Not a perfect reissue, but it is what it is. The packaging is the one thing that could have been improved easily. The extra material, well, if this is all Sabbath have in the vaults, then so be it!

(Note:  For completists, there’s still an early version of “War Pigs”,  ( then titled “Walpurgis”) with different lyrics, from BBC Radio 1, 4/26/70, but you can get it on Ozzy’s The Ozzman Cometh  CD.)

5/5 stars.

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath (deluxe edition)

I’m addicted to buying these deluxe editions, and I’ll be doing more Sabbath in the coming days! Check out more of my Sabbath deluxe reviews by clicking here!

SAM_2166

BLACK SABBATH – Black Sabbath (2009 deluxe edition)

I have been a little slow reviewing all my Sabbath deluxe editions. I got this one for Christmas, 2010. Bad LeBrain!

What can I say? The most iconic metal album of all time has been given the deluxe edition treatment, and deservedly so.

First of all, before I talk about the music, this edition just looks beautiful in its digipack. The scariest most haunting album cover of all time is printed crisply on cardboard and it looks amazing. Open it up to find photos of a hippy-dippy looking Black Sabbath, just a bunch of kids. The booklet inside has truly great liner notes and more photos of the young foursome. There is one photo of Oz playing keyboards in the studio — strange, none of his keys show up on this album. I’d love to know the story behind that photo.

SAM_2168

Musically, of course this album is incredible. Simple, sparse, raw, and haunting. This is the kind of music that can only be made by four guys psychically locked-in with each other, knowing what notes are coming next, anticipating them and reacting to them. Bill Ward’s drumming is thrifty and wonderful, perfectly off-time and magically working with Geezer Butler’s fluidic basslines. Geezer’s bass, in turn, is locked in with Iommi’s guitar, providing melodic accents while Tony plays the rock solid demonic riffs from hell. Meanwhile, Ozzy is on top of it all, a man possessed, his words ringing loud and powerfully along within the spaces of the songs. This is the kind of album that can only be created by four guys playing live in a room together. Modern “rock” (quotes intended) bands cannot do this kind of album.

Every song is, of course, a classic, from the opening thunder of “Black Sabbath” to the wallowing solos of “Warning” and the haunting “Sleeping Village”. “N.I.B.” has one of the catchiest bass intros of all time, amp hum buzzing away in the background as you can hear Geezer’s fingers pluck away. Truly, a classic album, all killer no filler.

And no wonder. The band was tight, playing these songs night after night after night until they had them down pat. I once read that Sabbath were doing 8 sets, 45 minutes each, in the bars each gig. That makes you a tight band, and the bonus disc proves this. Alternate takes of key tracks on the second disc prove that the band had these songs down to a fine science. Casual fans won’t even be able to pick up on the differences, they are so tight. The biggest difference is in the alternate take of “Evil Woman”. Flutes? Methinks Tony still had a bit too much Jethro Tull in his system!

There are also some instrumentals with the vocal tracks stripped off. These are interesting from an analytical point of view. The title track really allows you to hear the instruments playing against each other, Tony’s guitar puking mounds of distortion all over the tapes.

Lastly you get both “Wicked World” and “Evil Woman”. Depending on where you lived, one track was subbed for the other on the original album and the first CD issues. All later remasters of this album contained both songs, including this one.

Interestingly, the demos that Ozzy released on his own Ozzman Cometh compilation are not included here. Pick that album up as well for some very rough early versions of some of these tracks, with different lyrics as well.

5/5 stars. Every metal fan in the world needs this album, absolutely no excuses.