the prince of fucking darkness

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Scream (2011 tour edition)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Scream (2011 tour edition)

If you liked Ozzy’s previous album, the quite good Black Rain, then I think you might like Scream even better. As everybody knew, it was Ozzy’s first new studio album of original material without Zakk Wylde since he joined the band. (Jerry Cantrell did play on the perfectly awful covers album Under Cover.) Many wanted to know, “Is Gus G any good?”

Yup.

Ozzy’s never had a bad guitar player, and Gus G is a speed demon. I don’t know alot about the guy, but he seems to emulate Zakk with those “Wylde” bends, yet he also has this fast neo-classical vibe. If you hear that Ozzy live EP that came around the same time (iTunes Festival 2010) you will find that he really nails a Zakk-like vibe on the old Ozzy stuff. On the Sabbath classics, he does justice to Iommi’s chunky riffs. And he’s fast…really fast. In other words, he is kind of the best of all worlds. I’m not saying he’s better than Zakk, because personality goes a long way.  I’m just telling you what I hear.

SCREAM_0002Songwise, Ozzy wrote the album again with Canadian producer Kevin Churko, with some co-writes by Adam Wakeman. Churko also played drums even though Tommy Clufetos was credited. I really like Scream, and I can’t say there’s anything weak on it.  I’ve had a chance to live with it for a few years and I still enjoy it.  Maybe a couple filler tracks here and there, but nothing I hated. Most of the rhythms are chunky and staggered, gated like some nu-metal band but still well within the realm of Oz. The excellent “Soul Sucker” and “Diggin’ Me Down” in particular emphasize this modern sound.  I happen to like both songs a lot.

Yet there are surprises on here. I wouldn’t call them “ballads” per se, but “Time” and “Life Won’t Wait” change the pace. “Time” re-emphasizes Ozzy’s old love of the Beach Boys with its lush “ooh, ooh” backing vocals. “Life Won’t Wait” is a softer, bass-driven mid-tempo rocker with an amazing chorus as only Ozzy can deliver. The bass line really reminds me of another song, “Take a Picture” by Filter.

The rest of the album is heavy, maybe Ozzy’s heaviest. At times it reminded me of Zombie, at others, Sabbath. In general though it is identifiably Ozzy. “Let Me Hear You Scream,” the lead single, is a fast heavy Ozzy rocker designed for firing up the concert crowd. While Scream does not worm its way into your noggin the way Blizzard of Ozz did, it’s still a pretty good record. Ozzy seems very proud of it, and rightly so.

Lyrically, Ozzy’s in familiar territory. His lyrics to me are always underrated (whether he writes them or not). On Scream, he has tracks for his beloved audience as always: “Let Me Hear You Scream” and the touching outro “I Love You All”. On others he’s talking about religion. “Diggin’ Me Down” asks the question, how long must we wait for Jesus Christ to come back? “Crucify” seems to be about crooked preachers again, or perhaps just those who prey upon the desperate.

SCREAM_0004This being Ozzy, a “tour edition” was released not too long after I bought the original. In fact, I bought Scream as a digital download just to get the bonus track “One More Time”, a heart-racing rocker with a great tempo. I also bought this album on Japanese import to get the “Jump The Moon” (not really exceptional) bonus track. Hindsight is always 20/20, and I should have learned from the past album, Black Rain. It too had bonus tracks for different markets, and it too was reissued with all bonus tracks intact on some kind of tour edition.  So Ozzy’s done it again, with this “tour edition” designed to promote his American tour. You can tell by the missing black flag, now replaced with an American banner. Ozzy has also stuck on a “new” song called “Hand of the Enemy” which to me wasn’t as good as the rest of the material on the album. Besides that, there are four live tracks: “Let Me Hear You Scream”, “Bark At The Moon”, “No More Tears” and the Sabbath classic “Fairies Wear Boots”.  This is the second released live version of “Let me Hear You Scream”, though this is the first version available on a physical release.   All four live tracks are great, with Ozzy’s newest band playing competently with their own flavour. Best of the live tracks is “Fairies Wear Boots”, on which Gus G perfectly captures the guitar riff. Plus it’s a song that Ozzy plays less frequently, so that’s a bonus.

I also bought this album on double vinyl. The vinyl edition omits the live songs, but includes an exclusive single edit of “Life Won’t Wait”. So in total, I ended up with Scream four times!  (I gave the Japanese import to my friend Peter.)

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Speak of the Devil / Talk of the Devil (1983)

 

OZZY OSBOURNE – Speak of the Devil (1983 Epic)

After Randy Rhoads died, Ozzy really seemed to have gone into a tailspin. He just seems to have been completely miserable at the time and he really tries to bury the albums he made in this period. Speak Of The Devil, a live album featuring Brad Gillis (Night Ranger) on guitar, was not even included on Ozzy’s 2002 reissue program and went out of print.

Ozzy owed his label a live album, and had actually recorded one too (Randy Rhoads Tribute).  With fresh wounds from the loss of Randy, Ozzy didn’t want to do a live album at all.    So a compromise instead; Speak of the Devil (Talk of the Devil overseas) consisted entirely of Black Sabbath songs.  At the same time, Sabbath was releasing their own double live album, Live Evil.  This direct competition poured fuel over an already volatile feud.

SPEAK OF THE DEVIL_0003I always hate to compare Ozzy’s versions of Sabbath songs with the originals. Ozzy’s have always sounded different because of the guitar players he’s chosen to use over the years. These Gillis versions are about as authentic as Ozzy’s been, until the fortuitous discovery of Zakk Wylde five years later.  Gillis is a flashier player than Iommi, but without Randy’s intricate classical bent.

You absolutely cannot argue with the track list (from the Ritz, in New York). This is Sabbath boiled down to its black core. These are the desert island songs, and I love that “Never Say Die” and “Symptom of the Universe” were included.  Through the classics, Ozzy sounds tremendously drunk.  Colossally smashed, not quite completely out of his fucking head yet, but close.  Still lucid, not yet totally annihilated.  His voice takes on an angry shade when he starts reminiscing about the the groupies at the old Fillmore East (“The Wizard”).  (Sounds like a naughty word was awkwardly edited of out this ramble, too.)

I do love a moment when, just before breaking into the aforementioned “Wizard”, Ozzy says to somebody (a roadie?) “Hey, what’s happenin’ man?”

The vocals sound like they’ve been sweetened in the studio.  They’ve been double tracked, or manipulated to have that effect.  I’m normally not a fan of that kind of thing, but it’s still a great listen.  There’s some annoying feedback at points…it doesn’t bother me too much, hell, when I first heard this album (on cassette) in 1991, I couldn’t even hear the feedback, for the shitty fidelity of cassette tape.  I’m sure Ozzy considers the album to be sonically embarrassing, that seems to be his modus operandi.

Of note, “Sweet Leaf” did not manage to make the original CD release, but has been restored to this version, its CD debut.  It was on the original cassette version, a cassette-and-LP-only “bonus track” at the time.  (Aaron, that means you gotta buy remastered or LP.)

Band lineup: Osbourne/Gillis/Sarzo/Aldridge/Airey.

4.5/5 stars

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