Under Cover

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Prince of Darkness (2005 Sony box set)

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0001OZZY OSBOURNE – Prince of Darkness (2005 Sony)

Let’s pretend that you’re involved with Ozzy Osbourne’s management or record label.  When it comes time to release that first “definitive” box set, I’m sure you’d have your own ideas for making it the best box that Ozzy could release.  Ozzy Osbourne in 2005 had eight mostly great studio albums, numerous live records, and more rarities than you could shake a stick at.  They certainly had a lot of music to choose from.  I greeted the eventual release of Prince of Darkness with great excitement at these rarities…but tremendous disappointment at the overall listening experience.

A 4-CD box set is a lot of listening and in order to keep it riveting from end to end, you have to pick the right tracks and sequence them for maximum firepower.  Somebody at Sony’s box set department didn’t get my memos on that, obviously, because Prince of Darkness is one of the most annoying box sets to listen to in its entirety.   They decided to do two discs “anthology” style, with live and rare tracks mixed in.  The third disc is a questionable collection of Ozzy collaborations.  The final CD is the worst of all:  covers that Ozzy recorded and later released on their own album, Under Cover!  A CD that was released only months after Prince of Darkness itself — with additional bonus tracks to milk it further, forcing the completist to buy it again!

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0004I have so many complaints about this set that I felt it best to list them all off in point form.

1. Never, ever start your box set off with a live track.  Even if that live track is “I Don’t Know” from Randy Rhoads Tribute.

2. Because this set was released in 2005, you are hearing the re-recorded bass and drums on all the songs from Blizzard and Diary…not the classic original versions.

3. Same with the tunes from Bark at the Moon.  These are the remixed versions found on the 2002 reissue of that album.  There are only two songs from that album anyway.  “Bark” itself is an unreleased live version.

4. Two CDs is not enough space to represent Ozzy’s album output in a box set, especially when you include the studio albums, live albums and rare tracks too.  The early Randy Rhoads material makes up the bulk of disc one, leaving the Jake E. Lee years under represented.  There are no songs from The Ultimate Sin at all, only the three live tracks originally for the Ultimate Live Ozzy EP.

5.  There are a few baffling exclusions, such as “Miracle Man” (first single with Zakk) and “I Just Want You”, in favour of also-rans such as “Spiders”.

6. The collaborations disc is a total mess.  “Purple Haze” is just a Hendrix cover from the No Rest For the Wicked era, by Ozzy’s band.  It’s not a collaboration, just a cover they did for the Make A Difference Foundation CD called Stairway To Heaven/Highway To Hell.  It’s a real challenge to listen to this whole CD in one sitting.  One moment you’re rocking out to a killer version of “N.I.B.” with Primus, the next you’re barfing through a piece of crap with Tony Iommi and Wu-Tang Clan.  From Was Not Was to Miss Piggy, at least the CD is diverse, and it does collect a lot of Ozzy’s singing from albums I don’t have.  I already had the Miss Piggy track but not the cover of “Stayin’ Alive” by Dweezil Zappa! Nor did I have “I Ain’t No Nice Guy” by Motörhead, from the mediocre March ör Die.  This disc is too jokey and not at all consistent.

PRINCE OF DARKNESS_0005

7. Even though the third disc collects a variety of tracks from a number of CDs, I am certain that Ozzy fans who buy this kind of box set already had some of them.  Including “Psycho Man” by Black Sabbath (not even a single remix version) from the Reunion CD (2008) is odd.  Many Ozzy and Sabbath collectors already have the Nativity in Black CDs, where the Primus and Therapy? tracks come from.

8. “Nowhere to Run (Vapor Trail)” by DMX, Ozzy Osbourne, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, The Crystal Method and Fuzzbubble is edited!  This track was from the South Park album and still features Isaac Hayes’ introduction, as “Chef”.  For reasons I cannot explain at all, the swearing and “n” words are blanked, and there were a lot of them.   It’s also missing ODB’s rant at the end, which itself was edited off later versions of the South Park CD.  (I have an earlier version with the rant intact.)

9. The packaging leaves a hell of a lot to be desired.  Inside the box which is just book-style, you will find a nice big booklet that just sits loose inside.  There is no way to secure it in, so it’ll fall out any time you pick it up!

10. Speaking of that booklet, the liner notes suck.  Ozzy has a brief note about each song, but not necessarily any useful information.  For example, regarding that South Park track, all we’re told is that Ozzy bit the head off Kenny.  Nothing about how that random assortment of artists was assembled.  The book is padded out with lyrics and shoddy credits that aren’t very accurate.  “Bark at the Moon” live for example was recorded in 1982-1983 according to the notes.  Come on, guys!  Not good enough for a box set.

11.  The entire fouth CD sucks.  You can read my review of the expanded Under Cover version of it here.  (Long story short: 1/5 stars.)  The only difference is that the box set includes Kelly Osbourne’s duet with daddy, on “Changes”.  This song was only included on the Japanese version of Under Cover but not the regular domestic.

Fortunately, Prince of Darkness is not a total bust.  Some of the unreleased tracks are real treasures, such as the demo of “S.I.N.” called “Won’t Be Coming Home”.  I prefer this to the album version from No More Tears by a long shot, as I do the twangier “I Don’t Want to Change the World”.  I also love the demo for the emotional ballad “See You On the Other Side”, which features previously unheard saxophone accompaniment.  I appreciated that they included the live version of “Perry Mason” from the Ozzfest 1 CD, which enabled me to sell off that pretty crappy album.

It’s easy to bitch and complain (don’t I know it?) but if I were to make a 4 CD Ozzy box from the same period, I would have done it very differently.  The covers CD would be axed completely and the rarities set aside to a disc all their own.  The first two “anthology” discs would be strictly studio versions, and original studio versions at that, with only a sprinkle of tracks from Randy Rhoads Tribute.  I would try to squeeze in more rare tracks from B-sides and EPs, and I would definitely try to mix them in with the collaborations so that you’re not left listening to so many of those novelty tunes in a row.

Buyer beware — Prince of Darkness is not the feast you were hoping for. This is a poorly executed package. When you have an artist like Ozzy Osbourne, you really gotta screw up bad to put out a set that is this hard to listen to. Prince of Darkness is going back on the shelf, for a good long while.

2/5 stars

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Gallery: The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014

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T-Rev, Wes, Doug and I had a great time at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014. Trevor came home with some kind of Asian import of Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor with at least a dozen bonus tracks. He also scored a cool silver Grand Funk LP with a round cover. Wes stocked up on Tom Petty vinyl.

My treasures are below.  Let’s start with the Japanese imports!  Yes, the same vendor was there.  I probably cleared out his best stuff last year, but he still had some good ones left for me.

Japanese imports purchased:

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover ($25 with obi strip intact)  I am well on record as not being a fan of this album.  But it’s one of only two Ozzy albums that I didn’t own.  Finding a Japanese version made it easy to justify for my collection.  The bonus track is “Changes” with Kelly Osbourne, but I had that already on the Prince of Darkness box set.  This comes with a region 2 DVD.
  • Europe – Start From the Dark (sealed, $20)  I already had this album as a bonus CD within Europe’s Live From the Dark DVD set.  The Japanese get two live tracks from Sweden Rock 2004:  “Seven Doors Hotel” and “Wings Of Tomorrow”.
  • White Wolf – Endangered Species (sealed, $20) Last year I bought Standing Alone on vinyl, this year I got Endangered Species!  I always liked that song “She.”  There are no bonus tracks on it but it’s so hard to find this on CD at all, let alone Japanese.
  • Paul Gilbert – Get Out of My Yard (sealed, $20) I’ve long been a fan of Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and he’s a cult hero in Japan.  I know his solo stuff is pretty out there.  Although I have tracks of his on guitar compilations, this is the first solo album of his that I have found.
  • Aerosmith – “Pink” (sealed CD single, $15) In Record Store Tales Part 42, I made fun of the “Barefoot DJ” because he was looking for this Aerosmith dud.  Regardless, I’m probably most excited about this CD.  If there’s one thing rarer than Japanese CDs, it might be Japanese CD singles.  They’re produced in even more limited number.  I won’t get all the B-sides for “Pink” on this CD single, but it has plenty of tracks that I believe are exclusive to this disc.
  • Aerosmith – “Amazing” (CD single, $5 with obi strip intact) I had a domestic copy of this CD with the exact same tracks, just in a different order.  I wasn’t sure if I had it or not when I bought it, but for $5 I figured it’s still a win-win situation.  It’s in mint condition and I paid a fair price for it.

Other CDs purchased:

  • Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All (sealed German import, $10) I’ve always wanted this album, and I always promised myself I’d get it if I found an import with bonus tracks for a good price.  I have done that now.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke On My Mega-mix ($5) This is a bootleg.  I bought this from the same guy who sold me the Aerosmith “Amazing” single.  Years and years ago, there was a Deep Purple compilation LP called Anthology.  If you bought that and four other singles, you could mail away for a “Smoke On My Mega-mix” exclusive single.  This bootleg has that track, and a whole bunch of other rarities.  One such track is Deep Purple Mk V’s “Fire, Ice & Dynamite” which is only on a DVD called New, Live & Rare.
  • Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (bootleg from A Matter of Life and Death tour, $40)  This is a beautifully packaged triple-gatefold live bootleg.  One of the few recent tours that Maiden have not released a live album from was A Matter of Life and Death.  On that tour, they played the whole album live, and now I have it.  It’s really nicely packaged and I’m looking forward to listening to it soon.

 

“Holy Grails” seen but not purchased:

“Holy Grails” bought:

  • None

One funny story: At record shows, you always find vendors who “know it all”. T-Rev found a CD copy of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled solo EP for $5, but it was burned. Trevor asked, “Do you have the original CD of this? Because if you do, I will buy it.” The vendor swore up and down that no such CD exists. Trevor said, “Yes it does, my buddy has it.” He’s right, because I am that buddy. Here are pictures of my copy of that EP; Amazon are asking over $100 for it, since it went out of print. Photographic proof that it exists below (Wounded Bird CD edition):

Here’s a list of the next bunch of shows.  Attendance is pending funds:

  • London, April 18 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)
  • Cambridge, April 27 2014 (Holiday Inn, 200 Holiday Inn Dr.)
  • Woodstock, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), May 25 2014 (Woodstock Fairgrounds, 875 Nellis St.)
  • Ancaster, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), June 22 2014 (Ancaster Fairgrounds, 630 Trinity Rd.)
  • Mississauga, October 19 2014 (Capitol Cenvention Centre, 6435 Dixie Rd.)
  • London, October 26 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)

All four of us had a blast.  In the car, Wes commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever had musical conversations like this before!”  Then, I found something out.  Last year, Wes gave me a copy of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  He did this on condition that I rip and email him the tracks.  I did that as soon as I got home, only I sent them via Trevor, since I didn’t have Wes’ email.

Wes said he never got them.  “I emailed the tracks like a year ago,” I replied.  I explained that Trevor instructed to just send them to him, and he’d forward them along.  That never happened.  Wes said, “All this time I thought it was Ladano’s fault, turns out it’s my friend right here!” and points at Trevor.

This is turning into an annual event.  We might make it semi-annual by checking out the October show.  I’ll be sure to be you posted!