zakk wylde

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Live at Budokan (2002)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Live at Budokan (2002 Sony)

Ozzy’s last paint-by-numbers live album was almost two decades ago.  In actuality, you really only need a live one with Randy Rhoads and you’re golden.  But if you’re in the mood for downtuned Ozzy songs, Live at Budokan might be the way to go.

While the new rhythm section of Mike Bordin (Faith No More) and Rob Trujillo (Metallica) do have a positive impact on the sound, Zakk Wylde is tiring.  His constant divebombing all over Randy’s composition “I Don’t Know” just rubs the wrong way.  Then it’s an unremarkable song called “That I Never Had” from Down to Earth.  The most enjoyable thing about it is actually Zakk’s backing vocal.

Ozzy spaces out old songs with new ones so sleep doesn’t take you too soon.  “Believer” is a nice inclusion, since we’ve never had a version of it with Zakk on guitar.  There’s a novelty to it for that reason, so it’s notable.  A crap new song called “Junkie” acts as filler before “Mr. Crowley”.  They used to have an acronym in Star Trek that they would paint on pipes and conduits on the Enterprise:  “GNDN”.  Goes nowhere, does nothing.  That’s “Junkie”.  And “Crowley” just drags.

The last of the new songs here is “Gets Me Through”; the single, you know the one.  The one with the hilariously unimaginative lyric “I’m not the kind of person you think I am, I’m not the Antichrist or the Iron Man”.  We sure do miss Bob Daisley’s lyrical touch.  “Gets Me Through” might be the most paint-by-numbers of any Ozzy track since Zakk joined the band.

Get ready for a whole shit-ton of No More Tears stuff, as Ozzy rolls out four of ’em.  The title track is still great and doesn’t strain Ozzy as much as the earlier songs.  “Mama I’m Coming Home”, well sure, it has its fans.  “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is still a yawn and “Road to Nowhere” fares well.  The crowd sure loves ’em, those familiar hits.  They go nuts for “Crazy Train” which just doesn’t sound right tuned down like this.  Same with “Bark at the Moon”.  Ozzy closes with the only Sabbath track on the disc, “Paranoid”.  The double tracked vocals are obvious and annoyingly artificial sounding.  It’s cool hearing the Faith No More style of drumming all over it though.  Mike Bordin is a tremendous talent but was he the right guy for Ozzy Osbourne?

As the most unessential of all Ozzy releases, Live at Budokan should really be the last one to add to your collection.  If you care, it was available with two covers:  red printing, and black printing.  For extra pain, you could also go for DVD.  Best track:  “Believer”.

1/5 stars

 

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

#804: Freestylin’

GETTING MORE TALE #804:  Freestylin’

I thought I’d try something different, and just sit down at the keyboard and write.  I have a warm coffee next to me (I drink large regular now) and some music in my speakers.  I’m listening to a Japanese import of Quiet Riot’s new album Hollywood Cowboys.  Just listening; not reviewing.  You have to spend time just listening.

I do most of my listening at my keyboard these days.  My main room music setup is seldom used anymore.  Only when I’m spinning something in 5.1 surround do I usually roll out the big guns.  Otherwise I’m content to just listen at my desk or on a pair of headphones.  It’s a nice comfortable spot for me, right by a window.  Outside the ground is dusted in a shallow layer of white.  It is December 20th, 2019.

I dared go to the mall today.  Long story short, a bunch of stuff I ordered for Jen for Christmas got cancelled (out of stock).  Not having much choice this late in the game, I went to the mall where I accomplished my mission.  It wasn’t what I’d call “fun” but it was also pretty painless.  I stopped at Sunrise records where I inquired about The Rise of Skywalker soundtrack.  I would have taken CD or vinyl, but their stock had not yet arrived.

I do know this.  A “deluxe edition” of the soundtrack is coming in March.  Then, later in 2020, a 27 Blu-ray (!) Skywalker Saga boxed set.  I don’t know how far that will put me back, and I actually don’t care!  I’ve been enjoying speculating what could be in that box.  The press release specified it was being billed as a complete Skywalker Saga.  That’s 9 films.  Let’s guesstimate that each movie will be a 2-disc set.  That’s 22 discs, plus 5 extra Blu-rays?  That’s one possibility.  With George Lucas out of the picture, we could be getting an “original” original trilogy and a Holiday Special.  Sky’s the limit, so let’s make some wishes.

This Quiet Riot album is decent.  I liked Jamed Durbin with that band.  You simply cannot hear that Frankie Banali was ill.  I hope Frankie fights a hard battle against that bitch named cancer, and many more albums are still to come.  You can do this, Frankie.  The Japanese bonus track this time out is an acoustic version of the bluesy “Roll On”.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Ozzy Osbourne over the last few weeks.  You’ll see some of that in future content I’ve written.  I played a few of his more recent albums, Scream and Black Rain in addition to all the classics.  Those two are not bad.  They hold up better than I thought they would.  It’s refreshing when you get to Scream, with Gus G on guitar.  Too much Zakk Wylde can lead to ear fatigue.  The Randy Rhoads era stands out absolutely as the pinnacle.  The way he wrote and played guitar is unlike anyone else, and there just isn’t enough Randy music in the world.

In case you’re curious, there’s one Ozzy album I never bought, and that’s Down to Earth (2001).  I’ve heard it and I’m just not interested.  Too many outside writers and too much influence from the producer, would be my nutshell review.  I have no plans to add it to my collection, though I did buy the CD singles.  I like having B-sides.

I think I’ve rambled long enough.  Christmas is coming and I still have one special post to go, as a gift to a reader.  Thanks for hanging in — and stay tuned for the annual year-end lists!

And may the Force be with you, always.

 

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.

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Live & Loud (1993 grille cover)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Live & Loud (limited edition 1993 Epic speaker grille edition)

Ozzy Osbourne has done lots and lots of tours since his “No More Tours Tour”.  It seemed special at the time, because we thought Live & Loud was going to be the last live album.   It was not.   What was supposed to be a definitive and indispensable capstone is just another live album, only really notable for its packaging.

Let’s start there.  If you buy this album, don’t buy the remastered edition in the jewel case.  This album didn’t need remastering a couple years later.  Why would it?  Instead search for the original digipack with the metal speaker grille cover.  Finding one in good shape can be a challenge.  Unfortunately, the metal grille is not removable although the VHS release did have a removable grille.  The release also came with two Ozzy “temporary tattoos” on little 2″ x 2″ sheets of paper.  These are the first things to get lost and you might want to consider that you’ll never find them.

Live & Loud scores an A+ for packaging, but gets mediocre grades for the music.  This is patched together from a variety of recordings, and it sounds like a lot of fixing was done after the fact.  It’s bogged down with over-long guitar and drum solos (Zakk Wylde and Randy Castillo) and too much talking.  There is only so much that one needs to be told to “go fucking crazy”.  Ozzy proclaims that he loves us so often that it loses all meaning.  He’s more of a cheerleader than a singer at times, constantly badgering the crowd to get “louder”!  There is also an annoyingly long intro that means nothing without the visual accompaniment that’s supposed to go with it.  I will admit that my buddy Peter and I were amused when Ozzy said “Let me see your fucking cigarette lighters” during “Mr. Crowley”.

On the plus side, this particular lineup of Ozzy’s band was one of his strongest.  Zakk and Randy were joined by bassist Mike Inez who was invited to join Alice in Chains in 1993.  Another plus is the presence of Black Sabbath.  The second to last song is “Black Sabbath”, performed by the original Black Sabbath, at the final show on the tour.  Fans will recall that Sabbath were touring their incredible Dehumanizer album, which frankly blows away Ozzy’s No More Tears.   When Sabbath (then including Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinny Appice and Ronnie James Dio) were asked to open for Ozzy at his final two concerts, Dio bailed.  He was replaced for those shows by a little known metal singer named Rob Halford.  At the last of the two shows, the original Black Sabbath featuring Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward reunited to play a three song set.  It was their first time together since Live Aid in 1985.

Unfortunately, a couple tracks aside, Live & Loud is flat and uninspired.  “Black Sabbath” isn’t brilliant but at least it’s historic.  All the important songs are there, with maybe a few too many from No More Tears.  There is one surprise in “Changes”, the old Sabbath classic.  This is performed by Zakk on piano and Ozzy.  It’s brilliant and was used as the single.  “Mr. Crowley”, “Shot in the Dark” and “Desire” are pretty good, but drummer Randy Castillo was killing it.  He was the perfect drummer for that band.  Rest in peace Randy.

Live & Loud is for the serious fan only, who will really want to get the grille cover.  Live & Loud is not consistent enough for the average listener and gets bogged down in spots making it a very long run.

2/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Ozzmosis (1995, remastered)

Scan_20160727OZZY OSBOURNE – Ozzmosis (1995, 2002 Sony remaster)

It is fair to say that Ozzy’s solo recording career post-No More Tears is not considered as classic as the music from before. Admittedly it was a confusing time. Ozzy finished his “No More Tours” tour while all the talk was about a Sabbath reunion that never happened. Retirement wasn’t in the cards, so Ozzy re-teamed with a few former members of his band: Zakk Wylde on guitar, and Geezer Butler on bass. Joining the band behind the drums was a pre-Journey Deen Castronovo. Ozzy sat down to write with a number of talents including Steve Vai, and eventually produced the “post retirement” album Ozzmosis.

Ozzmosis was considered by some fans to be inferior to No More Tears, although song for song, No More Tears isn’t as great as people seem to remember it.  Ozzmosis has a heavier, more bass-centric sound and certainly boasts at least four Ozzy classics in its grooves.  Osbourne has gone on record as preferring the demo versions of some songs better than the album tracks, but Ozzmosis boasts a hell of a heavy sound.

Ozzy was also struggling with his public image.  He didn’t want to be seen at the bat-biting madman anymore.  I suppose that’s why we see songs like “Perry Mason” on Ozzmosis.  Not a bad track, it was chosen as lead single.  But the subject matter?  Not sure why, but:

“Who can we get on this case?
We need Perry Mason,
Someone to put you in place,
Calling Perry Mason.”

Certainly a far cry lyrically from “Bark at the Moon”, but musically it’s still Ozzy prowling in the shadows, warning you of the dangers.  It’s delightful to hear Geezer’s trademark slinky bass all over it.  (I have often said that Ozzy’s best solo band, post-Randy, had Geezer and Zakk.)  Ozzy was sufering from some vocal issues at the time, but “Perry Mason” isn’t one of the songs you can tell this from.  Only Ozzy Osbourne & Co. could make a song about Perry Mason this cool.

“Perry Mason” would be one of the four album classics.  Also up there is “I Just Want You”, which he wrote with Canadian songsmith Jim Vallance.  Ozzy was rightfully proud of this heavy ballad.  Rick Wakeman provided keys, classy and absolutely perfect.  At times he’s playing synth parts that sound like mellotron, at others like a big fat Hammond organ (bigger than Orlando Bloom’s wang).  At all times, it is awesome.  Zakk Wylde plays an effects-laden solo that sounds underwater, but in a good way.  It’s haunting and not robbed of its power.  He utilises this “watery” sound on a number of tracks on Ozzmosis.

Standing with these songs is “See You on the Other Side”, another fab ballad from the dark side.  Ozzy’s preferred demo version (with sax solo) can be found on his Prince of Darkness box set.  There’s nothing wrong with this version though, haunting as it is.   It was written by Ozzy, Zakk, and Lemmy Kilmister, who helped Ozzy out with the words.

The fourth and final classic is the album closer, “Old L.A. Tonight”.  As one of Ozzy’s piano ballads, it has been largely forgotten over the years.  The piano and Zakk’s very emotive playing only amplify what Ozzy’s singing.  Zakk’s solo is one of his finest.  Why some things become hits and not others, I don’t always understand.  “Old L.A. Tonight” is superior in almost every way to a track like “Mama I’m Coming Home”, or “So Tired”.   This is one of the tracks that does reveal cracks in the Ozzman’s voice, as he reaches for very high notes and quavers.  I can’t hit the notes he’s hitting, though.

You’ll notice that of the four album classics, three are ballads, and that’s a problem.  Yes, even as far back as “Changes” or “Planet Caravan”, Ozzy has been a master of the art of the heavy ballad.  His core audience tends to buy albums for his heavy metal songs, and the heavy material on Ozzmosis is lacking.  Few of those songs really congeal into something solidly memorable.  The album sounds heavy on effects, and while that strategy worked on the four classics, it tends to choke and strangle the other songs, inhibiting Ozzy’s voice with a nasal muffler.  It’s surprising how much time he spends singing higher than what sounds comfortable, and that too is a weakness.

Sony tacked on two bonus tracks for this 2002 reissue — a rip off, and I’ll explain why.  The album includes two B-sides:  “The Whole World’s Falling Down” and “Aimee”.  (That makes two songs about Ozzy’s kids on this CD, including “My Little Man” about Jack.)   There were however four B-sides released for this album, and two are not included for no good reason.  Missing are “Living With the Enemy” and “Voodoo Dancer”, but fear not.  None of Ozzy’s B-sides this time out were really keepers.  “Aimee” isn’t bad, but Ozzy has done much better stuff for his B-sides in the past.  Songs like “You Said It All”, “Don’t Blame Me”, and “Liar”.

Zakk Wylde didn’t do the tour for this album, even though he co-wrote and played on it.  Zakk seemed to be trying to establish himself separate from Ozzy at the time, and so Ozzy toured with Joe Holmes who had finished up a stint with David Lee Roth.  (Though Ozzy stuck with Holmes for five years, I never thought he sounded right playing the Ozzy or Sabbath material.)  After a brief leg, Ozzy fired Deen Castronovo and re-hired his previous drummer Randy Castillo.  Ozzy made a backhanded statement about Castronovo being a talented session drummer, and that’s what he should continue to do.  Ouch.

It’s a mixed bag, but when you hit a gem in the grooves of Ozzmosis, it is worth the price of purchase. Shame about the stinky cover art.

3.25/5 stars

REVIEW: William Shatner – Seeking Major Tom (2011)

Scan_20150828 (5)WILLIAM SHATNER – Seeking Major Tom (2011 Cleopatra)

Why?  Why do I keep doing this to myself?  I spend hard-earned money on something I knew would be shit.  I knew it!  Didn’t I?

The hype was palpable in the air.  Two of my favourite worlds collided — heavy metal and Star Trek.  Captain James T. fucking Kirk, doing sci-fi rock classics, with luminaries of the art such as Ritchie fucking Blackmore, Zakk fucking Wylde, Dave fucking Davies and many, many more.  It’s almost as if it was a compulsory purchase.

I…wished I had…resisted.  (notice the Shatner-like pauses?)

You know how many times I have listened to Seeking Major Tom?  Once.

Let’s go in for round two.  Let’s see what happens.

Did I mention this is a double album?  This is a double album.  The original versions of a lot of these songs are deeply ingrained in our hearts and memories.  “Bohemian Rhapsody”, “Learning to Fly”, “Iron Man”.  I have a lot of feelings invested into these songs, and deep respect for every musician playing on the album.  There is even a mini Ozzy Osbourne band reunion on Iron Man, as Zakk Wylde and Mike Inez reteam once again.

Shatner first teams up with Nick Lalensi of the Strokes for “Major Tom (Coming Home)”, and musically it’s perfect, and very Strokes-like…Bill’s vocals take some getting used to.  Not bad though!  He’s not attempting to sing, it’s a spoken word performance.  It’s performing the lyrics as if it was poetry.  For “Major Tom”, it actually works kinda brilliantly.  The original “Space Oddity” is next, and this one features one Ritchie Blackmore and his lovely wife, Candice Night.  Candice adds melody enough with her backing vocals, and Bill makes his style work on the song.  Blackmore is the real star here, and it is too bad his electric guitar is low in the mix.  He takes a solo where there would normally be saxophone.

I’m actually surprised by how listenable this is!  Bill manages to evoke emotion with his monotone, which is remarkable to me.

I’m not familiar with the U2 song “In a Little While” at all.  The space connection here is that astronaut Frank De Winne once read the lyrics live from the International Space Station, beaming his vocals to a U2 concert, recorded for the DVD U2360° at the Rose Bowl.  Bill is joined by an unlikely guest, Lyle Lovett, but once again I am surprised by how well this works.  Lyle’s still got it, I’ll tell you that much!  This segues into a reprise of “Space Oddity”, and then the Steve Miller favourite “Space Cowboy”.  Brad Paisley and Steve Miller himself (he still plays brilliantly)  join Bill on this one, which…well, it crashes and burns in the atmosphere.  Bill takes on the persona of a drunken cowboy (?) and it’s just a bit too weird.

“Space Oddity” returns once again, but this time, we’re going “Space Trucking” with Ian Paice and Johnny Winter…acoustically.  “Come on!  Come on, let’s go Space Truckin’!” invites Bill, coming across more as a creepy old guy than the kind of person who drives a space truck you’d feel comfortable jumping into.  Just wait until he screams, “Yeah, yeah yeah yeah!”  No, no, no, no.  “Rocket Man” (Elton John), featuring progressive rock veteran Steve Hillage, works much better.  Hillage creates sounds similar to the “space whale” call from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  Bill’s interpretations of old classics work better when he’s not hamming it up.  Much like his acting.  And ham it up is exactly (predictably) what he did with “She Blinded Me With Science”, featuring Bootsy Collins.   Since the original is so goofy, this works plenty well.  Reggae veteran Toots Hibbert lends some credibility to the Police classic, “Walking on the Moon”.  This is pretty good too!  The ever-excellent Peter Frampton drops by for “Spirit in the Sky”, a song I usually find irresistible due to the vocal melody.  Unfortunately that melody has been gutted, and without it, there’s not much left in terms of a song.

The first (and last) time I listened to this album, I remember being repulsed by “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  You can picture it, can’t you?  It’s terrible.  “I’m just a poor boy,” whimpers Bill, and it’s awful.  “Mama,” he cries, and I’m crying too.

Thankfully, Hawkwind’s “Silver Machine” (with Wayne Kramer and Carmine Appice) is a lot better than that.  It actually rocks pretty heavy, and Bill finds the right tone for his vocals, no problem.  This is noisy goodness and quite possibly the best track on the disc.  A segue back into “Major Tom (Coming Home)” leads into a Sheryl Crow original called “Mrs. Major Tom”.  This is a very nice piano based ballad, showcasing Sheryl’s powerful pipes.  It’s a sequel of sorts to “Coming Home”, about what happens if he doesn’t come home.  Bill doesn’t even appear on this one, strangely enough!  It closes the first disc on a somber but very classy note.

I don’t know where Bill heard The Tea Party, but that’s who he’s covering on “Empty Glass”, featuring Michael Schenker.  This track was from The Tea Party’s final album before breakup, Seven Circles, which I own but can’t remember at all.   I should revisit it soon, because “Empty Glass” (which references Major Tom, a Starman, ground control, and Diamond Dogs) is damn good and heavy.  “Lost in the Stars” is from the 1949 musical of the same time.  The dusky, sparse piano accompanies Bill’s deep speaking voice perfectly.  Still mellow but in tune with the Pink Floyd original is “Learning to Fly”.  The only thing wrong with this version is that there is nobody who sounds like David Gilmour, and his guitar hook is such an important part of the original classic.  Bill sounds perfectly at home, and the musical background is sturdy enough.

The Kinks’ Dave Davies helps Shatner out on guitar, for the Byrds’ “Mr. Spaceman”.  It has that campy feel that doesn’t particularly work well.  It’s amusing, but a novelty.  “Twilight Zone” by Golden Earring (known for that chorus of “When the bullet hits the bone), rocks.  Warren Haynes from the Allman’s kicks every ass in the room on his extended guitar solo.  There is then a Shatner original called “Struggle”, written with his producer Adam Hamilton (ex L.A. Guns).   This soft dramatic piece seems vaguely familiar, like a U2 outtake, and is very good in fact.

Winding things down, Sabbath’s “Iron Man” featuring Ozzy’s old band members Zakk Wylde and Mike Inez is an easy one to screw up, and Shatner does so gloriously.  He sounds appropriately Dalek-like on the opening line, “I am Iron Man!” but he attempts to sing the song.  I repeat: he attempts to sing the song “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath.  This goes about as well as you would expect.  Zakk backing him on lead vocals only creates an irritating cacophony.  The album ends on a very different note:  “Planet Earth” by Duran Duran.  Not having any particular attachment to the original, I quite liked this one.  Hamilton plays some killer disco bass on it.  It sounds like “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”.

Going into this for the second time, I fully expected the album to suck again.  The truth is, it doesn’t.  It sure didn’t click with me the first time, but it is truly not a bad album.  Metallica made a double album with vocals like this once; I think it was called Lulu.  From this two disc set, you could extract one good solid CD of enjoyable William Shatner interpretations.  So, given that:

2.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Rock Star – Music from the Motion Picture (2001)

Scan_20150812ROCK STAR – Music from the Motion Picture (2001 Warner)

I remember dragging my long-suffering girlfriend at the time out to see this movie.  She had every right to complain.  The movie was a stinker, absolutely.  Not to mention, it had no idea when it is taking place.  Vaguely, the 80’s, but then after this guy (Marky Mark) leaves the band (Steel Dragon), he goes and becomes the founder of grunge?  The movie sucked!  It was very, very loosely inspired by the story of Ripper Owens being discovered by Judas Priest, by being in a Judas Priest cover band.  In the movie, Marky Mark becomes the singer of Steel Dragon after their original singer (who also happens to be gay, hmmm?) quits.  It was supposed to be a really inspiring story of the everyman with talent who succeeded, but it ended up being just a normal everyday turd.

But listen, we’re not talking about the movie.  We’re looking strictly at the soundtrack CD.  I ask you one simple question: If you were to pick one band to write and play the title anthem for a movie about a heavy metal band in the 80’s, who would it be?  Obviously the answer is Everclear.  (I say “obviously”, because a whole bunch of suits who get paid a whole lot more than I do picked it, so they must be right.)  Actually, their tune “Rock Star” isn’t bad.  It sounds a bit like an old Canadian rock band called Deadline, actually.

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It’s astounding, but Zakk shaved his beard to get that 80’s look back!

The main attraction of the CD is actually the original tunage by the fictional band Steel Dragon.  On record, the lineup was:

  • Zakk Wylde – lead guitar
  • Jason Bonham – drums
  • Jeff Pilson – bass
  • Nick Cantonese – guitar
  • Mike Matijevic – lead vocals
  • Jeff Scott Soto – lead vocals

See why I dragged that poor girlfriend out to see this movie?  Zakk, Jason and Jeff were in even the movie, as the band Steel Dragon.

They had two lead singers, while Marky Mark mimed.  Jeff Scott Soto sings the raspy, mid-rangey stuff such as “Livin’ the Life”.  This isn’t a bad rock tune, but it’s Zakk’s guitar that makes it perk up a bit.  Mike Matijevic (Steelheart) sings the smooth and screamy stuff, with his impeccable range.  “We All Die Young” is a bonafide  great songs.  Matijevic’s stunning vocals meeting Zakk Wylde’s leads is probably a wet dream for some folks!  The only problem with it is that it doesn’t sound accurate to the period.  The movie is supposed to take place in the early 80’s (I think) but “We All Die Young” sounds early 90’s.  But wait…we’re supposed to be talking about the CD, not the movie.  Fuck the movie!

“Blood Pollution” (written by Twiggy Ramirez, interestingly) has Matijevic singing, but as with “Livin’ the Life” the song isn’t that special.  It sounds like Motley Crue, except with Zakk Wylde on guitar and a better Vince Neil.  Jeff Scott Soto helms “Stand Up”, which is way heavier than you’d expect considering Sammy Hagar wrote it!  This version actually came out before Sammy’s, on 2002’s Not 4 Sale and has different lyrics.  “Stand Up” kicks ass, and along with “We All Die Young” is one of the soundtrack highlights.  Just listen to Zakk killing it in that fast part! It’s also one of the few tunes with that patented, genetic Bonham Stomp.

Another track right up Motley Crue’s alley is “Wasted Generation”, and with its Desmond Child co-write it’s a lot heavier than expected. Jeff Scott kicks ass on the anthemic punchy chorus, and Zakk’s shredding is tasty. The final Steel Dragon tune on the disc is a Rainbow cover — “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Matijevic singing. I never understood why the band Steel Dragon would be playing a Rainbow cover, since it is implied that Steel Dragon were active in the 70’s too, contemporaries with Rainbow. But we’re here to talk about the CD, not that piece of shit movie. “Long Live Rock and Roll” with Zakk Wylde on guitar…it’s not what you’d hope it would be. Bonham’s awesome though, and remarkably Ian Paice-like.

The rest of the disc contains various hits from various bands from various years.  The Verve Pipe – “Colorful” (2001), check!  INXS – “The Devil Inside” (1987), check! Why? Who the fuck knows. I like some INXS, it’s completely out of place. I suppose that a soundtrack for you. More suiting to the tone of the CD are Kiss’ “Lick It Up” (1983), Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” (1986), Ted Nugent’s “Stranglehold” (1975), and Motley Crue’s “Wild Side” (1987). I do wonder why “Stranglehold” seems to be the only Nugent that ever shows up on movie soundtracks.  At least Marky Mark doesn’t have any songs.

The final song, Trevor Rabin’s “Gotta Have It” sounds like end credits music, but I’m not going to watch that crummy movie to find out. Rabin’s track is excellent, as should be expected. It sounds like Rabin, which is all I can really say to describe it!

So: Rock Star, a shit movie, gave us a pretty OK soundtrack. Considering I (and probably you) already had the Nugent, Kiss, Bon Jovi and Motley Crue songs, I salvaged seven tracks from the album as keepers: the six Steel Dragon tunes, and Trevor Rabin. There are 14 songs, so this time the math is easy.

2.5/5 stars

CONCERT REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Zombie, In This Moment 1/21/08

Review written January 22, 2008.  Dedicated to Peter M. Cavan!

OZZY OSBOURNE/ROB ZOMBIE/IN THIS MOMENT live at the ACC, Toronto Ontario, 01/21/08, on the Black Rain tour

OZZYWhen you pay $100 a ticket you’d better get a hell of a show, no pun intended. While Rob Zombie rose to the occasion and put on the show of a lifetime, Ozzy Osbourne stumbled, carried only by his seasoned band and the love of a metal craving audience.

First up were newcomers In This Moment, who played a short 4 song set to a half filled house. Singer Maria Brink managed to get the crowd going even though most of them didn’t know there was a third band on the bill. Coming out in her trademark blue dress, and screaming her lungs out, I could not believe the power in this woman’s voice. The whole band was hampered by horrible sound which unfortunately rendered her screaming and singing unintelligible. However, at one point she let loose and screamed for a good 30 seconds straight…how she does this is beyond me, I sure can’t! In This Moment played their hit “Beautiful Tragedy” second-to-last and then revved up the audience to see Rob Zombie.

This was Zombie’s last night of the tour, and his crew played pranks on In This Moment through most of their set, however it was dead serious once Zombie hit the stage. Hidden by curtains, the audience could not see Zombie’s amazing stage set until the lights came up. And that was not to happen before we were treated to a surprise: Rob Zombie’s Grindhouse trailer “Werewolf Women Of The S.S.” starring Nicholas Cage as…FU MANCHU! (Zombie is considering making a full movie based on this trailer.)

Then the lights came up, dancing girls on either side of a giant devil head, and band roaring. The head cracked open and an adrenalized Rob Zombie emerged to “American Witch”! What an entrance.

John 5 was at the top of his game on guitar, playing with his teeth, behind his back, throwing his instrument all over the stage. For his guitar solo he even played a snippet of “Oh Canada”, but more on that shortly.

Zombie played all the hits with tons of syncopated pyro behind him, so much that you could feel it from the nosebleeds. “Dragula”, “Living Dead Girl”, “Thunderkiss ’65” and of course “More Human Than Human” were all played expertly, Zombie himself all over the stage at all times. He had ample video footage behind him, showing original film footage from House Of 1000 Corpes, The Devil’s Rejects, his own animation, and classic horror films such as Nosferatu.

Zombie’s crowning moment was during John 5’s guitar solo, at which point he grabbed two flashlights and headed into the crowd, all backed by John 5’s incredible shredding. I mean, come on folks…this is the guitar player that David Lee Roth chose to stand where Eddie Van Halen, Steve Vai, Steve Hunter and Jason Becker have stood.

The only thing wrong the whole Rob Zombie show is that there was so much going on at once, with the video screens, dancing girls, drumming robots, props, lights, and pyro, that you can’t see it all at once. I would like to see Rob Zombie twice or three times…difficult now that his tour is over!

A short break ensued, and then we were treated to some video footage courtesy of the Ozzman. It was a humourous medley of popular film and TV footage from the last year, all recut to star Ozzy himself! Imagine Ozzy in: The Queen. Or Ozzy under Azamat’s ass in Borat! It was good stuff, but unfortunately it underlined that the once and future singer of Black Sabbath has now become something of a joke himself.

Ozzy and his band (Zakk Wylde on guitar, Mike Bordin on drums, Blasko on bass, and Adam Wakeman on keys) then blasted through his first single from the new Black Rain CD, “I Don’t Wanna Stop”. A great opener, unfortunately hard to appreciate with Zakk Wylde’s guitar sounding so harsh in the ACC. Ozzy played most of the classics with very few surprises: “Bark At The Moon”, “Suicide Solution”, “Crazy Train”, “I Don’t Know”, “Mr. Crowley”, “Road To Nowhere” and “Not Going Away” from the new CD.

Ozzy’s problem, both as a solo artist and with Black Sabbath, is his unwillingness to change his setlists. While I’m sure everybody there would have died and gone to heaven if Ozzy played a song like “You Can’t Kill Rock And Roll” or “Diary Of A Madman”, his setlist was based almost entirely around his Blizzard of Ozz and No More Tears CDs. Too predictable, Ozzman. His other problem is his lack of range. His voice cracked many times, and the band lowered the key for him the old songs.

A few disappointing choices: Ozzy did not play “No More Tears”, but instead treated us to the overrated “I Don’t Wanna Change The World”. And for an encore, yes, of course…”Mama I’m Coming Home”. Shame about that, as there are so many better songs to play. “Mama” sure did get the cigarette lighters out [see picture below].

Zakk Wylde did a ridiculous 10 minute guitar solo, which sounded mostly like razorblades coming at your ears. He too played with his teeth, but it was only when he quoted Randy Rhoads’ classic “Suicide Solution” live solo that sparks flew.

As a last song, of course, Ozzy played “Paranoid”. He had to. He couldn’t show up and not play any Sabbath material, although “Iron Man” and “War Pigs” didn’t make his short set. Shame, considering that he reminded the audience that Toronto is where he recorded Never Say Die.

In the end, we all got tired of Ozzy’s endless “I can’t fucking hear you” and “Go extra extra extra crazy!” When Ozzy shouted “I still can’t fucking hear you” for the 100th time, people started responding, “Because you’re fucking deaf”!

There was no question that Ozzy came, saw, and conquered because of his excellent band and the love that the crowd had for him, but it was also obvious that this was Rob Zombie’s show, and there was nothing Ozzy could have done to change that, aside from bringing Randy Rhoads back from the dead.

In This Moment – 3/5 stars
Rob Zombie – 5/5 stars
Ozzy Osbourne – 3.5/5 stars

ozzy

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Just Say Ozzy (1990 EP)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Just Say Ozzy (1990 Epic EP)

Nobody was shocked when Ozzy Osbourne, the man who said he hated live albums, put out his fourth (!) solo live release in 1990. (His other three live releases were the Mr. Crowley EP, Speak of the Devil, and Randy Rhoads Tribute. This does not include the Ultimate Live Ozzy EP which was…not live.) The liner note by Ozzy attempts to justify its release. “Firstly, ‘Shot in the Dark’,” begins Ozzy. “I am happier with this version than the original.” (Oooh, sick burn on Jake.) Ozzy continues, “Secondly, the Sabbath songs – To have recorded them one last time with Geezer Butler, Zakk and Randy says it all for me. It’s a chapter of my musical career I can now close.”

What the fuck did that mean?

Was Ozzy going to stop playing Sabbath songs?  Did anyone actually believe that?  The bitter liner notes accompany a front cover emblazoned with all four band members’ names, in the same sized font as Ozzy’s.  And on the front cover is not Ozzy Osbourne, but guitarist Zakk Wylde! (Albeit from behind so you can’t see his face, and he’s just in one corner of the cover.)  It all seems to deliver a message of “I am focused on the present, not my past.”  This quartet was fully expected to record the next Ozzy studio album together, athough ultimately that did not happen.  Geezer left in 1991 for a reunited Dio-era Black Sabbath.  So much for not looking back!

JUST SAY OZZY_0005

Just Say Ozzy functioned as a stopgap.  Ozzy would take his time with the next LP (which at that time was tentatively titled No Dogs Allowed, then Don’t Blame Me), but No Rest for the Wicked was already two years past.  They had to release something, so here it is.  One careful listen will reveal a lot of studio trickery was employed afterwards. Indeed, if one focuses on the crowd noise you can hear edits everywhere. Billboard magazine revealed that the music for this album was re-recorded in the studio with audience noise overdubbed.

Having said that, if this kind of trickery doesn’t bother you (and if you own Kiss Alive! or Frampton Comes Alive then it shouldn’t too much) then this is a great EP. Just Say Ozzy‘s meager six songs feature the only recordings of the brief Osbourne/Wylde/Butler/Castillo lineup. I was always a fan of those particular guys and there’s something to be said when you have two original Black Sabbath members in the band, while Black Sabbath only had one.

Since this EP was from the No Rest tour, three of its heaviest songs were showcased: the single “Miracle Man”, “Tattooed Dancer”, and “Bloodbath in Paradise”. No ballads.  These three songs are nice to have, but are not even close to competing with the better known hits.

From The Ultimate Sin comes “Shot In The Dark”…yes, Ozzy’s so-called “preferred version”.  And it is indeed very good.  Zakk Wylde was a talented kid even then, and I love the youthful “go for it” attitude in his playing. “Shot in the Dark” features an extended solo that established Zakk’s place with his axe predecessors.  Then, a deuce of Sabbath: a smokin’ “Sweet Leaf” and probably the best live version of “War Pigs” that I have ever heard.

Yeah, that’s what I said.

This Zakk-infused version of “War Pigs” is, in this humble writer’s opinion, the best live version ever released. Zakk’s guitar digs deep into the strings with those nice wide vibratos. It’s just monstrous, plus with Geez on bass, it has that slink it needs.  Randy Castillo (RIP) was certainly no slouch, and his relentless fills here are solidly entertaining.

3/5 stars.  Shame about that crappy cover art though.

Tracklist:

  1. “Miracle Man”
  2. “Bloodbath in Paradise”
  3. “Shot in the Dark”
  4. “Tattooed Dancer”
  5. “Sweet Leaf”
  6. “War Pigs”