Ozzy Osbourne

Ordinary Man

Written by: RUB on 11/03/2020 11:25:22

Who would’ve thought that the Prince of Darkness himself would witness the 50th Anniversary of the legendary début album by Black Sabbath, and thus the 50th Anniversary of the heavy metal genre? If you’ve ever heard about the man and legend, Ozzy Osbourne, you’re sure to know what a hard life he has lived. Not only was he present at the epicentre of the birth of heavy metal, he also helped create some of the most classic songs in the genre throughout the many years he has been active. Lately, however, has been a different story for the living legend. Perhaps with the exception of the final album from ‘Sabbath, “13”, it has been years since he delivered something worthy of mentioning, let alone listening to several years down the line. So with this, his 12th full-length outing as a solo artist — and his first studio output in ten years — he sets out to create something new and perhaps even memorable. But will this release be anything other than a side note in the overall picture, or will it bring around a second youth for the ageing rocker? Let us find out, shall we.

Prior to release, a few hints of what to expect were released. Collaborations with artists such as Post Malone and Elton John raised the eyebrow of many a heavy rocker, but after listening to some of the tracks, I wasn’t so quick to dismiss these — more on that later. First off, the opener “Straight to Hell” is pretty much what you would expect from an Ozzy piece: catchy, killer riffing courtesy of Slash, potent drumming by none other than Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, and smooth bass lines by Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, all in all a pretty straightforward hard rock song. Same goes for the second track “All My Life”, albeit that song doesn’t really have anything to offer apart from a slick riff in the chorus and a half-decent solo around the middle of the song. The equivalent of “Dreamer” on “Ordinary Man” is the duet with Elton John on the title track. Discarding every heavy metal fibre in my body, I actually think it’s pretty good, and definitely on par with the aforementioned “Dreamer” — especially if you listen to the lyrics, which represent Ozzy’s overall idea behind this album, and why he wanted to do it. Heavy metal or even hard rock it is not, though.

The same goes for “Under the Graveyard”. The lyrics reflect his person and his wrongdoings throughout his career. Starting with “Today I woke up, and I hate myself”, it’s clear that he might have battled depression (as we know his wife Sharon has), and obviously he has struggled with both alcoholism and drug addiction. These are all serious issues and I do admire the way Ozzy copes and comes to terms with them through his music here, but strictly musically speaking, this is yet another anonymous track I’d probably rather be without, excluding the pretty ballsy build-up from the 03:20 mark onwards. “Eat Me” is luckily a different story. Here we see Ozzy trying on some sludgy, groovy elements, and as a whole the track is actually pretty successful. It’s different than what we’re used to from him, but the elements in the chorus are mixed together nicely with his usual doom-ridden lyrical universe, and with the drop in intensity just shy of the 3-minute mark, it still feels like an Ozzy song and I could actually see this working very well in the live setting.

Somehow, I also see this to be the deal with “Scary Little Green Man”, albeit in many ways it is very unlike the Ozzy we’re used to from back in the day. I’m not going to compare it with the classic of “Faeries Wear Boots”, but still, why would he all of a sudden sing about aliens? Whatever the case, this song, as the only one on the entire album, actually has me nodding along to the catchy tunes for its entire duration and tapping my foot to the off-beat drumming in the beginning, whilst trying to get the chorus out of my head. It doesn’t reach the greatness of Ozzy in the ‘70s and ‘80s of course, but I’d still argue it’s worth checking out. Also, it features Tom Morello playing the guitar, so what’s not to like? Just like the former “It’s a Raid” featuring Post Malone it is a surprisingly good track. I don’t know that artist too well apart from what I have heard on the radio, but my hopes for this song to be good was near zero, coming in. I was thus gladly surprised by how aggressive it actually is. It brings fast-paced rock’n’roll, and I actually think that Post Malone fits into it pretty well. There doesn’t seem to be a bigger meaning behind the track, but it provides a nice change of pace (albeit a bit late on the album) when so many of the other tracks have that balladic “Dreamer”-vibe.

Even though the large majority of the tracks present on “Ordinary Man” don’t have that ‘80s Ozzy-feel to them (which has been the case for decades, to be honest), I still think his essence is in there in every track, whether by way of his personal or his stranger lyrics, or simply his easily recognizable voice. With that in mind, I was appalled by the last track, which certainly does not have any Ozzy-vibe about it whatsoever. “Take What You Want” is what I so loathe about mass-produced radio hits. I don’t feel the soul in the electronic backing track, which frankly annoys me. I’ll go so far as to say this could very well be the worst track Ozzy has ever taken part in, and I know he has done some weird stuff in the past. Where “It’s a Raid” still captures what Ozzy has always stood for despite featuring a cameo from a popular artist from a very different genre, the only thing “Take What You Want” has in common with Ozzy’s legacy is that it has his name written in the title. To this day, I still haven’t been able to finish the track. Remember — this is still an Ozzy Osbourne album, so the tracks should reflect that.

If you by any chance thought “Dreamer” was where Ozzy peaked as a solo artist, you will probably love this latest album. To me, though, this is just too safe, polished and without any edge. I understand and respect if this is what Ozzy really wanted to do — work with a variety of different artists. And you were probably not so naïve as to think he would surprise big time with an absolute banger of a record, but when the ageing legends in Judas Priest managed to do so, why wouldn’t Ozzy be able to? Even though this might be stretching it a bit, I still think “Ordinary Man” has its moments, as it feels like Ozzy wanted to do this for quite some time — partly to say sorry to the people he has hurt over the years and partly to question his own person in the bigger picture, and in the end, trying to come to terms with where and how he has ended up in 2020. If you can accept the premise underlined throughout the review, you might be able to enjoy some of the tracks. All in all, I just find it too dull; it’s not his worst effort, but definitely not his best either. I’m glad on behalf of Ozzy that he has managed to complete this and actually come out on top with some unusual collaborations, but if he manages to pay a visit to these shores, I hope the setlist won’t be packed with too many of these tracks, as I simply think they pale in comparison with his otherwise impressive back catalogue.

5

Download: Scary Little Green Man, Eat Me, It’s a Raid, Straight to Hell, Goodbye
For the fans of: Black Label Society, Mötley Crüe, Scorpions, Twisted Sister
Listen: Facebook

Release date 21.02.2020
Sony Music

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