The Prince of Darkness is back with his first studio album in 10 years. By any measure it’s been a rough couple of years for Ozzy. A myriad of health issues culminating with the recent announcement he has Parkinson’s. Ozzy could have never recorded another song and his legacy would be secure. That he is still releasing new music in his 70’s is, in the words of the Madman himself, crazy.
As such it came as a surprise to most fans and even Beyonce’ when last fall we got a new Ozzy song as well as news of a new album coming early in 2020. No Zakk Wylde this time. This record was spawned from a session working with Post-Malone. Like most of you I am Pre Malone (thanks Eric Miller) and as a writer I have a hard time typing his name without a hyphen. But I like the song he did with Ozzy. “Take What You Want” is at least an ok song. And I’m not one to lose his shit over Ozzy working with a millennial. That said, the more I hear about the people behind this record and the process to make it, it feels more like elder abuse than Ozzy branching out with the next gen of our industry.
The opening track “Straight To Hell” may be the closest thing to a classic Ozzy track. It opens with a solid riff and the voice that some of us can instantly recognize. It also features the least Slash sounding Slash guitar solo I have ever heard. The modern production is apparent from the get. The drums have no depth or tone. They sound flat. Post-Malone’s producer (is that an actual title?) Andrew Watt (real name Andrew Wotman) was the driving creative force on this record and sadly the feature guitarist. He claimed this record was written in 4 days. If so, then this is an amazing accomplishment. But of course this isn’t true.
The highlight of the record has to be the duet with Elton John on the title track. The ironic lyric “I don’t want to die an ordinary man”. As if there were any chance of that. Maybe it’s the recent news that Ozzy’s performing days may be over, but the lyrics seem very sincere. It’s Ozzy now. And I suppose the lead single “Under The Graveyard” is ok. And the internet is losing it’s shit over Jason Mamoa as Ozzy in the teaser(?) for what I assume is a full music video for the song “Scary Little Green Men”. Also not the worst song I’ve heard. But the duet with Post-Malone on “It’s a Raid” is.
I suppose if you grew up finding out about Ozzy by watching the Osbourne’s on MTV, this is a good Ozzy record. But if you are someone who has followed most or all of his career, this is at best just ok. One of the hallmarks of everything Ozzy has done was elite level guitar playing. Producer and principal song writer Andrew Watt would say “I got to be fucking Randy Rhodes in 2019!”. To that I say, no you didn’t. You got to stand in front of a mirror holding a polka dot flying V. Swing and a miss. It’s not that the playing is bad. It’s not great. It’s not elite. It’s a sort of Ozzy guitar playing for dummies.
As someone who enjoys watching the art of the artist, grow with the art, there is something on that level to appreciate about Ordinary Man. Ozzy can do what he wants at this stage of his career. But this doesn’t feel like that’s what he’s doing. This doesn’t feel like Rick Rubin working with Johnny Cash. It feels more like watching a viral video of some 20 somethings showing their grandparents a Logan Paul YouTube video. This record feels like a couple of people (Post-Malone & Andrew Watt) wishing they could be “Rock Stars”. It’s a weird sort of cultural appropriation ala some fucked up celebrity mumble rapper Rock n Roll Fantasy Camp. And that is nothing to celebrate. I don’t hate the songs or Post Malone’s performance on a couple tracks. But I will forget it.