A Great Ozzy Album: Back To The Future

Ozzy The Brand

He’s so inconic. So human. So unfiltered. We love John Osbourne. Actually no, we love Ozzy, we don’t really know John. And it was the reality TV show which brought him to stardom, according to his wife Sharon in ‘The 9 Lives Of Ozzy Osbourne‘, which is a rather sweet, sad and salty watch.

You see, it’s one thing being a Rock icon, but it’s quite another to cross over to the mainstream – despite Black Sabbath, ‘Blizzard Of Ozz’, Ozzfest, it was only after the reality TV show that he achieved his first No1 single.

Sometimes, that obscures the music. This is a shame because recently Ozzy has produced some stunning Hard Rock albums. For me, the Metallic mid and late 80’s albums are in and out of my pleasure centres like a sour plum, but the last 3 albums, particularly 2020’s ‘Ordinary Man’, are fabulous.

As NME said;

‘But, on ‘Patient Number 9’, he sounds far from the frail man the swirl of headlines might suggest.’

And Now We Have Another Album To Add

Yes, Patient No 9 is a bit of a stunner. And a surprise too. It’s produced by producer extraordinaire Andrew Watt (remember that rafter-shaking Rock minster California Breed? That was him, with Glenn Hughes) and he has allowed so much room for Ozzy’s character to come through, for guests to enjoy themselves, for oddly effective nostalgia to be tried, that it’s almost a masterstroke.

You Said Nostalgia?

I did. And what a surprising choice. Because ‘Immortal’, with a swooping six string solo from Mike McCready’ sounds like it’s continued the riffing from Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’ and Tony Iommi’s second solo in ‘No Escape From Now’ could have been plucked from their 1978 ‘Technical Ecstasy’ album, so thick but radio-ready is it.

This kind of nostalgia isn’t what a lot of Black Sabbath and Ozzy fans want, is it? Those 2 mid and late 70’s albums were not and are not lauded, ignored sometimes too, a bit like Ronnie James Dio’s return on 1992’s stunning ‘Dehumanizer’. Or ‘Forbidden’…yeah, let’s draw a veil over that.

The new Ozzy Album sometimes sounds like this...
Credit; Discogs

I love those two albums; they weren’t Black Sabbath as we expected or were used to, but putting that expectation aside, ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor’ and ‘Johnny Blade’ a blooming marvellous, aren’t they?

Aren’t they?

Just me then. But it has an audacity and radio intention which has to be admired.

Talking Of Radio…

That chorus on the title track makes space in your musical sensors and settles onto the sofa, whilst Jeff Beck uncorks a rather ZZ Top-sounding solo, another audacity.

Eric Clapton channels David Gilmour in the noodling, floaty feel to almost Folky ‘One Of Those Days’ and Beck is back, attempting to burn out all 6 strings for ‘A Thousand Shades’.

It’s Still Tough Though

It is, mainly when Mr Z Wylde is present.  Zakk adds a groovy riff to a dirty bass on  ‘Parasite’, ‘Evil Shuffle’ has an oddly jaunty feel, but so sizeable, it resembles mid 70’s Sabs.

And then ‘Degradation Rules’ mixes both early Sabs with a wailing harmonica and commercial accessibility in the middle. Oh, and a Psyche-tinged, Iommi solo.

Is This The End?

Who knows? Ozzy doesn’t have to tour, he can just work in the studio. He works with people he likes, he has mates in, he wrote the majority of the songs with people he trusts and that works beautifully, which allows him to do things you wouldn’t expect.

That’s what he does here, even after more than 40 years; long may that continue.

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