Rating – 3/5
After a break of almost a decade, we have another solo album from the Prince of Darkness himself. Ironically called “Ordinary Man” from the one and only Ozzy Osbourne, who couldn’t have been called such at any point in his life. This is a man who would walk the streets barefoot, wearing a brown factory smock, a chimney brush over his shoulder, and dragging a shoe along on a dog lead. He wasn’t even in Sabbath at that point either, it was how he turned up at Geezer’s door the first day they met.
Now he’s a 71-year-old rock legend and you can tell that just from the supporting cast on this album. Tom Morello, Slash, Chad Smith, Duff McKagan, Post Malone, and oh yeah, Elton John.
The album as a whole is a classic Ozzy solo album in terms of structure and composition. Sillier tracks sit alongside the introspective ones, and his voice sounds as good as ever. There’s no wonder they mapped his DNA, this guy is an absolute machine. So many musicians have fallen to half the excess this man has put himself through. St Peter must be doing everything he can to keep Ozzy from the pearly gates. Either that or Satan isn’t ready to step aside and let Ozzy take his throne just yet.
The opener, Straight to Hell, features Slash, Duff and Chad Smith, plus a delightful “alright now” from Ozzy to start it off. Vocally he seems slightly whiny and high pitched which isn’t the best and lyrically there are some bum notes. That said it’s not a bad track by any means. It’s got texture and a rhythmic pace, with heavy guitars interspersed with choral singing. It’s peppered with Slash styled riffs and a nice solo so if you ever wanted to hear that with an Ozzy vocal (and you all should want that at least once) it’s a good opener.
All My Life follows and we go from slightly silly to soul searching.
Lyrically this one is much stronger because this is from Ozzy and his feelings rather than a song he feels compelled to create. Andrew Watt, who produces the album, chips in musically on keys for this one, Duff is on board too. No Slash this time so the guitar is marginally more muted but does kick in towards the end. It’s definitely a shame Zakk Wylde doesn’t feature at all on this album, if nothing else than their history together, and he’d absolutely fit in with this stellar cast.
Goodbye is the next track and it’s a Sabbath esque number in as far as the pacing feels very similar, the bass rings out the same dolorous tone, and lyrically they share bases. Guitar wise it’s far more Randy Rhoads and all the excess of 80’s Ozzy than the riff king Iommi. This gives it a feel of classic Sabbath blended with the solo Ozzy in his pomp which is great. Vocally he’s climbed down to a much more normal pitch and he sounds just like he ever has. Perhaps not as youthful and clear as a bell as he was on Black Sabbath but he’s 71, what do you want from the guy?
Ordinary-Man, the title track, features Elton John, Slash, Duff and Chad Smith. Hands up if you ever thought you’d see that lot together? It sounds kind of like Changes with Elton John piano and guest vocals. Oh, and a moderate paced Slash solo in the middle. It’s not the best song on the album and it’s kind of what you’d expect from such a mixed bag of artists, influences and styles.
Under the Graveyard follows and it feels more Ozzy which let’s face it is why we’re here. Or at least it sounds like an Ozzy track that’s been modernized but also has elements of the overproduced sound that plagued 80s rock. Until the far more modern-sounding solo that is far more QOTSA or Them Crooked Vultures in nature.
Eat Me rolls up next and has down-tuned guitars, heavy chords and Ozzy has whipped out the harmonica. Better. Slightly higher pitch than he normally sits at for the beginning, but this is far more what you want to see from an Ozzy album. It feels less like a hasty blend of all the influences and much more natural and integral. Absolutely the best track so far. It’s paced nicely, holds the attention with changes in texture, has Ozzy haunting us with his voice and a decent solo to round it out. Not lyrically the deepest but it’s Ozzy Osbourne here folks, you were warned at the beginning.
Today is the End is the only track Duff isn’t on bass and he’s replaced by Andrew Watt. As a result, the rhythm section is slightly muted and the track feels a bit flat and drawn out. Another track that features a solo just after the midpoint and this one flatters to deceive. This is certainly a track that will get skipped more often than played.
Scary Little Green Men bring in Tom Morello on guitar. This is surprising as there’s very little in the way of Morello-esque features, and what there is gets buried in the background. Vocally Ozzy’s voice sounds great and the track has a metronomic drum beat that gives it some decent pace. The post midpoint solo is missing, largely swapped out for a sort of “Whole Lotta Love” midsection but turned right down and this is where they hide the Morello cliches. It seems to be bad enough to populate an album with a whole host of guest musicians, but then to not utilize them above the level of a session guy? It’s wasteful.
Holy For Tonight starts slowly and is on the introspection spectrum. Looking down the barrel of the inevitable thoughts of morality and once again loneliness. Familiar themes no doubt for a man of 71 who has lived the life Ozzy has. The pace barely picks up which is normal for a song of this type but the texture hardly changes until again the solo strikes up at, you guessed it, just after the middle of the track. You could almost set your watch by them at this point.
It’s a Raid features Post Malone and it hits the bricks from the beginning.
This is a proper breath of fresh air after the rest of the album and should absolutely have been used as more of a model for the rest rather than tucked away as the penultimate track. The voices of Post and Ozzy mix nicely and whilst it’s a noisy, raucous track with very little in the way or artistry or nuance it’s far better. The midpoint solo isn’t a solo and it starts bang on the middle rather than a bit after. It’s a bit more psychedelic Sabbath with some classic Ozzy snippets hidden in the ether like his infamous demonic laugh. It ends with a shout of “Fuck You All” as if to remind us that this is Ozzy. Shame this track didn’t remind him who he was.
The last track is Take What You Want. It’s a Post Malone song with Ozzy guesting on vocals so it’s completely and utterly different to the rest. Sadly it’s possibly the best one on the whole album which is wholeheartedly disappointing if you are an Ozzy fan as opposed to a Post Malone one.
This is the album crystallized, however. When you get a producer (Andrew Watt) that has done Cardi B and Post Malone albums then he’s going to sound better working on that kind of music.
Ozzy did state the following: “Duff and Chad came in and we would go in and jam during the day and I would go work out the songs in the evenings. I previously had said to Sharon I should be doing an album, but in the back of my mind I was going, ‘I haven’t got the fucking strength.’ But Andrew pulled it out of me. I really hope people listen to it and enjoy it because I put my heart and soul into this album.”
Honestly, it feels like it has been pulled out of him. It has all the hallmarks of an album that had big names, an artist that could be bringing out his last solo album, and some newer artists for the younger audience. There are points of interest for certain. But they aren’t particularly Sabbath, nor particularly Ozzy, and aside from Duff, Chad and Slash there’s little of interest. Until Post Malone who serves to highlight the cobbled-together nature of the whole thing. Go grab your copy of Paranoid or Bark at the Moon instead. Or the latest Post Malone if you’re so inclined. You’ll be far better served.
Review By James Clinch