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Ozzy Osbourne

Ozzy Osbourne


Touring is all a matter of perspective. Some treat it like an extended vacation, partying in each city to the max. Usually, in this environment, the performances become hit or miss. Others take a more business like approach. They play the same songs, in the same order, the same way, with well-rehearsed "spontaneity," often repeating the "stage banter" they used the night before and the night before that. It's understandable that musicians locked in an extensive tour would want to blow off some steam. Cut loose for a little bit. Maybe the activities might lack judgment but who ever expected logic and responsibility from a musician?

Having been booted out of Black Sabbath (for excessive drug use - being the most wasted of the wasted), Osbourne embarked on a remarkable solo career. Out of the box he had two massively successful records, "The Blizzard of Ozz," with "Crazy Train," and "Diary Of A Madman." Both albums featured the fiercely brilliant guitar work of ex-Quiet Riot member, Randy Rhoads. Osbourne's '82 tour, kicking off in January, had a shaky start. First, there was the infamous "biting the head off a bat" during a Des Moines, IA, show. Legend has it Osbourne bit the head off a dove at a record label meeting the year before to shock "the suits." However, this time around it didn't go so smoothly. First, animal lovers protested. Second, Osbourne had to undergo painful rabies shots. Later Osbourne claimed he didn't know it was a live animal and thought it was a prop. Yeah, OK. But once you start biting the heads off doves it almost always leads to "harder" animals. That's just the way it is.

That was a minor incident compared to what followed. Osbourne's career was going so well that he could tour using both a bus and a plane. Outside of Orlando, FL, the plane was making dive bomb runs at the bus, then pulling up steeply. Everyone was having a great time, including Rhoads, who was on the plane. It must have seemed like harmless fun. What could happen? Well, on one run the plane clipped the bus and went out of control. Rhoads, the pilot and Osbourne's hairdresser were killed in the crash.





Osbourne decided to continue the tour using ex-Gillan guitarist Bernie Torme as Rhoads' replacement. But the tragedy robbed Osbourne of his primary musical partner. Osbourne continued to have commercially successful albums with "The Ultimate Sin," "No Rest For The Wicked" and "No More Tears" (with the autobiographical ballad "Mama, I'm Coming Home") but he seemed to lose focus relying increasingly on theatrics and gimmicks (but no more bats). He also performed a duet with ex-Runaway, Rocker Lita Ford. Uncharacteristically for both, the song "Close My Eyes Forever," released in '89, was a ballad. It was also the only time either cracked the Top 10 on the pop charts.

The Ozzy story continued with the launch of OzzFest. The mega Metal tours were commercially successful and served to keep Osbourne in front of the faithful.

After 30 years in Metal and nearly two decades past his prime, Ozzy Osbourne was still active but had just about fallen off the radar. Then MTV got the idea of filming Osbourne's day to day existence. Ozzy became a household name as the befuddled father on MTV's "The Osbournes." Displaying a "why not" attitude the Osbourne family (with the exception of daughter, Anna) agreed to a limited run. After all, it might spike the "old man's" career. Instead of satanic rituals and blood sacrifice, MTV got ma and pa Osbourne and the kids. It became one of the most highly rated programs in cable history with the Osbourne's contract being extended. Life in L.A. is bizarre enough without having to view it through a drugged out/burned out haze. But with the help of his wife/manager Sharon, Ozzy made a go of it. What made the series work was the jaded Rock star colliding with the day-to-day triviality of suburban life. However, the defining moment came when a bubble machine was slated for an Ozzy video. Knowing exactly what was at stake, Ozzy railed "I am the bloody Prince of Darkness! I don't use any f***ing bubble machine!" Well, of course not.

All this success had a downside (it always does). Sharon battled cancer. Their son went into rehab. Sharon launched a daytime talk show that was soon cancelled and Ozzy had a near fatal ATV accident in late '03. A bit later, the family pulled the plug on their T.V. show and Ozzy joined his original Sabbath bandmates for an Ozzfest run. He also tried sobriety and seemed happier for it. Imagine that.

But there's more! Osbourne's "Black Rain" hit in May, '07. "It's a well-put-together album," said Ozzy. "I took my time on (it) and (guitarist) Zakk (Wylde) plays some amazing stuff as always."

"I Don't Wanna Stop" was the lead single. "People keep saying to me, 'You'll be quitting soon, retiring.' I don't wanna stop!" claimed Ozzy. "I'd miss the fans. I'd miss the buzz, seeing the crowd going crazy." The album was recorded at Osbourne's home studio in L.A.

Despite Ozzy's words, the opportunities to see him in concert dramatically lessened. The '08 Ozzfest was reduced to a single day with Ozzy and Metallica headlining. The '09 edition was cancelled altogether. Ozzy, working on his 10th studio album in L.A., stated he did not want to tour until he had an album out. But that's not to say he was keeping a low profile. Hardly.

The Osbourne clan returned to TV in '09 when their FOX variety series Osbournes Reloaded premiered. The family show mixed live performances and skits.

More than 15 FOX affiliates across the United States refused to air the episode after deeming the program's content unsuitable for younger viewers. In addition, another 10 affiliates bumped the show from prime time to a later hour. The series died without a whimper.

After rumors, public statements and counter-statements, Ozzy officially announced in '09 that he and Wylde had parted company - but still remained on good terms. "I haven't fallen out with Zakk," Osbourne told Artisan News Service. "Our relationship goes way beyond music." Earlier Ozzy mentioned that Wylde's extensive tour schedule fronting Black Label Society made working together difficult. He reiterated the point by adding, "He's got his own thing now, he's got his own band, he's got his own career. . . he don't need me anymore." OK, but Ozzy still needed a guitarist. And that turned out to be Firewind's Gus G.

'09 saw Osbourne perform at BlizzCon, the gaming festival, and provide his voice and likeness for The Guardian of Metal character in the Brutal Legend video game. And stretching his video gaming to the proverbial limit, Ozzy and Sharon were guest hosts on WWE's (wrestling) Monday Night Raw. Sharon, by the way, also appeared on Donald Trump's reality series, The Celebrity Apprentice. She gave it a good run but Poison vocalist Bret Michaels won.

Getting back to music, Ozzy recorded the vocals on "Crucify The Dead" for Slash's (GNR/Velvet Revolver) solo album, "Slash & Friends."

Then came one of those snafus that happens on occasion. The announcement came that the title of Ozzy's forthcoming album would be (wait for it), "Soul Sucka." What is it, a Rap album? Needless to say, nobody liked the title so it was changed to the more appropriate (for Ozzy), "Scream." From the album, "Let Me Hear You Scream," made its debut on the CBS series CSI: New York. The song was heard in a scene depicting a prison riot. "We were looking for something high-energy and irreverent, to sell the madness of a riot," said CSI: New York producer Peter Lenkov.

A week prior to "Scream's" release "Ozzy Osbourne's Prince Of Darkness: Rock Band," was available at the Rock Band store. Ozzy's Rock Band video game debut consisted of solo career-spanning songs, including three tracks from "Scream" ("Let Me Hear You Scream," "Soul Sucker" and "Diggin' Me Down"), a week before the set's release. "I hope Rock Band players around the world are ready to have their living rooms invaded by me!" Osbourne said in a statement.

For trivia buffs, "Scream" was the first Ozzy album since '86's "The Ultimate Sin" not to feature Wylde and the first since '95's "Ozzmosis" not to include drummer Mike Bordin. The set was produced by Kevin Churko, who was also at the controls for "Black Rain."

Following "Scream," Ozzy focused on a Black Sabbath reunion. Some may have thought it would never happen, while others probably questioned whether it should.

Sabbath recorded a comeback album with the original members - except drummer Bill Ward, who had a contractual dispute with the band. As a result,"13" featured Rage Against The Machine's Brad Wilk.

Prior to the album's release Ozzy apologized, via Facebook, for his "insane behavior" while drinking and taking drugs over 18 months. He added that he had been sober for a month and a half. The post was in response to rumors that Ozzy and Sharon, his wife of 31 years, were getting divorced.


Ozzy Osbourne Discography

Albums:

1980 Blizzard Of Ozz
1981 Diary Of A Madman
1983 Bark At The Moon
1986 The Ultimate Sin
1988 No Rest For The Wicked
1991 No More Tears
1995 Ozzmosis
2001 Down To Earth
2007 Black Rain
2010 Scream

'81 was Ozzy Osbourne's year. He released both "Diary of a Madman" and "Blizzard of Ozz," with "Crazy Train" and "Suicide Solution." Free of Black Sabbath, Osbourne still needed support. And he got it from supreme Metal guitarist Randy Rhoads. After Rhoads' death in '82, it would be four albums spread over a decade before Osbourne stepped it up again. With help from Motorhead's Lemmy, for "No More Tears" delivers though it's probably best known for containing, "Mama, I'm Coming Home," which isn't bad for being a pop ballad.

"The Ozzman Cometh" chronicles Ozzy's career and is an excellent overview. There's also the live double album "Tribute" that showcases the explosive Rhoads/Osbourne combination.

What's amazing is that Ozzy is not only still standing but that "Black Rain" is more than credible, it's actually very good. Ozzy can still sing with authority and power though he sometimes let's the snarky side of his voice dominate ("Civilize The Universe"). Wylde's guitar is as propulsive and searing as ever.

"Take me higher, take me faster" (lyrics from "Silver"). Yes, definitely. The opening tracks, "Not Going Away," lead single "I Don't Wanna Stop" and the title track are potent metallic charges. A fine start but the album needs to cut loose. Metal mania. But instead, there's the tepid ballad "Lay Your World On Me" and the melodramatic "God Bless The Almighty Dollar." Finally, the set gets unhinged with "Silver," "Countdown's Begun" and "Trap Door" (saving the best for last). In between, there's a solid arena ballad, "Here For You." Stock up on those disposable lighters.

Following "Black Rain," expectations for Ozzy's next album were unduly high. For some reason, maybe the obvious one, when "Scream" came out fans and critics discussed Ozzy's career in terms of his guitarists. The best being Tony Iommi (Black Sabbath), followed by the late Rhodes and then Wylde. The general consensus is that with each guitarist Ozzy's power diminished. Obviously, Gus G. isn't Iommi or Wilde but he's not really the issue. It's the songs and the arrangements. Most don't do Ozzy any good. And even though Ozzy's game he's a bit worn. Having repeatedly cheated death but he can't beat time.

With that, "Scream" is not an embarrassment (if you don't count the closing ballad "I Love You All"). Rather, the track "Let Me Hear You Scream" is brilliant - just what an Osbourne album should sound like. However, everything else, including the once, then dropped, title track "Soul Sucker" is merely okay.




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