Ozzy Osbourne: The Essential Ozzy Osbourne

Tim Slowikowski

Ozzy Osbourne

The Essential Ozzy Osbourne

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2003-02-11
UK Release Date: 2003-03-03
Doddering patriarch of MTV
Dove-head biter
The paradigm for "Behind the Music"
The devilish leader of the Sabbath
Drunken hair-metal begetter
All of the above

"All of the above" wins. At times throughout his meandering portrait of the artist as a self-destructive man, Ozzy Osbourne has been all things to all people. For those only recently on board, he's the all-swearing, utterly baffled head gadfly of the sitcom family for the new millennium, The Osbournes. The 2003 version of Ozzy is one decidedly safer for the consumption of the masses. Even the uber-Christian Bush-in-chief acknowledged the devil's presence at a White House Correspondent's Dinner. He's now the doting husband of Sharon(!), hands forever shaky, mouth in full mumble. In short, Ozzy Osbourne is the zany dad learning the fine art of the remote control from his technologically advanced children. It's hard to believe that only a short while ago …

… he tried to kill said wife in a drug/booze induced rage, bit the head off a dove and served (for the literal minded) as the mouthpiece for the devil with lyrics like, "Now you live inside a bottle / The reaper's traveling at full throttle / It's catching you but you don't see / The reaper's you and the reaper is me". Basically, Ozzy Osbourne was Dan Quayle's worst nightmare. Funny that Quayle's worst nightmare should come true with Osbourne becoming the archetype for the role of father in television. With all the outlandish tales of absolute destruction and mayhem, it is all too easy to forget what brought this bloke from Birmingham, England to the limelight in the first place -- yes, the music. As a document to the seemingly forgotten portion of Osbourne's life, The Essential Ozzy Osbourne arrives as a reminder of what the man sounds like when backed by a family of guitars.

Disc 1 of the two-disc, 29-song collection begins auspiciously with the electric gloom of "Crazy Train". When our man Ozz sings "I'm going off the rails on a crazy train", it's easy to believe him. It is on this track that Osbourne implements the strained paranoia of his voice to full effect. When he's on target in a song like "Crazy Train" or the equally fun "Flying High Again", he brings the full alienation of a man trying not to survive through his state of wit's end. The irony of the self-proclaimed "Prince of Darkness" singing "Maybe it's not too late / To learn how to love / And forget how to hate" is almost funny in hindsight. By reading these lyrics, one might immediately think of a McCartney record. Therein lies the talent of Mr. Osbourne -- he creates a warm blanket of mania that reaches out to the myriad of others who feel his pain. The kids in permanent black roaming high school halls now had a megaphone and its name was "The Blizzard of Oz". The first half of Disc 1 showcases Osbourne's solo peak with the one-two punch of "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of a Madman". It is on these two albums that he most successfully revamps his previous incarnation of Sabbath with a new, more anthemic '80s sound. Included here is a live version of the Black Sabbath classic "Paranoid". Unbelievably, guitarist and early collaborator Randy Rhoads breathes new life into the walloping grunge blueprint and takes it to new heights; a perfect example of memory colliding with the immediacy of present. Tellingly, once Rhoads met his tragic end in a 1982 freak plane crash, Osbourne's music took a sharp turn for the worse.

The second half of Disc 1 is mostly hair-metal filler. One can hear the booze, pills, tights, and chlorofluorocarbons wafting through the speaker on songs like "Crazy Babies" and "Rock 'n' Roll Rebel". These were unfortunate blueprints for the "Unskinny Bop" era of the late '80s. The heavily echoed and mechanic drums, along with the glossy production sheen take all the bite out of a man who's supposed to bark at the moon. By the time the repetitive drone of "Breakin' All the Rules" unleashes no fury, one has built up an "Appetite for Destruction" (an album released at the same time that made Ozzy's No Rest for the Wicked utterly irrelevant). Mirroring the toilet flush of his music was Osbourne's personal life, which at the time foreshadowed the creation of the demise/rise obsessed Behind the Music.

According to this VH-1 lore, what goes up and down must come up again (even if it's Leif Garrett) and Ozzy was ready for his third act. The 1991 album No More Tears is represented by a whopping five tracks on Disc 2 of The Essential Ozzy Osbourne. One gets the sense that the makers of this retrospective actually have no idea what the word "essential" means (Note to Legacy Recordings: It means "indispensable"). Yet, here we have a virtual EP made up of 1995's bombastic Ozzmosis. By this time in our adventure (song #23, but who's counting), one might think about going for the "Suicide Solution". This collection needs an editor worse than a Bill Clinton speech. Sorry, but over 150 minutes of "barking at the moon" is more than enough for me. The only real keepers on the second disc of "essentials" are "Mama I'm Coming Home" and "No More Tears", songs that bring Ozzy out of his stupor and into a well-defined and epic emotion.

Let's hope Ozzy's recording career has now ended, otherwise the people at Legacy Recordings will have to press a third CD for the release of We Swear: The Truly Essential Ozzy Osbourne. Instead of holding your breath for that one, go buy Blizzard of Ozz and rent The Osbournes: Season One DVD. That's essential Ozzy.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Gallagher's work often suffers unfairly beside famous husband's Raymond Carver. The Man from Kinvara should permanently remedy this.

Many years ago—it had to be 1989—my sister and I attended a poetry reading given by Tess Gallagher at California State University, Northridge's Little Playhouse. We were students, new to California and poetry. My sister had a paperback copy of Raymond Carver's Cathedral, which we'd both read with youthful admiration. We knew vaguely that he'd died, but didn't really understand the full force of his fame or talent until we unwittingly went to see his widow read.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.