Album: Ozzy Osbourne - Ordinary Man
The Prince of Darkness defies his (health) demons for a late-career high
Ozzy Osbourne stands on the front cover of his new album grinning mischievously in a horror-style bowler hat and cane. Look into the eyes, though, and there's also a hint of sadness. The Prince of Darkness (71) has been beset by a series of health problems, and this, his 12th studio album, may also be his last. If so, what a way to bow out. Ordinary Man's songs look back at the singer’s life with a mix of trademark lunacy and wistful regret, topped off with guest appearances that range from rapper Post Malone to Rocket Man, Elton John.
Like many of rock's best recordings, Ordinary Man was born out of healing. Quite literally. It was conceived as a distraction from a bout of pneumonia and a diagnosis of Parkinson's. Ozzy started putting together an all-star band with Duff McKagan (Guns N' Roses) on bass and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) on drums.
For the album's musical lynchpin Ozzy took a contrasting approach. He enlisted the help of guitarist/producer Andrew Watt (29), best known for working with acts like DJ Snake and Cardi B. This tension between styles is key to the album's success. Watt brings a melodic pithiness to everything he plays, including thick sludge-metal licks ("Goodbye") and demonic Sabbath-style riffs ("Today is the End").
Ozzy is in surprisingly fine voice too. On "Under the Graveyard" delicate finger-picked guitar gives way to a howling sermon on death and life-on-the-edge. A more reflective take on mortality comes on the title track - a sprawling "November Rain-ish" number where Elton John plays the role of Axl Rose and Slash (more or less) reprises his classic solo.
It's not all doom. For much of the LP Ozzy is simply having maniacal fun. "Eat Me" is classic Ozzy horror-book material, and "Scary Little Green Men" is a punchy little number about aliens, featuring Tom Morello on guitar. Another highlight is "It's a Raid" (ft Post Malone), a high-octane punk-stomp about the day Ozzy accidentally called the cops on himself.
There's only one really superfluous track, "Take What you Want", a somewhat jarring duet with rapper Travis Scott. That aside, Ordinary Man is the most poignant, deranged and high-volume album about growing old you're likely to hear.