‘Ozzified’ by Various Artists (Half-Pint Reviews #8)
Ozzy Osbourne gets the Nineties tribute treatment
The Nineties were a good time for tribute albums. Candlebox covering John Lennon, Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters, Blind Melon covering Led Zeppelin… Grunge and other alternative styles were perfect for taking classic tracks, tapping into what was real about them, and presenting that in a new light. In 1998, Gothenburg label Tribute Records and a bunch of bands I had never heard of gave Ozzy Osbourne this treatment on Ozzified.
Ozzified came out toward the end of a decade that Ozzy had killed. On No More Tears (1991) and Ozzmosis (1995), his songwriting had never been better and he’d found yet another god-level guitarist in Zakk Wylde. “No More Tears,” “Mama, I’m Coming Home” and “Perry Mason” were always on the radio. Ozzy has done plenty of impressive work since — I especially like Black Rain (2007) — but those were the last of the truly great Ozzy albums. Ozzified’s early to mid-career focus means every pick is classic.
The track list starts in the Nineties and proceeds in reverse chronological order. The majority of the selections come from Ozzy’s phenomenal Eighties but skip No Rest for the Wicked (1988) and The Ultimate Sin (1986) to concentrate on his early years. That was about when, to paraphrase the musician’s autobiography I Am Ozzy (2010), his future wife Sharon, picked him up off the floor, smacked some sense into him, and got him back in the studio and back on stage. Having reached way back, the collection closes with Seventies Ozzy-era Black Sabbath.
The bands use a variety of styles. Shock Tilt (“Crazy Train”) and the Ozzy tribute band Believer (“I Don’t Know”) play it faithful, Bullhorn (“Rock n Roll Rebel”) and Straitjackets (“Flying High Again”) are on the sleaze end of hard rock, and Outcast (“Believer”) sounds like a Dio and Layne Stayley grunge collaboration. Standouts include Abhoth’s spirited death metal rendition of “S.A.T.O.” and Original Sin’s thrashy rendition of Sabbath’s “Symptom of the Universe.” These last two take Ozzy’s brand of heavy and make it heavier.
Ozzified’s weaknesses are nothing you wouldn’t expect. Ozzy has often had the very best guitarists, so Zakk Wylde’s absence is felt in Picaboo’s grungy performance of “No More Tears.” Europe drummer Ian Haughland, the biggest name credited, closes the album with “Changes,” but for a song that relies so heavily on Ozzy’s distinctive voice, the most it can aspire to is nice. The only misfit is Violent Work of Art mashing “Bark at the Moon” with electronic frenzy like they were hired for the Spawn soundtrack, but even this doesn’t fail. Each band lets the original compositions shine through.
Nothing on Ozzified impresses as much as the examples at the top of this piece, but aside from “Changes,” the bands keep it heavy, ensuring everything is enjoyable for the heavy metal fan. They may not improve on the originals, but they don’t slaughter anything either, so this is one grubby CD I will be keeping — even as the man himself continues to release new music.
Half-Pint Reviews is a series of short reviews covering releases that strike me as little-known, underappreciated or forgotten. The last installment was about French singer Carla Bruni’s folk take on English poetry and may be read in The Riff here.