“The most disturbingly heart-breaking, maniacal, thundering album about aging that you will ever hear”.
The cover of Ozzy Osbourne’s new album has him wearing a frightening bowler hat, leather jacket, leaning on a cane and grinning with utter lunacy. However, if you look very closely, you see a face that contains sadness, regret, and is wrestling with some new and frightening demons. His stooped shoulders, lowered head and cane are all indicative of his recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
As with some of Rock’s best albums, Ordinary Man has its origins in the desire for healing. After a serious case of pneumonia, cancelled tour dates and then his PD announcement, Ozzy was looking for the one thing that always brought him some much-needed distraction, which is making new music. This is his 12th studio album, and very well may be his last. If that is true, then this is certainly the way an artist of his caliber would want to cement his legacy. While the album is not on the same level as classics like Diary of a Madman, Blizzard of Ozz or No More Tears, it is definitely a gratifying and entertaining effort from this Heavy Metal legend.
Ozzy finds himself in the midst of some new band collaborators here, who bring an appreciative respect to his musical estate. Andrew Watt (much regarded for his work with Post Malone) is on guitar, Duff McKagan (Guns N’ Roses) is on bass, and Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) is on drums. ‘Ordinary Man’, recorded with Sir Elton John, is basically about a man who’s “been a bad guy, been higher than the blue sky”, quite literally, and still fears that he is to be forgotten. With this album, the Madman gives us a glimpse inside his mind. Reflecting heavily in ‘Holy for Tonight’, the conflict is fed further as the angelic sound of the choir transposes with Slash tearing it up on the guitar. If you listen closely enough, there are notes of humor in songs like ‘Scary Little Green Man’, the inspiration for which was drawn from a TV show about aliens. The intense use of back vocals makes it sound ironically serious, while in reality, the whole experience is a joy ride through the imagination.
It is the last two tracks, “It’s a Raid” (featuring Post Malone) and “Take What You Want” (Post Malone, Travis Scott) that break the mood for me. They just feel out of sorts with the rest of the album. That’s not to say that the tracks are without merit. “It’s a Raid” actually rocks quite a bit and has a blistering attitude. “Take What You Want“, in all reality, sounds pretty mainstream. My advice is to consider the progression of the album complete at track #9, “Holy for Tonight”, and then regard the last two songs as stand-alone bonus tracks. If you do that, you will have a greater appreciation for this album.
This is definitely a record to celebrate! Ordinary Man might end up being the final stop on an extraordinary career. Let’s hope that’s not the case, but if it is, Ozzy is going out with as much fire and intensity as he started with 50 years ago.