In celebration of the new Ozzy Osbourne studio album, Patient Number 9, I asked long-time Goldmine writer Martin to cook up another one of his much-argued-over Top 20 lists. Bear in mind that this is includes for consideration everything up to but not including Patient Number 9, except for the two advance tracks. Once you hear the whole record, let us know which new songs might make your personal list and where.—Pat Prince
By Martin Popoff
Hey folks, back again for one of these and boy, was this one fun. Contentious? I wouldn’t say it’s particularly contrarian. It shouldn’t attract as much ire as my Zeppelin or The Who one (see also Rainbow, Thin Lizzy and Derringer). What I’ve realized is that it’s hard to break down that wall for me between the ‘80s albums and everything after, where it really started sounding like a corporate product or too California or something — and yes, that begins for me with No More Tears.
From my true process of typing in a song, and then the next valid prospect above or below, my five honorable mentions are: 25. “Black Rain,” 24. “Old LA Tonight,” 23. “Facing Hell,” 22. “See You on the Other Side” and 21. “One Up the “B” Side.”
But am I really going with my heart here? I think about the songs from the first three albums I left off, and really, I could see any one of those bumping off these more recent numbers that seem like a case of me just wanting to spread the love. Like I say, a wall of non-acceptance goes up after No Rest for the Wicked where there’s just something too synthetic and corporate and song doctor-y about the whole narrative, that it takes a lot for a song to break through (four have). Not to mention the predilection for slow, thick, doomy, grungy songs — on that front, the same thing happens for me with Dio’s post-‘80s catalog, including Dehumanizer and the Heaven & Hell band.
20. “11 Silver”
There’s a bunch of cool “parts” all over the Black Rain album, but this one hits you between the eyes right from the start. Plus it’s uptempo and it’s got those mournful Ozzy vocal melodies and a good chorus, an area where many late-period Ozzy songs go Hot Topic metal real fast. Love the keys, the marauding but understated guitar in the verses and yes, that exquisite, energetic double-time chorus. Cool lyric that is squarely identifiable with Ozzy as well, which is a great help on these records where you fell he’s just a cog in the machine.
19. “Bloodbath in Paradise”
Yeah, I know, Ozzy rues this record to some extent, always remembering this song and “Devil’s Daughter” for particular scorn. And to be sure, the lyric is about the Manson family, but it’s got an ass-kickin’ Zakk riff, a cool melodic twist for the second half of each verse couplet, and then a drop to half-time for the proggy pre-chorus. As well, take a listen to Randy Castillo’s drumming and the way he’s recorded. There’s a minimalist, mechanical-ness to the groove and sound which helps sell the song, in my opinion. All told, “Bloodbath in Paradise” helps make this album mean.
18. “I Don’t Want to Change the World”
Man, I “like” many songs on this record, but love very few but this is one that warms up the party for me. The chorus is passable—in other words, it doesn’t kill it — but the verses are pretty rockin’, reminding me of Mötley Crüe, as does the anarchic or nihilistic sentiment of the title and attendant bank of words. I dunno, it’s not the most ambitious thing or even the most metal from a doomy standpoint, but it sounds like the work of a bad-ass gang of guys who hang out together outside of work. “Zombie Stomp” from this album would be pretty high in my ranking too, as would the title track. But yes, spoiler alert, we’re now done with No More Tears.
17. “Tattooed Dancer”
Here’s another uncompromising headbanger from an album I just think is serious business, underrated, way better than both The Ultimate Sin before it and No More Tears after it and completely spitting in the face of hair metal in 1988. Ozzy’s vocal harmony is a subtle throwback to the blues phrasings he’d sometimes do with Sabbath, but it’s on top of a bottle rocket of a rocker from Zakk. Again, like “Bloodbath in Paradise,” there’s just something about the drumming that feels like a drill to the forehead. Late in the sequence there are some scary keyboard-laced musical passages before the guys break into another searing late verse (love when bands do that).
Who can deny the proggiest song Ozzy ever did? It’s gotta be on this list. To be sure, it’s ponderous, not particularly metal, and even kind of noisy, but that was the explosive, Who-like original lineup — up to its eyeballs in personality. Dark chord changes everywhere, multiple guitar tones, odd time signatures, keyboards… they go everywhere with this and Ozzy is right at home living out this sort of Alice Cooper persona atop the symphonic metal backing track. Plus once it picks up, at about 4:20, Randy sounds like he’s auditioning for Mercyful Fate, and that includes his atmospheric solo that follows, very uncharacteristic, mixed way back, sounding like a lost soul. And then at the end we’ve got a Satanic ritual goin’ on.
15. “Little Dolls”
“Little Dolls” is essentially an anchor track on what is a quite varied album, a meat-and-potatoes rocker holding the center. Love the stomping four-on-the-floor beat plus the tribal fills from Lee Kerslake, but it’s Ozzy’s old doom vocal melody that is the predominant hook to the song. Cool sort of psychedelic metal chorus, too, with Lee clumping up the drums like Keith Moon. Then there’s a melodic break that pops the tension, at the same time reminding us why “Crazy Train” and “I Don’t Know” were such big hits.
Here’s the better of the two advance tracks from Patient Number 9, the other being the title track, no slouch either, that one featuring Jeff Beck. But the present song features Tony Iommi, and one can hear his influence here, with these big melodic hanging chords, over which Ozzy can do quite a bit with his voice. There’s also a rambling, note-dense bass line and harmonica. What I like is how it’s not particularly grungy or Hot Topic metal or showy. Plus it doesn’t get emo at the chorus, which, as alluded to, is a big problem with a bunch of recent Ozzy songs. The huge production impresses as well (and with no sort of modern metal annoyances) as does the surprise uptempo noise section later, crammed in as Black Sabbath-referencing bonus.
I view this song and “Suicide Solution” as the anchor tracks to a pretty surprising album, one that isn’t particularly heavy but of course, full of charm. Love how it closes the album on an uptempo high, made all the more frantic by a verse that rises is intensity, getting higher and higher, before the band collapse into what is a happy, party-hardy chorus. On a straight metal song like this, you can really hear the basic power trio production Max Norman gives the band, with Bob Daisley’s playing of busy bass taking away the bottom end and adding to the Who-ness of the song.
12. “Mr. Crowley”
Bob Daisley’s lyrics on this album are all thoughtful stuff, getting good value for the spare amount of words he’s used, but he outdoes himself by taking a heavy metal topic like Aleister Crowley and giving it a full-on pondering, philosophical subtlety. And the music is sympathetic to the accomplishment, with Randy writing melodically but mournfully, again, keeping the song considerably far from metal. Then there’s Don Airey’s legendary synth intro, and what’s cool is that he doesn’t let up, playing swirling lines throughout the song. But man, Ozzy really captures the lost soul feel of Bob’s lyric, selling it with his sort of cutting, thin voice, while also selling it with the legend of what he did through the first eight Sabbath albums, often in this realm of the mystical.
Of course we all know the story now: this song isn’t about suicide, but rather it’s a plea from Bob to Oz that he not kill himself with drink. So it works as a lyric fully identifiable with the lead singer, which is always a good thing, especially in Ozzy’s band, where on later records, there are a lot of things that come out of his mouth that aren’t believable. At the music end, this is a four-on-the-floor metal stomper like “Little Dolls” from the next album, driven by Blizzard of Ozz‘s most ornery heavy metal riff. There’s no real chorus, but what serves as such is pretty non-obvious music, in the creative spirit of Black Sabbath, which is one of the hidden talents of the original Oz band and probably one of the things that subconsciously makes these songs so memorable.
10. “That I Never Had”
This brings me the most joy I had making this list: being able to find a song that I wholeheartedly can recommend as one I love to death from later-years Oz (2001’s Down to Earth), worthy of breaking the Top 10. Of course it kills me that it’s credited to Oz, Robert Trujillo, guitarist Joe Holmes and song doctor Marti Frederiksen, and then it’s not even Holmes playing on it, but Zakk. Putting that dog’s breakfast behind us, it’s also funny that it’s such an innocuous title and it’s not a single and it’s sequenced halfway through the album. But yeah, I love it; it’s super-heavy, catchy, relatively unadorned, very Zakk, played with huge groove (the drummer is Mike Bordin) and then sung with classic long Ozzy notes of sweet and sour melody.
9. “Bark at the Moon”
Jake E. Lee is a different kind of guitarist than Randy or Zakk, more like a George Lynch, flashy but precise, and this is a showcase coming-out party for him, first track on his first album. Sure, the lyric is just sorta pure fun, but it’s shoved onto a pounding metal rocker, barely held in chains by Tommy Aldridge’s sober approach, fairly uptempo but with lots of four-on-the-floor feel, underscored by Bob Daisley’s fairly staccato playing and then old school licks thrown in here and there. Don Airey contributes with cool swells, a technique that potentially allows keyboardists to contribute more, and that I feel isn’t done enough. As is often the case, things lighten up for the chorus, and there’s a thoughtful, proggy break massaged in as bonus.
Always breaking rules, the classic Oz band begin “Believer” with stomping bass from Bob followed by a simple, meandering groove. And then the song crashes in, with Randy serving up one of his most complicated, intelligent metal riffs, building the legend that would come upon his senseless death. “Believer” is the album’s proggy song that is also heavy, with so many engaging parts to come, none overstaying their welcome, the band cramming so many action events into just over five minutes of glorious metal alchemy. Ozzy’s singing is authoritative as well, and weirdly, with his distinctive voice, he’s sounding like he might be at home with a progressive metal band. Always shifting, always classical, always aggressive and kinda Sabbathy of surly mood.
Here’s something I thought I’d never be saying: no matter how many times I’ve heard “Crazy Train,” I never get tired of it. Having said that, I can never get past my initial impression I had of it, underwhelmed back in 1980, thinking the verse was disco, sort of like “I Was Made for Loving You.” On the positive side, the song is so much more than the bouncy castle verse, with an almost sombre and, one supposes, more heavy metal chorus and an interesting break—all of a sudden being crazy (because of the crazy world) is less fun and sort of life-threatening. As well, you can hear the joy in the playing of the music, with Randy firing off licks whenever given the chance like Eddie Van Halen on Van Halen II and Bob revelling in getting to play disco bass. Even Lee goes nuts with his fills and then what Max Norman does is genius as well: he makes the song heavier by cranking up the guitars at the expense of the bass and drums, and then selling it as a hit single through the vocals also being sent to the front of the mix. It’s Ozzy and Randy at the lip of the stage, Oz speechless at his good fortune, the crowd ecstatic at Ozzy’s good fortune and celebrating along with the both of them.
There’s a bunch of interesting things about this one: first off, it’s one of those sort of wall-of-sound songs, just all hands on deck. Rhythmically it’s a cross between a gallop and a shuffle, super interesting, and then blessed melodically by a trace of the Teutonic, sort of like “Doctor, Doctor.” Really emphasizing the European feel is Ozzy’s strong vocal melody, where he sounds depressed and wandering off in the woods. In any event, the old Sabbath and Swedish and German feel about the song really helps raise the credibility for the band at this juncture as part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Which brings up a side point: I did an episode of my History in Five Songs with Martin Popoff podcast called Honourary NWOBHM Bands. Is/was Ozzy Osbourne one of them? How about Black Sabbath with Ronnie? It’s an interesting question. In any event, it’s songs like this that make me think that Ozzy could compete with the very best of that metal movement, which of course means Iron Maiden, who I also could see writing a song like “S.A.T.O.”
5. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Rebel”
This one always felt like a raucous rock ‘n’ rollsy outlier for Ozzy, sort of like Adrian Smith’s “2 Minutes to Midnight” on Powerslave. The best part is the intro riff but then the verse is loud ‘n’ proud as well. They let up on the gas a bit for the butt-shaking chorus, but then again, that just builds anticipation for getting back into Jake’s glorious intro riff. I suppose what also makes it an outlier is that mainstream-y title to the thing, a bit cheesy, as is the lyrical sentiment. But then again it’s nicely autobiographical, so it shifts your focus into believing in Ozzy as a solo artist, leading his guys into battle. Finally, there’s a nice bit of detailing in Tommy’s rattling of the bell of the ride cymbal on and off throughout the song.
4. “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)”
Wanna hear Ozzy sing in a falsetto? Look no further than the surprise second version of a chorus that crops up late in the action on this pounding heavy metal number. “Now You See It” trundles along to a slow beat from Tommy Aldridge but a fast, scientific riff from Jake E. Lee—I’ve always loved the polarity there—and then Ozzy puts a strong, memorable and vocal melody on top. This one falls down a bit because of the starchy first version of the chorus, where the song is dragged into a sort of mucky Ultimate Sin zone, but it’s long enough, at five minutes, that the guys redeem themselves with all sorts of great transitions and performances. Max Norman also steps it up, adding ear candy, culminating in all the little vocal chirps at the conclusion. The most scholarly song on Bark of the Moon, as far as I’m concerned.
After the iconic introductory Lee Kerslake drum barrage, the rest of the band kicks in and here we have it, arguably Ozzy’s most purely heavy metal song. What makes it more impressive and serious is Bob’s metaphysical lyric—suddenly we’re back in the days of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage. I’ve always felt that “Centre of Eternity” from Bark at the Moon was that record’s “Over the Mountain,” but comparing the two just proves how much four-way chemistry the original lineup had. And for another comparison, put this one up against anything on the debut and you really start to see how poppy and mainstream and laid-back Blizzard of Ozz is.
2. “Miracle Man”
I love the way that new Ozzy guitarist Zakk Wylde announces his presence in the band with the take-no-prisoners riff that begins this vicious, delicious opening track. “Miracle Man” was written about televangelist Jimmy Swaggart, who was caught in a prostitution scandal—“such a hypocritical man,” as Ozzy chides. There’s a direct relationship, because Swaggart was known to rail against Ozzy and heavy metal, this taking place in the heat of the battle between rock ‘n’ roll and the PMRC. Pretty cool as well how Sony issued “Miracle Man” as a single and did a humorous, transgressive video to go along with it. And again, I love how at the height of hair metal, Ozzy decided to go heavier, although one surmises that the bad experience with the poppier Ultimate Sin album might have soured him. In any event, this is an undeniable metal treasure, Zakk at his Zakk-est best-est, pinging, chugging, operating out of the classic Zakk stance, rhythm section supporting like warriors.
There is an undeniable magic to the Blizzard of Ozz debut, but for the most part you don’t hear it too often in any one song. But “I Don’t Know” is in possession of all of that magic, serving as a microcosm for the album as a whole. It’s like “Crazy Train,” but darker, sort of the evil sister song. It’s also got a more melodic, reflective passage serving as a strong pre-chorus/chorus combination and even along a full-on mellow section. Then there’s a career-making guitar solo from Randy, a gong splash from Lee and we’re back into another verse. I tend to forget how long the song is, because it surely doesn’t feel like over five minutes. You’re just sort of caught up in the excitement of hearing the first song on Ozzy’s first solo album. And even if you’re struggling with the strange, slappy intimacy of the arrangement and the production, you’re also delighted that through this weird combination of a skinny California kid on guitar and a couple of old knock-abouts from down the local pub for a rhythm section, Ozzy—purely by happy accident—found a vivacious and creatively brave new way to be part of the story of heavy metal.