‘Heaven can change me, but nothing can save me from hell again…”
So sayeth the blessed Ozzy Osbourne on the almost-poignant second song on his surely farewell solo album, Ordinary Man. I say ‘almost’ poignant because there are very few points on this new record that actually manage to dredge up any sense of sincerity or any feeling that anything here might be anything other than artifice. Poignancy is very often earned by circumstance rather than created by sleight of hand; So, whilst Ozzy’s recent weakening at the hand of Parkinson’s Disease is of course cause for lamentation you still get the sense that that hasn’t stopped wife and manager Sharon pushing him into the studio for one last earner. And sympathy evaporates just a little accordingly.
Everything is curated to the point of the sort of sterility that Osbourne himself stood as a proud if somewhat addled bulwark against in the early eighties. When a similarly senior Elton John is wheeled out to duet on the ELO-lite of the title track the listener gets less of a sense that rock n’roll damnaton is on the horizon, more that an imminent discussion of anti-incontinence measures is frighteningly inevitable.
Talking of Celebrity guests, Slash contributes some nice lead work on the first four tracks, gratifyingly happy enough in his own skin not to feel the need to try and ape Tony Iommi, but apart from this, highlights are few and far between in the album’s early tracks. Under The Graveyard offers a fine chorus that echoes the man’s early solo days but fuses it to a strange, reggaeish verse and a lurching solo section that unfortunately fails to bring to mind Black Sabbath in their pomp – the obvious intention – but very successfully prompts unwelcome memories of Wolfmother.
And sadly it doesn’t get a lot better as the album wends it’s Zimmer-assisted way to the end. Eat Me is tedious, despite some energetic drumming from Chad Smith – whither Tommy Clufetos? Or indeed any other members of Ozzy’s actual ‘band’ – but following track Today Is The End at least injects a little of the psychedelia that Ozzy is so fond of, thereby making the song feel as if it’s something he might actually have enjoyed being part of. Which of course can’t be said for the risible team ups with rapper Post Malone which close the album.
As a writer you rarely if ever take pleasure in panning a record, unless it involves irritating pseudo-vicar Bono, and it’s especially disappointing to give a caning to a bona fide heavy metal legend. But at the end of the day you have to question what was even the point of making this record, such is the paucity of inspiration or idea comprised within it’s tracks. A stinker, by anyone’s standards…
Ordinary Man is out now.