Ozzy Osbourne’s latest album, ‘Ordinary Man’, released back in February, is the latest in a long line of albums released by 65+ rockers that struggles to find its footing. The irony of the title, unfortunately, doesn’t apply in the same way to the sound of this album. It’s as dull as a butter knife. I’m sure the record label that is shamefully exploiting Ozzy here is laughing all the way to the bank, but to those of us who appreciate the Prince of Darkness for his role in the construction of heavy metal in stoner legends Black Sabbath, as well as a handful of his solo tracks from long ago that show that, besides the fact that he’s an eternal knucklehead, he does have an excellent instinctive ear for melody, this is very disappointing.
On the opening track, “Straight to Hell”, Ozzy uses the experience he has from decades of drug abuse to warn against the horrors of it. It’s good to see that, after all these years, he has the good sense to look back and see where things went awry. He’s a knucklehead, but he’s not plain stupid. He’s also a lovable knucklehead, one that you want to see succeed even when they show no indication of being able to. On “Goodbye”, he begins to wonder whether or not there’s a place for him in Heaven as he stares down the fact that he has more years behind him than in front of him. “Is it tea time yet?/Do they sell tea in Heaven?”, it’s good to know that he has a sense of humor about the whole thing. None other than Elton John joins him on the following track, the title track, but, of course, Elton has never missed an opportunity to whore himself out for attention. A collaboration like that should be able to generate more excitement than it does, but, alas, they are both artists who haven’t been in it to win it in a long time.
The truth about this album is that it was dead on arrival in terms of having any real cultural impact. Everyone with a brain functioning on 50% knows that we now live in a post-rock n’ roll pop culture climate and albums like this are cynical attempts coordinated by record labels and what’s left of the FM butt-rock radio format to generate money through airtime and military ads. It doesn’t matter how many Elton Johns, Post Malones, or Travis Scotts you bring in to add star power, because the foundation isn’t strong enough to hold up. The truth is that Ozzy Osbourne is a victim of a cult of celebrity that doesn’t allow rockers to age gracefully. Rather than giving them their just dues and letting them move on into the next phase of their lives, this culture, drunk on its twisted lionization of fortune and fame, demands that celebrities give us as much of themselves as they can on terms that we get to set for them.
There’s no imagination to this album whatsoever. The playing isn’t notable in any way. It’s not bad, but it’s definitely not anywhere near inspired; it’s formulaic to a fault. But it’s not supposed to be inspired. If nothing else, at least Ozzy himself sounds to be in good spirit, which is something to cherish, considering the health struggles he’s currently having to endure. But me? I’ll stick with ‘Blizzard of Ozz’ or ‘Diary of a Madman’ the next time I feel the itch to throw on some Ozzy (as often as that comes, which isn’t too much). Nevertheless, despite this shameful exercise in elder exploitation, one thing will always remain indisputable: Ozzy Osbourne will not die an ordinary man.