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There is only one thing in the world that can be more annoying that hearing an out of tune vocal performance of a solid classic rock anthem, and that is hearing one out of a nasally, speech slurred performer like Ozzy has been in the past 10 years. And if there is any one thing that could add even more gasoline to this raging fire of revulsion that builds in the pit of my stomach every time I hear this version of this song, it’s having a repetitive, percussive, way too prominent in the mix cowbell ringing out like a raging bull busting the cherries of an entire harem of unsuspecting cows.
To be fair, the musical performance given by Zakk Wylde and the rest of the musicians backing Ozzy is adequate. Zakk tones down all the exaggerated guitar screams and actually plays leads that are relatively time appropriate to what he’s covering. In fact, barring an updated production and a much heavier sound as a result of it, there aren’t too many liberties taken here. It’s essentially playing it safe and not getting in the way of the vocals, which is problematic considering the vocal performance Ozzy gives here. Pitch correction has been around since the time of Cher’s gay rave compilation “Believe”, but apparently Ozzy’s ego was too big to bother, and thus we have the really wretched sounding scooping character to Ozzy’s notes and an utter inability to hold the center of the pitch on elongated notes.
To this date I have yet to bother with Ozzy’s “Under Cover” release as there aren’t many places giving it away for free. But if this and the other single “In My Life” are any indication of the entire nature of the release, it will beat out “Down To Earth” for the honor of worse thing ever conceived of in full length form by him. The very least that the person responsible for producing that album could have done was turned the damn cowbell down during the first 30 seconds or so of the song. Saturday Night Live is lots of fun, but I don’t think bands trying to record serious music need to start referring to it for ideas.