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The general consensus is that this was Ozzy’s last serious effort, and although I concur with this, there are some misconceptions about this album that need to be addressed. The principle one being that this is where Ozzy’s 90s sound started to creep out, which I have not heard after listening to the entire album more than thirty times. Zakk Wylde’s guitar sound is no heavier than it was on No Rest for the Wicked, and except for the occasional use of a slide guitar sound, there really isn’t much difference in the overall sound of this release and the previous one. Another erroneous view of this album is that it is some sort of swansong for Ozzy after going through some rough times. Just one listen to the lyrics accompanying the mostly solid music tells you a different story, and sadly a very comical one at that.
The album’s opener “Mr. Tinkertrain” underscores an utter lack of lyrical seriousness which has not been present in anything Ozzy’s ever sung before. The riff work is solid and the chorus is catchy, but you just find yourself feeling stupid when singing along, even if alone in your car with the windows closed. “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is the same story, although here the riffs get redundant as well. The overrated, over-cheesed ballad “Mama I’m coming home” actually showcases the music being more comical than the lyrics with this goofy little acoustic guitar riff that sounds like it was lifted off of Def Leppard’s greatest hits. Good old Lemmy doesn’t even seem to be trying in the lyrical department on this one, or in the one before it.
Things start to look up with “Desire”, which has some solid heavy guitar work and one of Ozzy’s better vocal jobs on here, and finally Lemmy’s lyrics read with some sense, so I guess 3 times the charm. The title track is one of the best songs that Ozzy has put out, and probably the best he’s done with Zakk Wlyde manning the six-string. The rhythmic bass line and general groove atmosphere alone is charming, but Zakk’s raunchy and wicked guitar intercessions during the verses put it over the top. The middle section sounds like a nightmarish variation on the hallucinogenic Beatles anthem “Strawberry Fields Forever” meets the cartoon-like “I am the Walrus” with Zakk Wylde just itching to wail away in the following solo section. Definite kudos should be given to Ozzy and company for putting out a classic song that will likely never outlive its novelty and innovation.
After the title track, the album sort of goes back and forth between being spot on and simply going through the motions. The high points are the Motorhead cover and the somewhat lighthearted “Zombie Stomp”, the latter of which takes a while to get going but once it does, you find yourself unable to resist singing along and having a real good time doing it. The rest is passable but not really anything amazing, “S.I.N.” is probably the best, but listens mostly like a mellowed out version of “Crazy Train” or “Bark at the Moon”. Zakk Wylde does most of the work on these and Ozzy is just sort of there but not really noticeable.
If you liked “No Rest for the Wicked” then you’ll probably also like this, though it is not quite as strong. Probably one of the biggest mistakes that Ozzy made was essentially turning his back on Jake E. Lee as if he were some sort of disposable Rhandy Rhodes stand in, because he essentially turned his back on the best chapter of his 80s career. This is still essentially an 80s album, but you can hear the flash and flair that made “Ultimate Sin” such a classic gradually bleeding away, to the point that you can see the impending disaster that would take place in “Ozzmosis”.