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Back in my day, we... - 45%

hells_unicorn, January 10th, 2020
Written based on this version: 2020, Digital, Epic Records

Ozzy's crazy train has been coming up a tad short in the insanity department for the better part of 30 years as it continues to slowly chug forth to some unseen station. Perhaps it would be better to refer to this means of transit as being more a nostalgia train at this point, fueled instead by a contrived hype machine rather than standard coal. The recent string of singles that closed out the previous decade have been hinting at an eventual biopic, with the partners in crime rounding out the prince of darkness' studio band being built out of big names from the mainstream rock world rather than his usual gang of heavy metal miscreants, including but naturally not limited to Zakk Wylde, who seems to not be producing much under Ozzy's banner despite being back in the fold for about 3 years now. However, things have taken a rather sizable left turn with the release of Ordinary Man, one that goes beyond the odd inclusion of Guns 'N' Roses and Red Hot Chili Pepper alumni into the equation toward something more brazenly pop/rock in demeanor.

To be fair, there is a certain logic to Ozzy opting for a duet with longtime power pop icon Elton John given the former's frequent forays into ballad territory more akin to the likes of The Beatles and other various 1960s rock groups over the course of his career. Nevertheless, bands like Saxon have been routinely raked over the coals in the metal community just for having said man provide piano work on a couple of off-the-cuff experimental arena rock songs, whereas Mr. Osbourne is likely not to suffer similar treatment, at least not for the same reasons. In contrast to the couple of songs in question that rounded out the AOR-infused mid-80s bomb Rock The Nations, this song makes no attempt at merging Elton John's syrupy, slightly jazzy shtick with his usually metallic format and instead opts for complete retro-balladry that lands somewhere between the easy-going optimism of John Lennon's "Imagine" and the slightly more animated first half of "Hey Jude". Occasional lead guitar flairs out of Slash are mildly reminiscent of George Harrison's syllabic solos, but overall the backing band is more akin to window-dressing for what is essentially a piano-dominated tune with two tired baritone voices reminiscing upon the good old days.

The ultimate downfall of a song like this is that it's been heard hundreds of times before, and was already a played out concept when this reviewer was still yet to be of this earth. All the various moving parts that go into this sort of stripped down, restfully pleasant affair are well oiled and perform their expected function adequately, and the production quality does give it a slight sense of newness, though it will probably be lost on anyone who has bothered to sample what rock music was prior to the 1980s. At least when mainstream acts of said decade such as Motley Crue and Kixx attempted to emulate this style in such noted rock radio hits as "Home Sweet Home" and "Don't Close Your Eyes", they had the good sense to put some needed buildup and eventual gusto into the equation to keep it from feeling stagnant. In contrast, this song simply goes through the motions, spearheaded by a duo of aging rockers who possess less than half the singing range of their heyday. It's a cut above the last two songs that Ozzy has put out of late, and while getting old may be just cause for retreading the past, is it too much to ask that one do so with a bit more intrigue?