Released to no inconsiderable amount of hype, 2020’s Ordinary Man is Ozzy Osbourne’s 12th full-length studio album.
There’s been a veritable whirlwind of press about it, which you’ve probably read already, but the salient facts are these: It’s a star studded affair full of collaborations, it was written and recorded really quickly during a period of ill-health, and it is better than anyone expected. (Also; anyone reviewing it seems to be legally required to state that Ozzy is not an ordinary man and act like saying so was very original).
The most relevant guest appearances to rock fans are Guns N’ Roses’ Slash and Duff, Rage Against The Machine’s Tom Morrello, Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ Chad Smith and of course, Elton John. However, read the Wikipedia article if you want a Chinese Democracy’s worth of further participants.
It was produced by Andrew Watt (remember him, from California Breed, the Black Country Communion spin-off ?) who has since gone on to all sorts of success in the mainstream music world. Watt also contributes much of the lead guitar, as neither Gus G nor Zakk Wylde were involved in the record.
Stylistically, the album doesn’t feel like a continuation of the previous albums Scream (2010) or Black Rain (2007) but rather, its feels like a strange midway point between No More Tears (1991) and Ozzmosis (1995). Well, for the most part at least, its also really diverse and a little unfocused and not really any one thing.
There’s a few ballads, one or two mid paced rockers, a big album centrepiece in the varied ‘Under The Graveyard’ and then the weird punky closer ‘It’s A Raid’ which also has a guest appearance from rapper de jour, Post Malone.
Interestingly, this album ends with the line ‘Fuck You All’ which contrasts Scream, which ended with ‘I Love You All.’ This makes the album end on a less soppy note, which it easily could have, as the title track and a few others definitely bare the hallmarks of being written during a health scare and having the ‘this is my last album’ vibe to them. Luckily Ozzy has since stated that he intends to make another record.
The general consensus among fans, critics and the general public has been that this album is way better than anyone expected. Some people have started throwing around ‘’best album since…’’ statements.
I would have to agree with this consensus, but also preach caution on the ‘’sinces.’’ Don’t buy into the unrealistically positive hype. It doesn’t live up to that high bar. Randy Rhodes hasn’t come back from the dead and Ozzy hasn’t hand delivered the vaccine for the corona-virus with every CD. There are flaws (the lyrics for one, and the production for another). This probably won’t turn out to still be many people’s favourite Ozzy album 10 years from now.
It is however, a brief, refreshing and entertaining hodge-podge of loose, sometimes ‘90s-sounding Ozzy and a few ‘’fuck it, lets just have fun’’ moments. In summary; Its simultaneously better than you’d expect, but realistically not as good as people say it is.
[Ps. You can get a version with a bonus track, ‘Take What You Want’ which isn’t an Ozzy song, but in fact actually the rapper Post Malone’s song, which features Ozzy. It’s a bizarre choice. I can’t recall another example of someone putting someone else’s song on their album. The song isn’t to my taste, but I guess it will help with sales/streaming, and may hopefully convert some new fans to the world of Rock and Metal]