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Twenty Years Ago Today, Roughly: Zakk And Ozzy

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I’ve chosen Ozzy Osbourne’s seventh solo album, 1995’s Ozzmosis, as the Then-comparison with Black Label Society’s new Catacombs of the Black Vatican because, as is always the case with an Ozzy album, the guitarist plays such a huge part in the total effect.  And because it’s such a flat-out weird album!

I mean, for one thing, Ozzy has a couple of very interesting co-writers and performers on this album.  Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler pulls out his thunderous bag of tricks and also co-writes one song; Steve Vai  and Motorhead’s Lemmy each co-write a song – and so does Jim Vallance.  Yes, that Jim Vallance.  (Sound familiar?  Ever hear “Cuts Like A Knife”?  “Heaven”?  Yep – by Bryan Adams. And he co-wrote “Tears Are Not Enough,” for goodness’ sake!)  But in fact the song he co-writes here, “I Just Want You,” though a ballad, is pretty heavy and is one of the album’s best songs.

And Zakk?

Well, at this point, Zakk had been playing with Ozzy for six or seven years.  I would never suggest that Randy Rhoads had been forgotten, but nobody buying a new Ozzy album any longer expected  to hear the truly weird, bizarre, baroque guitar parts that that genuine genius alone was capable of creating.  Zakk had by now put his stamp (and his pinch harmonics, his overuse of which was apparently actually encouraged by Ozzy) on Osbourne’s solo work, and this album is clearly built on Zakk’s own truly great hard-rock playing.  Grinding out monster riffs on “Perry Mason” and “Thunder Underground” and soloing to hell and back on every single song, Zakk ought to be proud of this record.

Is He Getting Better?

In my favourite rock-and-roll movie, Still Crazy, the aging lead singer of a reunited seventies band sort-of praises the drummer as being the group’s “strongest link to the past” because he has experienced “zero growth” in twenty years.  And I myself am not sure that, as I re-listen to Ozzmosis just after listening to the brand-new BLS album, I can hear a lot of growth in Zakk’s playing.  Nor a lot of change.  What I hear is the man that one of the guitar magazines a few years back rightly called “the last of the guitar heroes” doing what he does superbly.  If you like hard-rock music, I think it’s axiomatic that you must like Zakk; and if you like Zakk, you will like this album if for nothing more than his contribution.  (But hey, Ozzy does his bit, too!)


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