Ozzy Osbourne has secured his place in rock ‘n’ roll
history by living the life to the full. Almost anybody who has anything to do
with rock music has a story to tell about Ozzy’s wild and crazy antics.
Ozzy Osbourne is also responsible for co-writing some of
hard rock’s most memorable tunes. With his Black Sabbath band mates, there
has been ‘Paranoid’, ‘Iron Man’, Snowblind’, and many more. In his
solo career Ozzy has combined with many artists to come up with more classics
such as ‘Crazy Train’, ‘Mr Crawley’, ‘Bark at the Moon’, etc.
Ozzy Osbourne has always been very lucky in picking the
right musicians to collaborate with to develop his sound and help him write the
songs. Down the way their has been the late great Randy Rhoads, followed by Bob
Daisley, Jake E Lee, Zakk Wilde, and many more, but actual songs that Ozzy has
written on his own are very few and far between.
He is far from a great vocalist too; in fact even calling
him a vocalist is taking it a bit to close to the edge. Showman? Yes.
Ringmaster? Yes. Is his wife / manager good at getting him the right publicity?
Yes. Nowadays the Osbournes are actually more famous for their reality TV show
on MTV, and appearances on chat shows, than for the music. But you cannot deny
he has been one of the leading players in his field over the last thirty five
years or more.
So why then this new album of covers, wittily titled
‘Undercover’? He certainly cannot need the money with Wifey earning
millions on chat shows, and the back package of Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne
solo stuff is selling better than ever.
Last year Ozzy Osbourne released the requisite ‘Boxed
Set’ titled ‘The Prince Of Darkness’. It was a four CD affair with two
CDs of songs tracing his solo career, one CD of duets and one of newly recorded
cover versions. So this year we get the release of the cover versions album,
released as a single album with a few extra tracks that were not on the boxed
set added on, so if you’re a real fan and wish to have every utterance the Oz
ever made then you’ve got to hand over more of your hard earned cash to get
the complete collection.
Not all cover albums are bad though, and if you are going to
do a covers album the rules seem to be pretty clear: only do a song if you have
something to add to it, or a different slant, and most definitely stay away
from the classics. But Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘Under Cover’ leaves you feeling
musically violated after one listen.
The album staggers in with a version of Joe Walsh’s
‘Rocky Mountain Way’, a fabulous song when performed by Joe Walsh. When
Ozzy does it, you just want to cringe, but this is the least offensive song on
the album. It is all down hill after this.
Nobody should try and cover Beatles songs or John Lennon
songs, unless they really know what they are doing. On this album one Beatles
song ‘In My Life’ and two John Lennon solo songs are taken into the studio
and murdered. If Ozzy Osbourne admired John Lennon so much why is he doing this
to his songs? It is quite obvious that Ozzy has missed the point of ‘Woman’
and how he can sing ‘Working Class Hero’ when he has mansions all over the
world, and servants at his beck and call 24 hours a day is beyond me.
All the strings are pulled to try and give the album
credibility. Leslie West is dragged in to put the guitar solo on ‘Mississippi
Queen’. I hope he got well paid for sullying his reputation on this cardboard
imitation of a great heavy rock song. Ian Hunter sent in a new rap to put at
the end of ‘All The Young Dudes’; Mr. Hunter should hang his head in shame.
Ozzy Osbourne trying to sing The Moody Blues ‘Go Now’,
Buffalo Springfield’s ‘For What It’s Worth’, and most criminally
attempting the great Eric Burdon’s ‘Good Times’ just goes to prove that
Ozzy is not a singer of any class. On other more heavy rock songs such as King
Crimson’s ’21st Century Schizoid Man’ (now there is a song that is
begging to be taken apart by some talented musicians and given a heavy metal
face lift), Arthur Brown’s ‘Fire’ and the rather pathetic attempt at
Cream’s ‘Sunshine of Your Life’, it is the band that let things down.
There is no ‘oommph’ in the playing at all, and this is not helped by a
very muddy mix. Certainly Jerry Cantrell on lead guitar is found wanting on
most songs. Letting him attempt a Clapton solo is bordering on the criminal
music act, the poor lad just does not have the chops for the job. Chris Wyse
does not seem to have plugged in properly the bass sound is so tinny, whilst
Mike Bordin on drums was possibly just plain bored with the whole proceedings.
The penultimate song is the Rolling Stones ‘Sympathy for
the Devil’ when it could have been possibly re-titled ‘Sympathy to the
Listener’. How can somebody who has been called ‘The Prince Of Darkness’
take all the menace out of this wonderful Stones song? I actually sighed with
relief when this abomination finally came to an end. But worse was to follow,
chucked on as a bonus track was Ozzy covering one of his old songs from Black
Sabbath: the ballad from the album Volume Four ‘Changes’. In the context of
that album ‘Changes’ gave the album great shade and texture. But this is
just excruciating. ‘Changes’ is done as a duet with Ozzy singing with his
daughter Kelly. I am sorry but someone will have to tell Kelly she just cannot
sing. If she got on your local karaoke machine, you would pay good money to get
her off, whilst for Ozzy’s half he sounds as if he is singing from the bath
tub. I would rather listen to Ozzy singing his duet of ‘Born To Be Wild’
with Miss Piggy from the Muppet show; at least she can hold a tune, and it
would have been funny. It is a shame if this is what Ozzy Osbourne has been