Ozzy Osbourne: ‘Under Cover’

With the recent release of the 4CD boxed-set ‘Prince Of Darkness’, Ozzy Osbourne enthusiasts were treated not only to yet another cash-grabbing retrospective, but also to a variety of rare goodies – including a compilation of collaborations with a wide range of artists, and another of newly-recorded covers.

Although there has been an overabundance of the Osbourne clan in the media in recent years, there has been a deprivation of fresh meat from the Ozzman himself, his last actual studio album being 2001’s ‘Down To Earth’. In fact, since ‘No More Tears’, Ozzy has only released one other studio album, choosing instead to rest on his laurels with a handful of live albums and ‘best of’ compilations (yes, PLURAL!); sadly, with his health being what it is, he’s not just running out of juice – he’s rapidly running out time.

Evidently, the draw of all this hard-to-find material makes the boxed-set seem rather inviting to hungry fans – especially at the original release price of 40$! Factor in the lack of new material, and you’ve got yourself a hot item. Hot enough that the powers-that-be decided that they could milk it even further, actually.

Since not everyone will want (or be able) to buy a whole boxed-set, and since die-hards probably had most of the first three discs as is, there was still some life to be beaten out of the last disc. So it has been re-edited, adding a few more tracks (to sucker a few more of those crazy completists) and re-released under the uninspired title ‘Under Cover’.

While the notion of hearing covers of rock classics by the man who helped to spawn heavy metal might seem appealing in some fashion, one soon disocovers that the renditions are as uninspired as its title.

In fact, upon even the first listen, the novelty wears off almost instantaneously; the end result is so lifeless it’s a wonder that it wasn’t shelved indefinitely to prevent damaging Ozzy’s already fragile reputation (which, in turn, begs one to doubt the raving lunatics who consistently idealize the godfather of metal as a genius).

Cover albums are rarely a good sign, because they are usually found towards the end of a musician’s floundering career (the examples being too many to list here); such albums even more rarely rejuvinate their decaying selves, unless you’re Rod Stewart or Barry Manilow (who still smell of rot, but who got a couple of face-lifts to hide the obvious).

Really, it’s like a last-ditch effort to sell a few albums by cross-breeding a so-called artist’s fan-base with those of the original material; hopefully, if all goes well (and if they’ve picked their sources correctly), they’ll be able to jump start the corpse that is their oeuvre. However, it’s usually more akin to someone setting themselves on fire in public in a desperate attempt to get a little bit of attention: it’s loads of fun to watch until the smoke fills your lungs and you inevitably turn away from the screaming.

So, if anyone thought that a set of Ozz-flavoured classics might be a good idea, they clearly haven’t heard The Prince’s latest offering. Lucky them.

To resume it very quickly, it’s not like he’s breaking all the rules and ruining these ‘classics’; in fact, he sticks to the original formulas so much that it’s hard to ignore that he’s defacing them horribly time after time with his warbling, sickly vocals. Whether it’s his defecated rendition of The Beatles’ “In My Life”, the mentally-debilitating “All The Young Dudes”, or the many coma-inducing others, it all amounts to the diary of a madman; who else would have thought that this was a good idea, beyond the self-evident enticement of a quick cash grab…?

In the end, it’s hard to shake the feeling that The Ozztrich has his head in the sand again; he has become nothing but a court jester to the very throne he claims as his own.

Of course, maybe that was the joke all along. I don’t know…

We give this a downward-spiralling 3.5 out of 10.

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