Ordinary Man

Ordinary Man

“I’m 71 and I don’t fuckin’ understand how I got there,” Ozzy Osbourne tells Apple Music. “I can remember times when I've fuckin’ woken up, puke down me. I’ve fuckin’ woken up with a bed full of blood, when I’ve fallen down and banged my head.” It’s not like Ozzy Osbourne hasn’t tackled the subject of death before. Fifty years and one week prior to the release of this album, on the very first song on Black Sabbath’s debut LP, he asked Satan: “Is it the end?” Here, though, on his 12th solo album, and first in a decade, he’s thinking about it a little more seriously. On “Holy for Tonight,” he ponders: “What will I think of when I speak my final words? … What will I think of when I take my final breath?” On the title track, a soaring ballad featuring Elton John, live strings, and a choir, he admits, “Don’t know why I’m still alive/Yes, the truth is I don’t wanna die an ordinary man.” Let’s get one thing straight: There is zero chance of Ozzy Osbourne dying an ordinary man. Nor Elton, for that matter—or anybody else involved in making this record. At the helm is Andrew Watt, a guitarist who got to know Osbourne while working on Post Malone’s track “Take What You Want” (which you’ll also find at the end of this record). Watt enlisted some famous friends to help, and the first call was to Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith. “I was like, ‘Ozzy wants us to make an album,’ and he was like, ‘When? When are we doing it? Let's do it. Let's do it. Let's do it,’” Watt says. “I was like, ‘Wow, okay. He really wants to do it, and we need a bass player.’ So I called Duff [McKagan] up, from Guns N' Roses…and Duff was like, ‘When? When? When? When?’ Same thing, same enthusiasm.” The result is an epic release that stares time and mortality squarely in the face, but still has time for toilet humor, aliens, cannibals, and that time in 1972 when Osbourne did so much cocaine he accidentally called the police on himself. (“I thought it was an air conditioning button,” said Osbourne of the story behind the punky “It’s a Raid.” “It was a fucking Bel Air patrol.”) Considering Osbourne has publicly battled health issues for decades, and in 2019 was diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s disease, the mere existence of Ordinary Man is quite extraordinary. Watt, Smith, and McKagan have nailed the balance of heavy-as-hell riffs (notably opener “Straight to Hell”) and heartstring-tugging rock ballads (“Under the Graveyard” and the title track in particular), while “Today Is the End” hits like a snarling Metallica/Alice in Chains hybrid—both bands he inspired. Meanwhile, the massive drums and pitch-shifted voice intro on “Goodbye” are a clear nod to “Iron Man.” After singing, “Sitting here in purgatory, not afraid to burn in hell/All my friends are waiting for me, I can hear them crying out for help,” the Prince of Darkness ends the song with a crucial question: “Do they sell tea in heaven?”

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