If this is Ozzy Osbourne’s final bow, then Ordinary Man is fitting farewell to a truly legendary career. Haunting, honest and introspective, not only is it the icon’s most powerful disc in decades, it is the hard rock/metal equivalent of Johnny Cash’s American IV: When the Man Comes Around.
“All My Life,” “Goodbye,” “Today is the End” and the heart-wrenching title track—an inevitable hit duet with Elton John—lament the self-destructive behavior that has taken its toll as he stares mortality in the face.
The album concludes with not one, but two tracks with flavor of the week, Post Malone. Both “It’s a Raid” and “Take What You Want” are decent songs that might find extended life on top-40 radio and introduce Osbourne to a new generation. Otherwise, these songs seem out of place here.
Although nothing will ever outshine his first two solo records, Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman, Ordinary Man is essential Ozzy Osbourne.
Questionable police shootings of black youth, racism, and immigration policies focused on dark-skinned people: actor, rapper, and metal vocalist Ice-T does not back down from controversy on Body Count’s incendiary seventh album Carnivore.
Although, explanations of why Body Count cover influences is unnecessary, the band’s rendition of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades” is the best since Abattoir’s 1985 version. And their metallic update of “Colors,” Ice-T’s hit theme song from the 1988 film of the same name, also succeeds. Another highlight of Body Count’s best album is their tribute of the late Nipsey Hussle, “When I’m Gone.” Featuring Evanescence’s Amy Lee on backing vocals, the surprisingly moving song is about appreciating loved ones while they are here, instead of expressing regret after they have passed. There is so much rage on other album highlights like “Thee Critical Beatdown,” “Bum-Rush,” “Carnivore,” and “No Remorse,” that it will not only provide a catharsis for listeners, but it will also leave them exhausted and sweaty. Body Count obviously don’t want happy meals, they want angry meals.
Once the standouts of the second wave of Southern Rock bands, which also included Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot, among others, Outlaws have now become the elder statesmen of the entire genre. Their latest, Dixie Highway, is so powerful and inspired it will take long-time fans down memory lane. “Southern Rock Will Never Die” is a tribute to the genre’s fallen heroes. “Heavenly Blues,” the Allman Brothers’ tribute “Macon Memories” and the title track are as strong as any of the band’s heyday hits. “Overnight from Athens” and “Endless Ride” have country “crossover hit” potential. If there is anything to complain about Dixie Highway, it’s the “could-have-been-a-classic” instrumental “Showdown.” As great as it is at just over three minutes, I wish it was longer, like Outlaws’ most famous song “Green Grass, High Tides.” Perhaps I am just living in the past.
…AND YOU WILL KNOW US BY THE TRAIL OF DEAD
X: The Godless Void and Other Stories
Those unfamiliar with this storied Austin band—now back to a duo—should not mistake them for a metal band. Yes, the cover of their 10th album depicts demon-eyed lions and dragons flanking a mysterious woman wearing psychedelic armor, but this musically, it’s an entirely different beast.
The perfect film soundtrack for a self-financed film about 20-something or 30-something angst, X: The Godless Void and Other Stories is yet another installment in Conrad Keely and Jason Reece’s legacy of indie, alternative pop equivalence to Pink Floyd. Although the chilling “Who Haunts the Haunter” has hit potential, this trippy, minimalistic, headphones record is best experienced in its entirety.
GREEN LEAF RUSTLERS
From Within Marin
(Silver Arrow Records)
The Green Leaf Rustlers are truly a California band—Marin County, to be exact. The group is so tied to its beloved Northern California terrain they seldom leave, instead opting to play shows almost exclusively in their own backyard. That is what makes From With Marin—a live recording of psychedelic and country rock favorites—such a fantastic treat for those of us not living in the California Republic’s hippie wonderland. As for the Rustlers themselves—featuring The Black Crowes’ Chris Robinson, pedal steel guitarist Barry Sless, guitarist Greg Loiacono (The Mother Hips), bassist Pete Sears (Jefferson Starship, Rod Stewart), and drummer John Molo (Phil Lesh & Friends, Mike Watt)—they cook up a heady brew of selections from the rock ‘n’ roll bible, including the Stones’ “No Expectations,” Gram Parsons’ “Big Mouth Blues,” and smokin’ version of the proverbial “That’s Alright,” popularized first by Elvis but subsequently covered by countless other acts. Those still mourning the demise of Robinson’s former group, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, will be reveling in From Within Marin’s West Coast boogie woogie. — Dan Alleva
Among the best songwriters of our generation, Drive-by Truckers sound like a secret supergroup containing Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, and Tom Petty. The Unraveling is an album-length look deep into America’s soul. Although they obvious love their homeland and the heartland, they remain troubled by what they see. “Babies in Cages,” rips the current immigrant debacle. The Springsteen-esque “Armageddon’s Back in Town” is self-explanatory. Ironically, “Slow Ride Argument,” although not about a happy subject, has a strong enough hook to become a hit.
This album is so dark and depressing, at times, it feels like a lyrical punch to the gut. Hopefully, the band’s members start composing upbeat songs on their next album. How about one about face-licking happy puppies?