Inner Psyche Productions

musings and ramblings from the voices inside…

Top 20 Songs: Ozzy Osbourne

Once again, I found myself inspired by Mr. Martin Popoff, so as a complement to his recent list published in Goldmine (find his picks here), I present my top 20 Ozzy tracks from his solo career.

Top 20 Ozzy Osbourne Solo Songs

20. Straight To Hell (Ordinary Man, 2020)

The last album I recall purchasing before the pandemic threw the world off-kilter was Ozzy’s 2020 “comeback” record, Ordinary Man. Coincidence that the leadoff track is called “Straight To Hell?” I think not…Though some likely assumed bringing in super-producer Andrew Watt (Dua Lipa, Post Malone) was an odd choice, Watt’s first shot at stardom alongside Glenn Hughes in the ill-fated California Breed project (which also featured Jason Bonham) validated his hard rock credentials and first-rate guitar chops. Loading up Ozz with a rhythm section featuring Duff McKagan and Chili Pepper Chad Smith, combined with Watts’ own considerable songwriting skills, resulted in an Ozzy album that is way heavier and more energetic than anyone could’ve expected. Hey, it sucked me in, and I haven’t paid attention to anything Ozzy released since No More Tears

19. Shot In The Dark (The Ultimate Sin, 1986)

The Prince of Darkness goes pop metal on the slicky-produced The Ultimate Sin. In 1986 even Ozzy couldn’t escape the peroxide and sequins, let alone the (ahem) “modern” production touches of Ron Nevison, he of Heart’s hair-raising resurgence the year prior. Which is a damn shame, because Jake E. Lee is a bad-ass guitar player who filled Randy Rhoads’ shoes admirably. Bassist Phil Soussan brought this hooky gem to the proceedings, giving Ozzy hsi first legitimate hit single (#68 on Billboard Hot 100), and a stand-out track on the otherwise middling solo release from the Ozz. Side note, this title appeared to be deleted from his catalog for several years, allegeding owing to the fact that Soussan sued the Osbournes for not paying the songwriting royalties he was due. 

18. Degradation Rules (Patient Number 9, 2022)

Watt and Co. return for this even more guest star-laden follow-up to Ordinary Man, and the resulting collection is darker and heavier, yet no less melodic. On “Degradation Rules” the godfather himself, Tony Iommi, appears on an Ozzy solo album for the first time, and despite some silly lyrics about masturbation (where’s Bob Daisley when you need him?), the grinding pace, crunchy guitar tones, and blues-y harmonica recall the epic heaviness of the pair’s former work in that little known band that some say invented heavy metal.

17. No More Tears (No More Tears, 1991)

Who wants a pensive, mature, reflective Ozzy? Not me! But apparently I’m in the minority, since No More Tears sold like a bajillion copies, even in the face of the grunge revolution. Even still, the title track features an innovative arrangement, gnarly bass riff, Zakk Wylde’s unmistakably thick tone, and genuinely disturbing lyrics. It’s also the only non-ballad from the album that sticks in your head after all these years. (Go on, sing me the chorus to “Mr. Tinkertrain” – I’ll wait…)

16. Nothing Feels Right (Patient Number 9, 2022)

Speaking of ballads, Ozzy has recorded some absolute classics over the years, his knack for Beatlesque melodies and maudlin vocal delivery combining for legitimately moving musical moments, revealing the type of lingering sadness that is an all-too-typical characteristic of the clowns of the entertainment world (see also, Robin Williams). Zakk Wylde pops up here to contribute another classic ripper of a solo over the anguished ballad and providing a critical link to Ozzy’s chart-topping heyday. 

15. Tonight (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

Full disclosure: every song from Diary of a Madman made this list, except for “Flying High Again” (I know, that’s the “hit” – but I always found it a bit plodding and marijuana songs in general kind of stupid…). That album improves on Blizzard of Ozz in every way possible: better production, better performances, and just plain better songs. “Tonight” features some gorgeous bass playing from Bob Daisley, and one of Randy Rhoads’ greatest solos on the outro. My only complaint: it fades out too fast.

14. You Can’t Kill Rock and Roll (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

I’m a sucker for open-string voicings on acoustic guitar, and the shimmering chords that open one of Ozzy’s paeons to his genre provide a beautiful application of the technique. Melodically, Ozzy never gets nearly enough credit, not only for his ability to craft a memorable hook, but subtleties of phrasing that keep things interesting. Check out the triplets that end the line “How many times have I heard it before and I’ll probably hear it again.” And even though Bob Daisley handled the lyrics for just about everything, I’ve always admired his ability to craft words that seem like Ozzy could’ve written himself, this being just one of several that lament how rock and roll (and Ozzy himself) is generally misunderstood. 

13. Believer (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

Ozzy turns life coach with lines like “You’ve got to believe in yourself, or no one will believe in you.” Another killer bass line melds with an eerie guitar riff to combine for one of the more esoteric tracks in the Ozzman’s catalog.

12. Suicide Solution (live version from Tribute – 1987)

Speaking of face-melting guitar solos, when Ozzy finally released a live album featuring Randy Rhoads, five years after his untimely passing, it quickly shot into the Billboard top 10 (alongside Motley Crue, Whitesnake, Poison, Bon Jovi, and Heart. Ah, the good old days…). Ozzy got in all sorts of trouble with this tune thanks to Bob Daisley’s cute wordplay on “solution.” He may have been warning of the dangers of alcohol abuse, but “concerned” parents just thought Ozzy wanted his fans to commit suicide. As Rob Halford opined when Judas Priest found themselves embroiled in a similar lawsuit, it seems like bad business to encourage your fans to kill themselves…that aside, Randy delivers a blistering, unaccompanied solo that was thankfully captured on tape. Eddie Van Who?

11. Little Dolls (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

The Diary album features not one, but two, epic drum intros courtesy of the late Lee Kerslake. And of the two, “Little Dolls” is certainly the longer one! Lyrically, it’s a bit of a silly ode to voodoo, but Bob Daisley’s busy bass lines are an album highlight. Worth noting at this point: what a dumb idea it was to replace Daisley and Kerslake’s tracks with Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin back in the early 2000s. Not only was it ridiculously petty, but painfully obvious and totally obliterated the magic of these original performances. Thankfully, wrongs were righted and the original tracks have since been restored. (Note: Same mistake was made with Blizzard of Ozz.)

10. Mr. Crowley (Blizzard of Ozz – 1980)

For my money, solo Ozzy was at its best when spooking the bejeezus out of budding, pre-teen metal fans (i.e. me!), and how better than with a song about rock and roll’s favorite dark magus, Alistair Crowley. Did including a song about an avowed Satanist on his debut album mean Ozzy himself was an acolyte? Heck no. How many times per show does Ozzy scream, “God bless you all!!!” at the audience? Was it brilliant marketing? Absolutely, courtesy of Don Airey’s cheesy, “Phantom of the Hockey Arena” organ intro and an absolutely face-melting guitar solo. 

9. SATO (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

I’m not sure we’ve ever gotten a straight answer on what the title stands for and how it relates to the lyrics, but that matters little when you’ve got a track that soars as majestically as this. A mellow, mysterious intro quickly gives way to a catchy, uptempo rocker that abruptly ends with fading echoes that segue seamlessly into the epic title track. 

8. Miracle Man (No Rest For The Wicked – 1989)

Ozzy’s solo career is ultimately a story of rebirths and second chances. Sharon literally dragged him out of the drunken squalor of an L.A. hotel room after his firing from Sabbath and pairs him with one of the most remarkable heavy metal guitarists of all time, only to have Randy tragically die in a plane crash after just two albums. But guitarist Jake E. Lee gets drafted for two more records while Ozzy’s legend only grows. Things inevitably go south with Mr. Lee, yet lightning strikes a third time in the form of 19-year-old Zakk Wylde, whose distinctive, thick guitar tone comes laden with country-ish “chicken pickin” licks and artificial harmonics aplenty – ultimately rescuing Ozzy from the hair-metal cliches of The Ultimate Sin. Lyrically, Ozzy gets to take a shot at constant critic Jimmy Swaggart, reveling in the hypocrisy of the greedy, sleazy televangelists of the 1980s. 

7. I Don’t Know (Live version from Tribute, 1987)

Firing Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake still stands on one of the pettiest moves in metal, but you really can’t hold it against Rudy Sarzo and Tommy Aldridge. The fire and energy they brought to the stage, combined with a jaw-dropping performance from Randy Rhoads, kick the pants off of the somewhat staid feel of Blizzard of Ozz (not so with Diary, proving Daisley and Kerslake could bring the goods as well). I’m sure most of Ozzy’s vocals were fixed later on, but the rest of it is entirely live. For proof, check out the tempo Tommy counts in, and the tempo Randy employs as he launches into the main riff. Tommy just gives up and follows Randy…what can you do? 

6. Hero (No Rest For The Wicked bonus track, 1989)

Hidden bonus tracks are a curious artifact of the CD era. What was the point, exactly? The element of surprise, making the listener feel like they got something extra? Or just because, due to the amount of time available on a CD, you could? In any case, you can’t “hide” a track on an LP, because you’d see there’s still another band left before the runout groove (though curiously, The Clash’s “Train in Vain” from London Callingisn’t listed on the album sleeve.Is it a bonus track?). So this song, another powerful lament to Ozzy’s frustration with being misunderstood, is sadly not included on the vinyl version of No Rest For The Wicked, and that’s a damn shame. The poignancy on display here pointed the way to No More Tears, but done far better. 

5. Bark at the Moon (Bark At The Moon, 1983)

Poor Jake E. Lee – being the guy to follow in Randy Rhoads’ footsteps could not have been easy. But he proved the naysayers wrong, kicking off the first post-Randy studio album with a killer riff, setting the tone for a slamming record that easily rivals the all-powerful Diary of A Madman. Surely Jake questioned the situation further when it was decided that the full songwriting credits for the entire album would be given solely to the Ozz. Because, yes, someone who doesn’t play a lick of guitar totally wrote that awesome riff. The lycanthrope lyrical tale isn’t anything profound, but Ozzy took credit for that one too (Mr. Daisley returning, not for the first time, for further punishment after his unceremonious dismissal). 

4. Over The Mountain (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

The same band returns to the same studio, with the same producer, yet the sound and performances stomp all over that of the debut. Lee Kerslake announces his presence from the get-go, providing one of heavy metal’s most well-known drum intros and a harbinger of the greatness to follow. Shame that the photo on the inner sleeve featured the “other guys,” the only acknowledgment of any involvement by Kerslake and Daisley in the songwriting credits on the record label. 

3. Crazy Train (Blizzard of Ozz, 1980)

“All aboard, hahahahaha!!!” Though this was the second track on the debut, it was Ozzy’s maniacal cackling that kicks off his signature song that lets the music world know exactly what it was in for. Finally done playing second fiddle to Tony Iommi (who made Ozzy stand off to the side so he could be front and center), “crazy” ended up being a massive understatement when it came to the reputation Ozzy would cultivate across the remainder of the decade. The epic main riff, which can still be heard blasting over the PA at sporting events worldwide, gives way to a galloping, vaguely disco-ish major key verse, which again highlights Ozzy’s knack for a memorable melody. This is Heavy Metal 101 right here. 

2. Waiting for Darkness (Bark At The Moon, 1983)

Ozzy knows how to end an album, and what more can you ask for out of an album closer than a song so good it makes you want to immediately flip the record over and listen to the whole thing again? Waiting for Darkness has all the drama and gravitas a metal record demands, thanks in part to Don Airey’s pounding synthesizer that drives towards the epic climax. Often overlooked is how an effective pre-chorus can elevate a song, and Ozzy totally nails it here, the “I know what they’ll find, it’s in their mind” part almost surpassing the chorus it sets up. 

1. Diary of A Madman (Diary of a Madman, 1981)

Speaking of epic album closers…

Sadly, the general populace seems to have forgotten how genuinely terrifying Ozzy seemed during his early ‘80s peak. Obviously, image means nothing if it isn’t backed up by the music, but with Randy by his side, that was never going to be an issue for Ozzy. So he was free to act like a complete lunatic, and by letting the creatives around him lean into the Satanic imagery (that in retrospect, seems so silly…) and cheesy horror elements of all his 80s releases, parents and preachers stateside found a demon they could rail against. Back then, being an Ozzy fan meant you must be on a slippery slope towards hell. And with a soundtrack like this, who could blame them – all harmonic minor riffing and creepy choral passages, I couldn’t listen to this song before going to sleep when I was a kid. Everything you could ask from heavy metal’s Prince of Darkness, encapsulated in the epic title track from his greatest record. 

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