That Time Ozzy Osbourne Came Out of Retirement for ‘Ozzmosis’
Oct. 24, 1995, marked the triumphant return out of retirement by Ozzy Osbourne, who was armed with his sixth solo studio album, Ozzmosis. Wait a minute. Had he ever left?
The details surrounding the Madman of Rock’s quickly retracted pledge to hang up his gloves have become a little hazy with the passage of years, but sometime in 1992, Osbourne had been misdiagnosed as suffering from multiple sclerosis. This diagnosis was justifiably taken seriously enough to prompt the renaming of 1992’s No More Tears tour as the No More Tours tour, which culminated in a controversial pair of shows with his erstwhile Black Sabbath bandmates that managed to bury their career with Ronnie James Dio.
Osbourne’s retirement also led to the dismantling of his backing band, then consisting of drummer Randy Castillo, bassist Mike Inez, who promptly joined Alice in Chains, and guitarist Zakk Wylde, who launched his own new band, the eventually short-lived Pride & Glory. So when Osbourne learned the error of his medical appraisal and decided to un-retire, he was forced to start a fresh search for his new band members, which would have been the stuff of hard rock dreams.
Namely because it involved guitar hero extraordinaire Steve Vai, who was already a white-hot commodity as a solo act in his own right, but very keen to work with Ozzy in what for a time was mooted as a brand new band to be called X-Ray. Unfortunately, though they reportedly came up with over a dozen songs while jamming with bassist Bob Daisley and drummer Deen Castronovo, the always enigmatic Osbourne camp eventually went cold on the idea and it was sadly consigned to the “what if” category of rock 'n' roll history.
Instead, work on the LP that would become Ozzmosis was delayed by several months, by which time Daisley was replaced by former Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler, Zakk Wylde was back in the picture, and Ozzy had taken time to collaborate with a slew of songwriting partners, ranging from Motorhead’s Lemmy, Bryan Adams associate Jim Vallance, Aerosmith contributor Mark Hudson, and others (including Wylde).
The result was just another familiar-sounding Osbourne album, but then what’s wrong with that? First single “Perry Mason” launched off a depressive keyboard figure in the grand “Mr. Crowley” tradition and then roared along on muscular riffs and melodic hooks as good as anything found on the preceding, massively successful No More Tears. Its second and third singles, “See You on the Other Side” and the Gothic “I Just Want You” nearly matched the irresistible ingredients of Osbourne’s biggest chart hit “Mama, I’m Coming Home.”
Beyond this, the album continually juggled insanely heavy headbangers like “Thunder Underground” and “My Jekyll Doesn’t Hide” alongside power ballads like “Ghost Behind My Eyes” (reminiscent of 1983’s Bark at the Moon) and the surprisingly sweet “Old L.A. Tonight.” As for the aforementioned supergroup with Steve Vai that never was, its only evidence came in the co-writing credit of “My Little Man”: a sonically distinctive, lyrically very moving album standout featuring Wylde aping a sitar sound with his axe.
All told, though prone to imperfections and even outright filler (witness the obvious autopilot of “Tomorrow” and Denial”), Ozzmosis served as a more than worthy comeback for the Osbourne, and was pushed it into the U.S. Top 5. Meanwhile, he embarked on the officially named Retirement Sucks tour, backed by a brand new cast consisting of drummer Mike Bordin, (late of Faith No More), onetime Suicidal Tendencies and future Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo, and guitarist Joe Holmes -- a former Randy Rhoads pupil who stepped in when Wylde appeared set to join Guns N' Roses.
If only Osboune’s subsequent post-retirement career had yielded equally inspiring music instead of inconsistent albums and countless celebrity distractions.
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