Flying High Again: The World’s Greatest Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne
Ray Van Horn, Jr.
I normally turn my back to tribute albums, not that I believe the artists participating in these endeavors are unworthy of my attention, but there comes a point where so many tributes have avalanched into the market the concept’s validity is becoming debatable. In my personal collection, I have only one tribute CD, Kiss My Ass which I hold an admitted fondness for because of THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES’ rendition of “Detroit Rock City” and Japanese pianist Yoshiki’s breathtaking scoring treatment of “Black Diamond.” Sheer artistry those, which scores a point in favor of the tribute album. Thus I kept an open mind as Flying High Again: The World’s Greatest Tribute to Ozzy Osbourne flocked to my mailbox.
Ozzy’s existence is a strange bone of contention to me; I came to him as a 12-year-old once my cousin-in-law put me on the metal path with IRON MAIDEN’s Killers and Ozzy’s Diary of a Madman. Throughout the years, OZZY was once treated by the mainstream as a brigand, a hellraiser, a Satanist. We fans and the original fans of BLACK SABBATH before us kept Ozzy in our protective fold for decades until his destiny placed him in the light of class clown with sudden mass appeal courtesy of the cash-cow minded MTV and suddenly one of our own was plucked from us as METALLICA was before him.
If anything, Flying High Again reminds us that Ozzy Osbourne has left us a legacy of important heavy metal before exposing himself as a mind-addled cussing addict, though he is a most noteworthy father and husband in his elder statesman years. It was the music that got him to this point, and love or hate The Osbournes, it is cool to reflect upon the man’s musical contributions. On Flying High Again, outside of CHILDREN OF BODOM’s miserable “Shot in the Dark” is a free-spirited though faithful redux of classic Ozzy material. The sterling “Mr. Crowley” by Tim “Ripper” Owens and Yngwie Malmsteen sets this project on the right course. Ironically, Ripper comes off sounding more like Ronnie James Dio at points on his cover, which you have to admire the irony, whether it’s intentional or not. And it’s fitting that Yngwie relays to us the soul of Randy Rhodes; so few are capable of it, and yet there’s a small of Yngwie’s own soul to the solo work that makes this a wondrous cover tune. ICARUS WITCH has a terrific stab at “S.A.T.O.” with legendary guitarist George Lynch, while FOREVER SAY DIE and Jeff Duncan does a nearly-accurate “Bark at the Moon.” Particularly impressive is the final solo that is just about by-the-numbers to Jake E. Lee’s.
Lita Ford takes both parts from her duet with Ozzy in a cute live version of “Close My Eyes Forever,” and from there the best nuggets are yet to come. Lemmy Kilmeister and Richie Kotzen drub out a crunchy version of “Desire,” and then Dee Snider, Doug Aldrich and Jason Bonham make a somewhat cheeky cover of “Crazy Train.” Honestly, there’s no one else aside from Ozzy I’d rather hear sing this suddenly-less-dangerous-than-it-once-was classic than Dee Snider. Points to the powers that be for understanding only another true vagabond from the day should have this honor. One of the biggest surprises to my ears was Mark Slaughter and Brad Gillis tackling “Over the Mountain,” who do a superb job. I had no surprise that the fully capable Joe Lynn Turner would turn in anything less than spectacular on his duet with Steve Lukather on “Hellraiser.” NOVEMBERS DOOM had me laughing with “Revelation (Mother Earth)” as the band smartly and precisely sets the instrumentation while vocalist Paul Kuhr Cookie Monsters his way through the vocals in his own inimitable style, trading off his growls for his trademark hypnotized cleans, only to surrender them to a soothing female siren vocal track. Some may consider this an abomination, but NOVEMBERS DOOM are a very stylish band that you either get or you don’t. The same applies to this poignant cover. Finally, as Yoshiki made the most personal statement with “Black Diamond” on Kiss My Ass, the ALEX SKOLNICK TRIO ends Flying High Again with a gorgeous jazz reworking of “Goodbye to Romance” that shifts from a lounge feel to a freestyle rockout session. Brilliant.
If Flying High Again succeeds, it’s in the way the bands treat the material with appropriate reverence, reminding us all that before Ozzy Osbourne put him and his family out there for mass consumption and water cooler conversation, he created some of the most memorable metal history has seen and will ever see.
Sunday, April 09, 2006