I’ve got a hell of an ear for music. I remember hearing Motley Crue’s Decade of Decadence for the first time back in ’91 and instantly realizing that they had re-recorded “Home Sweet Home”. The song was essentially the same, almost identical in fact, but it was just different enough for me to hear it. Sure enough, after searching through the liner notes, I found that the song had been rerecorded. To this day, I can tell you which version is being played on the radio (I live in Oklahoma — “Home Sweet Home” still gets plenty of airplay here.) I remember the same thing happening with Collective Soul’s “Shine”. The video version was slightly different than the single. Sometimes I’ll hear a song on the radio and realize it’s slightly faster or slower than the version on the album. Not enough to make a huge difference mind you, just enough to drive me crazy …
And if you can imagine how crazy that makes me, you should have seen me after listening to the recently re-released Blizzard of Ozz. Ozzy’s first solo album, originally recorded and released in 1980, has been totally reworked.
For those who missed the mud-slinging a few months ago, Ozzy Osbourne, in response to “continually being harassed for royalties” by Bob Daisley (bass) and Lee Kerslake (drums), has decided to reenter the studio and replace the original drum and bass tracks with performances by current Ozzy backup band members Robert Trujillo (bass) and Mike Bordin (drums). Ozzy has been a bit misleading about the situation (his website only mentions that the rereleases are “digitally remastered from the original master tapes for the ultimate sound” — so, if somehow you can extract “the bass and drum tracks were removed and were replaced with new performances by new performers” from “digitally remastered from the original master tapes for the ultimate sound” then good for you. Blizzard of Ozz isn’t the only album getting the treatment — Diary of a Madman, Tribute and No More Tears are also being rereleased.
But, I didn’t buy them. I bought Blizzard of Ozz.
If you’ve ever spent any time in a music studio, you know how hard sounds are to reproduce. Microphones are placed, moved until an exact sound is reached, and then NOT MOVED AGAIN. If you want to see a studio engineer’s head literally explode, accidentally bump a snare mic halfway through the recording of an album. They’re that picky. So, my initial question was, “how are they going to duplicate the sounds and performances from twenty-two years ago?”
The answer is, they didn’t even try. Beginning with the opening bass line on “I Don’t Know”, things sound “not right”. The bass tone is totally different than the original. Daisley’s original bass sound was low key and “toneless” for the most part. Robert Trujillo (ex-Suicidal Tendencies/Infectious Grooves) is definitely not known for playing a low key and toneless bass, and he doesn’t. Sure, the notes are for the most part the same, but the sound itself is not.
Mike “Puffy” Bordin, Ozzy’s current drummer, “suffers” from the same problem (if you can call sounding like himself “suffering”). Puffy, who pounded the skins for Faith No More from start to finish and has jammed with bands like Korn and Jerry Cantrell, has a very distinct, tom heavy style. Had I given it much thought, I would have realized that no amount of studio trickery would be able to hide Bordin’s unique style, and I would have been right. The Blizzard of Ozz tracks are played faithfully, but Puff’s talent still finds a way to shine through.
It’s hard to pretend that the smoke screen isn’t there. It’s like seeing your friend in the hospital after a car wreck, mustering up that fake smile and saying, “yeah, you look great. You look the same!” Because they don’t look the same. They know it, and you know it. Bob Daisley and Lee Kerslake know it. Ozzy, Puffy, and Trujillo know it. I should have known it before, and after listening, I know it now.
The Blizzard of Ozz rerelease includes a tenth track originally only available in the UK, “You Lookin’ At Me Lookin’ At You.” Common sense dictates that if the track was so great, it would have been on the album the first time around, and that logic holds up. Besides, Blizzard of Ozz doesn’t end with “You Lookin’ At Me Lookin’ At You.” It ends with “Steal Away the Night” … doesn’t it? It’s supposed to in my mind.
The bottom line here is that I don’t give a fuck about Bob Daisley or Lee Kerslake. To me this is like going back to The Wizard of Oz and digitally replacing some munchkins. In the big scheme of things, Blizzard of Oz is known for two things, one is Randy Rhoads incredible guitar work, and the other is as Ozzy’s first solo and break through album. I’m sure those two munchkins three rows back and to the left did a fine job on the set, but the bottom line is people watch the movie for Dorothy and could give two shits about the munchkins. And, it would still bug me the whole time — I’d probably be staring at those two tiny mother fuckers the whole time.
Re-recording the album is fundamentally wrong. It’s wrong in a “Lucas fucking with Star Wars” sort of way or a “Spielburg changing FBI agents guns to walkie-talkies in ET” sort of way. That being said, Ozzy’s a multi-millionaire and I’ve been nominated for writing the “Worst Review Ever” by some guy named PengIn, so what the hell do I know. Trujillo and Bordin are well respected and incredible musicians in their own right, but it’s just not the same. I’m sure these guys would change their opinion on the project if Mike Patton or Mike Muir decided to rerelease some old albums and hired Bob Daisley or Lee Kerslake to replace THEIR performances.
Is this album an improvement, a “digitally remastered [version] from the original master tapes for the ultimate sound”, or just the ultimate spiteful act? Regardless the reason, the Blizzard of Ozz album is perfect proof that “you can never go back.”
Even if you’re the Prince of Fuckin’ Darkness.
01. I Don’t Know
02. Crazy Train
03. Goodbye To Romance
04. Dee Rhoads
05. Suicide Solution
06. Mr. Crowley
07. No Bone Movies
08. Revelation (Mother Earth)
09. Steal Away (The Night)
10. You Lookin’ At Me Lookin’ At You