Metal was evolving in 1980, maybe not as much as it would in, say, 1983-1984, but still it was evolving. But, like his former band, Ozzy doesn’t seem to want to evolve in the way the younger performers were. Rather, on his debut, he’s chosen a different kind of evolution, the kind that I would traditionally sneer at.
I can’t say I’m super familiar with the Ozzy Sabbath records of the late ’70s, so I don’t know how much Sabbath had headed down this road already, before he left the band. But I know that in the early in mid ’70s, they did occasionally stray in this direction. And you could argue that there are at least some superficial similarities to Ozzy’s solo debut and the first post-Ozzy solo record – not in terms of their singer, of course. (Which is certainly something.)
What I’m talking about are hooks – this is as hooky a record I’ve as I’ve ever heard Ozzy on. It feels like a complete departure from early Sabbath. (Like I said, I don’t know late ’70s Sabbath.) A younger me would think this is awful. Right now, I don’t think it’s necessarily awful, but it’s certainly not great.
I get that “Crazy Train” is iconic but I feel like that’s mostly its opening and its riff. It helps that Rhoads is so talented, as he sells it and many other songs here more than a lesser guitarist should. (Though Eddie Van Halen apparently didn’t think very highly of him.) But, even with Rhoads occasionally shredding, it’s hard to avoid how unbelievably catchy and slick this album. (Especially given how Ozzy’s voice is the opposite of slick.)
At least some of this is on the quality of the songs – they’re not great. They’re certainly not awful – they’re mostly fairly catchy – but it’s clear that Iommi is a better songwriter than these guys, even if he isn’t as good as writing hooks. And Butler is a way better lyricist than Ozzy. (That’s a real shocker…)
So what we have here is one of the kings of metal making an album that is way less metal than the records he used to make, and which regularly functions as a showcase for his young guitarist’s solos, as opposed to whatever Ozzy’s talent is. It’s hard to think much of it.