Sony Music
Release date: November 1, 2005

User Review
0/10 (0 votes)

One could say that the virtue of the Under Cover disc is the way it promptly ejects from the CD player. However, such a statement would be of no real value — not unlike the cover versions found on the disc. The album is best characterized as a nice tribute to various artists, and a nice novelty item for Ozzy followers … for what that’s worth.

Indeed, “nice” is the problem. The production quality and musicianship are professional in the technical sense, but in a lackluster, working-class-hero sort of way. Perhaps this speaks to the targeted audience. After all, is Ozzy an underground Metal god, or a reality-TV Pop icon?

In general, paying tribute to the classics can have its value musically, and no doubt, financially. (By the way, nine of the tracks on this album were released on Osbourne’s Prince of Darkness box set in March ’05, also on Sony/Epic.) Also, retaining the essence of a classic melody or riff is appropriate enough. However, with the exception of “Sympathy for the Devil,” no new life is breathed into the Under Cover tunes, and some of the old life was killed off and the gangrenous shell embalmed with Ozzy’s and producer Mark Hudson’s own formula of Rock Muzak.

While the album is not completely without merit, it is without Zakk Wylde, who could have taken these hippie-era tunes, and with his flared-leg pants and high-gain amps, defibrillated new life into them. Case in point is Zakk’s electrifying work on Ozzy’s crazy cover of “Purple Haze,” recorded for the Make a Difference Foundation’s Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell compilation (Mercury, 1989). Alas, you won’t find that one on Under Cover.

Moreover, Ozzy’s vocal talent is poorly suited for many of the Under Cover covers, and that deficiency stands out like a sore thumb. As soon as a song’s intro gives rebirth to one’s fond appreciation of the classic original, Ozzy enters to abort the experience. To make matters worse, the over-processed vocals have an almost creepy, unhuman presence. Somewhere there is a Pro Tools recording software expert with a Frankenstein complex, listening to the album and shouting, “It’s alive! It’s alive!”

Ozzy is not a singer’s singer. He has been a “one-trick pony” for a number of years, even decades. Inescapably, it seems, his “trick” is his plodding vocal mannerism and the sneering subtext in his tone. When applied to cynical or rebellious lyrics and in-your-face guitars, the trick is turned successfully — it works. When applied to anything else, however, the trick turns from rock ‘n’ roll to retarded.

If Ozzy does not suit the song, so then the song must suit Ozzy. The tracks on this album that have potential for kick-ass arrangements should have been properly “brutalized” with extreme prejudice. As far as songs that are just not amenable to this treatment, they should have been held back for karaoke night at the Osbourne’s.

It’s off to “Dinner with Ozzy and Friends,” on the Under Cover DualDisc’s DVD side, which also includes the tracks from the audio CD side in enhanced stereo, and a retrospective music video of “In My Life.” Around the dinner table, road stories and laughs are shared by Ozzy, son Jack, Lemmy (Motorhead), Harvey Leeds, Adrian Williams, and Rod MacSween. Unlike the audio tracks, the dinner conversation is bleeped left and right, which makes Ozzy that much more difficult to understand. (Why the self-censorship? Apparently, stories of setting people on fire and of tricking maitre d’s into sniffing fecal material are made efficacious for kids by simply editing out that dirty “f” word.)

In defense of Under Cover, its musical value may be solely in its nostalgia, i.e., Ozzy and friends are just assuming a relaxed identity this time around, begging our pardon and getting their kicks by playing some old favorites. In any event, it is time for you to decide whose pet remakes make you warm and fuzzy, Ozzy Osbourne’s Under Cover … or, maybe a better option, Alvin and the Chipmunks’ Rockin’ Through the Decades?

Audio track / Original recording artist

  1. “Rocky Mountain Way” / Joe Walsh
  2. “In My Life” / The Beatles
  3. “Mississippi Queen” / Mountain
  4. “Go Now” / The Moody Blues
  5. “Woman” / John Lennon
  6. “21st Century Schizoid Man” / King Crimson
  7. “All the Young Dudes” / Mott the Hoople
  8. “For What It’s Worth” / The Buffalo Springfield
  9. “Good Times” / Eric Burdon
  10. “Sunshine of Your Love” / Cream
  11. “Fire” / The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  12. “Working Class Hero” / John Lennon
  13. “Sympathy for the Devil” / The Rolling Stones


  • Jason Sagall

    Jason was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He was born in Illinois and currently reside in California, USA, where he works in the field of Information Technology, and is a freelance web consultant hyperacuity.net. His favorite Rock and Metal subgenres include Classic, Progressive, and Power. He is a guitar fanatic and listen to a lot of Instrumental Rock and Fusion. Jason has been playing guitar as a hobby for some 25 years.  

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