Ozzy Osbourne – [DVD]

Thursday, 19 July 2012

After the spectacular letdown that last years reissue of Ozzy Osbourne's Blizzard Of Ozz turned out to be, it's hard not to look at new releases of the singer's old material a little more closely. Part of that reissue's failure was that it just didn't seem to make any logistical sense at all; there, portions of the songs sparkled with fresh digital polish and the fact that it wasn't applied evenly (the rhythm section sounded very '2011' while the guitars sounded very 1981) put some parts into unfortunately unavoidable relief. Worse, after the initial disappointment at the reissue began to fade a bit, then the theories on “why” the reissue sounded so lopsided began to circulate. Some fans said that the reason parts of Blizzard Of Ozz now seemed to have been recorded at two completely different times (years – not minutes, and utilizing different sets of digital technology which just didn't exist at the time of the album's making)was because they had been; rumors flew that, in order to justify not paying the original players any royalties they would have been due, Ozzy contracted a couple of anonymous hired guns to re-record the parts for the reissue. Of course, there's no possible way to really prove that – the only ones who know for sure are Ozzy, Sharon and Sony Music and they're not talking – but such questions rise again pretty quickly as one watches Eagle Rock's DVD release of Speak Of The Devil, and it doesn't take long to figure out that there has been a shocking amount of “assistance” applied to this presentation too.

“How easy is it to notice and when is it first apparent,” you ask? Oh, only as soon as Osbourne opens his mouth and unleashes what sounds like a studio-compressed and doubled syllable at the beginning of “Over The Mountain” – which is the first song of the set. For those who don't understand what that means, it's impossible for any singer – no matter how good or bad they are – to sound like two people performing at the same time, and no onstage production can produce that sound effectively. Here though, such is exactly what viewers are asked to believe; the sense of it gets even thinner as, when Ozzy runs across the stage and visibly belts a word or syllable along the way, it doesn't get picked up by the microphone when it's very clearly in front of his face.

Even in the very early run-time of this concert vid, viewers will be confused by what the presentation is supposed to be (it's clearly not a live show), and it doesn't get any easier to decide as the film continues. Between moments during both “Mr. Crowley” and “Crazy Train,” for example, the vocal effects do break intermittently when Osbourne improvises a syllable here and there (an “uh” or “yeah”) but then picks right back up with the melody again when Osbourne starts singing again. This might not be so noticeable were it not such an alien effect but, it's almost laughable here, and really colors the impression left by the DVD; after viewers accept that this is very obviously not live, they'll find themselves beginning to wonder what else was changed in post-production. They'll notice that no one has heard about Brad Gillis (the former Night Ranger guitarist who manned the six string seat in Ozzy's band briefly between Randy Rhoads and Jake E. Lee) in a while, so were his parts replaced by a Johnny One-Take player here too? It is possible; there's no easy way to tell because easily forty-five per cent assembled for this presentation looks like it was shot from the cheapest seat in Irvine Meadows  and makes a close watch of anything pretty difficult, and also makes it very difficult for this film to hold any viewer's attention.

In the end, as one turns off the DVD in disgust and/or frustration (whether they watched Speak Of The Devil in whole or in part is irrelevant – the sensation will be the same) and tries to digest what they've just seen, the only thing that becomes perfectly apparent is that Ozzy started down a very slippery slope last year with the release of the Blizzard Of Ozz reissue. He very clearly tarnished his own name, and it's hard not to remember that when word comes that a new release of old work is coming; people don't want to get let down like that again, so they watch closely for any potential flaws. There are plenty of flaws to find in this DVD, and fans will begin to get a chill that they're being lead down the Blizzard path again. We can only hope this new tradition ends soon, while Ozzy still has a good name.



Speak Of The Devil
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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