Album Of The Week – August 15, 2022

This week I want to have a look at an album that was commercially successful, has some divided fan opinion though is generally looked on fondly, but is completely disavowed by the artist.

Ozzy Osbourne – The Ultimate Sin

Released February 22, 1986 via Epic Records

My Favorite Tracks – Lightning Strikes, The Ultimate Sin, Shot In The Dark

Ozzy’s fourth album saw the return of Jake E. Lee to the guitar spot for his second and final work with Osbourne. Bob Daisley was out of the band for this one (at least the recording), replaced by Phil Soussan on bass. And Randy Castillo would join the group on drums, a position he would hold up until the mid ’90’s.

Of course the personnel and especially writing credits are murky for this album, as they often are in the shadowy world of Osbourne rights and finances. Bob Daisley did extensive work on this album before splitting from the band when Ozzy took time to prepare for a one-off Black Sabbath reunion in 1985. Drummer Jimmy DeGrasso was also involved in the early sessions, though he too would leave for Y&T and later Megadeth. Daisley was omitted from credit on the initial presses of the album but his contributions were noted on later pressings.

The controversy over writing credits would lead to issues down the line and are the true likely reason this album is slagged by the Osbourne camp, but we’ll get to those issues after running through the songs. 9 tracks at 40 minutes to go through here.

The Ultimate Sin

The title track opens the record with some super sick riffing from Lee, one could be forgiven for thinking that Ozzy’s next guitarist was the one shredding on this. Ozzy and sin go together like peanut butter and jelly and this song works exceptionally well.

Secret Loser

Another rocking track that offers up pretty much what the title says – Ozzy looks cool and all but is really a loser, or whatever. It’s probably something like that but honestly it’s not that deep and is a really nice song.

Never Know Why

Enough of the “inner loser” thing, here Ozzy and company are back out to rock. The detractor, of which Ozzy had many around this time, will never know why we rock. It’s not hard to figure out – just listen, how could you not rock?

Thank God For The Bomb

The pace comes up a bit for this song that is far less nihilistic than the title suggests. Here Ozzy is offering that the threat of mutually assured destruction is keeping nuclear annihilation from happening. It is not a “pro-nuke” song like, well, the 100 million pro-nuke metal songs out there.

Never

A tune about fate, the great mysteries of life, the various beliefs people hold about all that, and so on. Ozzy offers a pretty fatalistic and down to earth approach to the song. Lee’s guitar gets to go off a bit more here than on other tracks too.

Lightning Strikes

A listener could find that the songs on this album, while quality, aren’t necessarily holding up to the sterling reputation of Ozzy’s past work. Here we have an entry that fits the more melodic sound of this record but also puts itself out there as the star of the show. This track is Jake Lee-era Ozzy at their best. They turned stuff up to 11 and slammed this one home.

Killer Of Giants

Another song about the bomb but this time a mournful account of the sheer power and potentially apocalyptic consequences of nuclear warfare. It could be called a ballad but it doesn’t stray into the saccharine territory that other ballads of the period got into, the song holds its place with the harder rockers on this album.

Fool Like You

A pretty simple one, Ozzy is having a go at someone he doesn’t like. No idea if it’s personal or if it’s aimed at one of society’s adversaries.

Shot In The Dark

The album closes with the home run track that was the signature hit. It is also a pre-existing song offered up to Ozzy by bassist Phil Soussan, which is likely a massive contributing factor to the song and this album being disowned by the Osbourne camp.

The song is a total winner, a very somber yet still rocking track that fits 1986 Ozzy like a glove. The song became Ozzy’s most successful single at the time and is a long-cited fan favorite from across his entire catalog.

Shot In The Dark also might as well not exist in the Osbourne version of history. It has generally been left off of greatest hits collections and was replaced later on the one it did show up on. It is on the 1993 live album Live And Loud, so something must have happened later on to dissuade Ozzy and his handlers from messing with the song anymore. It is presumably arguments over the actual songwriting credits, as Phil Soussan’s prior bandmates had worked up the original version of the song. There are enough shady dealings in Ozzy’s writing credits history to fill a book, so I would have to guess that the actual origins of Shot In The Dark keep it out of Ozzy’s lexicon.

The Ultimate Sin was a smash success for Ozzy. The album charted well in many countries and hit platinum in the United States within a few months of release. And for a number of reasons not entirely clear to the public, the album is persona non grata as far as its creator is concerned.

Ozzy has been on record with his criticisms of the album – they involve the production of Ron Nevison. Ozzy felt that the songs all “sounded the same” and that the recording could have gone better.

And in that I think Ozzy is right – there is a samey quality to many of the songs. A few do stand out, like Lightning Strikes and Shot In The Dark, but the presentation of the record as a whole could be called a bit sterile. I do think it’s a fair take.

But in the end I have to believe that the overriding issues are that of writing credits. No legal issues have ever presented themselves regarding Shot In The Dark, though obvious matters of uncredited writers are there. And even outside of that one, this album was written mostly by Bob Daisley and Jake Lee while Ozzy was away. Lee was fired after the tour cycle for this album in a shocking decision, while Daisley has long had legal issues with the Osbourne team over his contributions to several records.

It’s no secret that Sharon Osbourne has spent a great deal of time and energy in consolidating the rights to all of Ozzy’s music. She secured control of the Black Sabbath catalog from Tony Iommi and has ruled over that with an iron fist, and the buffet of issues surrounding Ozzy’s solo work make for juicy gossip any time they’re aired out in public. Bob Daisley, Jake Lee, and Lee Kerslake are the more prominent members of the “I wrote a song for Ozzy and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” club. Sharon’s battle to control Ozzy’s catalog credits has been long-ranging and largely successful, though with gross missteps along the way, like the ill-suited idea to re-record parts of classic albums in 2002 to remove Daisley and Kerslake.

One casualty of that battle is The Ultimate Sin. The album hasn’t been reissued since 1995, leaving collectors to scramble for original editions, especially on vinyl. If the album is mentioned by Sharon at all, it is with venom and spite. The album was even deleted from the Ozzy catalog in the early 2000’s, but curiously was submitted for streaming services once they became a thing. I guess money is money after all.

Whatever the issues held by creators and rights-holders, The Ultimate Sin is still an excellent statement from Ozzy that slotted very well into the sound of the latter 1980’s. Even with noted production faults, the album still delivered a quality selection of songs. And no matter the attempts to erase history, it’s an album that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored by anyone seeking quality music.

9 thoughts on “Album Of The Week – August 15, 2022

    1. I probably forgot to mention it, but it was also my intro to Ozzy. This one got pretty wordy so I didn’t get into that. They really do need to put this out in a proper deluxe package, shame that they probably won’t while Ozzy/Sharon are still alive.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I like this album. Ozzy had been in rehab before he recorded it and it shows how far he had come as a result. I know what you mean by the samey samey thought. However, “Shot in the Dark” is one of my favourite Ozzy tunes. I also love “Thank God for the Bomb.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It got the man on a tour which got Metallica as openers. Enough said. Lol.

    But like many Ozzy fans, I like this album and the playing of Jake E Lee. Another reason why it’s not being reissued is because of Jake E Lee. He’s not selling his rights and publishing to the Osborne camp (and he doesn’t have any rights on the BATM album because he got shafted).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nevison back in the mid 80s had that sound as this album, Heart and Crazy Nights all sounded the same…
    John is right this album needs an deluxe version or something done to it. I got a copy on vinyl but its beat up…

    Liked by 1 person

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