His voice is a unique spectral tenor. His aesthetic is that of a holy man who has touched evil and lived to tell the tale, forever changed. His behavior is both a testament to the joys of opulent excess and a cautionary tale. Ozzy Osbourne is the living embodiment of heavy metal.
With a career spanning more that five decades and countless genre-defining hits, it’s nearly impossible to say with definitive authority what exactly is Ozzy’s finest work. We tried, though!
These are Ozzy Osbourne’s Ten Finest Records:
10. The Ultimate Sin
While Bark At The Moon was a commercial success, contract disputes and improper writing credits soured the mood of Ozzy’s backing band. Having presented Osbourne with a wealth of new material, Jake E. Lee refused to share his songs until he had it in writing that things would go differently. Produced by arena rock heavyweight Ron Nevison, The Ultimate Sin featured a slicker sound than anything Ozzy had participated in up to that point in his career. Appearing at the height of the hair metal boom in 1986, the album wound up being a hit and featured two of Ozzy’s best songs in “Shot In The Dark” and “Killer Of Giants.”
9. Bark At the Moon
After his tumultuous split with Black Sabbath in 1979, no one expected Ozzy Osbourne’s career to survive into the new decade. To the surprise of everyone, Ozzy didn’t just get by: He thrived! A giant part of Ozzy’s newfound success came from his partnership with prodigy Randy Rhoads, and when the young guitarist suddenly passed away in 1982 it threw the future in doubt. Former Ratt and Rough Cutt guitarist Jake E Lee filled the vacancy, holding his own with flashy confidence in 1983 on his impressive debut Bark At The Moon. Music videos were a new art form at the time, and Ozzy went all-out as a 19th-century werewolf for his MTV debut on the title track.
With a title that takes a jab at their former manager Patrick Meehan, Black Sabbath embraced humor while composing a stone-cold classic. After their more expansive efforts on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, the band viewed Sabotage as a return to heavier, nuts and bolts form. Black Sabbath achieved their goal with flying colors on blistering crushers like “Symptom Of The Universe” and “The Writ,” as well as the album opener and ultimate driving anthem “Hole In The Sky.” That’s not to say Sabotage is devoid of experimental flair, with the oddly-titled “Supertzar” featuring an evil-sounding choir that Bill Ward called “a demonic chant.”
7. No More Tears
While many metal acts of the preceding decades hit a wall during the grunge boom of the early 1990s, Ozzy Osbourne was experienced a renaissance and put out the most commercially successful record of his career. Newly sober and creatively invigorated by his partnership with guitarist Zakk Wylde, the Prince Of Darkness bravely showcased his reflective side on the gut-wrenching power ballad “Mama, I’m Coming Home” (a song co-written by Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmister) and the fearless and searching moral inventory of “Road To Nowhere.” Anyone who thought that Ozzy couldn’t channel his weird side without drugs and alcohol needs look no further than the bizarrely epic title track, let alone the pedophilic nightmare “Mr. Tinkertrain.”
6. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Although Black Sabbath had the time of their lives during the recording process of Vol. 4, the environment of excess and reckless abandon left Tony Iommi burnt out. Suffering from writer’s block, the band left Los Angeles for Clearwell Castle in Gloucestershire in the hope that a change of scenery would lead to inspiration. Given the fact that the castle appeared to be haunted and that multiple band members claim to have seen ghosts, Black Sabbath were provided with a well of nightmares that wound up fueling Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Adventurous and expansive, the album features string sections and other orchestral elements that typically fell more in line with prog-rock than heavy metal. That being said, it showcases some of the most bludgeoning riffs that Iommi ever wrote, such as the two in the impeccable title track.
While bands indeed used to put out albums in quicker succession than they do now, the release of Black Sabbath’s breakthrough second LP just seven months after their landmark debut was nothing short of a world-changing seismic event. Littered with genre-defining classics such as the protest anthem, “War Pigs”; the iconic sci-fi nightmare, “Iron Man”; and the track that introduced heavy metal to the masses, “Paranoid”; a track that was thrown together as an afterthought in 25 minutes and went on to become the band’s most famous song.
4. Diary Of A Madman
The chemistry between the members of Ozzy’s first post-Sabbath band proved to be so kinetic that they made another album as soon as they finished cutting the debut. Released just over a year after Blizzard Of Ozz took the world by storm, Diary Of A Madman is a certifiable classic that finds Ozzy embracing his chaotic persona with gusto. The whole band (Ozzy, ex-Quiet Riot guitarist Randy Rhoads, ex-Uriah Heep drummer Lee Kerslake and ex-Rainbow bassist Bob Daisley) are all in stellar form across a broad array of tracks like the gloriously unapologetic “Flying High Again” and the gothic drama of the title track.
3. Master Of Reality
A down-tuned masterclass on just how ugly a blues riff can be, Master Of Reality is a smoked-out ride through hell and the altar at which stoner rock bands would worship until the end of time. Whether it be the apocalyptic harbinger of “Children of the Grave,” the pothead call-to-arms of “Sweet Leaf” or the desert-rock template “Into the Void,” every song is a genre highwater mark. Nonstop rhythm and crushing riffs are all the more accentuated by Ozzy’s haunting voice.
2. Blizzard Of Ozz
Although it was originally supposed to be a new band called Blizzard of Ozz, Ozzy’s first steps outside of the Black Sabbath umbrella was marketed and released as a solo record instead. Using that band name as the title of the record, Blizzard Of Ozz is one of metal’s best debut albums and a commercial landmark for the genre. Featuring the manic speed and computer precision of guitar virtuoso Randy Rhoads, the album’s blending of pop-conscious delivery with stellar musicianship helped define heavy metal for years to come. Featuring the ultimate heavy metal rallying cry “Crazy Train” and the haunting occultism of “Mr. Crowley,” it remains Ozzy’s finest solo album to this very day.
1. Vol. 4
It’s no secret that Black Sabbath loved drugs back in their day. If Master Of Reality was the band’s stoner album, the follow-up was their cocaine blizzard. Just how much coke did they do? Well, the recording budget for Vol. 4 was $60,000 and Geezer Butler estimates that $75,000 went to party favors. As they did with “Sweet Leaf” on the prior record, “Snowblind” is a love letter to their new favorite drug. Although drug abuse would fracture the band in the years soon to follow, it was a unifying and positive agent at this particular moment in their collective history, pushing right to the magical line where vices accentuate creativity before becoming a destructive force. “Supernaut” manages to blend crushing riffs with funk grooves to stunning effect while “Changes” ranks right up there with a wasted Elton John as far as damaged piano ballads go. A total crusher in every way.