Ozzy Osbourne’s ‘The Ultimate Sin’ peaked at a remarkable #6 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and reached double platinum status with physical sales in excess of 2 million units, not bad for an album derided by the critics.
Written by: Dave T
ARTIST: Ozzy Osbourne
ALBUM: The Ultimate Sin
SERIAL: OZ 40026
CD REISSUE: Discogs Reissue List
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: England, USA
LINEUP: Ozzy Osbourne – vocals * Jake E. Lee – guitar * Phil Soussan – bass * Randy Castillo – drums * Mike Moran – keyboards
TRACK LISTING: 01The Ultimate Sin * 02 Secret Loser * 03 Never Know Why * 04 Thank God For The Bomb * 05 Never * 06 Lightning Strikes * 07 Killer Of Giants * 08 Fool Like You * 09 Shot In The Dark
In 1986, a handful of outstandingly melodic albums came from the (not so) usual suspects. Black Sabbath‘s ‘Seventh Star’, Judas Priest with ‘Turbo’, Van Halen‘s ‘5150’, and King Kobra with ‘Thrill Of A Lifetime’ among them.
Later in the same year, the releases of Iron Maiden‘s ‘Somewhere In Time’ and Malmsteen‘s ‘Trilogy’ joined this club of sometimes unsung, other times underrated and even disowned albums, however actual gems in my book. ‘The Ultimate Sin’ belongs to the disowned albums category. The singer has stated this is his least favorite album and blamed Ron Nevison‘s mix and production.
Maybe it’s a case of Osbourne’s recollections of hard times that included a rehab stint at the Betty Ford Clinic. Or perhaps the controversies around Bob Daisley and Jake E. Lee uncredited lyrics/music contributions, respectively.
Or even the ‘Shot In The Dark’ controversy, a song written around 1983 by Soussan and the Overland brothers for their band Wildlife whose lyrics were solely attributed to Osbourne on the album credits. Anyway, on to the album.
Production courtesy of Ron Nevison is bright and heavy on mids and highs, which favors Lee’s guitar sound that is closer to that of American bands like Ratt. Ozzy’s vocals are single-tracked as opposed to his usual multi-tracked ones. That means he actually sings instead of hiding behind layers.
The use of clean guitar arpeggios serves the songs really well by allowing the riffs to breathe. Such is the case of the opening title track, and once you hear the guitar solo you realize something big is going on here. The crunchy riff and guitar harmonics give ‘Secret Loser’ an urgent vibe while the solo follows the template set up on the previous album ‘Bark At The Moon’.
A few ominous, dissonant bars open the doors to the American Metal style rhythm of ‘Never Know Why’, where the rather tacky, insistent We rock refrain actually works melodically. One more dynamic riff frames the slightly slower ‘Thank God For The Bomb’, in which the keys stress the dramatic nature of the chorus.
The succession of big riffs continues on the pounding ‘Never’, and especially for the massive ‘Lightning Strikes’, whose riff (one that George Lynch would have died to have written) sounds like inspired by ‘Crazy Train’. Even the slightly dumb, happy refrain succeeds, a melodic highlight indeed.
The album shows no signs of losing steam as the somber ballad ‘Killer Of Giants’ takes center stage with its superb clean arpeggiated intro, moving string-section sounding keys and a monolithic chorus. Around the 4-minute mark, the chord progression resembles that of ‘Believer’ off ‘Diary Of A Madman’. The most standard song of the batch, ‘Fool Like You’ features a signature Ozzman vocal melody.
‘Shot In The Dark’, surprisingly placed as the album closer, is Osbourne’s most successful attempt at Rock radio ever, despite the fact that the singer did not want to record the song and only surrendered to Nevison’s insistence. The beginning harmonics wisely emulate the use of a whammy bar while hooks, arpeggios, riffs and a perfect vocal performance result in melodic heaven.
‘The Ultimate Sin’ peaked at a remarkable #6 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and reached double platinum status with physical sales in excess of 2 million units. Deleted from Ozzy’s catalogue to date, it is one of the most unfairly reviled albums ever in the disowned albums category along with the likes of KISS‘ Music from ‘The Elder’, Bolton‘s ‘Everybody’s Crazy’ and the Heart golden trilogy from 1985-1990.
Shot In The Dark (Official video, reverse picture, live 1986 audio)
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