Monday, January 10, 2011

Quarter Century Review: The Ultimate Sin

Ozzy Osbourne
The Ultimate Sin
Produced by Ron Nevison

I found listening to this album as a pleasant surprise. I always regarded The Ultimate Sin to be terrible other than "Shot In The Dark," and "Lightning Strikes,". While the rest of the album isn't great, it is passable. And when compared to the next album, "No Rest For The Wicked", it's brilliant.

Jake E. Lee's guitar work is impeccable, as usual, as is the late great Randy Castillo (his first with Ozzy) on drums. Ozzy was pretty consumed with drugs at this point (he did snort ants, for heaven's sake) but that doesn't seem to effect his performance. Bassists in Ozzy's band have usually been interchangable but Phil Soussan did co-write "Shot In The Dark,". Because of legal issues with Soussan (is there anyone Ozzy and Sharon haven't forced into legal action), the album is out-of-print.

No question the 2 hit singles did positively impact the grade of this album and, if not for those two songs, the album would not be terribly missed. Even with that...

Overall Grade = 7.59

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Quarter Century Review: Atomizer

Big Black
Engineered by Iain Burgess

A perfect first album for this year's 25 year reviews. Atomizer is the album where Steve Albini and Santiago Durango figure it out. Their guitars never had or would gel together better than this again. The sound of this album is what would come to define Big Black and all subsequent Steve Albini bands. Albini made a very industrial sounding album with some help from his mentor Burgess. Burgess's work with Durango's previous band Naked Raygun was inspiring to Albini. The guitars are very tinny and driving. It also marks the last time Albini used excessive effects on his vocals.

Surprisingly, this album is not musically as aggressive as Lungs was and Songs About Fucking would be. Even with the unrelenting beats of Roland, the drum machine, mid-tempo rockers "Bad Houses," and "Fists Of Love," serve as almost calming points sandwiched between the assaults of "Big Money," and "Stinking Drunk,".

Atomizer, in its glory, never manages to top its first two tracks: "Jordan, Minnesota," and "Passing Complexion,". The sound of these songs embodies what was great about Big Black: pounding, metallic, and screamy. The middle is great but it ends with two more-or-less throwaways with the instrumental "Strange Things," and a live version of the Bulldozer track "Cables,". It is still a very powerful album that would shape the sound of what industrial would become (that, along with Albini's public ripping of then-electronica artist Ministry) as well as influence Nirvana's Kurt Cobain. Atomizer is confrontational, angry, poignant, and nearly perfect.

Overall Grade = 9.04