No Rest For The Wicked

Ozzy Osbourne

Epic, 1988

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 07/26/2019

A long, long time ago, when I wrote my review for Ozzy Osbourne’s 1986 effort The Ultimate Sin, I told the story about how that was the first compact disc I ever bought with my own money. But, somewhere along the path after that purchase, something happened: I found myself no longer interested in new releases from the Prince of Darkness himself.

Oh, it’s not that I didn’t eventually pick up later albums (albeit on cassette mostly – again, showing my age) or that I stopped listening to Osbourne’s solo material. It was just that, for some reason, I could not bring myself to really get interested in anything else after that disc.

Which leads me to today’s review – Osbourne’s 1988 studio follow-up No Rest For The Wicked. If The Ultimate Sin had its weak moments, this disc is chock full of them… though there are some outstanding moments on it as well.

Osbourne’s backing band had undergone changes over the two-year period. Out were guitarist Jake E. Lee and bassist Phil Soussan; in were guitarist Zakk Wylde and – returning to the fold, albeit briefly – bassist Bob Daisley. Randy Castillo remained behind the drum kit… but sometimes, because of his rather basic backbeats, that proves to be a mistake.

The “Space Invaders”-like rhythm that Osbourne supposedly disliked about British drummers continues here, especially noted on songs such as “Crazy Babies”. Honestly, I wanted to hear some punch and groove on the skins this time around; instead, we got more of the same “plot-plot-plot” that made up much of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Ultimate Sin.

For his part, Wylde doesn’t really feel like he’s come into his own on this disc. His chops are good, but they don’t necessarily feel like they’re the perfect fit with the kind of music that Osbourne was churning out. Something had to be right in Osbourne’s mind, as Wylde has been with Osbourne the longest of any of his guitarists.

And then, there’s the music. Osbourne has always seemed to be the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve in his lyrics, and No Rest For The Wicked is no exception. Quite possibly one of the best songs Osbourne ever recorded, “Fire In The Sky” sometimes feels like it is a third-person autobiographical tale of how he ended up the way he was/is. Admittedly, at six minutes, it wasn’t a radio-friendly track, but imagine what this could have done both for the album and Osbourne’s career had it been released as a single, even if it had been edited for time! Similarly, “Breaking All The Rules” has a bit of a “this is me” feel to it.

And then there’s “Demon Alcohol”… which, admittedly, Osbourne was still having a major problem with at the time of this album’s recording. It does somewhat capture the trials and tribulations of someone who is addicted to the sauce might face, but it doesn’t necessarily treat the subject with the seriousness that it perhaps needed.

The problem with No Rest For The Wicked overall is a lack of cohesion, both in songwriting and sound. The first half of the album is incredibly weak, especially in the overall mixing; a song like “Miracle Man” might have had a little more effect had it been mixed crisper. Other tracks, such as “Devil’s Daughter” and “Crazy Babies,” are just plain weak efforts overall, most notably in the songwriting.

Ironically, it’s a hidden track on the initial release of the disc which is the standout track – namely, “Hero”. It easily could have been something that someone said to Osbourne in one of his substance-abusing lows, or it could have been Osbourne talking from the heart about the rigors of life in the music business, but the song is incredibly powerful; substituting one of the weaker tracks with this song would have made the original release so much better. (Most reissues include this now, along with another potentially autobiographical track, “The Liar”, and a live version of “Miracle Man” which could have easily been left in the vaults.)

No Rest For The Wicked is an album which potentially was suggesting that even Lucifer’s earthen minstrel was due for a nice vacation, and is a step down from Osbourne’s previous effort. After re-listening to this whole disc, now I know why I kinda fell away from all things Ozzy in the late ‘80s and beyond.

Rating: C-

User Rating: B+


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