Ozzy Osbourne – No More Tears
Released September 17th, 1991 on Epic Associated Records
Produced by Duane Baron and John Purdell
Peaked at #7 U.S., #17 U.K.
“No More Tears” (#71 U.S., #31 U.K.)
“Mama I’m Coming Home” (#28 U.S., #46 U.K.)
“Time After Time” (#6 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
“Road To Nowhere” (#3 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
“Mr. Tinkertrain” (#34 U.S. Mainstream Rock)
In many ways, September 17th, 1991 was the last gasp of rock ‘n’ roll as it had been formulated between 1969 and 1972. That kind of rock – brash, hard, overflowing with sex and danger – had reached its peak in the late Seventies and spent much of the Eighties being simultaneously debased by critics and adored by fans through the glam metal L.A. years. That day, thirty years ago, GNR put out their double-album banger of a curtain-closer, and the Godfather of Metal, Ozzy Osbourne himself, put out his last great record.
Ozzy was a fitting choice to end the era, as he was right there when it began. Sure, Zeppelin did a lot of the groundwork with their first two records in 1969, but metal as a practice was pioneered by Ozzy and his bandmates in Black Sabbath. Their first six albums defined the tone and atmosphere of metal for generations to follow; Priest, Maiden, Metallica – all following in the tracks of the horror-loving mutants from Birmingham, England. When Ozzy was kicked out of the band after Technical Ecstacy, it was it’s own kind of era-ending moment, but also the beginning of a new one. Ozzy started a solo career instead, and at that he was unstoppable. Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman were a one-two punch of high-octane pop metal, fuelled by the white-hot Randy Rhoads. The rest of the Eighties were fine – it’s hard to live up to such a burst of greatness right at the beginning – but by the time the Nineties dawned things were getting iffy. Ozzy kept getting hit with frivolous lawsuits from Christian family groups who claimed his music was embedded with Satanic messages and encouraged suicide. His drinking had started getting out of hand too, although at first he thought he had a handle on it. He went into the recording process of No More Tears in high spirits despite being wasted more often than not. Why not? He had a killer guitarist in his pocket in Zakk Wylde and an amazing co-writer in Motorhead madman Lemmy Kilmister. Together they built one of the finest slabs of late-80s / early-90s hard rock, the kind of music that the unruly crowd in Airheads would definitely riot to.
“Hellraiser” encapsulates everything that was great about the era with none of the drawbacks – Ozzy is vocally on point and Wylde’s guitar squeals are apocalyptic. “Mr. Tinkertrain” and “I Don’t Want To Change The World” are close behind it, nipping right at it’s heels. The title track is a stone classic, a stomper that more than held its own with the grunge world that was coming. “Time After Time” and “Mama I’m Coming Home” show off Ozzy’s ballad skills, and “Zombie Stomp” showed a willingness to experiment with form while still keeping that hard edge intact. “Road To Nowhere” reflected on his life to that point, and really brought home the broadened range that he showed off on the record. Fittingly, it was his biggest-selling album since Blizzard Of Ozz and the last pillar of his storied career; afterwards he’s basically coasted on goodwill, reality television, and Black Sabbath reunions. He also got sober halfway through the recording process; in retrospect, it’s amazing that the album is as coherent as it is. The therapy he undertook might have helped with that, as well.
A week after No More Tears came out, a little album called Nevermind was released. It was fairly obscure at first, but by the middle of 1992 it was clear that the world in which No More Tears had been made was rapidly collapsing. That old degenerate rock ‘n’ roll animal circus was dismantled by the rapid shift in rock fans toward the alternative revolution, leaving guys like Ozzy to be elder statesmen through the weird days of the Nineties. His big tracks would remain well-loved classics, but after September 17th the number of bands who were playing stuff like this reduced until a few years later there were virtually none.