The Ultimate Sin, while mostly dismissed by the Ozzy camp with the exception of Shot In the Dark, which became the sole setlist staple in subsequent years…is an unfairly dismissed album.
To fairly judge the album, one must separate the actual songs from the production, which does indeed drag the album down. Ron Nevison has no business on any Ozzy album (or KISS for that matter.) It is primarily the production that drags the album down, not the actual songs. Fault lies with Ron Nevison and Capitol for pushing him as their choice of a producer upon Ozzy.
Put the production aside and judge the songs on their own merit, with some imagination of how they would have sounded with a proper producer. One must also take into account the souring relations between Ozzy and guitarist Jake E Lee as a factor in affecting Ozzy’s view of the album. I believe the other factor that keeps this album/period as one that Ozzy would sooner forget is the image associated with it…big poofy blond hair with sparkly costumes best worn by Liberace.
The album’s opening and title track, The Ultimate Sin, is nothing to scoff at. It features excellent lyrics put to a heavy groove…in fact, the song is an easy example of how the production got in the way of an otherwise worthy track, which can immediately instill a sense of frustration into the listener. The song itself would not be out of place on Diary of a Madman or Blizzard of Ozz.
Secret Loser follows suit with the same attributes….both tracks would be candidates as live set staples had they been handled correctly.
Never Know Why is the first track to bring up another issue with the album besides the production….poor lyrics. Actually, with proper production and the dropping of the “We Rock” chorus…it would be improved upon.
Thank God For the Bomb falls right in line with The Ultimate Sin and Secret Loser. The only real problem with the track is again…the production. It is the first track to bring up the theme of nuclear war on the album. It’s a fast paced rocker with thoughtful lyrics.
I consider Never to be quite generic and tend to skip it. It does have it’s moments…but not enough to hold me.
Lightening Strikes was the 3rd single released from the album. It is a prime example of how a horrid chorus drags down an otherwise great song. The hard hitting main guitar riff had plenty of potential to go down as one of the better known Ozzy classics. Improved lyrical content would have taken this one much further.
If there is one track that makes the overlooking of this album tragic, I’m going to give that honor to Killer of Giants. As the title alone indicates….it features very well done lyrics and an excellent arrangement. The mellow yet quitely edgy opening guitar appregios set the tone…bringing to mind images of the Earth in all it’s beauty. When Ozzy’s voice first enters…it continues the mellow mood…but after singing the line “if the button is pushed there’ll be nowhere to run” the mood/music effectively yet subtlely shifts to one of dread, bringing to mind images of scorched earth..building up to an aggressive chorus.
Fool Like You is another generic rocker that I tend to skip.
The final track Shot In The Dark is well known enough to not need any going into. It does bear noting Ozzy was particuarly proud of the live performance of the song as found on the EP “Just Say Ozzy” as he felt it got right what Nevison trashed. Indeed…the EP track does do just this and serves as a prime example of how the rest of The Ultimate Sin tracks should have been recorded.
Considering the outrage pertaining to the re-recording of the bass and drum tracks on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman…perhaps it would have been more prudent to go and correct the problems inherent on The Ultimate Sin..one of Ozzy’s best selling albums, rather than attempt to bury it in obscurity by avoiding re-issuing it. Out of the Ozzy back-catalog..it is the album that would most benefit from re-mixing and re-recording the instruments..fleshing out some truly excellent material that is too easily dismissed by those unable to see past the flat, inappropriate production.
Unfortunately, we only have the album as originally released. I strongly recommend those that have not been exposed to it take into account the factors I name at the start of this review that impact the album. The contempt for the album in many of the reviews here should be read with wariness, considering most provide little supporting commentary for their opinion, especially when considering the rest of the Ozzy catalog. No Rest For the Wicked, while sonically correcting what was wrong with the Ultimate Sin, features a much higher degree of cringe-inducing lyrics than the Ultimate Sin. The proper balance would not be struck until 1991’s No More Tears.
Avoid letting the slew of negativity skew your own opinion and you’ll be able to see the material for what it is…adding some truly great Ozzy material to your collection that would otherwise have gone overlooked.