When I was 13 years old I was discovering a whole bunch of Heavy Metal and Hard Rock, right? I was already listening to KISS, JUDAS PRIEST, and IRON MAIDEN, but one of those artists who really didn’t click with me until late 1986 was OZZY. Yeah, yeah, I get it, he’s an icon, blah blah blah. But for some reason I was never compelled to buy any of his records. That was just me. But then I saw the video on MTV for “Shot In the Dark” and I was beyond intrigued. Finally, OZZY had my full attention. Then he released “The Ultimate Sin”, which is still one of my favorites in his whole catalog. I quickly realized, laying there on my living room floor watching my 27” Zenith TV that The Ultimate Sin album was really gonna be something special.
I hopped on the trusty old 10-speed and headed over to Record Collection where I found the latest addition to Classic Albums waiting for me. I hurriedly unwrapped the CD of all its unnecessary packaging (I’d never been this excited for an OZZY record before!), put it in the Fisher rack system and hit PLAY. After repeating the title track 15,000 times and marveling over Jake E. Lee’s guitar riffage (on this and all the others), I was finally ready to hear “Secret Loser”, which is a perfect follow-up track in my anything but humble opinion. Ron Nevison’s production was pretty slick across the board, but he still found a way to keep the balls of the record intact. Who among us hasn’t walked around humming this one out of nowhere, amiright?
“Never Know Why” always called to me with its main riff and big-assed chorus of, “We rock! Rock! Rock!” The easiest way to my heart back then was an anthemic, sing-along hook that I could pump my fist to up in my lair at 113 Berkeley Place, and this song did the job just right. And oh man, “Thank God For the Bomb” with its “Nuke ya, Nuke ya” after the chorus coupled with Lee’s fiery guitar work was simply the stuff of legend. “Never” is one of those tracks where all I could focus on was that chugging riff on the verses, and the refrain was an afterthought to me. Great song, but Lee simply owns every inch of it.
Now we come to my other favorite on the record, “Lightning Strikes.” To say I wore the fuck out of this one would be a vast understatement. To this very day I still can’t put the album on and NOT repeat this fucker six or seven times (actually I do six, or eight, never seven because I’m even number dominated). And I guaran-damn-tee I’m not alone here. The keys added just the right touch on the chorus, and I was in absolute heaven from the very first listen. It also contains arguably my favorite Jake E. Lee solo, so there. Turning to more serious subject matter “Killer of Giants” warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons. Remember this was the height of the Cold War, and you could hear sadness and concern in OZZY’S voice as he sang this one.
“Fool Like You” opens with some killer harmonics and then the band comes crashing in. By the way I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t mention that this was drummer Randy Castillo’s recording debut with the band. He became one of my favorites with this album, and he remains one to this very day. Sadly he passed in 2002. Rest In Peace, Randy. He and bassist Phil Soussan were stuck together like maple syrup on waffles on this tune and every other. The record closes with “Shot in the Dark” which is one of those songs that when it comes on you reach for the volume knob and crank that shit up. Lee wails on his solo, and overall it’s just a perfect closer, and one that makes you wanna start the whole thing up again, as I did over and over.
I’ll never forget that time in my life. Being young, without a care in the world, the only worries being whether or not I’d pass that math quiz tomorrow, or how to get my girl crush to like me back. The Ultimate Sin is an album that instantly takes me back, back to the 80’s, and to the best of times. Me and the boys back home (Joe, Frankie, Mike, Mike, Franc, and Russell), the crew, we had many a good night hanging out in each other’s basements and kitchens jamming this one, sneaking beers, and laughing our asses off over silly teenage stuff. And for those memories, plus the fact that the music rules hard, this will forever be a Classic Album. ~dc