Classic Rock Bottom

Patient Number 9
Epic Records - 2022

Given that the Patient Number 9 album won two Grammy Awards a few days before I wrote this piece, I'm not fooling myself that my extremely late thoughts on the album matter all that much. But I wanted to FINALLY get around to writing about the CD and this is the time it was possible.

I had picked up the album when it originally came out and I liked a lot of it. Once again produced by Andrew Watt, I will say that Ozzy feels like a guest star on his own album once more. That's not to say the material is bad, just that with so many "special guests" involved in the writing and recording of the album I wonder how much Ozzy was really involved with the album other than recording his vocals. Seriously, look up the list of guest performers online, it's long, varied and a little insane.

The first ten songs on the album (there are thirteen tracks in all) are all credited as featuring a particular guitar player. So I thought I'd break down my thoughts by each guest.

Jeff Beck played guitar on the opening title track and it was a damn good way to kick off the album. "Patient Number 9" is over 7 minutes long and moves from its slow moving set up intro to more of a midtempo pace. Along the way, you find yourself really sinking into the music.

Beck also played on "A Thousand Shades" and that song is similar in structure to the title track but again, you get pretty involved in the song due to the music as a whole.

Pearl Jam's Mike McCready features on "Immortal" and that song is just killer. The music is flat out rocking and I liked the flow of the song's lyrical and how it came across from Ozzy's performance.

Getting Eric Clapton to play on a song had to be a coup and it sure did pay off because the song "One Of Those Days" is another first-rate cut. You get some bluesy guitar licks throughout the song (No surprise about that, of course), but the song's chorus catches your ear quickly and the overall sound was quite appealing.

While I'm sure some are still hoping for a Black Sabbath reunion of some kind, given the recent Ozzy retirement from touring announcement that's obviously not going to happen. But you get at least a tease of the Sabbath days with two songs featuring guitarist Tony Iommi. And you just can't help loving his playing. Between the studio recordings and having seen him just blow me away live, Iommi is among the pantheon of guitar gods now and forever. On "No Escape From Now", there's a slow moving intro that establishes a mood but then the song switches gears and just pounces on the listener like a jungle cat attacking its prey. And then you have "Degradation Rules", which was this year's Grammy winner for Best Metal Performance. The song is a burner from the start and they way they thread some blues driven harmonica playing into the song gave the song an extra nice touch. This is a heck of rocker and it became one of my favorite songs on the album over time.

Zakk Wylde was back in the fold in a big way for the recording of Patient Number 9. On the back of the CD case, he's credited with playing four tracks as a featured player. But when I looked it up, he played on a bunch of other tracks as well. As did producer Andrew Watt. And though he's not listed as a featured guest in the liner notes, Josh Homme played guitar on "God Only Knows".

But let's get back to the four songs that Zakk Wylde is featured on. The first one is called "Parasite" and it is a devastatingly powerful rocker. There's a killer set of lyrics and the music just bores its way into your skull. This would be another of my favorite tracks.

Then comes the song "Mr. Darkness". It opens up with the exceedingly creepy sounding lyrical line "Dear Mr. Darkness" as the song starts off very slow for the first minute. When you hit the chorus the track just bursts forth into a heavier rock sound. I have to admit that I liked the song when it was harder hitting musically because after that burst of sonic fury, the track settles back into the slower pacing. It's still good but I just thought it had a stronger footing when it was making your ears metaphorically bleed.

Wylde is also featured on "Nothing Feels Right", a solid rocker and "Evil Shuffle" which moves back in forth throughout the song to establish itself.

While the album closing "Darkside Blues" came off as more of a bluesy afterthought with muddy vocals, I thought the aforementioned "God Only Knows" was pretty poignant lyrically especially given Ozzy's health these days. And the song "Dead and Gone" was just freaking awesome! Fiery and forthright in tempo and delivery, I love hearing that song start to play.

While the plethora of special guests involved in the creation of the Patient Number 9 album initially gave me pause, the resulting material belies any qualms about just how much Ozzy is involved in his work these days beyond the vocals. There's a couple of things I wasn't crazy about here but in general, the positive notices that Patient Number 9 got from more timely press sources is deserved because it is a strongly entertaining album that lets you once again bask in The Prince of Darkness's music!

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