To a certain extent, Ozzy Osbourne doesn't need to make new music -- and to a certain extent he hasn't, choosing to not record an album of original material in the years immediately after the reality TV show The Osbournes once again turned him into a household name. At the peak of Ozzy's fame in the early '80s, he was a boogeyman, embodying all the dangers of rock & roll, but the TV show made him safe, even cuddly -- a punch line at the White House Foreign Correspondent's Dinner -- which just helped him rake in the money, particularly since in addition to riding the wave of The Osbournes, his annual OzzFest tour turned into an institution of sorts, helping launch new bands while tending to his metal credibility. Now, that is a rock & roll machine, one driven entirely by personality, not new musical product, and one that was nearly in perpetual motion, never needing new grist for the mill to turn a profit. Yet there's always a risk that an enterprise like that could grow a bit stale, even with the occasional box sets, live albums, and cover records to keep things humming. And so, Ozzy finally got around to a new album original material, releasing Black Rain in the summer of 2007, a full six years after Down to Earth, his last album of originals, and well past the sell-by date of his TV show -- proof that this record isn't about cashing-in, it's about keeping the Osbourne machine rolling.
Black Rain was released just a year and half before Ozzy's 60th birthday, and he does sound like a veteran -- he can't wail like he used to, opting for a lower-register growl, but perhaps the biggest indication that he's getting on in years is that he doesn't rock as hard as he once did. Sure, longtime axeman Zakk Wylde is here playing some mean guitar, but this isn't as heavy as he was even a decade ago, lacking both the gut-level punch and monster riffs of even his post-Randy Rhoades work. Certainly, this level of heaviosity is missed, but it's also true that if Ozzy really strived for a brutal attack he might wind up sounding older than he already does here, so hearing him ease into a hazily dark, vaguely psychedelic heavy rock as reminiscent of Lennon as it is of Sabbath is oddly appropriate... ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide