{Music Reviews}


Ozzy Osbourne

“Down to Earth” – Sony Music $13.29 at Samgoody.com


Ozzy's name alone guarantees platinum sales. His music defines the heavy metal genre, and his legions of fans clamor to anything bearing his name or likeness.

Is it any wonder then that the Ozzy we've all grown to know and love can still step up and deliver after all these years?

This time on “Down to Earth,” his 19th major-studio album, Ozzy tries to denounce his status as the devil of heavy metal.

“Gets me through,” the first single, finds the Ozzman blaring “I'm not the Iron man or the Anti-Christ.” And he means it. The third track, “Dreamer,” is a symphonic arrangement with Ozzy's vocals providing the dissonance, just to remind you this ballad is, after all, an Ozzy ballad.

Eleven tracks. Hard-driving metal on nine. Incoherent Ozzy on most. “Down” gets down, giving metalheads a reason to go to bed at night dreaming of a day when all metal bands, besides Pantera, can find a style and stick with it.

However, for the uninitiated, Ozzy doesn't deliver anything groundbreaking, falling short on tracks “Running out of time” and “That I never had.” Maybe it's because he doesn't have Black Sabbath band mate Randy Rhodes on guitars, but as “Running out of time” closes, Ozzy faces reality by recognizing his time at the top is over, chanting the title as the music fades.

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Please Ozzy, don't fade.

As long as there are bands out there putting out inconsistent albums and toying with their “metal,” you provide the ballast that keeps the sinking ship of heavy metal afloat.

 


Lit

“Atomic” (2-disc) – RCA records $12.99 at Samgoody.com


“I know you think you've heard it all before” Lit lead singer Johnny Popoff screams on the second track to their new release “Atomic.”

Well Johnny, you failed. But hey, at least skate-rock fans still have a reason to buy some new music.

After the surprise success of 1999's “A Place in the Sun,” the So-Cal band stands by their pop-friendly sound and knee-jerk vocals.

Equal parts “Eve 6,” “Blink 182” and “Sugar Ray,” the band walks the line of witty lyricists while at the same time realizing their audience needs the radio-ready guitars and beats to stay on the charts.

This formula doesn't hinder the band, as evidenced by such tracks as “Addicted,” where one mans inability to break it off with his domineering girlfriend makes for great music, reminiscent of their track “Miserable” from their first album.

But that's the problem. All of the tracks on the album sound like they were recorded during their first sessions on “Place.”

The album's sixth track, “Everything's Cool,” offers start-stop guitars, behind the anthem's message that as long as you have a girlfriend it's all good.

“Atomic” is a good album to drive to or anything else where paying attention to the music and lyrics are secondary.

Brainless, if you'd rather.

For the true fan of the band, Lit offers a limited-edition bonus album featuring three demos that should've stayed on the cutting room floor and a video to accompany the single “Four.”

 


Ja Rule

“Pain is Love” – Def Jam Records $14.99 at Samgoody.com


Ah, Ja Rule, known best for his double-platinum “Rule 3:36,” the erstwhile Mariah Carey remix master comes back from his year off offering a 16-track ode to all things hip-hop.

With tracks named “Livin' It Up,” a club-friendly narcissistic piece espousing the virtues of the rap-life, and “I'm Real,” a remix that finds the blinged-out rapper trumping himself up like the second coming of P. Diddy (he even gets Diddy's ex Jennifer Lopez to blurt out the hook).

Best known for his pre-produced hooks and catchy rhythms, Rule adds mellow guitars, and his patented female back-up vocalists are noticeably tame.

It's the cohorts and posse you have to look out for on this album. Case, Cadillac Tah, Chuck, Black Child and Ashanti all bring frenetic energy and the bravado that goes with being young, rich recording artists on tracks like “Smokin' and Ridin',” “X,” “The Inc.” and “Pain is Love.”

The only problem with this album is that it's the usual Ja Rule.

“Pain” is an album that could have been so much more than the mix of fast and slow tracks all layered with the raspy-voiced stylings of one of the rap industry's biggest draws.

 


Dilated Peoples

“Expansion Team” (Capitol Records, 2001) $10.99 at SamGoody.com


Underground rap. How can you tell the difference between underground rap and commercial rap?

Look no further than “Expansion Team,” the new album from Dilated Peoples.

Mixing beat poetry-esque lyrics over an eclectic mix of hooks and arrangements, the L.A.-based trio gains a hand from Tha Liks, J-Rocc, Rhettmatic and Melo-o and Black Thought on their 16-track, sophomore major label album.

Produced by Babu, all of the tracks have a club feel with scratching, quick-cutting and sound effects heavy baselines. The only problem with the mastering on “Expansion” is that anyone with turntables and a computer can lay down the same beats.

The flows hit, if you're into the urban hard-life bent. Evidence, the front man, mixes some of the beats, including the familiar sounding “Worst comes to worst.” He loses his grip however, and the track comes apart quicker than Michael Jackson's new single on Total Request Live.

The hardest hitting track on the album is really nothing more than a rip-off of DMX on “Panic.”

Fans of Dilated Peoples will undoubtedly eat this album up, but for the fan of well-produced rap– think A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and De La Soul—this album will let you think back to the good old days when your favorite band sounded as low-budget as “Expansion Team.”