NO MORE TEARS
Ozzy Osbourne (Epic 46795)
After all the years Ozzy Osbourne spent as a bat-biting bozo, it may seem impossible to take this heavy metal icon seriously, but "No More Tears" ought to change a few minds. Ozzy hasn't changed his sound all that much, as most songs still revolve around his inimitable squeal and Zakk Wylde's screaming guitar, but his songs are sharper and more incisive this time around. Sure, he addresses the dark side on tunes like "Mr. Tinkertrain," but he also has fun with his devilish image, goofing on his reputation in "Zombie Stomp" and "Hellraiser." Best of all, he invests most of his energy in melody, not theatrics, and that is what ultimately keeps this album paying dividends.
BLUE LIGHT, RED LIGHT
Harry Connick Jr. (Columbia 48685)
Anyone wondering why the big band sound never came back will find an answer of sorts on "Blue Light, Red Light," Harry Connick Jr.'s new big band album. It ought to be a natural for the pop charts, given Connick's good looks and Sinatra-smooth croon, but it's not, because Connick has forgotten what made the old bands so great -- the songs. Whereas the old bands, from Ellington to Eckstine, were blessed with memorably melodic material, all Connick's songbook has going for it is flash and gimmickry, factors which leave plenty of room for his sidemen to show off but offer precious little listening pleasure.
Various Artists (A&M; 75021 5363)
Some folks might think it's the singer, not the song, who matters most, but Suzanne Vega would argue otherwise. And she's got pretty good evidence, too, if "Tom's Album" is any indication. Of the 13 tracks included here, 12 are versions of Vega's "Tom's Diner," including both her a cappella original and the hit remake by English mix masters D.N.A. Naturally, the strongest remakes are those which completely transform the tune, like Nikki D's "Daddy's Little Girl" or Beth Watson's Gulf War epic, "Waiting at the Border." But there are also versions in German ("Dep De Do Dep" by Peter Behrens), Swedish ("Tages Kafe" by Mats Hojer), rap and reggae renditions, and even one that turns the tune into an "I Dream of Jeannie" tribute.
BLOOD SUGAR SEX MAGIK
Red Hot Chili Peppers (Warner Bros. 26681)
Even though the Red Hot Chili Peppers have always flirted with funk, its sound was often stiff and aggressive, as if the Peppers had never quite shaken off their punk rock roots. But with "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," the group backs up off the beat and falls into its deepest groove ever. From the slamming drums and swooping bass of "Give It Away" to the chicken-scratch guitar of "If You Have to Ask," the Peppers' dance songs are hot enough to move the dead, while even the few that don't try to be funky -- like "Breaking the Girl" or "I Could Have Lied" -- demonstrate a depth that goes well beyond the band's earlier efforts.