Ozzy Osbourne has nothing to hide. That's been proven by the MTV reality show, ''The Osbournes," in which his crazed home life was splashed on the screen. And it is confirmed again in the new box set, ''Prince of Darkness," where Ozzy comments on each song with an honesty that avoids the careful image burnishing of some career compilations.
The four-CD, 52-song set, in stores today, establishes Ozzy's solo credentials apart from his Black Sabbath period. The metal-based music is better than some people might remember it -- and his written annotations are a bold and brassy highlight. He says that ''Suicide Solution" is his ''most controversial" tune, but adds that it was ''about drinking yourself to death -- I was not condoning suicide." That serious remark is offset elsewhere by some fuzzy-headed Ozzy-isms that will have his fans laughing. He even confesses of ''Won't Be Coming Home (S.I.N.)" that ''I must've been stoned because I don't remember recording this one at all."
Diehard fans will be thrilled by some of the demos, B-sides, and live tracks, but even occasional listeners should be impressed by a full CD of previously unreleased, newly recorded covers of songs he loved as a youth. Toning down some of the wailing histrionics of his metal material, Ozzy does justice to the Beatles's ''In My Life," John Lennon's ''Working Class Hero," the Rolling Stones's ''Sympathy for the Devil" (with pedal steel whiz Robert Randolph), Buffalo Springfield's ''For What It's Worth," Mott the Hoople's ''All the Young Dudes" (with Ian Hunter on vocals), and Mountain's ''Mississippi Queen," with Leslie West guesting. The guitarist on most of the sessions is Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains, another in a series of excellent axmen with whom Ozzy has performed.
These days, Ozzy often comes across as a lovable buffoon, but the depth of his solo career will surprise people and also show that he's grappled with social issues. The song ''Dreamer" is an eco-conscious track that Ozzy says is his attempt to follow John Lennon's ''Imagine." And a demo of ''Walk on Water" offers this: ''You may say I'm a cynical charlatan/ There I go with my whimsical ways again," before concluding ''I'm just a man, and I don't walk on water."
Another plus is a CD that gathers music he recorded for movie soundtracks and TV shows. Some of it is dubious (the version of Steppenwolf's ''Born to Be Wild" with Miss Piggy), but other songs crackle with intensity. These include the Rick Rubin-produced ''Pictures of Matchstick Men" with Type O Negative (made for Howard Stern's ''Private Parts" movie) and the first-time release of Ozzy singing the Bee Gees' ''Stayin' Alive." It proves that this father of heavy metal is also open enough to do a disco tune -- another sign that he has nothing to hide.