Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath (n.) 1. heavy metal!

Sabbath started off life as a blues-rock band by the name of Earth. They chugged away for a while under this moniker until 1968 when Tony Iommi temporarily jumped ship and joined Jethro Tull. (Iommi only played one show with the band and was replaced by Martin Barre.) Black Sabbath took on their new name, inspired by horror fiction. Iommi's guitar playing was forever impacted by the loss of the tips of the middle and ring fingers of his right hand at the age of 17. To compensate, Iommi strung his guitars with lighter strings, downtuned his guitar (from E to C#) and made thimbles to extend his fingers. Bassist Geezer Butler did the same to match Iommi, making Sabbath among the first bands to detune. This was part of what gave Sabbath their "heavy" sound on albums like "Master of Reality" and "Vol 4". The technique has become a mainstay of heavy metal. Rob Halford, vocalist for Judas Priest, when filling in for Ozzy Osbourne during an August 2004 concert in Philadelphia, introduced Tony Iommi to the audience as "The man who invented the heavy metal riff".

Black Sabbath Black Sabbath (Warner Bros.) 1970

1. Black Sabbath (6:18)
2. The Wizard (4:21)
3. Behind the Wall of Sleep (3:37)
4. N.I.B. (6:04)
5. Wicked World (4:42)
6. A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning (14:14)

Do you really need to read a review on this disc? Heavy metal is forever indebted to the Sabs! Every song on here is a classic. Black Sabbath, along with Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, can be credited with influencing a whole new genre of music called heavy metal, even if none of these bands would ever confess to being heavy metal bands. Regardless, these three bands were amongst the most respected bands of the first wave of British heavy metal.

"Black Sabbath" was released in 1970, though it was released in Europe several months before it was finally issued in the United States. Led Zeppelin's debut was released months before Black Sabbath's debut. The two bands were mutual friends at the time, with Birmingham drummer John Bonham even playing in club bands alongside Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and drummer Bill Ward. (Bonham was also Iommi's best man for his first wedding.) Ward has been quoted as saying the Sabbath were trying to "out-heavy" Led Zeppelin with their debut. Whether that be true or not, they certainly achieved a heaviness not heard on record before. They were simply playing heavy, guitar-driven, blues-based rock. Though they didn't know it at the time they were creating and defining a new genre that would be crowned 'heavy metal'. In fact, Black Sabbath's debut is the cornerstone of heavy metal and hard rock. The eponymous title track is one of the band's signature songs and easily one of the most influential songs ever. It can be credited with being the basis for sub-genres such as doom metal and stoner rock as well. Sabbath's debut transcends any single music genre and is a genuine classic.

"Black Sabbath" (the album) reached number eight on the UK Albums Charts. The UK version had a track not included on the U.S. pressings, a cover of the Crow's "Evil Woman". The song was actually released as a single in the UK in early 1970 before the full album was released. The later U.S. pressings had the song replaced by "Wicked World". "Evil Woman" wasn't officially release in the U.S until 2002, on the compilation "Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath 1970-1978".

Contrary to popular beliefs, the lyrics on the album were not "satanic". Tony Iommi has stated in his autobiography, "Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath", "...neither us nor our music was satanic...being accused of having made an occult or, worse yet, a satanic album was simply ridiculous." Rather, many of the lyrics were inspired by literature. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is a inspired by the H. P. Lovecraft short story "Beyond the Wall of Sleep", while "The Wizard" was inspired by the character of Gandalf from "The Lord of the Rings".

I own this one on both vinyl and CD. Picked up the CD through one of those "Get 11 discs for free" deals that BMG use to offer. Gotta love FREE! (yea, right! Sucker!)

Paranoid Black Sabbath - Paranoid (Warner Bros.) 1971

1. War Pigs/Luke's Wall (7:55)
2. Paranoid (2:50)
3. Planet Caravan (4:30)
4. Iron Man (6:00)
5. Electric Funeral (4:50)
6. Hand of Doom (7:10)
7. Rat Salad [instrumental] (2:30)
8. Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots (6:15)

Once again, no review is necessary! "Paranoid" is one of the seminal, genre defining, classic heavy metal albums. Songs from "Paranoid" have covered by practically every band on the planet. Megadeth's version of "Paranoid" is especially cool. Having owned this album since was a kid in the 1970's, I have played it more times than I can possibly remember and have never grown tired of it.

"Paranoid" was released in September 1970. The album became one of Sabbath's most popular and includes such defining tracks as "Iron Man" and "War Pigs". Both are rock radio staples four decades running. "Paranoid" was certified four times platinum by the RIAA. It was also the only album to top the UK Album charts when it was first released in the 1970's. In general it usually makes any list of the best rock or heavy metal albums of all time. As such, it is vital listening for anyone who wants to be familiar with the history of heavy metal.

I own an original vinyl version as well as a CD version. I actually prefer the vinyl version as it has a warmer sound, or perhaps it's just a nostalgic trip for me.

Master of Reality Black Sabbath - Master of Reality (Warner Bros.) 1971

1. Sweet Leaf (5:02)
2. After Forever (5:25)
3. Embryo [instrumental] (0:28)
4. Children of the Grave (5:15)
5. Orchid [instrumental] (1:30)
6. Lord of this World (5:24)
7. Solitude (5:02)
8. Into the Void (6:12)

"Master of Reality" was released in 1971 and is another of the earliest heavy metal albums to be released. It is also sometimes listed as the first real doom metal album and the first "stoner rock" album. "Master of Reality" is a fantastic, doomy and incredibly heavy album from the masters of metal. What makes this album even heavier than the two albums that preceded it is that the band began to downtune their guitars (from E to C#). This was actually done to ease the pressure on Tony Iommi's fingers due to the industrial accident he had when he was 17. However, that darker, heavier guitar sound became not only the band's signature sound, but became a mainstay of heavy metal in general. The main riff in "Into the Void" has to be one of the most recycled riffs in heavy metal. Just about every heavy metal band has adopted this chugging riff as their own at some time.

Geezer Butler

Despite being an overtly "heavy" album, the mood changes throughout because of a series of mellower ballads written by Iommi. Two of these, "Embryo" and "Orchid", are short instrumentals interludes. The third, "Solitude", is a full song that features Ozzy singing out of character. To be honest, I was always under the impression that Bill Ward had sang on this song, but upon reading multiple books on the band, this is nothing more than a myth. Ward didn't sing on a Sabbath record until "Technical Ecstasy". "Solitude" gave Tony Iommi a change to show off his multi-instrumental talents. The song featured him playing not only the guitar, but flute and piano as well. Terry "Geezer" Butler's bass playing really stands out on this album as well. His signature style is part of the charisma that Black Sabbath has.

Again, in contrast to critics that claimed that the band were Satanists, the lyrics do not bear this out. In fact, "After Forever" focuses entirely on Christian themes. Back in 1971 this was a big deal and magazines like Rolling Stone criticized the band for these lyrics. Other songs are more typical of 70's hard rock. Much like "War Pigs", "Children of the Grave" is about war and revolution. "Sweet Leaf" in stark contrast is an ode to marijuana.

Overall, there is not a bad song on "Master of Reality". It is one of those albums that has to be heard in it's entirety. Most of the songs on this record have been covered by one band or another. Deliverance's version of "After Forever" is among my favorites, as well as Six Feet Under's death metal version of "Sweet Leaf". White Zombie covered "Children of the Grave" on the Nativity in Black tribute and managed to spawn a single off the album. Havok covered "Children of the Grave" on their "Unnatural Selection" CD.  There are just too many covers to even list.

I would say this is probably my favorite Ozzy-era Sabbath disc with Vol. 4 coming in a close second. This is an essential metal disc for any heavy metal fan.

Vol. 4 Black Sabbath - Vol. 4 (Warner Bros.) 1972

1. Wheels of Confusion/The Straightener (8:00)
2. Tomorrow's Dream (3:08)
3. Changes (4:41)
4. FX [instrumental] (1:41)
5. Supernaut (4:43)
6. Snowblind (5:28)
7. Cornucopia (3:50)
8. Laguna Sunrise [instrumental] (2:50)
9. St. Vitus' Dance (2:25)
10. Under the Sun/Every Day Comes and Goes (5:52)

The metal brilliance of Geezer, Ozzy, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward continues on this, Black Sabbath's fourth studio album. What an impact these first four albums have had on metal, it's actually quite amazing. Perhaps this is the reason there are no less than 10 tribute CDs to this band. As with the last three albums, "Vol 4" continues the heavy onslaught with such classics as "Tomorrow's Dream," "Snowblind" and "Supernaut". The main riff of "Supernaut" is another of those genre defining riffs. This is heavy metal!

With this album Sabbath included a genuine ballad. GASP! Yes, "Changes", written by Tony Iommi is entirely in the form of a piano ballad with mellotron and absolutely no crushing guitar riffs. Although the band had used piano previously, it had played only a minor role in the songs. It boggles my mind why some metal fans don't think heavy metal bands should have ballads with the founders of heavy metal Black Sabbath (as well as Judas Priest) wrote ballads.

The band were deep into drugs when recording this album, which is evident in the song lyrics with at least two songs referencing cocaine. I had read in some book that this album was originally to be titled "Snowblind", referencing cocaine, but was changed at the last minute for reasons I don't know.

Once again, the songs on "Vol 4" have been recorded by just about every band imaginable. Thrash metal icons Overkill recorded "Cornacopia" for their Coverkill album. A new version of "Changes" with altered lyrics was recorded by Kelly Osbourne with Ozzy singing duet.

Ozzy Osbourne

Geezer Butler

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath Black Sabbath - Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Warner Bros.) 1973

1. Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (5:44) 
2. A National Acrobat (6:15) 
3. Fluff [instrumental] (4:08) 
4. Sabbra Cadabra (5:57) 
5. Killing Yourself to Live (5:40) 
6. Who Are You? (4:11) 
7. Looking for Today (4:59) 
8. Spiral Architect (5:28)

Sabbath's fifth studio album was released in 1973 and is still absolutely brilliant! With "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" the band adds some complexity to their thick, doomy, heavy metal sound. Besides the crunchy guitar, pounding bass and drums, the also added in more complex orchestral arrangements, strings, and keyboards courtesy of Rick Wakemen (Yes). Ozzy is in his prime here. His vocal performance is genuinely bone chilling and fits the dark mood of the music perfectly. 

The title track is another in a long line of signature songs by Sabbath. It is about as heavy as any song could be in 1973. In stark contrast there are songs like "Fluff". It is a  beautiful and melancholy acoustic instrumental. Both "Sabbra Cadabra" and "Who Are You?" utilize a Moog synthesizer, something more common on Yes and Pink Floyd albums at the time. "Who Are You?" is about as close to prog-rock as Black Sabbath would ever get. However, that's not to say that "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" is an avante-garde progressive rock album. This is still 100% bone-crushing heavy metal. The band have just added a slightly different twist to their sound. "Spiral Architect" adds in a bit of orchestration, combined with some killer guitar work from Iommi.

As with most of the early Sabbath records, most of these songs have been covered by one band or another. Among others, Metallica covered the songs "Sabbra Cadabra" on their Garage, Inc. Anthrax covered the song "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" on their 1987 EP I'm the Man.

Cover drawn by Drew Struzan who was best known for his iconic movie poster art on the Star Wars saga, Raiders of the Lost Ark saga and many more. Drew worked for Pacific Eye & Ear at the time (he also designed the Welcome to My Nightmare cover for Alice Cooper). According to a recent documentary I saw, the man represented on the front and back is none other than the artist himself. Here is what Ernie Cefalu, the creative director of Pacific Eye & Ear had to say about the cover: "My concept for this album was based on two color illustrations that were given to me on my confirmation day in 1955, that I still have to this day. They are from the 1700’s and depict an evil man and a good man both at the split second of their death. When I showed them to Drew and explained the idea - well these pieces speak for themselves."

Sabatage Black Sabbath - Sabotage (Warner Bros.) 1975

1. Hole in the Sky (4:01)
2. Don't Start (Too Late) [instrumental] (0:49)
3. Symptom of the Universe (6:29)
4. Megalomania (9:46)
5. The Thrill of it All (5:55)
6. Supertzar (3:42)
7. Am I Going Insane (Radio) (4:13)
8. The Writ (8:17)

Yet another fantastic Sabbath disc. (Anyone noticing a trend here?) Tony Iommi is the master of the monster guitar riff. You would think after five incredible albums, the man would begin to run out of ideas. Obviously not!

"Sabotage" is just a monster of a song. If it's not the heaviest thing that Sabbath had recorded up to this point, it's pretty darn close. As well, "Symptom of the Universe" is another metal monster with crushing guitar riffs, a furious bass delivery and some quick drum fills. Both these songs have been cited by some thrash metal pioneers as being some of the earliest examples of thrash metal riffing. As with the last couple albums, Iommi continues to add in those short interludes to break up the mayhem. In this case there's a short acoustic instrumental titled "Don't Start (Too Late)". The other, "Supertzar", is a dark, gothic piece with no lyrics but full of chants and layers of both male and female vocals. "Megalomania" continues with the slightly more progressive songwriting from "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", however, the song is still crushingly heavy despite the addition of keyboards. "Supertzar" and "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" are a bit mellower, but still fit in with the overall feel of the album. The best metal albums ebb and flow from the beginning to the end. Not every song needs to be a solid wall of furious sound. "Am I Going Insane" features no heavy guitar riff but is instead built around a bass riff, keyboards and Ozzy's demented vocals. The song concludes with an "insane laugh" which carries over into the album's closing cut "The Writ".

One other thing about "Sabotage" is that the production is more polished and less "raw". The band spent a considerable amount of time in the studio recording this album. I personally think that this fact is really evident in the recording.

In my opinion, "Sabotage" was the last great Black Sabbath record until the forthcoming Dio-years. The next two are good, but not quite of the same caliber as everything from "Black Sabbath" through "Sabotage".

Technical Ecstacy Black Sabbath - Technical Ecstasy (Warner Bros.) 1977

1. Back Street Kids (3:46)
2. You Won't Change Me (6:34)
3. It's Alright (3:58)
4. Gypsy (5:10)
5. All Moving Parts (Stand Still) (4:59)
6. Rock 'n' Roll Doctor (3:25)
7. She's Gone (4:51)
8. Dirty Women (7:15)

"Technical Ecstasy" is not held in high regard by most fans of hard rock and metal. I suppose it isn't Black Sabbath's most shining moment, but not a terrible disc either. I have read that some time off, some internal conflicts, and pressure from record company to become more mainstream nearly destroyed the band around this time. Most certainly the lyrics speak of some negative things the band may have been going through. I've read countless bad reviews of this disc, and while I will admit that it doesn't quite stand up to the mastery of albums like "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or "Master of Reality", it is still better than average in my opinion. "Back Street Kids" starts the disc off with a fury. The very next song is a doomy, almost epic number and one of my favorite songs on this CD. I love the slow, moody, melancholy feel of this song. "It's Alright" features Bill Ward on vocals and is a moody, piano and acoustic guitar ballad. "Gypsy" is prime Black Sabbath with signature Iommi riffs. "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor" is a catchy song that is slightly more mainstream hard rock than what most people were use to hearing from Black Sabbath. The album finishes off with a pair of songs that seem to go together. "She's Gone" is a song about love lost, while "Dirty Women" is exactly what the title makes you think. "She's Gone" in particular features some of Ozzy's most emotional vocals. Personally, I find "Technical Ecstasy" to be far better than critics and some fans make it out to be. It was a departure from the norm for Black Sabbath as the band experimented with their sound a bit. I just happen to think it was a successful experiment.

I waited years to find a used copy of this disc and never saw one. I bid on it several times on eBay when I saw it for $5 to $6 or less, but some brilliant person always out bid me and probably ended up paying more than they would have at some big chain store. I finally gave up and bought this disc new for $9.99 at one of those big chain stores. $10!!! Did you hear that all you silly eBay bidders who always pay too much for discs that are still in print.

Never Say Die
Black Sabbath - Never Say Die
(Warner Bros.) 1978

1. Never Say Die (3:47)
2. Johnny Blade (6:27)
3. Junior's Eyes (6:41)
4. A Hard Road (6:03)
5. Shock Wave (5:13)
6. Air Dance (5:15)
7. Over to You (5:21)
8. Breakout [instrumental] (2:36)
9. Swinging the Chain (4:18)

Tony Iommi
Tony Iommi & Eddie Van Halen

Uh oh! Ozzy and the band seem to have become a bit tired now. Signs of the excessive lifesyle they were living are obvious. Slightly tired riffs, lackluster songs and saxaphone led songs (?!?!?!). "Never Say Die" is not their best, yet, it is still a very enjoyable album. "Never Say Die" is one of the most recognizable songs on the album. The song sports a catchy riff and equally catchy chorus.  (Overkill recorded a cover of this song on their "Coverkill" album.) "Johnny Blade" is another standout tune with it's ultra-cool groove. All four band members sing on "A Hard Road." As far as I know, this is the only song on which guitarist Tony Iommi sings. Like past albums, this album sports another instrumental, this one titled "Breakout", a heavy song that is accentuated with a horn section. Blasphemy? Hardly. Sabbath have always experimented with other instruments on their albums. This is actually another standout track on the album, in my opinion. The album closes with Bill Ward taking the lead vocal duties on the bluesy "Swinging the Chain".

"Never Say Die" would be the last studio album for Black Sabbath with Ozzy Osbourne at the helm. Ozzy had actually quit the band prior to recording "Never Say Die" and was briefly replaced by former Savoy Brown and Fleetwood Mac vocalist Dave Walker. However, Walker's tenure with the band was short as Ozzy returned and recorded with the Sabs instead. From what I have read, Walker had written some songs with the band, but Ozzy refused to sing these songs, so the lyrics were re-written. There is a video of Walker singing "Junior's Eyes" with completely different lyrics on some BBC program.

Though Sabbath slumped a bit with "Never Say Die", they would soon pick up the pieces with new vocalist Ronnie James Dio (ex-Rainbow/Elf) and record one of their finest albums ever.

Live At Last Black Sabbath - Live At Last (Creative Sounds/Germany) 1980

1. Tomorrow's Dream (3:15)
2. Sweet Leaf (5:22)
3. Killing Yourself to Live (5:28)
4. Cornucopia (4:04)
5. Snowblind (4:40)
6. Children of the Grave (4:31)
7. War Pigs (7:37)
8. Wicked World (18:59)
9. Paranoid (3:09)

Never understood this recording. Is it a bootleg? Is it an official release? Is it an import? From what I understand, "Live Evil" was the first "official" live Sabbath offering, so what the heck is "Live at Last." Ah, who cares! It's Sabbath live with OZZY! Essential to any Sabbath fan. All tracks were recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England on March 11, 1973 and the Rainbow Theatre in London, England on March 16, 1973. The album was released in 1980, over a year after Ozzy left the band.

Found a German import copy used for $7.99 at a little hole-in-the-wall CD store. Have not seen another one since. Glad I didn't pass it up. "Live At Last" was finally "officially" released by the band as a 2-CD set titled "Past Lives"

Heaven & Hell Black Sabbath - Heaven & Hell (Warner Bros.) 1980

1. "Neon Knights" (3:49)
2. "Children of the Sea" (5:30)
3. "Lady Evil" (4:22)
4. "Heaven and Hell" (6:56)
5. "Wishing Well" (4:02)
6. "Die Young" (4:41)
7. "Walk Away" (4:21)
8. "Lonely is the Word" (5:49)

Tony Iommi

Enter Ronnie James Dio, who had recently been given his walking papers by Ritchie Blackmore from Rainbow. Ronnie brings much needed new life to this band. "Heaven & Hell" is an inspired metal masterpiece that ranks ABOVE the amazing Ozzy discs, in my opinion. Yeah I know, I just commited some sort of heavy metal blasphemy, so what! Every song on this disc is a metal monster. "Neon Knights" is one of Sabbath's heavier and fastest songs and one of my all time favorites."Heaven and Hell" is a lengthy, dark and moody song and one of the quintessential songs in the Sabbath catalog.

Here is some weird and useless information; I owned this record for years and it had a skip during the guitar solo of "Neon Nights." Now, even though I have replaced my vinyl with a CD and haven't actually heard that skip in over a decade, I still expect to hear that stupid skip almost like it was part of the song.

Sleepy Hollow covered "Children of the Sea". Solitude Aeturnus covered "Heaven & Hell" on their "Adagio"CD. Stryper recorded a cover of "Heaven & Hell" and the song was also featured in the game Grand Theft Auto IV. Death Angel covered "Heaven & Hell" on their "The Dream Calls for Blood" CD.  Steel Prophet and Queensryche have recorded covers of "Neon Knights".

Mob Rules Black Sabbath - Mob Rules (Warner Bros.) 1981

1. "Turn Up the Night" (3:42)
2. "Voodoo" (4:32)
3. "The Sign of the Southern Cross" (7:46)
4. "E5150" [instrumental] (2:54)
5. "The Mob Rules" (3:14)
6. "Country Girl" (4:02)
7. "Slipping Away" (3:45)
8. "Falling off the Edge of the World" (5:02)
9. "Over and Over" (5:28)

Black Sabbath 1981

"Mob Rules" is a bonified Black Sabbath classic. First of all, this is one of those albums that sports one of the coolest covers ever. Back in '81 this cover was so dark and eerie looking. I remember staring at the album cover looking at all the detail in the characters while listening to the music. Musically, "Mob Rules" easily matches the brilliance of "Heaven and Hell" and may have even surpassed it. "Sign of the Southern Cross" is one of the best Dio-era Sabbath songs. (Fates Warning did a fabulous cover of this song on the Dio tribute from Century Media.) "Turn Up the Night" is a fine album opener and one of the faster songs on the album. "Country Girl" is remaniscent of some of Dio's Rainbow material. Really every song on this CD is choice listening making for an overall solid album. Even the dark, moody and experimental instrumental is essential to this album. New drummer Vinnie Appice really steps up here, adding a bit of energy to the band. He works well with the pummelling bass rhythms of Geezer. Tony pulls out some of his finest guitar licks to date. Whether it's slow tunes like the aforementioned "Sign of the Southern Cross" or the upbeat title track, Iommi is at his best. The voice of metal also steps up to the plate here, offering more of his bizzare, poetic, lyrical twists and some of his finest vocals melodies.

Banshee recorded a cover of "Slipping Away" on their "The Madness" CD.

Live Evil Black Sabbath - Live Evil (Warner Bros.) 1983

1. "E5150" [instrumental] (2:21)
2. "Neon Knights" (4:36)
3. "N.I.B." (5:09)
4. "Children of the Sea" (6:08)
5. "Voodoo" (5:37)
6. "Black Sabbath" (9:09)
7. "War Pigs" (9:19)
8. "Iron Man" (7:29)

1. "The Mob Rules" (3:45)
2. "Heaven and Hell" (12:29)
3 ."The Sign of the Southern Cross/Heaven and Hell (continued)" (7:15)
4. "Paranoid" (3:46)
5. "Children of the Grave" (5:25)
6. "Fluff" [instrumental] (0:59)

From what I have read, by the time this album came out, Dio, Geezer, and Tony were at each others throats. Tony claims Dio messed with the mix of the album, Dio denies it. Whatever! Point is, this is a great double disc collection of live Sabbath with Dio behind the mic. It is, in a word, classic! Only one thing missing from this Dio-fest, where's "I'm the man, You're the man, we're all the maaannnnn." (-:

Tony Iommi & Ronnie James Dio, 1981

Born Again Black Sabbath - Born Again (Warner Bros.) 1983

1. "Trashed" (4:10)
2. "Stonehenge" [instrumental] (1:57)
3. "Disturbing the Priest" (5:48)
4. "The Dark" [instrumental] (0:31)
5. "Zero the Hero" (7:45)
6. "Digital Bitch" (3:35)
7. "Born Again" (6:30)
8. "Hot Line" (4:50)
9. "Keep it Warm" (5:34)

"Born Again" was the album that followed the disharmonic split of Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice from the Sabbath camp. The two went on to success with Dio. In their place, original Sabbath skin pounder Bill Ward returned to the fold, along with new vocalist Ian Gillan (ex-Deep Purple). Ian split up his own successful group Gillan to join Sabbath for this album and tour. Ian Gillan with Black Sabbath was an odd pairing, but it worked for this one album. As a matter of fact, it worked quite well. The music is heaviness personified and Ian's vocals are otherworldly! It is my opinion that Ian Gillan has one of the greatest voices in rock n' roll and he really showcased his talent here. I would also say that "Born Again" is one of the darkest Black Sabbath albums as well.

Apparently Ian hated the cover art (as do I) and the weak mix and production. However, despite a muddy mix, the songs are, oh, so cool! "Zero the Hero" is a great song with a meaty hook. The song is ultra heavy, as is "Trashed", "Disturbing the Priest", "Digital Bitch", "Hot Line"...frankly, I think it's all great! Part of my enthusiasm for this album stems from the fact that it was one of my earliest concert experiences. I was fortunate to see Black Sabbath on this tour with Quiet Riot opening at the Spectrum in Philadelphia. PA. It was a fantastic show; one that I will never forget. I have a bootleg tape from this tour. Sabbath even played the Purple classic "Smoke on the Water." (Which I guess some people thought was blasphemy. I thought it was cool!) I can still remember my mom freaking out on the t-shirt that featured the same baby demon as the cover. I can't blame her, it is a disturbing image.

"Disturbing the Priest" features some vocal melodies that Ian had previously recorded with the Ian Gillan Band on the song "Scarabus".

Ian Gillan
Ian Gillan

Born Again Unmixed Demos Black Sabbath - Born Again Unmixed Demos & The Fallen (CDR bootleg)

1. "Hot Line" [demo] (4:40)
2. "Keep It Warm" [demo] (5:28)
3. "The Fallen" [demo] (4:16)
4. "Digital Bitch" [demo] (3:33)
5. "Stonehenge" [demo] (4:41)
6. "Trashed" [demo] (3:35)
7. "Zero The Hero" [demo] (8:44)
8. "Born Again" [demo] (6:14)
9. "Disturbing The Priest" [demo] (5:30)

"Born Again" has long been one of my favorite Black Sabbath records. Despite the horrific cover, the heavy Sabbath songs combined with Ian Gillan's superb vocals were a perfect mix. This CD is a very cool disc of demos featuring the unreleased track "The Fallen". It's too bad this track wasn't resurrected and released as a bonus song on the official remastered version of "Born Again". It's actually a very good song that would have fit well with the rest of the album. There are rumors that Sabbath recorded as many as five or six songs that were not included on the album The rest of the songs included here were all on the album, but these versions are a bit different. "Hot Line" seemed to have some additional guitar solos/fills that I don't remember being in the original. "Zero the Hero" is one of the most surprising songs, as the chorus isn't "What you gonna be brother - Zero the hero", but rather "What you gonna be brother - ooooh the hero". Also the opening moments are quite different as is the extended instrumental ending of the song. The album was recorded during the summer of 1983 at The Manor Studio, Shipton on Cherwell, Oxfordshire, England

Live Murder Black Sabbath - Live Murder Act I & II (bootleg)
CD1: Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK, 20th January 1981
CD2: Reading Festival, UK, 27th August 1983

1. "Intro/War Pigs" (8:57)
2. "Neon Knights" (5:05)
3. "N.I.B." (5:29)
4. "Children of the Sea" (6:22)
5. "Sweet Leaf" (8:09)
6. "Lady Evil" (4:44)
7. "Black Sabbath" (8:18)
8. "Die Young" (7:20)
9. "Paranoid" (3:33)
10. "Children of the Grave" (5:15)

1. "Hot Line" (4:48)
2. "War Pigs" (7:11)
3. "Black Sabbath" (6:53)
4. "Zero The Hero" (7:52)
5. "Digital Bitch" (3:29)
6. "Iron Man" (7:57)
7. "Smoke on the Water" (4:56)
8. "Paranoid" (3:34)

Geezer with a reunited Black Sabbath, Live Aid 1985

Two moments in heavy metal history preserved on this two disc bootleg. Disc one features Ronnie James Dio recorded live on the "Heaven & Hell" tour. This show does feature a few tracks not on the officially released "Live Evil" CD ("Die Young", "Lady Evil" and "Sweet Leaf") making it an interesting listen. However, my main interest here is Act II (Disc Two) which features the short lived line-up featuring extraordinary vocalist Ian Gillan. I saw this tour at the Spectrum in Philly and loved it. Still one of my favorite Sabbath CDs to this day. Recording live in Reading in 1983, apparently this recording started off life as a perfect soundboard recording. While the sound is decent here, it's also a bit muffled or muted, making me think that this CD may have been many generations away from an original soundboard tape. Either way, a nice collection of songs that would unfortunately not see the light of day again after this tour. As I recall, Sabbath doing "Smoke on the Water" was sacreligious to many hardcore Deep Purple and Sabbath fans back in the day. I thought it was very cool, having been a fan of Deep Purple for just as long as I had been a fan of Sabbath.

Black Sabbath - Purple Sabbath Definitive Edition (CDR bootleg)
The Centrum, Worchester, Massachusetts, USA 4th November 1983

1. "DJ Into" (1:12)
2. "Black Sabbath intro" (2:20)
3. Children on the Grave" (5:05)
4. "Hot Line" (5:01)
5. "War Pigs" (7:30)
6. "Iron Man" (8:59)
7. "Zero the Hero" (7:46)
8. "Heaven and Hell" (8:42)
9. "guitar solo" (8:42)
10. "Digital Bitch" (3:51)
11. "Black Sabbath" (7:52)
12. "Smoke on the Water" (5:18)
13. "Paranoid" (3:51)

I absolutely love this short-lived era of Black Sabbath. Gillan had always been on of my favorite vocalists and I thought his work with Sabbath was brilliant. This bootleg was taken from "Captured Live", a US radio promo, so the sound is excellent for a bootleg. Classic recording of Sabbath featuring a smokin' version of "Smoke on the Water", a song many Sabbath die-hards felt was blasphemy for Sabbath to be playing. Gillan sounds a bit strained on a few songs here, especially on "Heaven and Hell". However, when he goes into those high, falsetto screams, he sounds fantastic! The line-up for this tour was Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass), Ian Gillan (vocals), Bev Bevan (drums) and Geoff Nicholls (keyboards).

Star Of India Black Sabbath - Star of India (CDR bootleg)

1. "Star Of India" (Seventh Star-Take 1) (6:19)
2. "Take My Heart" (No Stranger to Love-Take 1) (4:33)
3. "Eye of the Storm" (Turn to Stone-Take 1) (3:13)
4. "Love On the Line" (Heart Like a Wheel) (4:51)
5. "Star of India" (Seventh Star-Take 2) (5:36)
6. "Chance on Love" (Danger Zone) (4:24)
7. "Take My Heart" (No Stranger to Love-Take 2) (6:32)
8. "Eye of the Storm" (Turn to Stone-Take 2) (3:14)
9. "Star Of India" (Seventh Star-Take 3) (5:17)

Very cool bootleg studio recording of the "Seventh Star" line-up of Black Sabbath with Jeff Fenholt on vocals. Jeff, who has also sang with Joshua, went on to become a big TV Evangelist on the TBN network. For years Tony Iommi denied that Jeff was ever even part of Black Sabbath. Of course this CD proves differently, although it is true that nothing was ever officially released with Jeff on vocals and that he never toured with the band. I am actually one who agrees that Jeff wrongfully used Black Sabbath's name to make a name for himself among Christians. But politics aside, Feholt did an amazing job on these demo tracks. Can't say that I like them better than the final tracks that were recorded with Glenn Hughes, but they are still an interesting listen for Black Sabbath die-hards like myself. Production is very listenable for a demo with unknown sources. My particular copy is a CDR copy complete with inserts. I am unsure if this disc was ever mass produced or pressed on silver discs.

Seventh Star Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi - Seventh Star [Deluxe Edition] (Universal Music/Sanctuary Records) 1986/2010

DISC ONE: Seventh Star
1. In for the Kill (3:42)
2. No Stranger to Love (4:30)
3. Turn to Stone (3:29)
4. Sphinx (The Guardian) [instrumental] (1:11)
5. Seventh Star (5:21)
6. Danger Zone (4:27)
7. Heart Like a Wheel (6:37)
8. Angry Heart (3:07)
9. In Memory… (2:38)
10. No Stranger To Love [Single Remix] (4:01)
DISC TWO: Live at Hammersmith Odeon
1. Mob Rules (2:59)
2. Danger Zone (4:44)
3. War Pigs (8:11)
4. Seventh Star” (5:03)
5. Die Young (3:58)
6. Black Sabbath (9:33)
7. N.I.B. (1:37)
8. Neon Knights (4:37)
9. Paranoid (3:29)
Seventh Star
Vinyl copy of "Seventh Star".

1986's' Seventh Star" is a Tony Iommi solo album in all but name. The album was never really intended to be a Black Sabbath release, as the band had effectively broken up. "Seventh Star" was originally conceived by guitarist Tony Iommi as his first solo project, but rumor has it that record company pressure forced him to use his old band's name to increase sales. Knowing this, it is easier to disconnect this album from past Sabbath doomfests and makes the album VERY enjoyable. Vocalist Glenn Hughes (ex-Deep Purple) brings the album to life, especially on the more commercial cuts like "No Strange to Love." This song seriously should have burned up the charts. Iommi's guitar playing is fabulous on this disc with inspired riffs and outstanding fresh solos. "In for the Kill" is a vicious metal attack. "Turn to Stone" is a song that is packed full of dark melody and a vicious vocal performance. "Danger Zone" is another standout cut. I really can't understand why people hate this album so much. OK, it is a departure from the Sabbath of old, the music tends to be much more bluesy and has a more pop appeal, but it's still a very heavy and classy disc.

I bought this album as a new release when I was in college but unfortunately I bought it on cassette. Replacing it with a CD was originally more of a chore than I ever thought, especially since this disc was released on Warner Bros. It is the one Black Sabbath disc that as of 2010 still has not officially been release on CD in the U.S. I initially grabbed the Castle remastered version of the CD. It's quite good. In 2010 the album was remastered again from the master tapes and re-released as a "Deluxe Edition". Disc one doesn't really sound all that different to me, other than the addition of the single version of "No Stranger to Love", which has the addition of some female backing vocals.

Disc Two is the real draw here. It features a live performance at the Hammersmith Oden in London from June 2 1986 with Ray Gillen on vocals. Yes, this show has been floating around for years under various titles in bootleg form, due to it having been a radio broadcast. However, it's nice to finally have an officially released version. Ray Gillen had taken over Glenn's spot in Sabbath for the tour. It's pretty much one of rock and roll's legendary stories with Hughes bombing on the tour's first five shows due to his chronic drug addictions at the time. After recording vocals for the follow-up album "The Eternal Idol", for whatever reason, Glenn and Sabbath split. I've never really been sure what caused the split. With many Sabbath fans embracing Gillen as the band's new vocalist, due to the successful "Seventh Star" tour, I can't help but wonder what the future could have held for the band if he had stuck around. However, it was not meant to be and Ray went on to form Badlands.

This live show is very good. Ray's voice sounds fantastic on the Dio and "Seventh Star" material. The show was recorded live at the Hammersmith Oden in London on June 2 1986,  which was the second of two nights Black Sabbath played in London for that tour. The performance was professionally recorded for an FM radio broadcast, so the sound is decent, though certainly not album quality. It's more like a high-quality bootleg. Sometimes these bonus "live" discs leave a bit to be desired, but this one is worth re-purchasing "Seventh Star" again, if not for Ray Gillen's performance along. (I've probably purchased this album four times, once on cassette tape when it was release, then again on vinyl, which I still have and now this is my second CD copy.)

The Deluxe Edition, which is wrapped in a four gatefold digi-pack, also has a 16-page booklet with photos, lyrics and an essay by Alex Milas.

Eternal Idol Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol [Deluxe Edition] (Warner Bros.) 1987

1.  The Shining (5:58) 
2.  Ancient Warrior (5:34) 
3.  Hard Life to Love (5:00) 
4.  Glory Ride (4:48) 
5.  Born to Lose (3:43) 
6.  Nightmare (5:17) 
7.  Scarlet Pimpernel [instrumental] (2:07) 
8.  Lost Forever (4:00) 
9.  Eternal Idol (6:35)
10. Black Moon (3:39)
11. Some Kind Of Woman (3:16)
DISC TWO The Eternal Idol: Ray Gillen Sessions
1. Glory Ride (5:21)
2. Born to Lose (3:41)
3. Lost Forever (4:17)
4. Eternal Idol (6:48)
5. The Shining (6:30)
6. Hard Life to Love (5:20)
7. Nightmare (4:49)
8. Ancient Warrior (4:54)

Starting with the "Born Again" album, Black Sabbath started going through vocalists and band members quicker than Spinal Tap went through drummers. After the recording of "Seventh Star" vocalist Glenn Hughes exited the band and new vocalist Ray Gillen finished the tour for that album. After the tour the band began laying down tracks for a new album. For whatever reason, after recording his vocal parts, Ray Gillen parted ways with Sabbath and vocalist Tony Martin was brought in to re-record the vocals. Despite the band line-up and the credits on the sleeve, all bass parts on the album were recorded by Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne/Gary Moore) and Eric Singer (Kiss/Alice Cooper) completed all drum parts. Longtime keyboard player Geoff Nicholls, who is the invisible Black Sabbath member, adds superb keyboard support throughout the album. 

Many fans agree that "Eternal Idol" is the best of the Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath albums, and I wouldn't disagree. The album opens with one of Iommi's finest "The Shining". The song ebbs and flows from erie bass driven verses to the heavy chorus. "The Shining" has a monstrous hook, a great guitar solo breakdown and easily could have been on "Mob Rules" with Dio behind the mic. Geoff Nicholls opens "Ancient Warrior", a dark and gloomy track with a crushing guitar riff. "The Shining", "Ancient Warrior" and the upbeat "Lost Forever" are some of the finest songs on this platter. Album closer "Eternal Idol" is definitely the darkest song on the album. The slow, heavy and doomy song is heavy metal personified. 

"Eternal Idol" was released as an expanded deluxe edition in 2010. The original recording was remastered and includes two bonus tracks. "Black Moon" is an early recording of the "Headless Cross" song that was released as a B-Side to the "Eternal Idol" single. It has a very classic Sabbath vibe. The studio outtake titled "Some Kind of Woman" is a studio outtake from the "Headless Cross" sessions and was written by Tony Martin shortly after joining Sabbath. It was offered as a B-side to "The Shining" single and an early version of "Black Moon", which was released on Headless Cross, was released as a B-Side to the "Eternal Idol" single. The bonus disc contains the "Eternal Idol" sessions recorded with Ray Gillen on vocals. These demos have floated around for a decade or more in bootleg form. Some of them sound very poor, so it's nice to finally have these tracks in an official form. I've always loved these demo tracks and actually prefer them to the original recordings. Gillen had a magical voice. The deluxe edition is wrapped in an 8 panel digi and contains a 12-page insert with a lengthy biography and era-relative photos. This is one package that was worth repurchasing as the bonus tracks and disc are worth the money. 

Ray Gillen Years Black Sabbath - The Ray Gillen Years (CDR bootleg)
Live in San Antonio, TX & The Eternal Idol Demos

Live in San Antonio, TX
1. "Danger Zone" [live] (5:20)
2. "War Pigs" [live] (8:18)
3. "Heart Like A Wheel" [live] (5:56)
4. "Sweet Leaf" [live] (3:41)
5. "Black Sabbath" [live] (9:10)
6. "Neon Knights" [live] (5:12)
The Eternal Idol Demos
7. "Glory Ride" (5:15)
8. "Lost Forever" (4:13)
9. "Eternal Idol" (6:39)
10. "The Shining" (6:17)
11. "Hard Life to Love" (4:52)
12. "Ancient Warrior" (5:25)
13. "Born to Lose" (3:40)

Outstanding bootleg! I've always loved Gillen's voice. It's a real shame he never had the chance to officially record with Tony Iommi before his untimely passing. In anycase, this bootleg captures Sabbath live with Gillen on vocals on the Seventh Star tour. My favorite tracks here are the two from that record. Gillen does an outstanding job on these songs, although in all honestly, he handles the Ozzy and Dio stuff just as well. It's unfortunate that the entire show wasn't recorded. I would have liked to have heard more.

The line up for "The Eternal Idol Demos" is the same as on the official "The Eternal Idol" album except Ray Gillen on vocals. The sound on these tracks are not perfect, sounding as if they were copied off a poor cassette tape.

Headless Cross Black Sabbath - Headless Cross (I.R.S.) 1989

1. "The Gates of Hell" [instrumental] (1:06)
2. "Headless Cross" (6:28)
3. "Devil & Daughter" (4:39)
4. "When Death Calls" (6:56)
5. "Kill in the Spirit World" (5:09)
6. "Call of the Wild" (5:18)
7. "Black Moon" (4:05)
8. "Nightwing" (6:32)

Tony Iommi Brockum Trading Card

Another of Black Sabbath's forgotten discs. This album features consummate drummer Cozy Powell of Rainbow fame as well as vocalist Tony Martin. Cozy shares production duties with Tony. The songs are very good; most retaining a heavy, doomy, yet melodic hook. Songs like "When Death Calls" are actually some of the better Tony Martin-era material, if not some of the best Tony Iommi has ever written. Iommi has written some fabulous riffs for this disc, and as with most of these "newer" Sabbath discs should be thought of as classics over time.

Unfortunately Tony Martin did not put much thought into the lyrics as they come off as rather cliche and silly. The devil this and the devil that, blah, blah, blah. According to Tony Iommi, "On "Headless Cross' Tony had just come into the band and he assumed, oh, Black Sabbath, it's all about the devil, so his lyrics were full of the devil and Satan. It was too much in your face." (p279, Iron Man-My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, Tony Iommi)

TYR Black Sabbath - TYR (I.R.S.) 1990

1."Anno Mundi" (6:12)
2."The Law Maker" (3:53)
3."Jerusalem" (3:59)
4."The Sabbath Stones" (6:46)
5."The Battle of Tyr" [instrumental] (1:08)
6."Odin's Court" (2:41)
7."Valhalla" (4:42)
8."Feels Good to Me" (5:44)
9."Heaven in Black" (4:05)

I've actually owned this cd several times before and have traded it off for other things that I wanted. "TYR" is another Tony Iommi solo album in all but name. TYR is one of those albums that has grown on me with time, but I can honestly say that upon first listen several years ago, I was not instantly hooked like on past Sabbath projects. This disc is a bit more gothic in approach. Of course Iommi's crushingly heavy guitar riffs are in place, but the songs don't seem as aggressive as on past discs. This disc is also one of the first Sabbath concept discs based loosely around the mythical deity Odin and the gods of war. Also have to mention that former Rainbow drummer Cozy Powell is still on board for this one. Vocalist Tony Martin sounds great and holds his own with Sabbath's long list of impressive vocalists.

Black Sabbath - Dehumanizer
(Reprise) 1992

1. "Computer God" (6:10)
2. "After All (The Dead)" (5:37)
3. "T.V. Crimes" (3:58)
4. "Letters from Earth" (4:12)
5. "Master of Insanity" (5:54)
6. "Time Machine" (4:10)
7. "Sins of the Father" (4:43)
8. "Too Late" (6:54)
9. "I" (5:10)
10. "Buried Alive" (4:47)
11. "Time Machine" (Wayne's World version) (4:18)

After what are essentually a bunch of Tony Iommi solo albums released under the Black Sabbath name, the Dio-era line-up reforms. "Dehumanizer" is the forgotten Sabbath album and is one criminally underrated album. It may not be their best album but it's still very good. "Computer God", "T.V. Crimes" and especially "I" are prime Dio-era Sabbath. Of course, nostalgia plays a big part in why this album isn't much more well regarded as it should be. It would have taken a miracle for them to come up with an album that topped the two studio albums with Ronnie James in the early 80's. Unfortunately the teaming up didn't last long as plans were already in the works for a Ozzy/Sabbath reunion. Dio split before the tour was done and if I am not mistaken, Rob Halford (Judas Priest/Fight) filled in on vocals for a short time. Now that would have been a show to see. Dio reunited with Sabbath a second time in 2007 for a tour and a few new songs on "The Dio Years" compilation. The band toured under the name Heaven & Hell.

Black Sabbath '92
Terry "Geezer" Butler, Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi & Vinnie Appice

Black Sabbath 1992
Black Sabbath 1992 promo photo. Click to enlarge.

Cross Purposes Black Sabbath - Cross Purposes (I.R.S.) 1994

1. "I Witness" (4:58)
2. "Cross of Thorns" (4:34)
3. "Psychophobia" (3:14)
4. "Virtual Death" (5:49)
5. "Immaculate Deception" (4:15)
6. "Dying for Love" (5:53)
7. "Back to Eden" (3:57)
8. "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" (4:30)
9. "Cardinal Sin" (4:21)
10. "Evil Eye"(6:05)

After Dio exited Black Sabbath for the second time in 1993, Tony Martin was brought back into the fold. Founding Black Sabbath bassist Geezer Butler was also still around for the recording of "Cross Purpose". Of the Tony Martin-era Sabbath platters, this is my personal favorite. I can only imagine if Dio had stayed on board how much better this disc would have been. I am certainly not saying that Tony Martin is a bad vocalist, but Dio certainly brings along a certain charisma that is missing from many of the Tony Martin discs.

"Cross Purposes" starts off with one of the best songs on the platter, a fast and furious song called "I Witness." The rest of the disc ranges from heavy, bluesy numbers to a few that would have followed up perfectly to "Mob Rules," like the sludgy "Back to Eden".

Geezer Butler eventually jumped ship to record g//z/r.

Forbidden Black Sabbath - Forbidden (I.R.S.) 1995

1."The Illusion of Power" (4:54)
2."Get a Grip" (3:59)
3."Can't Get Close Enough" (4:28)
4."Shaking off the Chains" (4:04)
5."I Won't Cry for You" (4:48)
6."Guilty as Hell" (3:28)
7."Sick and Tired" (3:31)
8."Rusty Angels" (5:00)
9."Forbidden" (3:49)
10."Kiss of Death" (6:09)

"Forbidden" is the eighteenth studio album by Black Sabbath and featured a return to the TYR-era lineup from 1990, with the return of Neil Murray (bass), Geoff Nicholls (keyboards) and Cozy Powell (drums). It was the last album to feature Tony Martin on vocals. The band enlisted Body Count guitarist Ernie C to produce the new album and featured a guest vocal on "Illusion of Power" by Body Count vocalist Ice-T. "Illusion of Power" is definitely an oddity in the Sabbath catalog with Martin dueting with Ice T on a song that really does sound like a cross between Body Count and Black Sabbath. "Get a Grip" is a reworking of the main riff of Sabbath's classic "Zero the Hero". The song has the potential to be lethal but suffers due to the lackluster production qualities. The real standout track on the album is "Kiss of Death" which clocks in at just over six minutes long. The song which begins as a dark, melancholy ballad builds to a pummeling, heavy monster and then back again. "Can't Get Close Enough" has a similar vibe, starting with a melancholy sound and building up to a heavy, plodding riff. The song features a nice Tony Iommi guitar solo. Much of the rest of the album is a bit more disjointed. "Shaking Off the Chains" rides a cool Iommi riff but just sounds unfinished and underdeveloped. Similarly "Guilty As Hell" and "Sick and Tired" come off as needing something to really pull it out of the doldrums, though "Sick and Tired" does feature a nice Cozy Powell drum introduction and some wicked guitar solos.

"Forbidden" is definitely the most panned album in Sabbath's catalog. Fans almost universally dismiss it as phoned in and forgettable. The cartoony cover art only reinforces those opinions.  I must confess, I too completely dismissed the album when it was first released. However, in retrospect, it is completely impossible for Tony Iommi to create a total dud. Even the most forgettable Sabbath record has a few diamonds in the rough and "Forbidden" definitely has a few of those. 

Reunion Black Sabbath - Reunion (Epic) 1998

1."War Pigs" (8:28)
2."Behind the Wall of Sleep" (4:07)
3."N.I.B." (6:45)
4."Fairies Wear Boots" (6:19)
5."Electric Funeral" (5:02)
6."Sweet Leaf" (5:07)
7."Spiral Architect" (5:40)
8."Into the Void" (6:32)
9."Snowblind" (6:08)

1."Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (4:36)
2."Orchid/Lord of this World" (7:07)
3."Dirty Women" (6:29)
4."Black Sabbath" (7:29)
5."Iron Man" (8:21)
6."Children of the Grave" (6:30)
7."Paranoid" (4:28)
8."Psycho Man" [new studio track] (5:18)
9."Selling My Soul" [new studio track] (3:10)

Geezer Butler

I am surprised it took me this long (two years) to finally secure a copy of this disc. For some reason I just never wanted to fork over the $20+ for this as a new disc. Even the used copies I'd see were well over the $15 range. Anyhow, finally picked up this copy for $5. Well, what we have here is live Sabbath with the original lineup of Ozzy, Geezer, Tony & Bill. With this the band came up with the incredibly creative title "Reunion." Ahhh...let us pause for a moment and ponder the creative genius. Anyhow, the band sounds excellent, almost as good as they did thirty years ago! There are points where Ozzy lets his age show, like in the disappointing vocal performance in "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" where he doesn't even attempt to reach the high notes. Also, Ozzy's crowd interaction is reduced to one four letter word. Apparently years of substance abuse have seriously limited his vocabulary and intelligence. On the positive side, there are a bunch of obscure numbers on this disc including; "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (complete with Geezer Butler's solo), "Snowblind," "Electric Funeral", "Dirty Women", and, the excellent, "Spiral Architect." "Dirty Woman" is especially surprising since I have never heard the band say anything good about "Technical Ecstasy," which is probably the worst studio album from the original lineup. Despite this, it's probably the best song from that disc. As for the new material, well, they're not bad, but they are not all that exciting either. "Psycho Man" received some radio airplay and is probably the most memorable of the two songs, but it actually sounds more like something off one of Ozzy's recent solo discs than it does a Tony Iommi number.

Black Sabbath - Past Lives (Sanctuary/Divine) 2003

1. "Tomorrow's Dream" (3:15)
2. "Sweet Leaf" (5:22)
3. "Killing Yourself to Live" (5:28)
4. "Cornucopia" (4:04)
5. "Snowblind" (4:40)
6. "Children of the Grave" (4:31)
7. "War Pigs" (7:37)
8. "Wicked World" (18:59)
9. "Paranoid" (3:09)

1. "Hand of Doom" (8:26)
2. "Hole In The Sky" (4:47)
3. "Symptom of the Universe" (4:53)
4. "Megalomania" (9:53)
5. "Iron Man" (6:26)
6. "Black Sabbath" (8:24)
7. "N.I.B." (5:32)
8. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (5:03)
9. "Faries Wear Boots" (6:40)

Toni Iommit
Tony Iommi

Seems like there have been a ton of Ozzy and Black Sabbath compilations coming out as of late. Guess 'ol Ozz is not happy with the millions he is making off of MTV right now. In anycase, of the recent releases, this one was of interest to me for two reasons. Disc one is supposedly a remastered version of "Live At Last" and disc two features live performances for the vintage 70's years of Sabbath. The material is all good to excellent, however, the recording quality and production isn't top notch. It's all listenable, but is really tantamount to a bootleg, rather than an official live release. The songs seem untouched with little or no studio fixes. Every crack in Ozzy's voice is left in. My favorite tracks on this disc are "Hole in the Sky," "Symptom of the Universe" and "Megalomania" all pulled from the never released, 1975 King Biscuit Flower Hour performance. "Black Sabbath," "N.I.B." and "Hand of Doom" are taken from the infamous 1970 Paris concert. These tracks sound like they were transfered directly from a tape, hiss and all. So, while this is a cool disc for the Black Sabbath die-hard like myself, I doubt it would be of much use to a casual fan. Nice booklet with tons of vintage photos and a decent essay on the band's Ozzy years as well.

Black Sabbath - Symptom of the Universe: The Original Black Sabbath (1970-1978)
(Rhino) 2002

1. "Black Sabbath" (6:17)
2. "N.I.B." (5:23)
3. "The Wizard" (4:21)
4. "Warning" (10:35)
5. "Evil Woman" (3:23)
6. "Paranoid" (2:49)
7. "Iron Man" (5:56)
8. "War Pigs" (7:56)
9. "Fairies Wear Boots" (6:16)
10. "Sweet Leaf" (5:05)
11. "Children of the Grave" (5:17)
12. "Into the Void" (6:14)
13. "Lord of This World" (5:24)


14. "After Forever" (5:26)
15. "Snowblind" (5:29)
16. "Laguna Sunrise" (2:50)
17. "Changes" (4:43)
18. "Tomorrow's Dream" (3:08)
19. "Supernaut" (4:44)
20. "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (5:44)
21. "Fluff" (4:09)
22. "Sabbra Cadabra" (5:56)
23. "Am I Going Insane" [Radio version] (4:15)
24. "Symptom of the Universe" (6:28)
25. "Hole in the Sky" (4:00)
26. "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor" (3:26)
27. "Dirty Women" (7:14)
28. "Never Say Die" (3:49)
29. "A Hard Road" (6:00)

Just what the world needs, yet another compilation of Black Sabbath hits. This is really overkill considering there are already so many 'hits' packages and compilations. Even Ozzy recently released discs with Sabbath classics. So, why did I buy this disc if it's a waste of plastic and paper? Well, actually I got it from BMG to fulfill my contract and to get a bunch of other CDs for free. That being the case, this collection is actually pretty nice. The packaging itself is rather nice, with a black slipcase enclosed with two digipack discs and a 50-page full color book. The book contains a ton of vintage photos as well as a pretty indepth biography of the Ozzy years of Black Sabbath. Of course no one will complain about the track listing. The songs here are all classics, with track selected from every Ozzy-era Black Sabbath disc. There is even the inclusion of the somewhat rare "Evil Woman" that was never 'officially' released in the U.S. So, while the world really doesn't need another Black Sabbath best of disc, this one is actually pretty nice.

Dio Years Black Sabbath - The Dio Years (Rhino) 2007

1. "Neon Knights" (3:49)
2. "Lady Evil" (4:22)
3. "Heaven And Hell" (6:56)
4. "Die Young" (4:41)
5. "Lonely Is The Word" (5:49)
6. "The Mob Rules" (3:14)
7. "Turn Up The Night" (3:42)
8. "Voodoo" (4:32)
9. "Falling Off The Edge Of The World" (5:02)
10. "After All (The Dead)" (5:37)
11. "TV Crimes" (3:58)
12. "I" (5:10)
13. "Children Of The Sea" [live] (6:08)
14. "The Devil Cried" (6:01)
15. "Shadow Of The Wind" (5:40)
16. "Ear In The Wall" (4:06)

About a year ago or more, rumor spread throughout the metal underground that a new Black Sabbath box set was to be released that would focus on the Dio years of the band. Being a fan of both the Ozzy and Dio eras of Sabbath (as well as the lone Ian Gillan album), I was excited about the possibility of hearing such a collection. What got instead is this single disc 'best of' collection. Just to get it out of the way now, there is one glaring omission from this CD. How can there be a compilation of the best of the Dio years that does not include "Sign Of The Southern Cross"? This song is one of Sabbath's finest cuts ever. This complaint aside, "The Dio Years" is a decent overview of the short lived Dio era of the band. The collection is a sixteen track retrospective covering featuring thirteen tracks spanning four albums, as well as three newly-recorded tracks. Five tracks from Heaven make it to this set, where four from successor, Mob Rules, show up. All the chosen tracks are great, although I could have easily trade out "Falling Off the Edge of the World" for "Sign of the Southern Cross". Tracks 10-12 are from the 1992 Dehumanizer album, which was when Dio and Sabbath first rekindled their relationship, albeit for a short time. Beside the three tracks included, I might also have suggest including "Master Of Insanity" or "Time Machine". Either way, I am glad that this short lived reunion album was given fare time on this compilation. Only one track, "Children of the Sea" was chosen from "Live Evil". Again, this was a good choice. The last three songs are all newly recorded and are obviously included to entice die-hard Sabbath fans to purchase this collection of songs that most fans will already have. "The Devil Cried" was getting some airplay on my local Clearchannel station for weeks before this disc was released. It's a good song, as are the other two. Dio still sounds great, and Iommi is still the riff master. Overall, "The Dio Years" is a good retrospective of a classic era in the Black Sabbath saga. However, it's a shame the rumored box set wasn't release. Early rumors were that the box set would include a classic live performance from the Hammersmith Odeon from 1981. Instead this live CD is being sold exclusively through the Rhino website and only 5000 numbered copies are being released.

Live At Hammersmith
Black Sabbath - Live At Hammersmith Odeon
(Rhino Handmade) 2007

1. "E5150" (1:19)
2. "Neon Knights" (4:37)
3. "N.I.B." (5:16)
4. "Children of the Sea" (6:07)
5. "Country Girl" (3:53)
6. "Black Sabbath" (8:24)
7. "War Pigs" (7:40)
8. "Slipping Away" (3:18)
9. "Iron Man" (7:05)
10. "The Mob Rules" (3:33)
11. "Heaven and Hell" (14:24)
12. "Paranoid" (3:21)
13. "Voodoo" (5:44)
14. "Children of the Grave" (5:03)

Ronnie James Dio

"Live At Hammersmith" is a 5000 copy, limited edition CD put out by Rhino Handmade Records. Hot on the heals of the recently released "Dio Years" single disc compilation and the Heaven & Hell world tour, "Live At Hammersmith became the fastest selling CD on the label, selling out all 5000 copies the day they were listed on the website. Within a week of it's release, copies were showing up on Ebay with bids upwards of $100. Several had starting bids of $140. OUCH! Each CD is numbered. (Mine is 3883/5000). According to the Rhino website this album was originally released as a double LP. The disc is 14 tracks running about 79 minutes! The CD is wrapped by a three panel digi and includes a 16 page booklet and an inlay card promoting "The Dio Years" collection. Long before this CD was released, rumor had it that this show was originally to be released in the "Dio Years" box set that was scrapped.

"Live At Hammersmith" was originally recorded on December 31, 1981 at London's Hammersmith Odeon. The show captures Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and drummer Vinny Appice during Sabbath's 1981 tour for Mob Rules. Personally I found this live album to be even better than the officially released "Live Evil" album. The band seems to be enjoying themselves on stage and all members give a spectacular output. There are a couple songs here that didn't make it to "Live Evil" as well, including "Country Girl" and "Slipping Away". The band also performs several pre-Dio classics including "Paranoid," "Children Of The Grave" and a smokin' version of "War Pigs."

13 Black Sabbath - 13 (Vertigo) 2013

1. End of the Beginning (8:07
2. God Is Dead? (8:54)
3. Loner (5:06)
4. Zeitgeist (4:28)
5. Age of Reason (7:02)
6. Live Forever (4:49)
7. Damaged Soul (7:43)
8. Dear Father (7:06)

1. Methademic (5:58)
2. Peace of Mind (3:41)
3. Pariah (5:35)
4. Naïveté In Black (3:51)

"13" is the first full length studio record from Black Sabbath in 18 years (not counting Heaven & Hell) and their first in with Ozzy Osbourne 36 years. Though the album is titled "13", it's actually their 19th studio album. Initially the Black Sabbath "reunion" and album were to include the original four members in 2011. Unfortunately the "reunion" is without drummer Bill Ward. Ward attempted some last minute legal negotiations on his contract with the band, but instead was nixed from the reunion. The project was also delayed briefly due to Tony Iommi's diagnosis of lymphoma. The recording process had to be scheduled around Iommi's cancer treatments. For this record, drummer Brad Wilk, known mostly for his work with  Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave was brought in to fill the drum slot. All lyrics were written by Geezer Butler and Ozzy, and all music was written by Tony Iommi. According to interviews with Iommi, the album was recorded mostly live in the studio including the solos. The album is produced by Rick Rubin, who recently produced an album for ZZ Top that really captured their classic sound. As such, my hope was that Rubin would help Sabbath to capture their classic sound. 

Of course all that information is pointless if the album doesn't deliver. In short, Black Sabbath 2013 deliver the goods like is was still the 1970's. Though some will make the claim that the overall album is to derivative of the classic Sabbath albums, it is sure to please most longtime, classic Sabbath fans. Though the production is more modern, the songs have that classic, heavy atmosphere that they delivered on albums like "Master of Reality" and "Vol. 4". Tony belts out one sludgy guitar riff after the other from the opening moments of "End of the Beginning" until the album ends. Iommi is still the riff master. Of course the big question is, can Ozzy still deliver? Though Ozzy has never been a great vocalist, what he lacks in singing skills he makes up for with charisma, character and emotion. Though  he will never sound exactly like he did 35 years ago, he does sound great. 

"God is Dead?" is the first single for the album and is nearly nine minutes long. The song has a sinister feel as Geezer's wall of sound bass blends with Iommi's crunchy guitar tones. The question is sure to be asked, what is the song about? Frankly, I have no idea. In par to the song Ozzy sings, "The blood runs free, the rain turns red, give me the wine, you keep the bread. The voices echo in my head, Is God alive or is God dead?...Do you believe a word, what the Good Book said? Or is it just a holy fairytale, and God is dead? God is Dead. Right! But still the voices in my head are telling me that God is dead. The blood pours down, the rain turns red. I don’t believe that God is dead! God is Dead." "Zeitgeist" is the shortest song on the album and is a melancholy number and could perhaps be labeled a ballad. Those familiar with the band's 70's material won't be surprised to hear an acoustic song of this nature. The song sits comfortably in the middle of the CD and helps keep the album from getting monotonous. Follow-up track "Age of Reason" is an epic song that builds and ends with well over a minute of killer guitar solo. However, the song that really blew me away was "Loner" thanks in part to a killer riff and an amazing Tony Iommi solo.

The Best Buy Deluxe Version of the CD came with a bonus disc with four bonus tracks. I half expected these songs to be out-takes or weak b-sides, but that is not the case. Surprisingly all four tracks are as good as the album tracks. "Naïveté In Black" in particular is a song reminiscent of "Neon Knights" and really should have been an album track. Though it's a shorter song, it's up-beat, heavy and catchy.

Black Sabbath are one of the bands that shaped and created heavy metal. Though many bands have attempted to copy the Sabbath sound, few can match the chemistry of Iommi and Butler. Four decades later and they are still able to deliver the goods. "13" delivers on all fronts. It will probably never replace the classics in most fan's minds, but it certainly is another fine album to add to the collection. 

Also see Heaven & Hell.

Related Collections:
Heaven & Hell | Iommi | Ozzy | G/Z//R | Dio | Gillan | Glenn Hughes

Black Sabbath
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