I found this album so confusing as a teenager - what the hell were piano lament Changes, boinging nonsense FX and cod-Flamenco Laguna Sunrise doing on it? How come I'd never heard them play monster track Wheels of Confusion live? Why could I not warm to Under the Sun or St Vitus Dance?
Years later, I appreciate Volume 4 for what it is - an essential bridge between the the dark Satanic thrills of the first three albums and the more ambitious and accomplished Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Wheels of Confusion is a relentless medley of different riffs, each strong enough to support a separate song. Supernaut is a hugely underrated and joyful explosion of energy, complete with a Santana-esque voodoo carnival interlude. Tomorrows Dream and Snowblind are the album's poppier moments - catchy and chugging mid-tempo songs, propelled by Tony's inventive riffs and Bill Ward's distinctive tight-skinned drumming. The increased experimentation on the album - slow songs, sound effects, acoustic tracks, double-tracking and synthesizers all helped to lay the foundations for Sabbath's musical purple patch with Sabbath Bloody Sabbath.
The 2009 remaster appears to add some bottom-end punch whilst reducing some of the separation and treble - and thereby clarity - from previous releases. This works well on Snowblind and Supernaut, which sound more relentless and pounding than ever, however Cornucopia and Under the Sun just feel gloomier and muddier and Wheels of Confusion has lost some dynamic sparkle. The stereo mix has been swapped round from the 2004 Sanctuary releases, so lead guitars in Cornucopia and Laguna Sunrise now emerge from the right hand speaker - although I've no idea where they sat on the original LP.
A landmark album then, but not perhaps the definitive remastering I was expecting. My iPod will keep a copy of the 2004 Sanctuary release for a while longer.