Here we are again... the Saturday morning ritual... the mood setting music: 1978's soundtrack from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, and where SABBATH did not snatch my entire body back in... oh, '75, or '76, they certainly snatched my ears, and mind. I have to thank a classmate for bringing in the PARANOID album. Ed? I hope you're still playing bass! We had a great teacher who, if we had been good and worked hard, would allow music to be played in the final 15 minutes of class. One day it was LED ZEPPELIN, but then one day, what's this? One of the most compellingly eldritch riffs I've ever heard... lots of phase shifting... or maybe a flanger (or maybe both)... an ominous vocal delivery warning us of the "fallout" from nuclear war. I've read that BLACK SABBATH's music either alienated you from the beginning or pulled you right in... again, thanks... ELECTRIC FUNERAL "snatched" me and hurled me into the heart of their brilliant musical axis.
I was once told that BLACK SABBATH is THE most important rock group. Consider this: they were, perhaps the first to hit us with that enormously heavy wall of sound (sure it was in the wake of HENDRIX, CREAM [who Ozzy even reports was a big influence on him], THE KINKS, and THE WHO, but they didn't do it quite like SABBATH). Hard rock up to the present still presents with that loud, heavy wall of sound, and I'll be hard pressed to meet a "hard rocker" who doesn't owe some sort of debt to these squires from Brimingham.
The original line-up's work is represented very nicley here spanning their eponymous debut through the anticipated release of '75's SABATOGE. From one show you get three great diplomats from SABATOGE: MEGALOMANIA, HOLE IN THE SKY, and, perhaps my favorite SABBATH tune, SYMPTOM OF THE UNIVERSE (no doubt, one of their best lyrical endeavors). Returning to their humble, precocious beginnings you're treated to NIB, BEHIND THE WALL OF SLEEP (such an overlooked SABBATH classic), and, of course, their title track, BLACK SABBATH. PARANOID's best elements are featured, as well: FAIRIES WEAR BOOTS, WAR PIGS (is this the definitive hard rock song of all time?), IRON MAN (another hard rock staple), and the title track, which some call their signature song. More great material follows: CHILDREN OF THE GRAVE, TOMORROW's DREAM, a snippet of SUPERNAUT (one of VOL. IV's highlights), and, what a surprise, the atypical CORNUCOPIA (which Bill Ward reports was one of his most difficult tracks to master, due to the odd time signatures [in one account he reports that he almost got fired over this!]). KILLING YOURSELF TO LIVE (from what critics have called SABBATH's finest hour, SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH) shines through, as well. Initial gripe: too bad more material couldn't have been featured from their stellar, mature, and smart 5th release, especially the title track, which is one of their indispensable songs (nice, though, that they included it on the REUNION live CD). Gripe number two: where's WHEELS OF CONFUSION? Furthermore, did they ever perform this live? I don't know... still, one of their best songs, and Ozzy's vocal performance is brilliant, as is the entire ensemble on this tune.
Time to musically "intellectualize"... of the two shows you get the latter is probably clearer, and engineered a bit better; however, the former, pretty much a re-release of LIVE AT LAST, has been cleaned up, re-mastered, and expanded (originally I read that the band weren't happy about LIVE AT LAST being released back in the day, so hopefully this re-release "makes good" on the disappointment). It's also nice to get an honest live release from the original line-up. If you recall LIVE EVIL and SPEAK OF THE DEVIL (both virtuous releases, and highly recommended) were, more or less, released in competition during the "Ozzy" departure, and the "Dio" years. Which brings me to the line-up here. Although I've adored ALL of SABBATH's work (I even got to see, perhaps the most unusual line-up with Ian Gillan singing, and Bev Bevan on drums), from Ozzy to Dio to Gillan to Martin (with the odd reunion thrown in) the original is still the definitive line-up. Anthony (your SG always sounds great, and I'm quite jealous of the sound you achieve), Terrence (great stage presence, and technical skill), William (perhaps the only hard rock drummer who swings), and John (words fail me... you're an iconoclast) formed a unique, resonant musical alchemy with their heavy metal "wall of sound" through power and volume, grandiloquence, great songwriting and musicianship complemented with "Ozzy's" vocal dynamics (angry, serious [again, a nod to ELECTRIC FUNERAL, as well as IRON MAN], grave, scary [for the longest time the song BLACK SABBATH scared the H-E DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS out of me] sad and melodic [tell me his vocal delivery on CHANGES doesn't move you]). If you'd rather start with some of their studio releases, check out PARANOID, their debut release (self-titled), VOLUME IV, and SABATOGE. I'd even recommend HEAVEN AND HELL (Dio's introduction to the SABBATH galaxy was stunning).
A bit of a traumatic memory just surfaced... I was all set to see SABBATH on the NEVER SAY DIE tour in '78 with opening act (new to the scene), VAN HALEN (what a pairing!!!!!, and as I've been told, one great show); however, I got a bad grade in math (ironic since it was in math class that my classmate introduced me to BLACK SABBATH!!!!!!! "Swim the magic ocean I've been crying all these years!!!")... anyway, I learned my "lesson" and never got another bad grade in math... further, I was thrilled to see the BORN AGAIN tour in '83 with unknown future stars RATT opening up!)
It's amusing to think that a local British blues band called EARTH (such a peaceful, friendly, and "down to Earth" name) inadvertently "invented" heavy metal because they couldn't hear themselves over the din of a pub crowd, forcing them to turn their amps up to "distortion" level (if only it could've gone to 11!!!!!!!!!... Geezer Butler once said that at the outset of each tour he has to watch THIS IS SPINAL TAP because he needs to start the tour off on the wrong foot... ha ha ha), coupled with the fact that there was another EARTH that was more popular, moving the future "SABS" to change their name to a Boris Karloff film, opened the floodgates for a musical juggernaut (or should that be "SUPERJUGGERNAUT") that spawned, literally, hard rock and heavy metal. Thanks guys!!!!
To the SABBATH fan, definitely "check it out!!!!"
To the uninitiated... hmmmm... if you're not a fan of hard rock, SABBATH may not be your dose of jelly babies and tea... if you are a fan, I'd suggest the aforementioned studio releases first.
Be well, all... and as always, thanks for taking the time to read this (as well as the others... comments are always welcome; however, I require that they be submitted in writing, in triplicate, and in three different languages [excluding ENGLISH], preferably LATIN, GREEK, and KLINGONESE.
Musically yours, Balthazar "AIR COOL" Platini, III