Overlooked by fans and the band alike, this album, coupled with Sabotage, marks Sabbath's finest hour. As accomplished, coherent, brilliantly produced, orchestrated, sung and played as anything put out that decade, Sabbath skimmed the surface of the prog rock movement without getting bogged down in pretension. Makes previous Sabbath albums seem workmanlike. Sister album Sabotage a bit more hit and miss, but should be played together with this - The Writ, Spiral Architect, A National Acrobat, Looking for Today, Hole in the Sky and Thrill of it All widdle on the likes of Iron Man, Faries Wear Boots and NIB from a very great height. Following up such genius proved impossible, and both Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die wilt by comparison.
The 2009 remasters really are worth shelling out for - even if, like me, it's your third or fourth copy. There is a noticeable improvement to the sound, which is more than my ears could detect on The Beatles or Stones remasters. With a great booklet of pictures, a 2 page lyric sheet, an article putting the album in context (with contributions from Bill Ward) and a nice mid-price, this for me is an essential purchase. And yes, I'll still probably buy the Deluxe Version if they ever get round to releasing one.