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3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 11 January 2007
It makes a change to read a music related book that doesn't follow the same cliched patterns as their subject matter. You know the story ... Fresh faced youngsters produce great original music, downward spiral into drugs, depravity and despair, saved by God/Gym/Guru/Betty Ford/whatever - who cares. Hey! here I am/he is folks either dead or clean. I/he did it so you don't have to, now give me your cash!

This is much more interesting and is about the author and his love affair with his favourite band. He examines the era in which the music was created and the events which may or may not have helped shape it. This is intertwined with his own story.

The book takes a look at the classic and most interesting era 1970-76 Sabbath albums, discuss the merits or not of each individual song. It reminded me of the discussions we had at school, although this is much more intelligent and considered than "name the the heaviest songs ever written". If you've read Revolution in the Head by Ian MacDonald you might recognise the format. However, to me this book seemed a little more personal and less like an essay. Before they invented Playstation, Xbox, Computers, and all the other teenage distractions music was really all us working class kids had to alleviate the boredom. Not a complaint I might add, a blessing that enhanced my life considerably.

I might not always agree with the authors opinions but I felt I could relate to them. I have my own story and fave songs. The book is written with sincerity and passion and that really struck a chord (sic) with me. Often passion is what is sadly missing in many of the books written about bands and even though the author is an ardent Sabbath supporter he is also only too aware of the bands limitations as musicians and human beings. Much better than the often, fawning, sycophantic, and insincere or tabloid muck raking so prevalent amongst lazy music authors written only to ca$h in.

Altogether this book is a superb read. For those without music knowledge it may be a little hard to digest some of the more technical, musical commentry. This however, is explained in footnotes and in the Glossary if you can be bothered. I personally found it very hard to put down. So will you, particularly if, like me you love all things 70's, music and Black Sabbath. (Ozzy Oddbin - Sack Sabbath 10/1/07).
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on 27 June 2006
At long last, a decent book on Black Sabbath! Wilkinson avoids the much told stories of drug abuse, bat biting, and the rest and concentrates on the most important thing - the music. Very close in spirit to Ian MacDonald's 'Revolution in the Head' (by far, the best book out there on The Beatles), 'Rat Salad' is an excellent, entertaining and informative read and is not only the best book out there on Sabbath (the others don't even come close) but is one of the best books on rock I've come across. Beautifully written and truly heartbreaking in places, the book has 'cult classic' written all over it.
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on 14 June 2006
In short - the best Sabbath book I've ever read. Highly recommended, whether you're a fan of the group or just of a good read. When's the sequel, Paul?
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on 12 July 2006
Not the kind of book I would normally read but being trapped on a family holiday with nothing else to do I borrowed it off my dad and was massively surprised. It's great. A true feast of a book and, since my knowledge of Ozzie was previously restricted to watching his TV show, it was a real eye opener. An intelligent read. Recommended.
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on 7 January 2009
I have read so many books over the years that claim to be 'unputdownable' - this is the only book that I've read that would fit that description. I have to admit from the outset that I am a dyed in the wool Black Sabbath fan but if anything I'm probably harder to please than the casual reader of rock literature.

Black Sabbath was the first album I ever bought - shortly before my 14th birthday. My mum though I was into a strange satanic cult - I was just completely and utterly blown away by the music. Paul Wilkinson took me right back to when I was fourteen, sitting in my bedroom with my record player turned up to full volume and watching the hypnotic Vertigo label as it spun around at 33 and a 1/3 rpm.

I loved the way he weaves world events together with the lives of the band members and the detail he gives on each song on the six albums they released over the period.

In virtually every instance I have identical views about the songs - most of the songs are awesome although there are a small number of turkeys.

I have to disagree with one of the other reviewers who suggests a sequel - this book says it all - there would be no point in covering BS after 1975 because for the true Sabbath fan that's when it all sadly came to an end. I do like the author's style so I hope he finds another subject to write about - I'll definitely buy his next book!

Congratulations to Paul Wilkinson on a fantastic book - one which I will cherish and re-read whenever I'm feeling nostalgic.
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on 12 July 2006
Great read. Reminded me of growing up with my two older brothers who would play Sabbath endlessly - at that time, not a fan!
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on 17 May 2007
An EXCELLENT book, humorously written, packed full of fascinating detail and brimming with the author's enthusiasm for the band. Yoo will NOT find a better book on Black Sabbath than this, and even if you're not a fan of the band this is a ripping read. Older, more established Sabbath freaks will read this and go back to the records with fresh ears, hearing and understanding new things about the music. A truly sensational achievement from an astounding author. The best book on rock I have ever read.
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on 28 January 2009
I started this with the best intentions. I'd read others' reviews in here and was taken aback by their negativity, feeling that perhaps they expected a catalogue of on-the-road debachery only to be let down, being challenged by an unusual format. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a positive review - quoted on the cover - by Matthew Collings of all people (Art Critic). Amazed in fact.

But, then I too began to find the book difficult to take seriously:
* 1/4 author autobiography;
* 1/4 current events of each period.
* 1/2 album reviews - which are far too technical and largely lack any mention of the artists' creative intentions, inspiration and process.

Too programmatic, too contrived, a struggle to get through.

What galls me most is the lack of first-hand material from personal interviews. He admits at the outset that he hasn't done this, but it's the major fault with the book. Instead, he's used other peoples' material - sparsely - and padded out the rest with egotistical reminiscences, LISTS of news events and references to his own expansive knowledge of the arts.

I've been watching the 'Last Supper' Reunion DVD and have really enjoyed the interviews with the band. I've never before had this access to their world and creative process. A joy.

The book is so subjective that you'll probably learn no more about the music or the band in it than you will from reading the album reviews - from ordinary fans - on this site.

This book then? A misguided waste of my time and money. Matthew Collings must be a friend of the author. That's the only explanation I can come up with.
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on 2 April 2009
This is the best Sabbath book for the following reasons:

1. It restricts itself to the Ozzy years.
2. It is intelligently written and an interesting read
3. It gets to the essence of the music and does not slavishly follow the 'Heavy Metal' line. Let's face it HM wasn't invented back then and the vast majority of it is utter rubbish. Sabbath were just a heavier blues/jazz band with a unique sound. It's like blaming the Beatles for Oasis!!
4. It puts the music in context with some good scene-setting of the 1970s.
5. It draws some wild and fanciful comparisons to highbrow culture. Even if they are incorrect it is (again) a good read.

My only criticism is that because Technical Ecstasy is a terrible LP it assumes that Never Say Die is also. This is a big mistake. NSD was the direction of the future for Sabbath and totally ruined by what followed. Also a bit muso-ish in parts.

However it gets 5 stars for being the best book yet about my favourite band.
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on 13 August 2009
First things first, this is not of biography of Black Sabbath. But it doesn't claim to be. The blurb states this is analysing the songs from the first six albums. Just thought I should warn anyone who wants to read lots of anecdotes about Sabbath this isn't for you. The author doesn't know the band and didn't try to interview them for this. It isn't pretending to be a biography, this is something else. If you want a biography buy "how black was our Sabbath".

With that out the way; the book is formatted covering the six albums chronologically. You get a chapter on the context of each album followed by a chapter on the album.

The chapters on the context of the album cover a range of things going on at the time. They try to place the albums within the historical context of the rest of the world. This is a busy period of history covering Vietnam, Watergate, the rise of Thatcher and so. He discusses what other albums came out at the same time and where Sabbaths albums sat in the charts in comparison to these. The author usually discusses what was happening to himself as well. These anecdotes range from his first contact with a Sabbath album through to his first kiss. Some of these anecdotes are interesting, some just distract from a bigger picture. Then you get a quick overview of what Black Sabbath were up to between each album, which for most of this period is the same: touring.

The chapters analysing the albums begin with a bit of background on the albums; what problems there are in the band, producers, managers, etc. Then you get a very detailed technical analysis of each song. These will be very dull if you have no knowledge or interest in knowing about which songs were detuned by three semitones, taking an e minor to a c sharp. If you have no knowledge of musical theory it is unlikely that you will enjoy the analysis of each song. Even if you do know musical theory they may still drag as ultimately if I wanted to know the songs structure I'd have bought a song book. Also this is a book that is going to be read by fans they already know how the songs sound. When he looks at the lyrics the analysis is good, but there just isn't enough of this.

The book sets out to explore the appeal of Black Sabbath and begins very well. It discusses the uniqueness of the bands sound at the time the album was released and since. It discusses the appeal of lyrics and the simple fact that it was downtuned. The problem is as the book goes on this focus is lost. It becomes more purely a technical analysis of the songs it loses the emotive appeal of Sabbath. He's chosen a very subjective way at looking at the band and this is where it falls down. People reading it are not all going to be attracted to the music of Sabbath for the same reasons he is. It makes a lot of the chapters a bit tedious.

In summary the chapters on context are interesting. They bring together a wide series of happenings to place the Sabbath albums in context. Not an easy job, but done quite well. The chapters on the albums start off well, but by the end I was fed up with hearing the same description of how the key changed and so on. The author is stuck in the mind set that music ended in the 70's, which gets in the way at times. It was an ambitious way of looking at Black Sabbaths albums and it just comes a bit short in explaining the appeal of the band.
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