Saturday, February 13, 2016

BLACK SABBATH TURNS 46



Rainfall, thunder and the distant chiming of a bell herald those ominous three notes that kick off the first Black Sabbath album, which was released 46 years ago today. Recorded quickly in a 12 hour session, their pre-production prep was achieved by playing the songs nightly as part of a rigorous gigging schedule. At the time, guitarist Tony Iommi was criticized for pulling too heavily from the playbook of Eric Clapton (listen to his solo segments during "Warning") and the disc received little in the way of positive mention in the music publications of that era.

Ain't it funny how time slips away

Side one of this set is spotless, with signature guitar riffs, Satan, wizards and exceptional ensemble playing all present and accounted for. In truth, none of the group members pledged allegiance to anything more than making loud, energetic rock. The lyrical subject matter came out of group discussions about how people paid good money to be frightened out of their seats by horror films. It was left to Terry Butler (Geezer to his friends) to craft similarly scary scenarios to accompany their ponderous, inventive compositions. The best of these are the time-signature shifting title track and "Behind the Wall of Sleep", both of which retain their power and originality. The key here is that the material is captured live, without 150 takes to rob the end product of energy.

Side two features two covers ("Evil Woman", pulled as a single and "Warning", which tends to drag) and doesn't come close to the electric thrill created during the first stretch. Ozzy has yet to find his helium voice and sounds as if he hasn't completely cleared his throat at times, though he is excused because of the lighting speed in which this recording was executed.

For collectors, the UK vinyl version included "Evil Woman" and an elaborate gatefold sleeve. The North American release removed this tune, opting instead to insert its B-side ("Wicked World").

Excellent in many respects, "Black Sabbath" is the gold standard in what would soon come to be known as heavy metal. You can crank it up and enjoy right here.

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