Black Sabbath? Black Sabbath Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath! “Black Sabbath”. Much as I do love punctuation (and Sabbath) I’ll stop there.
There was a funny moment in about 1992 when suddenly the music press, coming to terms with the fact that every grunge band ever (even the pimply, blatantly fake ones) claimed they owned almost everything to Sabbath, started to pretend that they’d really liked Black Sabbath all along. Hang on! thought all of us long hairs – you’ve mocked and derided us for our tribalism and uncool musical tastes for ever – you can’t steal our Gods. But they did and suddenly Black Sabbath were lauded as one of the most influential bands ever, which they were of course. We knew that.
Almost all of the Ozzy-era Sabbath LPs are perfect and I know they made better ones, but Black Sabbath has a special place in my heart. I own a really cool Vertigo original vinyl copy, with a swirly inner label and everything – in fact I borrowed it from my dad in around 1990. If you discount Hendrix and various heavy blues merchants you could say my dad only owned two hard rock/metal LPs, Thin Lizzy Bad Reputation and this one.
Everything about this record is just perfection – creepy cover image of robed chick in overgrown garden? check; sound of a mournful bell tolling midnight in the rain? check; singer who sounds fearful for his very soul itself? check; the invention of almost every worthwhile metal riff ever recorded? check; LP released on Friday 13th? check; evil? check; scary upside-down cross in the gatefold containing even scarier poem? check; despair? check; three of the best rock musicians ever assembled in one place? check; 1537’s favourite ever rhythm section? check. I could go on, but you’d probably skip off to a better blog.
One of the reasons I like this LP so much is that while it contains some tracks that are undeniably metal, you can really hear their origins in the hard-blues tracks like ‘Warning’ and ‘Wicked World’, the logical progression is there for everyone to see. I really wish I could have heard it when it first came out, it must have just sounded so wrong, so negative – brilliant. No wonder all the critics, reportedly, hated it.
There are undeniable cold classics here such as ‘Black Sabbath’, which is just perfect even before the music starts and unlike lots of songs by lots of other artists, gets even better when it does start, ‘N.I.B’ and ‘The Wizard’, but I even like the more throwaway tracks like the cover ‘Evil Woman’ and the 10-minute ‘Warning’. To be honest I just have the hots for this LP and if the final track was a kazoo-only cover of ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ I would still argue it was a proto-metal classic*, a neglected part of their canon and that it showed a clear progression from, umm, something to something else a bit different. I have no objectivity here, I have to have this LP at least once a month.
I’ll spare you my ramblings on just how great Bill Ward and Geezer Butler are for another time and stash my Tony-Iomni-is-a-genius rant for later on, but what I will say is that if you ever tire of the multi-media buffoon Ozzy either has become / or pretends to be, or appalling 80’s Ozzy in a blouse, then just feast your ears here, when he is in full cry. His voice is every bit as much of an instrument as any other here, his tone perfect throughout, giving every track here just the right texture and feel.
My favourite track on Black Sabbath Black Sabbath? ‘Black Sabbath’ of course.
* Proto being my new prefix of choice which I use wherever possible, even if it’s not proto-relevant.