Black Sabbath – “Black Sabbath” (1970)

June 18, 2011 at 1:12 pm (Black Sabbath, Music, Reviews & Articles)

This short review of the first Sabbath album comes from Hit Parader, March 1971, by Mike Dillon…

Magic has finally wormed out of the drug attached stigma, come out from behind the “psychedelic” album covers and pretentious arrangements and found its way into a hard rock environment. Black Sabbath (the name of the group, their first album, and the first cut on the album), is frightening, frenzied, driving, satanical and excellently played, arranged and produced. Four musicians who I have never heard of before lay down one of the heaviest magic-music statements you’ll ever hear.

This album is a far cry from 90 percent of the junk that gets passed off as rock these days. From the opening thunderstorm of the last scream you hear only solid head-throbbing original rhythms, designed to reinforce your perception of the supernatural, evil powers that roam the earth. After listening to Ozzie Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink Leave a Comment

Ronnie James Dio: Man on the Silver Mountain

May 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm (Black Sabbath, Music, Reviews & Articles)

I just read that Ronnie James Dio passed away today at the age of 67 from stomach cancer. I’m definitly in shock, as I didn’t even realize he was sick.

The former Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Elf heavy metal singer, who was fronting the new version of Sabbath, now known as Heaven & Hell, and who popularized the famous devil horn symbol, was definitely one of the great singers of the genre, with his piercing, high-pitched voice. It still amazes me that he was singing as well in his mid-’60s as he did 30 years ago.

It is also amazing to think that Dio had been singing since the late 1950’s, starting out singing rockabilly, of all things. It wasn’t until the band The Electric Elves, who soon became Elf, in the early 1970s, that he started heading in the musical direction of hard rock and heavy metal. In 1975 he joined Ritchie Blackmore’s band Rainbow, and from there he became the Dio everyone knew, with his first big song, “Man on the Silver Mountain,“ probably the best thing Rainbow ever did.

I remember listening to him a lot back when I was a teenager in the ’80s, and I still listened to him every now and again. I believe Sabbath’s Mob Rules, from 1981, was his best all-around album — every song on it is a classic. But of course, Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain,” Sabbath’s “Heaven and Hell” and his own “Rainbow in the Dark” and “Holy Diver” are also classics of the genre. His most recent album with Heaven & Hell, The Devil You Know, was probably the best thing he had done in many years. Working with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler again seemed to revitalize him.

His passing is definitely a huge loss to the world of heavy metal, and to Heaven & Hell, who were supposed to go out on tour this summer.

May Ronnie rest in eternal peace. He will certainly never be forgotten. He was a classy guy and one of the great singers of our time.

Jay Mucci

Permalink 1 Comment

Ozzy Osbourne – “Beyond Black Sabbath” (1977)

January 18, 2010 at 1:12 am (Black Sabbath, Music, Reviews & Articles)

An interesting article by Tony Stewart from the NME, Dec. 3, 1977, during the brief period when Ozzy left Black Sabbath and was prepared to form a new band called The Blizzard of Ozz. That would have to wait a couple of years though, because Ozzy returned to Sabbath for one more album (1978’s Never Say Die) before being fired, and going off to solo fame with Randy Rhoads. Ozzy talks about how he was turning into an alcoholic during his years with Sabbath, and that he had to leave the band before he killed himself. He also talks about wanting a quieter life. We all know that the craziness was really only beginning, as he was anything but a teetotalling quiet man during the ’80s. But we catch him here in a moment of reflection…


In the past Ozzy Osbourne has often over-dramatised the state of both his mental and physical health, but as he now relates his reasons for leaving Black Sabbath he shudders convincingly.

Never one to ignore a theatrical moment, he lurks in the shadows of the lounge in his remote Staffordshire cottage. Flames from the open fire seem to leap at his back, and outside a howling wind batters noisily into the windows and doors like a collecting agency from the graveyard.

He couldn’t have engineered a better setting, as he announces that if he hadn’t quit the Sabs he would have become an alcoholic, and eventually would have been carried offstage in his coffin.

“I was drinking like a fish for two years,” Ozzy explains. “It was just getting worse and worse, off one thing and on to another. Finally I nearly ended up an alcoholic.

“We’d come offstage, for instance, and I’d just go straight to the bar. Perhaps I’d meet one of the band there, but I wouldn’t drink for the sake of having a good time. I’d just drink to get out of the way.

“And that’s when you’ve got to say to yourself, ‘Hey man, there’s something wrong’.

“You’re just going through the day, just to get on the stage for an hour to do your gig, just to go home, get stoned and go to bed. The next day’s the same. There was no excitement.

“I would have been dead in two or three years if I’d carried on. I know I would. And I don’t think anything’s worth giving your life up for.”

Although the official statement about Osbourne’s departure was only recently made, it’s now two months since he left. He had walked out before, he says, but had always reconsidered his position and returned.

This time he refused.

Of course, something must have caused him to go on his two year binge, when he found it necessary to be drunk by mid-afternoon. But he’s still not entirety sure why he was in such a desperate state, and even feels guilty about leaving.

“I realise I’ve let a lot of people down,” he comments sadly. “because it’s never going to be the same again for the people who liked Sabbath then.

“We haven’t left on bad terms. But who knows – it may turn out that way, because time has a weird way of eroding a friendship. I wouldn’t say the band screwed me up. But there were a lot of personality clashes.”

As the interview unfolds it’s apparent that he had innumerable reasons for getting out.

Musically he was frustrated. He was caught in a vicious trap of not liking their last album, which many reviewers thought was some kind of progression, and yet being bored with concert audiences demanding the same old material all the time.

When it’s suggested that heavy metal is doomed because of the emergence of punk, and maybe he scampered off before his credibility was undermined further, he partly agrees. Only partly, though.

He admits that the idea of Sabbath using elaborate studio facilities and orchestras when recording was ridiculous.

“That’s rubbish to me,” he says angrily. “You can get away with it with Yes and ELP, but Black Sabbath was a backstreet band – like the punk thing, if you like.

“I’m not saying we were before punk, but in our own way we were what the punk groups are now: a people’s band.

“I don’t want to play it, but I’m into the new wave because you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to listen to it. It’s just a simple, down-to-earth music that people can tap out on a tin lid.”

Even so, Ozzy has a sneaking suspicion that the Sabs themselves had realised their days were numbered, and that to survive a radical new image was needed.

“I don’t know whether it was a subtle way to get me out of the band,” he muses aloud. “Because they knew they had to change, and the only way they could was by getting a different front man.

“People don’t really know how black my Sabbath was over the years,” he chuckles.

“All I wanted to do was make records and get on that stage, and that’s all I should have to do. But you’ve got to be like Bamber Gascoigne to wade through all the pieces of paper that are involved to get up there and do it.

“I think the business is fucked. There are too many people sitting on their arseholes and doing nothing for vast amounts of money. There’s so much talent out there who’re so frightened to get involved, because they think they’re going to end up floating down the River Thames in a pair of concrete wellingtons.

“The business,” he decides, with what seems obvious good reason, “is like a rosy red apple at the front, with a big crab at the back.”

You might, in the light of this, expect him to scarry straight away from it all – but instead he is going to form his own band, The Blizzard Of Oz. Knowing how the business operates, and suffering it for nine years with Sabbath, it seems somewhat perverse for him to want to return.

Already the carrion crows of the industry have swooped down at him.

“I’ve been approached by several sharks and crooks in the business,” he explains, “and some of the deals I’ve been offered went out with Al Capone.”

He is willing to try again because this time, he optimistically predicts, he’ll do it differently.

In a field behind his cottage he has parked a red and white coach, and when the new band is formed they’ll live in this while tearing small venues and universities – whereas with Sabbath he hit the big time too quickly and couldn’t handle it.

“We all thought we were tin gods. But at the end of the day it just turned round and kicked us in the teeth. I just want a simple life for a while. I just want to be an ordinary, everyday, run-of-the-mill guy.

“Inside I ain’t a tin god. I ain’t a tin of beans walking around. And that’s what I began to feel like: a product. ‘Buy Ozzy Osbourne and he’ll clean your carpet faster than anything else’.

“I’ll do it again, but I’ll do it comfortably. I won’t ever let myself be prostituted again.”

At the moment his future is by no means certain. He still wants to play rock, but hasn’t yet found musicians to work with. If it doesn’t work out for him then he’ll start labouring jobs, as he doubts if he even has enough money saved to support him for a year.

But his enthusiasm refuses to allow him to seriously consider that possibility. He’ll form the Blizzard, he says breezily, it’s best that his process of selecting the right guy is rigorous. “I don’t want any ego-trippers, I don’t want any suck-arses, and I don’t want any leeches. And I don’t want any people to think they’re going to walk into a band and expect it to be there!

“It’s like the man who climbed the mountain. Once he’s climbed the mountain what does he do? Lie down for the rest of his life? There’s another mountain he can climb up the road.”

With that, Ozzy peers cautiously out of his lounge window, almost as if he expected Everest to have been spirited into his back garden.

Tony Stewart

Permalink Leave a Comment

Heaven & Hell – “The Devil You Know” (2009)

January 16, 2010 at 3:34 pm (Black Sabbath, Music, Reviews & Articles)

This April 27, 2009 Sputnik Music review was written by Tyler Munro. Heaven & Hell, of course, is simply the Mob Rules-era version of Black Sabbath, featuring the incomparable and ageless Ronnie James Dio. This was a great comeback for Tony Iommi and the boys. Hopefully more is to come…


Heaven and Hell’s The Devil You Know is an album based on lies and misdirection. First and perhaps most notably is the band’s line-up. While they are of course a Dio-fronted four-piece consisting of Black Sabbath alumni Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice, the incarnation of Heaven and Hell that appears on The Devil You Know is not the line-up that recorded Heaven and Hell, but instead the line-up from its 1981 follow-up Mob Rules (as well as its 1992 follow-up Dehumanizer). Then there’s the misdirection. To put it plainly, a four-piece band with a combined age of 235 should not be relevant in a post-9/11 heavy metal scene. More specifically, they shouldn’t be good. Heaven and Hell is both of these and more. The Devil You Know is better than good (see: great) and it proves that these old geezers (one of whom is named Geezer) are as relevant and powerful as ever.

Somewhat of an Italian Bilbo Baggins, Ronnie James Dio is undoubtedly Heaven and Hell’s main selling point. In spite of his undeniable oldness, Dio can still belt with the best of them, something he demonstrates with ageless vigour throughout The Devil You Know‘s 53-minutes. While Dio does at times sound like his lungs are on the verge of exploding, fans of the New Hampshire born singer know that it’s because of how much he puts into his vocals and not so much because of the fact that he’s on the wrong side of 60. And let’s put that in perspective for a second: Ronnie James Dio is, at the time of writing, 66 years old. I think that’s what establishes consistency, though. He was pushing forty when Heaven and Hell’s fake-eponymous album was released, so really, Dio has sounded old for the last 30 years. In a lot of ways, that’s what makes The Devil You Know such a natural listen. The return of Geezer Butler certainly helps. Reuniting with pseudo-Sabbath for the first time since 1994’s Cross Purposes, Butler’s trademark paradoxical bass-work provides a sturdy spine for his band mates to build off. He’s still a master of deception, which I guess is why he fits so well with the band. As always, Butler has the ability to play root notes 98% of the time and still sound impressive because he has an unmistakable sense of melody. When he deviates, it’s worth it.

It’s hard to mistake The Devil You Know for anything but a comeback album, but what’s impressive is that it doesn’t sound like one. Unlike most comeback or anniversary releases, The Devil You Know isn’t superfluous. It comes off as more than fodder for a live-show. It doesn’t sound like a comeback album, it is a comeback album—and a hell of a good one at that. Instead of following a formula: a little “Heaven and Hell” here, a little “Neon Knights” there, The Devil You Know successfully carves out a sound for the band. They don’t re-create anything, they build off of it. While that may lessen certain tracks’ individual impact, it makes the album stronger as a whole. I could go on to explain how shocking the initial oomph of “Atom & Evil” is; I could talk about the excellent vocal harmonies in “Double the Pain”; I could talk about a lot of things, but in the end the specifics don’t matter. What matters is that The Devil You Know is exactly what heavy metal needs: Rob Lowe, the current queen of doom metal melodrama, loses his crown with the Return of the King Ronnie James Dio; Tony Iommi comes out and proves that his fingers aren’t as old as his hair plugs; Geezer Butler proves that bass can be both understated impressive and Vinnie Appice makes us miss Bill Ward. See, Vinnie Appice is a good drummer, but his drumming lacks personality. Unlike Dio, Iommi and Butler, Appice is far from distinguishable. Luckily he’s far from terrible and perfectly adequate: I’d rather have him be inconsequential than overbearingly awful.

The Devil You Know invites both shock and reassurance. Shockingly good but reassuringly gimmick-free, The Devil You Know is not only the best Dio or Sabbath release in over a decade but a front-runner for heavy metal album of the year.

Tyler Munro

Permalink Leave a Comment

Black Sabbath – “E5150″/”The Mob Rules” (1981)

October 18, 2008 at 3:08 am (Black Sabbath, Music)

One of the great songs from the Ronnie James Dio-era of Sabbath…

Permalink Leave a Comment

« Previous page