BLACK SABBATH (part 1 of 2)

BLACK SABBATH – 2 live sets

This is going to be an extremely unpopular opinion, clinic but after having once more listened to all of the Black Sabbath discog with the original lineup, I have to say that, overall, I like the second half better than the first. Of course, I like most all of it, but the first four records, up to “Vol. 4″, suffer from the worst production I think I’ve ever heard coming from a major label act.

Yes, of course, the first four albums have large quantities of sparkling genius (like “Sweet Leaf”, “Snowblind”, “War Pigs”, “Iron Man”, “Black Sabbath”, “N.I.B.”, “Supernaut”, and “Paranoid”, just to name a few off the top of my head), but they all sound like they were recorded in a wind tunnel. The bass tone on the “Paranoid” LP alone is justification for producer Rodger Bain to be taken out and shot; Geezer Butler plays fast and furious, but it comes out sounding overly dry and planky, like a rat scurrying across the deck of a schooner.

Yes, of course, the second four albums (“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”, “Sabotage”, “Technical Ecstasy” and “Never Say Die”) are sometimes not up to snuff in the songwriting department — “Rock And Roll Doctor” being the nadir of Ozzy’s lyric-writing abilities — but somehow they end up being much more listenable experiences for me, with “Never Say Die” holding many great surprises. Maybe it’s because I don’t smoke pot.

No — the exact reason would be that it’s because I don’t smoke pot.

Anyways, give “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” another chance, if you haven’t heard it recently, and also take a gander at the two live sets below –

Black Sabbath – California Jam ’74 (ZIP file)
Black Sabbath – Come To The Sabbath – Paris, France, 12.20.70 (ZIP file)

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863 Responses to BLACK SABBATH (part 1 of 2)

  1. DJ Doughtray says:

    seriously? It must be because I smoke a ton of pot but I love the tone of those early Sabbath albums. Anyway, I’ve been lurking about here for a while, thought I’d chime in and say thanks for the loads of great music.

  2. smoggo says:

    you must have quite a set of balls, my friend, to take on one rock’s most sacred cows–for lunkhead redneck and avant-indie nerd alike. this post is like the da vinci code of rock criticism.

  3. Kenneth Edmond Anderson says:

    I agree. A National Acrobat? That song is probably the raddest non-Dio Black Sabbath song. The musicianship and cheesiness on Never Say Die are unparalleled. And I don’t rock the ganja.

  4. Sheckie says:

    Very interesting (and polemical) take on the whole Sabbath issue. I disagree, but I must admire you for your balls.

    Anyway, it reminded me of something I recently read in an interview with Joe Carducci, who used to work for SST Records. He takes the opposite viewpoint than the one you take:

    “When you listen to Black Sabbath records like I did, you really pick them apart. I think the first four records are where they’re really writing great songs, but they’re not all equal. The first album is live, in either four track or eight track. It’s a very simple recording. So the tracks on the tape are wide and they’re saturated because of what they were doing with their sound. So that’s almost the perfect sounding record, that first Sabbath album. And then they get into 16 track and over-dubbing. The next three records sound great, but they don’t sound perfect. They’re a little cloudy. The guitar sound is not as clear. You can’t quite hear into the distortion. It’s sort of a surface distortion. But they’re just writing amazing songs all the way through Vol. 4, and then they add synthesizers for Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and Sabotage after that. They’re just getting a little rattier, and after the fact, you read about them and they tell you about all the cocaine they were doing. Cocaine was the drug of choice in the radio industry in the 80s. The major record label industry, disco, and all these people were fried on cocaine. And that is not a psychedelic drug, you know, it doesn’t … I’ve never done these drugs, I wouldn’t recommend it. I think part of the reason radio turned into this sort of … the radio sensibility for sound became extremely cold and icy. Everything was solid-state, there were no more tubes, and they started using digital compression and limiters on stuff. And I think cocaine was the perfect drug for that kind of freezing-over of the radio sound. [...]”

    Check out the rest of the interview here:

  5. mcspicious says:

    …speaking of “A National Acrobat”, try A/Bing it against the Osmonds’ “Life Is Hard Enough Without Goodbyes.” Scary.

  6. lpd42 says:

    I prefer the first four albums (excepting NIB not a big fan of the debut, though), but cannot deny that the last four hold some really great treasures. “Air Dances” is my favorite oft-neglected sabbath track.

  7. MrFab says:

    Bret you MUST be smokin! How can you complain about sound on early Sabbath albums – sludge WAS their sound. Guitars tuned in drop-d need that fetid sonic swamp to swim thru, or it’d sound like a John Tesh album or somethin – not very appropriate.

    But now you-all got me curious about those more recent albums, will re-listen…

  8. illlich says:

    Wait, are you SURE you don’t smoke pot, because I find that line of reasoning addled. Just extrapolate it out a bit: good audio production = good album. According to that logic you’d prefer Lenny Kravitz over Jimi Henrix, or Iggy’s “Cold Metal” album over “Raw Power.” Perhaps I’m simplifying too much, but I will always choose good songwriting over good production. Yes, lousy production can get in the way of listening sometimes (I always had to play around with the EQ when I listened to “Raw Power”), but c’mon.

    The only problem I have with those early (or any) Sabbath LPs is that the lyric writing was sometimes weak (sorry Ozzy). Case in point: in “War Pigs” Ozzy rhymes “masses” with “masses”, and have you every really listened to the lyrics to “Supernaut”? Horrendous.

    But I will give him credit for the lyrics to “Fairies Wear Boots” in the last lines where he gives up even trying to rhyme — “cause smoking and tripping is all that you do. . . . YEAHHHHHHH!”

  9. Raygun1966 says:

    Thanks for posting the Sabbath. Perhaps I’ll take a fresh take on those later albums. I’ve always had a hard time with the later because I was so blown away by the first Sabbath album and I made the mistake of judging their works by that album. Great debate you started. Keep posting and keeping us guessing what’s next.

  10. Martin says:

    Didn’t Geezer Butler write most of Sabbath’s lyrics?

  11. youngy says:

    Correct Martin Geezer wrote all the lyrics , so people cannot blame Ozzy .And people remember in those days days the albums came quick and fast , with plenty of coke some don’t be too critical of some the lyrics of later records(when the band was falling apart anyway)