Well I made a rod for my own back here! I figured with me saying things were gonna be less about the "rare" and more about the music I like well I decided it was time to tackle my two favorite bands and represent something on this blog that means a lot to me me musically, So let's start with Black Sabbath I knew doing a post on these sonic titans was gonna be hard but i'll try my best not to get too carried away here!
So when we're talking the mighty Sabbath before I even start I have to be clear I'm only interested in Ozzy era Sabbath that is their 1st 6 albums 1970-75 after that even tho Ozzy made a further 2 albums with them I still say everything after "Sabotage" is another era and another band it can bear the name Black Sabbath but it will never match the sheer velocity of those 1st 6 albums. Also this post will venture outside that time frame and beyond the first 6 albums here but all shall become clear later...
I am not gonna even attempt a history of Black Sabbath or their antics we all know they formed in the late 60's in Birmingham out of local and touring heavy blues outfits centered around guitarist Tony Iommi,they were originally called Earth (where Dylan Carlson's outfit took their name from) legend has it they changed the name last minute due to there being a film on at the cinema across from the studio where they were recording the first album the film was called Black Sabbath.The four original members of Black Sabbath were...
Ozzy Osbourne - Vocals
Tonny Iommi - Guitar
Bill Ward - Drums
Geezer Butler - Bass
And that's the four guys we are gonna deal with right now....
So debut self titled album Black Sabbath arrived in Feb 1970 I wasn't even born when this album was released! I realize many bands had been really pushing the envelope as far as heaviness and extremity were concerned (Take the Stooges or MC5 or the legions of unknown Garage and psychedelic bands or even Syd Barret era Pink Floyd for example) and preceding this album the "heaviest" band around were Led Zeppelin (who's place in rock history i get as I can't stand em and don't understand why they are worshiped so slavishly) but that was all about to change... from the foreboding opening of rain and thunder and an ominous tolling bell Tonny Iommi unleashed the 3 heaviest chords ever to exist and in my opinion yet to be equalled, "Black Sabbath" the song is a mighty and terrifiying beast of a song and what a way to introduce yourself to the world, this was a new style and a new take on "Heavy Rock" that was unheard of and unprecedented and would set the standard for the birth of heavy metal and the influence endures to this day! Over the course of 6 albums this is a theme that would continue to dominate Black Sabbath would continue to come up with the heaviest riffs and best music for the next 5 years setting a benchmark so high that no one, no matter how far they downtune or how well they can play will ever equal these recordings.
Now I could very easily dissect the albums/eras etc in great depth with stories from the era etc but I'm not writing a book here there are many fine books on the history of Sabbath and it's 4 original members so i don't see the point in rehashing that here it's been done a million times in the last 43 years and will probably continue to be done for another 43 and done far better than a mere amateur with a small blog could do so I'm gonna go straight to the files here and whats in them giving you a bit of a breakdown i shall try not to be too expansive but we shall see....
Black Sabbath (1970) Right firstly you may or may not know that in 2010 Sabbath reissued their first 3 albums in my much loved/hated "Deluxe Edition" format with bonus discs of outtakes etc I for one was practically salivating at this a whole disc worth of outtakes for each of the first 3 albums was just too much to take! But in the end i discovered that there were slim pickings to be had and I'm guessing releasing their first 4 albums in 2 years (the first 2 both in the same year) that there wasn't much to spare! As the bonus discs contain mostly alternative takes, instrumentals etc not a lot new to discover but I'll come back to that... So here you have The debut Black Sabbath album. First off let's take a look at the cover how it was originally released on vinyl in a gate fold sleeve here's the original folded out......
Now even by today's standards that is a pretty bleak and haunting cover for a debut album and the inside continues this theme here's the gate fold inner....
Now it has been said by the band that the inverted cross and the whole of the gatefold inner were done against the bands wishes the label trying to capitalize on the shock value of satanism by marketing the band as having satanic leanings due to their name etc however the truth being they were just 4 affable brum lads with a love for heavy blues and rock! whether it was the naivety of a new young band bowing to label pressure or not I guess we'll never know but to my mind this album could not have been packaged better and without it I'm guessing 99% of "black" metal bands covers would look much different!
Whilst the cover art etc would lead you to believe this is an album full of brutally heavy jams along the same lines as the opening track this is not the case whilst Sabbath may have invented the super heavy jam their albums are chock full of great grooves as well I defy anyone to not be nodding their head to the bombastic Harmonica and guitar intro to "The Wizard"! This album is chock full of heavy riffs but it is tempered by a sense of groove that is a big nod to their blues influences and is basically the "Stoner template 101" everything bearing the stoner tag owes it's sound to this and the following 5 albums! This is a stunning debut and there is not a bad song on here if ever there was a case of all killer no filler this is it.
So as i said the version i present here is the deluxe edition so whats on your bonus disc? well not a lot really there is "Wicked World" which was originally a bonus b-side on the single disc version you then get various takes on the album tracks there's "Black Sabbath" without it's trademark "rain and thunder" intro then an Instrumental version, there's nothing startling really on this bonus disc I love it because I am a fiend for anything "new" to be had from this era of Sabbath but unless you fall into that category then don't get overexcited! Should you wish to check out whats on there before downloading go here...
"Paranoid" (1970) So moving swiftly along... you'd think that unleashing such a devastating debut album, inventing heavy metal and pretty much everything metal that was to come that maybe the band would do some promotion and touring and get ready for a 2nd album sometime soon? HA! nope in September 1970 a mere 7 months after "Black Sabbath" came the album that made them world famous "Paranoid" Now before I even start on this album i have to say I really cannot stand the song "Paranoid" whether it's through over familiarity or what i don't know I would consider each of the 6 albums here to be amazing and considering the quality of music on display and the short timespan over which they were released you'd expect there to be some filler? I would disagree, but "Paranoid" is a fine song but it's just been done to death,played to death,covered to death and I can't really listen to it anymore! it's a personal thing and nothing to do with the band ok? So having released 2 albums 7 months apart you'd think maybe this album was "too soon" or maybe less quality this is definitely not the case. "Paranoid" is another album full of utterly essential heavy jams and blues grooves opening with another utterly destroying heavy riff fest first track "War Pigs" is just slaying, clocking in at a hefty near 8 mins this is a pretty bold move considering that "Paranoid" a fairly pacey 3 minute throwaway jam they wrote in the studio to basically make the album up to the required length had been released as a single preceding the album you'd think in the tradition of 70's albums that the label would have pressured them to make this track the opening one.This album is again another all killer no filler even the eerie, acoustic/bongo track "Planet Caravan" is great! This album is again chock full of super heavy riffing and great grooves just check the Wah Wah guitar and riff on "Electric Funeral" (A hymn to the fear of nuclear war pre-dating protest punk by near 10 years) As I said I'm not gonna breakdown these albums too much. This is again another stellar album and essential.
So your bonus deluxe disc well again there's not much to be had you get the whole album again in the same order but this time you get 5 tracks instrumental 2 with alternative lyrics and one as an alternative mix and to be honest even for a diehard like me this is pretty lame I have put it up here simply because they are hard to come by to download and for the curious fans who may not have lashed out the extortionate price for these deluxe versions.
"Master Of Reality" (1971) So we are at the halfway mark and album number 3 " Master Of Reality" and again it had only been only 9 months since "Paranoid" and once again Sabbath have pulled another great album out of the bag (bear in mind this was their 3rd album in 1 year and 8 months) and in my opinion probably their heaviest set of the 6 albums i present here! The guitars are good and thick sounding and the riffs are just fucking monolithic towers of sound! There are 2 short instrumental interludes "Embryo" and "Orchid" but every one of the other 6 tracks presented here are just insane considering this is some 42 years ago! Just listen to "Lord Of This World" , "Children Of The Grave" and especially "Into the Void" and you'll see this album gives even modern day metal a run for it's money.
Again this album is in a deluxe edition and this time you get 9 tracks on the bonus disc and actually this time round you get some decent bonuses there's "Weevil Woman '71" an updated version of their cover of "Evil Woman" from the debut and "Spanish Sid" an early version of "Into The Void" as well as the usual Alternate mix/Vocal tracks and instrumentals for a more in-depth look at the full tracklist go here...
"Vol 4" (1972) Onto album number 4 and what else could it be called but "Vol 4" and on a personal note this is my favorite Sabbath album, Opening with the epic 8 minute "Wheels Of Confusion" this album takes you on a ride that is totally unforgettable you can see that they have really developed their chops here due to the high demand for the then heaviest band on the planet the non stop cycle of tour/rehearse/record has done them big favors in the songwriting department, whilst this album is still chock full of heavy riffs there's a maturity on display that given the band were still only a mere 2 years into their career is staggering. Whilst the heavy moments are plentiful the likes of "Cornucopia" , "Supernaut" and "Under The Sun" (Who's opening riff is by far the heaviest in their catalog) are easily the equal of anything from it's predecessor "Master Of Reality" this album is not without it's more experimental and "commercial" moments the likes of the short interludes "FX" and the Acoustic "Laguna Sunrise" there is also the very treacly, ballady "Changes" now many people may be aware of the horrific Kelly Osborne/Ozzy Osborne version of this song that had some small chart success in 2003 when "The Osbornes" fiasco was at it's peak however this original piano led version with it's sweeping and soaring keyboards to me is actually a fairly pleasant listen breaking up the albums more intense moments and not a million miles away from "Planet Caravan" from the "Paranoid" album, sickeningly sweet and twee as it is i still like the song and wouldn't skip it when listening to this album. Again essential stuff, this is taken from the remastered edition as there has been no deluxe re-issue of this album.
"Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" (1973) Their 5th album is definitely a logical extension from it's predecessor, taking the influences and experimentation on "Vol 4" even further, again there are no shortage of Heavy riffs here but there is an obvious leap in the musicianship here but the acoustic interludes whilst previously brief on the other albums have now been extended "Fluff" from this album an acoustic instrumental clocks in at near 5 mins, then there's the prog rock keyboards of "Who Are You" and Rick Wakeman of all people providing keyboards to "Sabbra Caddabra" In fact all but Bill Ward are credited with various keyboards, synth, piano and mellotron here and the band have also employed some soaring strings as well which work pretty well with the heavier parts and even crediting one Will Malone as "conducter/arranger" whilst i may be making this album sound like a stab at a more commercial audience or like a really bad experiment you'd be absolutely wrong whilst the production is way slicker than before this is still one of the first 6 Black Sabbath albums and is still ball kickingly heavy in all the right places, whilst it may be a little lighter than the first 4 just listen to "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" or "Killing Yourself To Live" for evidence of their usual titanic riff standards however it's around this point to my mind that the cracks were starting to appear in their sound whilst it would be foolish to expect a band not to progress in my own selfish way it would have been great if they had stuck with the template set out by the first 4 albums! This is still a great and essential Sabbath album but not the one I would recommend as a starting point for someone new to Sabbath's early albums.
"Sabotage" (1975) So we arrive at the final of the 6 studio albums that are the core of this post, "Sabotage" now there's a few negative points to be made about this album there's the atrocious clothing and terrible cover for a start.....
So there you have 6 of the most important albums in my collection and 6 of the albums that would definitely be among the first i would grab should my house be burning down! but the Sabbath story does not end there there were a further 2 albums with the Ward/Iommi/Osborne/Butler line up and also a career that has lasted to this day with it's ups and downs along the way however the next 2 albums "Technical Ecstacy" and "Never Say Die" with this original line up are to me truly terrible and a blight on the stellar sound of this band's 70's work,
But this being Under The Surface you surely didn't think i would leave you with the 6 easily available Sabbath studio albums even if 3 of them are presented here in their deluxe editions? Hell no! Let us continue....
So Sabbath as i said were probably one of the most in demand live bands of the early 70's i think some folk may not be aware of how much this band dominated globally in the early 70's (their 1st 6 albums i have put up here have at the least 130 versions of each album listed on discogs.com released in pretty much every country and on every format short of wax cylinder that you could think of) and in the 70's it was the live performance that really put a band into the minds of the record buying public even more so than the records and Sabbath were a great live band.
Sabbath only ever did one official live album the single album "Live At Last" which was one of those live albums that is selected from several different performances and cobbled together as a single performance in the studio however this was expanded and remastered into a double CD "Past Lives" in 2002 the majority of the tracks are taken from 1970 live performances but there are a few from their 1975 "Vol 4" tour which were taken from a live show in New Jersey so as well as the above studio albums you get "Past Lives" a fairly decent if not completely essential document of one of the best live bands of the early 70's....
... However above i mention the fact that 3 of the tracks from "Past Lives" were taken from a show in New Jersey USA this was a show at Asbury Park Convention Centre from August 1975 the entire show warts and all was recorded professionally for famous American rock'n'roll show "The King Biscuit Flower Hour" with the intention of release as a Sabbath Live album however for some reason the project was shelved and never saw the light of day however the story (vaguely) goes that a CD-R of this show direct from the master tapes fell into the hands of an avid fan this was subsequently bootlegged to death in various forms all of which stem from this one original CD-R source Now this New Jersey show IS a definitive warts and all Sabbath Live performance so here i give you 2 discs 1 hr and 40 minutes of Black Sabbath professionally recorded but absolutely LIVE no studio overdubs or trickery and absolute brilliant quality (The Link is 320kbps direct download) it may well be a "bootleg" release but this recording is the absolute best of the "Unofficial" Sabbath live bootlegs that is out there believe me i have tried a few. This is a recording of a band whilst on the cusp of their downslope are here, live at their very PEAK just have a listen to the insane version of "Symptom of the universe" or the utterly towering version of "Black Sabbath" and you will definitely be convinced. I had to split the two discs into 2 separate links due to file size but trust me you need both of them.
So Sabbath went through many twists and turns, successes and failures, went through several vocalists (Ronnie James Dio and Ian Gillan to name but 2) had their wilderness years etc but Tony Iommi's faith in his music whether I like it or not cannot be denied the mans commitment to keeping the Sabbath name alive over the years is staggering.but let's face it like it or not whether you are a diehard or a casual fan we all known the Ward/Iommi/Butler/Osborne era of the band was their peak and what the fans always wanted and in 1997 that's exactly what they got! There were rumors flying around for a while that the original line up of Black Sabbath were getting back together, recording etc and these rumors turned out to be fact and in 1997 Black Sabbath the original line up returned for a tour and apparent recording, whilst the tour was a massive success the recording was not and in 1998 they released "Reunion" (1997) a double live album of their homecoming show at the NEC Birmingham in Dec 1997 whilst this would smack of cashing in etc what was of specific interest as well as the 90 minute live performance was that this release was bolstered by 2 new Sabbath songs recorded by the original line up in 1997 these being "Psycho Man" and "Selling My Soul" now, whilst the live performance is a great run through their early catalog and all the hits are there and played well this is now some 22 years since these guys performed together and now they were no longer young and hungry lads from Birmingham but middle aged men with a whole lifetimes experience and comfortable living behind them! Not that this is a bad live album quite the opposite it just doesn't have that raw,improvised feel of a true live gig and more the feel of a professional live band of well rehearsed older musicians running through their best songs in a professional no nonsense manner! I include it here because it's an important landmark for the original line up of Sabbath that this post covers, as for the 2 studio songs..... While they are both decent enough songs with crushingly good riffs the problem here is Ozzy had had a busy and prolific solo career for a long time and even though you have the original members of Black Sabbath writing and recording 2 new songs unfortunately there had been too much water under the bridge for both the band and the metal scene in general and it has to be said these two songs would appear to be ploughing similar contemporary metal styles that Ozzy had long been exploring himself over the course of the 90's and whilst they are good heavy songs they are nothing new or particularly exciting, if you like heavy metal and you like Ozzy's solo stuff chances are you'll like them (as i do) they are good but they are nowhere near GREAT!
Phew I am getting exhausted here but the story continues..... So all the promise of the 1997 reunion kinda fizzled away to nothing after the tour no more music appeared no more live work etc etc they just kinda disappeared again and that was that... Fast forward another 16 years to 2013 and here again we have rumors of Black Sabbath's original line up recording a new album with Rick Rubin at the helm, whilst over the years since the 1997 reunion there had been so many rumors of the band getting together again, touring, recording etc there was nothing concrete till 2013 and it turned out to be true they were indeed in the studio with Rick Rubin recording a new album for release that year!
So come June last year they were as good as their word and the new album from Black Sabbath arrived entitled "13" so firstly This was supposed to be the 4 original members but due to internal strife over money Bill Ward pulled out to be replaced by Brad Wilk of Rage Against The Machine whilst undeniably a fantastically talented drummer it's not about proficiency here it's about style and Brad Wilk is NOT Bill Ward.
"13" (2013) was released in a single disc and a 2 disc deluxe edition with a 4 track bonus disc here I present you the full deluxe edition. Now it's at this point i would normally launch into my usual breakdown of the album key points, good songs/bad songs etc. but this time I am not going to do this, I downloaded this album pre-release and i was in 2 minds about this could Sabbath really pull something worthwhile out the bag some 38 years since their last good album, would they stick to what they had done on the first 6 albums or try to bring their sound up to date, would these 3 guys all in their mid to late 60's actually pull this off and reclaim their crowns as the kings and inventors of Heavy metal?? there was so much running through my mind one of the most important bands to me were releasing a new album what would they come up with? That being said, that's all I am going to say, I don't want to give you my opinion on this album you download it for yourself and make up your own mind. It's here in it's complete form 12 tracks of Sabbath in 2013 (minus Bill Ward of course) free for you to download so go get it at the link below and judge for yourself however I would appreciate hearing your opinions in comments if enough people bother to listen to it and comment then I would LOVE to discuss this album with any of you.
Well that was really hard work I have to say trying to do the mighty Sabbath justice in words without getting too expansive was gonna be hard but i didn't realize it would be this hard even though i checked myself on my usual; ramblings it's still a massive post! Anyway in closing i would like to say that many people look upon Black Sabbath with derision mainly due to Ozzy's fame and the Whole "Osbornes" series then there's some of the terrible albums Iommi made under the Black Sabbath name over the years that plus the general derision heavy metal gets due to it's stigma as "dumb" music and the millions of parodies and piss takes over the years. What people tend to forget is that before Black Sabbath arrived in 1970 there was no "heavy metal" (anyone who thinks Led Zeppelin invented it can fuck off they were nothing but preening,muso wankers who ripped off the blues and stood on the shoulders of giants to make themselves a shitload of cash!) the term "heavy metal" originates from someone saying Sabbath's music sounded like a load of Heavy metal being dropped from a great height! It has to be said that looking at these first 6 Sabbath albums and taking into consideration the time they were recorded and the fact that these 6 albums were released over a mere 5 years that what Sabbath were doing not only set the template for Heavy music for all time but it was also genuinely groundbreaking and insanely heavy stuff the fact that those first 6 albums are still held in such high esteem now by a legion of fans not just those interested in "metal" and their influence on music in general these albums should be and probably are in the collection of every music fan worth their salt! All I can say is try this....... imagine it's 1970 press play on "Black Sabbath" the 1st song from the "Black Sabbath" album absorb the wind,rain,thunder and tolling bell intro and when the opening riff kicks in tell me it doesn't feel like the whole world is coming to an end! That's the effect Sabbath must've had all those years ago and still have for me now! One of the 2 greatest and most important and influential bands on the planet for me without Sabbath music as we know it would not exist. Get these downloaded, get on your knees and worship the glory that is early Black Sabbath there's nothing like it and never will be again.
Black Sabbath (1st) (2 Disc Deluxe Edition) - Mediafire
Paranoid (2 Disc Deluxe Edition) - Mediafire
Master Of Reality (2 Disc Deluxe Edition) - Mediafire
Vol 4 - Mediafire
Sabbath Bloody Sabbath - Mediafire
Sabotage - Mediafire
Live Asbury Park NJ 1975 (Disc 1) - Mediafire
Live Asbury Park NJ 1975 (Disc 2) - Mediafire
Past Lives (Disc 1) - Mediafire
Past Lives (Disc 2) - Mediafire
Reunion (Disc 1) - Mediafire
Reunion (Disc 2) - Mediafire
13 (Deluxe 2 Disc Edition) - Mediafire