by Martin Popoff
Black Sabbath‘s live history is patchwork at best. We have Live At Last (only semi-official, sporting poor sound quality), Live Evil (great record, maybe even better than this one, but with Ronnie), Ozzy’s Speak Of The Devil (also great, but Ozzy plus band doing Sabbath), and Cross Purposes Live (’nuff said). So to get an official, original four document like this is the culmination of a long, loud journey. And the results are palpable, for nobody does Sabbath songs better than the original four. And nobody does them better than the original four, relatively sound of mind and body (barring Bill’s mild heart attack shortly thereafter!), with a juggernaut of smart business people and producers crossing the t’s, or crosses as it were. So the record sounds great, everybody is doing their job, with the visceral secret weapon being the rhythm section of Bill Ward and Geezer Butler.
In short: a chemistry of four distinct parts. Trackwise, there are only a few wanderings deep into the catalogue, an early foray into “Behind The Wall of Sleep” being the spookiest (especially with the whole Birmingham hometown atmosphere of the gig: history from all sides), and a disc two sludgefest through “Dirty Women” being the least predictable bit o’ dementia. Of the much ballyhoo’ed two new studio tracks, well, “Psycho Man” is an abomination, a Kiss-stupid metal lurch with an atrocious B-movie lyric. I find it odd this one escaped the cutting room floor, given the aforementioned coterie of onlookers, and Ozzy’s usually pretty reliable cheese radar. “Selling My Soul” is a different story, all convincingly retro, unique of melody, making good use of Iommi, heck, almost as good as any handful of Cathedral tracks! So call it one for two, and while your at it, call yourself lucky there’s all those great pictures and a long essay to read, although most of the info has been well-trammeled in the past.
(550 Madison Ave. 30th Fl. New York, NY 10022)