What does it sound like?:
The year 1976 saw the coming of the band’s seventh studio album, recorded in the US at a time when the band members were, once more, dealing with various addictions. To me, this is a rather confused album, with the band losing direction and seemingly caught between several stools – did they want to be a heavy metal band, a straight ahead rock band or even, dare I say it, a punk band! With hindsight, perhaps the best course would have been to concentrate simply on what makes Sabbath essentially Sabbath, rather than slathering washes of keyboards over every song to very little positive effect. There isn’t really a stone cold classic riff to be found on this album, here in both remastered and remixed form, the latter being presided over by, need I say, Steven Wilson. Rock n Roll Doctor and Gypsy are the strongest of a pretty mixed bag of material, and it also features drummer Bill Ward’s only lead vocal. There’s a selection of outtakes and alternate mixes, again mixed by Wilson, giving effectively an alternative version of the album, with the exception of Ward’s song, for which presumably the tapes couldn’t be located. Like all these things, they are interesting to hear a few times as curios of the sessions, but don’t particularly invite repeated listening. There’s also a good live set, previously unreleased, culled from the subsequent 76-77 world tour, and actually the material from this album fares much better in a live setting, and manages to hold its own against the usual classics such as War Pigs, Snowblind and the like. To round out the package, there’s a replica program from that tour, together with a good forty page book on the album. Overall then, not the finest set in their catalogue by a long chalk, but things are redeemed to an extent by the live set, which shows that although they may have been struggling in the studio they could still deliver the goods when it mattered on stage.
What does it all *mean*?
If you’ve collected the other releases in this series then no doubt you’ll want to acquire this one too, the downside being the rather hefty price tag.
Goes well with…
Trying to figure out that rather bizarre Hipgnosis cover design, and wondering again why several key albums have been omitted from this series of superdeluxe editions.
Might suit people who like…
Sabbath, vintage metal.