Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Beast's Music Vault- Black Sabbath, Born Again




Black Sabbath is a band everyone has heard of, even if you're not a metal fan.They're the first true Heavy Metal band (I don't care what you Zep fans say, Zep is a rock band, not that there's anything wrong with that), and every Metal guitar player owes Tony Iommi a dolar every time they plug in, as far as I'm concerned. They started and perfected the whole 'evil'/horror-movie vibe that Metal is known for...even if the lyrics of most of their songs were anti-evil( clue: the crosses they wear are all rightside-up), their song titles, and more importantly, their very sound was pure sonic Satan. Ozzy Osborne was the first vocalist for Black Sabbath, and many of the Sabbath classics (such as 'Iron Man, 'War Pigs', 'N.I.B.', etc.) were recorded during his tenure with the band. A lot of Sabbath fans (and radio, for the most part) look at the Ozzy period as the only one that mattered. However, there were many vocalists and line-ups of the band after Ozzy's departure and before the inevitable reunion tours. In my opinion, there's a lot of good stuff in the post-Ozzy period of Sabbath's recording history...in fact, some of my favorite stuff is from the Dio era (Ronnie James Dio, of Elf, Rainbow, and of course, Dio fame). But I'm not going to talk about those records today. Instead, I want to discuss a line-up you may never have heard of, that only lasted for one album and tour-the album was titled Born Again, released in 1983.



The band, musician-wise, was basically the same as the Ozzy/Dio era...Tony Iommi on guitar, Geezer Butler on bass, and Bill Ward on drums. The vocalist for Born Again was to be Ian Gillan, formerly of Deep Purple. I'd always liked Gillan's singing, but when I first heard he was to be Sabbath's new voice, I wasn't sure how that would work out. "Deep Sabbath' and 'Black Purple' remarks were being made in the press and amongst my friends. The family trees of these bands have intertwining branches...Dio was the singer of Rainbow, which was founded by Ritchie Blackmore, formerly of Deep Purple, Gillan was once the singer for Purple, now in Sabbath...you needed a scorecard to keep up with it all. Anyway, I was also initially skeptical when Dio took over vocal chores in Sabbath, and he kicked ass during his tour of duty, so I figured I'd give Gillan a chance. The end result-while Born Again is not your typical Sabbath album, it's still pretty good, in my opinion.




The first track, 'Trashed' is a fast tune about drinking while racing cars, or at least go-carts, if I remember an interview from back then correctly. It doesn't have that classic Sabbath sound, but it's good, nonetheless. Other tracks that fall into the same category are 'Digital Bitch', 'Hot Line', and 'Keep It Warm'. Of these, the best of the bunch are 'Trashed' and 'Digital Bitch'.


On some of the tracks, however, the trademark 'evil' Sabbath sound comes creeping out. The first one on the album is 'Disturbing the Priest'. With its horror-film guitars and Gillan's fearsome scream/howl, this one sounds dark and menacing. 'Zero the Hero' is another such track, probably my favorite cut. Although the lyrics are sort of an anti-slacker anthem, the music is pure Iommi dark goodness (or should I say badness), starting out quietly and getting ever louder, the guitar riff inexorably coming forth like some beast rising from its crypt. This riff that comes before the main rhythm and returns again later in the song is great...it could easily be in a horror film soundtrack. The title track also shares this 'evil' quality ...while slow and subdued for the most part, when the chorus comes up, the guitars merge with Gillan's howl in a perfect union of doom. Filling the gaps out are two short instrumentals, 'Stonehenge' and 'The Dark'.




The album cover art was eye-catching, to say the least. It depicts a baby devil in damn-near glow-in-the dark colors(it was the 80s, after all). When I first saw it, I said, "Hey, it's Rosemary's Baby!" The artwork offended some Christian groups , if I recall correctly, but that was pretty much par for the course for Sabbath anyway(and Christian groups, for that matter). As for myself, I don't find it scary or offensive...the little bastard is kinda cute in his own way, and honestly, kinda goofy looking. If they'd have had a gruesome fake devil baby made by some special effects guy and had photos taken, it may have been scary, but the dayglo artwork just doesn't summon up menace and doom...but I did once have a keychain with the cover image on it, now that I think of it.

On tour, Ward was replaced by former ELO drummer Bev Bevan (ELO-what the ...???). I didn't get to see them on tour, but I remember some syndicated show, called Live at the'something'...I don't remember the whole title. But it was a weekly show that featured live acts at some club in California, and there were many rock/metal bands in attendance. I recall seeing Dio, Y&T and...Black Sabbath! The songs they showed were 'Digital Bitch' and 'Zero the Hero'. Gillan's hair at the time was very long, even longer than mine, I think, and while performing his mane flew around like a dark cyclone, his face rarely visible during the show. There were big crosses that lit up and moved around in the stage set, too. Not present at this particular show, though , was the mock-up of Stonehenge that was their backdrop on stage for most of the tour. This was about the same time Spinal Tap, the mock rock band /mockumentary came out, which also featured a Stonehenge replica, although Tap's replica was about 15 inches long, prompting the line(and pardon me if this isn't excact),"Our Stonehenge was in danger of being crushed under the heels of a dwarf!!"




This period of the band has been kind of pushed aside, for whatever reason. Gillan himself has said that he's probably the worst singer Black Sabbath has ever had, but they made it all work somehow. I don't think that Gillan is the worst singer the band's had...technically, Ozzy is the least talented singer to have ever been in Sabbath...and before all you Ozzy fans start sending me hate mail, I am a fan of Ozzy and his stint in Sabbath, and I do like his voice...but from a purely skill/talent perspective, he doesn't match up with Gillan, Tony Martin, Glenn Hughes, or Dio. From a song perspective, the songs weren't the best that have ever come from the Sabbath camp, but they certainly weren't the worst, either. In my opinion, Born Again is a pretty good album, and deserves a listen, if you're a Metal fan at all...so says The Beast.

16 comments:

Cherie/ Butterfly Dreamer said...

That goat thing with all the eyes is scary dude....{hugs}

Scott said...

Cherie,

Hi! The goatie guy is from the movie Altered States, and it appears in one of the main characters' hallucinations/visions. If you look closely, I think it's actually an Irish Wolfhound wearing a multi-eyed goat mask, especially when you look at his muzzle...that looks like a dog in disguise, which makes it a little less scary, LOL!
Hope you're doing well, my dear. Take care!

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, Sabbath was the first metal band. You listen to metal you have to recognize that.

I don't actually have this Sab album, however, although I've heard most of the songs on it. I like Trashed a lot but it scarcely sounds like sabbath to me. I agree that Dio did a great job with the group when he came in.

Heff said...

I bought Born Again the DAY it was released, and STILL have the vinyl copy ! Although Bill Ward DID play on the album, I think it was actually Vinnie Appice that played drums for the tour...I don't know - it's been a long time ago. Anyhoo, "Trashed", "Digital Bitch", and "Zero The Hero" are my choice for deep cuts from the album. This effort wasn't as good as the Ozzy or Dio years to me, but it was still DAMN GOOD. You just can't go wrong with Tony Iommi.

Heff said...

I'm sorry, You are CORRECT SIR !

Bev Bevan ! (yes, WTF???)

Scott said...

Charles,

I agree, it doesn't sound like a typical Sabbath song...but it's still good!

Heff,

Points for you for having the vinyl! My roomate in college had it, and I now have the CD. I agree with you on the deep cut choices...and it's a big man who can admit they're wrong!

Wil said...

Ok Heff, here I am. First of all Scott, lemme just say, I LOVE YOU. Heff called me tonight and told me that I had to rush right over here for this post. You were on my rounds tonight anyway so here I am.

Wil, that being me, is a world renowned expert on what I call "The Rainbow Connection". As you touched on in the post, everyone in Deep Purple and Black Sabbath seemingly have played for and with one another. I did a big ass post on my blog about this very thing like a year or so ago. By the way, I call it "The Rainbow Connection" cause it basically all revolves around my lord, Ritchie Blackmore. Yes, I am a huge fan. And it being all colors, Black, Purple, Rainbow what have ya.

Ok, let me get on with it and state my points, and what I believe.

Black Sabbath invented heavy metal and Iron Maiden perfected it. Led Zeppelin was hard rock, not metal.

Ronnie James Dio is the best metal/hard rock vocalist ever. His turn in Sabbath was their absolute best, melodic material they ever produced. Yes, I saw the Heaven and Hell tour in September of '07 here in Chicago, incredible.

I was very intrigued, being a big Purple fan, when Gillan joined up with Sabbath. I bought the album and did see Sabbath with Gillan when they came to Chicago. Very good show, Ian and all were in top form.

I agree with your Ozzy assessment. Wow, a Glenn Hughes reference, very nice.

Trashed is an excellent song. Nobody can wail like Ian Gillan. Zero The Hero just grinds like a MoFo and I love how it just comes on out of nowhere. Not often you heard a fade IN. Digital Bitch is a fun romp.

I pulled up to a stop light a while back and actually heard someone blasting "Disturbing The Priest" God, I couldn't believe it! I thought I was in HS again.

Anyway, thanks for this post, I needed it!

Wil Harrison.com

Scott said...

Wil,

I love you,too, LOL! Glad you liked the post. I'd picked up the Cd of Born Again a while back, and I've been listening to it a lot lately. While it isn't Sabbath's finest hour, I think it's a great album nonetheless, and deserves some attention.

Rithcie Blackmore is great, I agree. If my shitty guitar-playing ever gets better, I'm going to get a white Starocaster, LOL. To this day, my faveorite Deep Purple track is the live version of "Highway Star" on When We Rock, We Rock, When We Roll, We Roll...Gillan's vocals, Blackmore's guitar work, and Jon Lord's keyboard magic tear the house down. What do you think of Blackmore's Night?

Speaking of Glenn Hughes, what did you think of Seventh Star? Also, did you ever hear the Hughes/Thrall album? And what of the Iommi albums featuring Hughes?

Dio is one of my favorite vocalists, too. He's right up there with Gillan, Bruce Dickinson, Rob Halford, Eric Adams of Manowar...I also dig Russell Allen of Symphony X , and Mike Dimeo, formerly of Riot.

It's always cool to hear an obscure song you like coming from someone else's car...makes you want to run over to them and strike up a conversation...or at least flash 'em the 'horns'!

So glad you dug the post, Wil...you obviously have much knowledge of things rock and metal! Stop by anytime!

Wil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wil said...

Yes, Blackmore is my fav, followed closely by Hendrix. Heff is more of the metal guy where as I am a student of the late 60s, 70s etc. He still doesn't know who UFO is, which still baffles me, LOL.

I am on my 5th or so Stratocaster. "Tonto" is a '99 Inca Silver MIA Hardtail. I do love the hardtails, they stay in tune perfectly and feature much sustain.

I am thinking you are referring to the version of Highway Star that is on Made In Japan? I believe that is the same one. Every time to this day that I hear that it gives me chills. Blackmore's solo on that one just literally pulls every single ounce of energy those Marshalls could produce. You can actually hear the "clipping" effect cause they just don't have anymore to give!

I actually like the Blackmore's Night stuff and the OL loves it.

It's been a long time since I've heard Seventh Star and the like as far as Hughes other work, I'll have to go back and review some of that.

Wil Harrison.com

Heff said...

You guys just gave me a chubby.

Scott said...

Wil,

I think that it may be the same cut 'Highway Star' live that's on both albums...I just checked the CD liner notes, but it doesn't say where the track came from. I,too, am a big hard rock fan...UFO, AC/DC, Riot(who have gone from rock to metal to rock again), Uriah Heap, Axe...all good stuff.

I like the Blackmore's Night stuff, actually, and I think it's interseting how he's worked new versions of his older stuff into it, like Street of Dreams and Self-Portrait...as far as Seventh Star goes, I like it. Back when it came out I hated it, but now that I realize it was supposed to be a Tony Iommi solo record and not Sabbath album, I'm a bit more forgiving...I found Japanese copy of the CD at a used CD store a while back. Damn, I could talk about this shit all day, LOL!

Heff,

Glad you, uh, enjoyed this thread so much, LOL!

Scott said...

I think that we all need to meet up in person, have sveeral cold ones, and talk music all night.

Wil said...

I'm in for that. Where are you Scott?

Wil Harrison.com

Heff said...

Scott's located on I-666 South Of Heaven. It's quite a drive, from what I understand.

Scott said...

Wil,

I'm in San Antonio, Texas. I know Heff's in Alabama, hopefully the state, not the band. Charles is in Louisiana.

Heff,

That's my other home, LOL!