REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The Eternal Idol (deluxe edition)

I’m addicted to buying these deluxe editions.  I think this is the last of my Black Sabbath deluxes. Check out more of my Sabbath deluxe reviews by clicking here!

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BLACK SABBATH – The Eternal Idol (2010 deluxe edition)

The years of chaos were seemingly coming to an end as Black Sabbath stabilized into a solid core of Tony Iommi, Geoff Nicholls, and new lead singer Tony Martin. The drum and bass positions would continue to swirl for another year, right up until the Headless Cross tour. Getting to this point was not without struggle, and this new Deluxe Edition illustrates this beautifully.

I’m going to sidestep the issue of “Does The Eternal Idol really deserve the Deluxe Edition treatment?” and just be glad it’s out. There are, after all, two B-sides here that were ridiculously expensive to acquire on 12″ vinyl. Those songs, “Some Kind of Woman” and the original version of “Black Moon” (which would later be re-recorded on Headless Cross) finally complete the Eternal Idol picture. And they’re not bad songs either, particularly “Black Moon”. “Strange Kind of Woman” I haven’t wrapped my head around yet. It’s this uptempo boogie rocker, and aside from “Blue Suede Shoes” I don’t think I’ve ever heard Black Sabbath boogie before. But it’s not bad, Tony’s playing is awesome, but maybe…ill advised is the term I’m looking for?

The bonus disc is the entire album’s original recording with former vocalist Ray Gillen (their seventh singer) before he was replaced by Martin (their eigth). This had been mostly available on a very common bootleg called The Ray Gillen Years, but missing a couple tracks. Now, the entire album as recorded by Gillen can be heard, and in much better sound quality.  Gillen was a very different type of singer, bluesier, very Coverdale-esque.  He later reappeared with his Sabbath-mate Eric Singer in Jake E. Lee’s Badlands.

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I can still remember keeping up with the Sabbath story via their music videos on MuchMusic. I was surprised when I saw that the “new” singer, the bearded Glenn Hughes, had been replaced by the much cooler looking Tony Martin. Skeptical, I watched the video for the first and only single “The Shining”. Lo and behold, the song was awesome! The riff (which goes back to an old unreleased Sabbath song from 1984 called “No Way Out”, featuring a lineup of Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and David “Donut” Donato) was powerful and epic.  As good as any riffs Sabbath had done with Ronnie James Dio. The new chorus shimmers with intensity. This new singer rocked! Unfortunately, Martin would spend his entire career with a “mini-Dio” or “Dio-clone” tag. The similarities are that Martin has a similar range and equal amount of power, but not the grit, and a different character. Fortunately for him, Martin would stick around for 5 albums, but never shook the “replacement singer” tag.

Aside from “The Shining”, I find The Eternal Album to lack lustre. “Glory Ride” is the only other song that was single-worthy, a great romp that reminds me heavily of “Strange Wings” by Savatage (a song that featured Ray Gillen on backing vocals, coincidentally!) The rest of the songs…well, they ain’t bad, I guess. They’re just unremarkable, which is not good for a band that has seldom been anything but.  “Born To Lose” is fast and furious, as is “Lost Forever”. “Scarlet Pimpernel” is one of those atmospheric Sab instrumentals that they were known for in the early days, and its inclusion was very wise. However, the songs so tend to meld into one another, with only “The Shining” and “Glory Ride” making my personal Sabbath road tapes.

I mentioned the creation of this album was chaotic. Aside from the replacement of the lead singer position mid-album, there were also two drummers: Eric Singer departed to be replaced by ex-Sabbath drummer Bev Bevan! But by the tour, Bevan would be replaced by ex-The Clash drummer (Dr.) Terry Chimes. Dave (brother of Dan) Spitz partially recorded the bass to be replaced by ex-Rainbow and Ozzy bassist Bob Daisley. Daisley was gone before the video for “The Shining” was filmed, to be replaced by a mystery man who nobody bothered to catch the name of. You can see him in the video. The story goes, they needed a bassist for the video and pulled this guy off the street. For the tour, Jo Burt filled the bassist slot. Neither Chimes nor Burt would stick around to the next album, Headless Cross.

Did you get all that?

The Eternal Idol was a crucial step towards solidifying Black Sabbath once again, after the chaos of the previous years, but it would be the next album, Headless Cross, that was a resounding return. A much more solid album, Headless featured the new nucleus of the two Tonys and the legendary Cozy Powell on drums. Session bassist Lawrence Cottle (a great fretless player) was replaced for the while by Cozy’s longtime rhythm partner, Neil Murray. That lineup of Powell, Murray, Iommi and Martin (always with Geoff Nicholls on keys) would prove to be one of the most stable in the band’s history and the one that I saw when I first saw Sabbath live in 1995 on the Forbidden tour.

Anyway, I’m going off on a tangent. My point was to show that this album was really not the “comeback” that it could have been, but merely a step towards rebuilding Black Sabbath. You have to admire Tony Iommi for not giving up. The Eternal Idol is not for those fans who just like Ozzy, or just like Dio. Eternal Idol is for the metal maven who wants to know every chapter in the band’s history. Otherwise, I can’t recommend it, except for the two songs “The Shining” and “Glory Ride”. Purchase accordingly.

3/5 stars

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33 comments

  1. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this album. But your write-up makes me want to! It’s insightful, and connected as only LeBrain can be connected. ;) And I’m so glad there are guys like you out there, keeping track of all this stuff. Those line-up changes and all the complications could make a guy’s head hurt.

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  2. I like this album and I’ve been very curious to hear the Gillen version, so this might be the only Sabbath deluxe edition I will seek out. My favorite song here is the title track. Martin’s vocals are phenomenal. When I revisited their catalog last year and heard the albums from this era for the first time, I referred to the title track as this album’s “Black Sabbath.” It’s really the defining song of this version of the band (maybe tied with “Nightwing” from the next album). Excellent, thorough & fair review…as always.

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      1. We came to it with completely different expectations. I wasn’t a huge Sabbath fan to begin with, even though I loved the first few albums, and by the time I got past the Ozzy & Dio years I thought it was gonna be a crap fest. Some of the songs reminded me of those motivational Rocky IV-type songs, so it’s a bit cheesy, but Martin’s voice is awesome on this album & the next one. I really love the first Badlands album, so I’m curious to hear what Gillen brought to the table with Sabbath.

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        1. It’s definitely an interesting take. He would not have been the same singer as Martin, that’s clear. But I think just as interesting was his live stuff on the Seventh Star deluxe.

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  3. I liked the Ray Gillen version. It was less glossy and how great is it to hear an album with two completely different singers?! Has this ever happened in any other record? For that reason alone this special edition is worth the money. It’s not the greatest album – but an interesting time for Sabbath.

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    1. Hey Every Record! I have one other album that was remade with a different singer — World Asylum by Leatherwolf. They originally released it with Wade Black (Crimson Glory) singing. Then when their original singer, Michael Olivieri, came back into the band, they re-did the vocals and re-released it as New World Asylum!

      Also, Sabbath had Tony Martin re-record all the lead vocals on Dehumanizer, just in case the reunion with Dio failed at the last moment! Of course that version has never been released, never even bootlegged as far as I know.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. But wasn’t Leatherwolf a really crappy band? I mean, I tried to give ’em a fair chance but they just don’t do it for me. Besides, why on earth would you want to call your band Leatherwolf?
        When I was in the states in 2004 me and my friends stayed at my brother’s wife’s cousin’s house in Huntington Beach. Their next door neighbour was Geoff Gayer, Leatherwolf’s guitar player and my brother’s wife’s cousins all knew him well. A nice guy and a good player, but his band pretty much sucked…

        I don’t think that Martin actually got as far as re-recording the vocals for Dehumanizer, but he was on stand-by or something. And they did bring him back for Cross Purposes after that Dehumanizer tour that ended so badly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Martin Popoff claims in his Sabbath book that the re-recording took place. I’d have to dig up the book the see who the source was, but his book was the most thorough I’ve found so far.

          I liked Leatherwolf. They were OK. Not great by any means. They rode this fine line between hair metal and traditional heavy metal and it was awkward.

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  4. This album pretty much took me out on a knock out. After Seventh Star, which was actaully Tony Iommi’s solo album, I was so happy to find out that Sabbath had made a real Sabbath album again (7th Star was great, but didn’t sound too much as a Sabbath album, go figure…). Tony Martin (born Anthony Harford) was the singer that should have replaced Dio style-wise. So, yes, I freakin’ love this album. And they were about to reach greatness with the follow-ups Headless Cross and Tyr. The Ray Gillen version of the album sounds more or less the same, only with Gillen on vocals instead of Martin – and I think Martin’s version is way better. He’s more suited for a band like Sabbath than Gillen was.

    Tony Martin turned out to be a really cool guy. He actually stayed at my brother’s house this summer for a few days when he was in Sweden for some work-related stuff. We had a bbq and some beers and he was such a nice guy, kinda felt that you knew that guy after a couple of hours. He told me that he was asked to do the 7th Star album before Glenn Hughes but personal stuff got in the way.

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    1. AWESOME STORY. I’m a fan of Tony Martin, and I love his Scream album. I think I gave it 5/5 stars when I reviewed it. I think some of these Sabbath albums could be better, but I feel Headless, Tyr, and Cross Purposes are all great and I still love all three.

      I wish Tony would get more credit for what he did with Black Sabbath. He had to be able to sing all the different kinds of material, and I think he was one of the singers who pulled it off. I wish they released more than just the Cross Purposes Live album, but I did get to see them on the Forbidden tour. Review here.

      https://mikeladano.com/2012/11/07/black-sabbath-july-22-1995/

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  5. Revisiting this review because it’s a darn great review, and word is Lommi has stated he is looking at re-releasing/deluxing the remaining Martin era records…

    http://bravewords.com/news/tony-iommi-discusses-upcoming-black-sabbath-reissues-id-like-to-do-a-couple-of-new-tracks-with-tony-martin

    Personally still rate this one a 4, is in this fans top3 of the non original lineup records and here’s hoping the rest of this era get the same class treatment as The Eternal Idol and aren’t too far off.

    Thought had commented previously fer this one Mike but appears not. Add this to my ever growing list of ‘Ladano Go To’ reviews! Regardless you got the score wrong, very much like this one thanks ;)

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    1. Wardy, thanks so much again for the kind words. I am so excited about the Sabbath reissues and the possibility of new tracks with Tony Martin. Beyond excited. My buddy Aaron said, “I wonder if these reissues will be cheaper than the overpriced copies I keep finding.” I think he’d do well to pick these two up. Always felt bad for Martin, he took a lot of flak that was not deserved. He did a great job and made some albums to be proud of.

      As for Eternal Idol, my own personal writing idol Martin Popoff rated it 10/10. So who knows, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Mike and yeah, while on this occasion don’t agree with some of your content and score and lean more toward Popoff’s take on this record, still value and enjoy your opinion all the same (and hey, you and me agree on X Factor but remember Popoff’s thoughts on that, Yikes! I got your back on that one Mike LOL but likewkse appreciate why he was disappointed ya know?)

        Always to each their own and besides I came late to the game with this record sometime during the 90’s so my expectations were appropriately low and it was one of those discoveries after the fact. For these ears The Eternal Idol was a hidden gym with great songs considering, and think too it’s one of those wonderful records that has aged well, and perhaps offers more now that the unfortunate shenanigans the Black Sabbath name had to endure during the 80’s has long passed.

        I think the majority felt bad for Martin, sounds like a cool cat and the guy could darn well sing. To be fair though, he did wear ‘that hat’ which was somewhat unforgivable ;)

        PS email me Mike I found that Ceremony CD :)

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Right on, I will email you this morning!

          Quite alright to disagree…I love some healthy disagreement. I’ve been turned around on a number of albums, just because of discussion right here!

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  6. It’s funny, I also think of this as a one-song record, but the song I dig is the title track, which just has so much power and radiates such sinister dread that it reminds me of early, doomier times. “The Shining” is a good song with a great riff at the start, but as it goes on, it loses me, whereas I can listen to “The Eternal Idol” on repeat.

    Whatever our differences, though, great write-up! Did you ever do a review for TYR? I can’t seem to locate it on the site…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. HI Manuel!

      I have NOT done a review for Tyr yet. Funny you should ask, because I realized just this past weekend that I have not! I have a 12″ single from that album with some live B-sides. When I do the album, I will cover the single too!

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    1. Hey Teguh Prasetyo, my understanding is that Ray Gillen quit. There was a lot of turmoil in the band and he and Eric Singer didn’t hang around long. They ended up going to Badlands.

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        1. No it’s because my original got destroyed! I blame a poorly placed laundry cart. I was spinning my CD tower to access it. It got caught and ripped the front right off. I only just replaced it a few weeks ago.

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  7. The general consensus among the Youtube comments section is that Some Kind of Woman is very Van Halen-y. I think it’s an awesome song.

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