REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Forbidden Rough Mix (bootleg)

BLACK SABBATH – Forbidden Rough Mix (bootleg CD)

Black Sabbath’s Forbidden album has a unique place in the Sabbath canon.  It is almost universally condemned by casual and hard core Sabbath fans alike.  I am one of the many who did not like Forbidden, and you can read about why right here.  It was also the final studio album released under the Black Sabbath name, until now.

Forbidden should have been great.  It had the uber-talented Tyr lineup of Tony Iommi, Tony Martin, Cozy Powell, and Neil Murray.  Even with all that muscle, it came out as the weakest Sabbath album ever, probably hindered by Ernie C’s limp production.  I was eager to get my hands on the “rough mix” of Forbidden, which supposedly sounded a lot better.

This CD, simply titled Forbidden Rough Mix is dubbed from a cassette.  That said, it sounds a lot better than any cassette I’ve ever dubbed.  It’s bootleg quality, and I’m fine with that.  The only unfortunate thing is that it is all instrumental versions.  You can hear some of Tony Martin’s vocal bleeding through from somewhere, but it’s not mixed in.  Maybe he was singing scratch vocals in the studio for the band to play along with.  I know that Forbidden was a time of upheaval in the band, with Martin not knowing if he was in or out at any given time.  Ice T was coming in to lay down his own vocal tracks, and nobody would tell Tony if this was for the whole album, one song, part of one song, or what the deal was.

Anyway, if you were hoping for better sounding versions of the Forbidden songs, then this might be as close as you get.  Even though it’s the same album, this version sounds somehow faster and heavier.  It’s some kind of audio illusion, because the drums are unfettered, and you can hear the cool bass runs.  Neil Murray’s bass is much more interesting than it comes across on the original album.   Everything sounds more Sabbathy.   There’s some stunning guitar work buried in there.  This could have been a great album.

Even though it’s just instrumental, the title track “Forbidden” is so much better than the album version.  I can listen to Cozy’s drums!  There’s a lot more keyboards, as performed by Geoff Nicholls in this mix.  Even “The Illusion of Power”, one of the worst songs on the original album, is a cool, traditional sounding Black Sabbath death march on this CD.  Throw an eerie sounding Ozzy lead vocal on top of this instrumental track, and you could have had something appropriate for the Volume 4 album.

‘Tis a shame.  A bloody shame.  There’s been a rumour floating around for years that Tony Iommi is trying to get this album re-released in deluxe edition format.  If that’s the case, great but I’m not counting on it.

4/5 stars

34 comments

  1. Interesting stuff. Forbidden is the only Sabbath studio album I’ve never heard at all (although I’m fairly unfamiliar with a couple of others). The cover and Ernie C’s involvement was enough to put me off… and I didn’t rate Cross Purposes that much so I was kind of over them at that point. I’d maybe check out a deluxe though…

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    1. Forbidden is truly for the completest only. I can’t think of too many good reasons to own it, unless you always wanted to hear was Sabbath would sound like fronted by a rapper.

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        1. No. What happened was, they were gigging as Iommi, Martin, Butler and Ward. They did south America with that lineup. That lineup was supposed to record the next album too, but then Tony and Geezer had a huge fight on the final date. Huge fight. So obviously Bill Ward left next and Tony reunited the Tyr lineup.

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        2. That’s starting to sound familiar… I remember reading some stuff about that in Joel McIver’s Sabbath book but at that point there were people coming and going every other week! I kind of lose track of it all! So did Ward replace Bobby Rondinelli then?

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        3. Yeah, Bobby had commitment to something else. Bill came in, a mind blowing event. But Bobby came back in 1995 when Cozy quit.

          And since then, there’s been Bill Ward, Michael Bordin, Vinnie Appice, Wilk and Clufetos!

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  2. When I did my Sabbath series about a year-and-a-half ago, this was the era of their discography I knew nothing about. I was really impressed by some of the early Tony Martin albums, but by the time I got to “Forbidden” I felt like I had heard it all before. There are a few songs that are worth multiple listens (“The Illusion Of Power,” “Shaking Off The Chains” & “Rusty Angels”). I doubt I’ll play the album much in the future, and a rough mix is not something I’m interested in, but it’s still worth hearing at least once. I give you credit for spending your money on this. You are truly a devoted fan.

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  3. Really bad album. Really bad. And it’s not just Ernie C’s production. The songs pretty much sucks and I don’t think any producer in the world could have saved this debacle.
    Tony Martin actually told me that he hated this album and especially the production from the start and that they recorded it because they needed to have a product out. This and Never Say Die are the only bad albums Sabbath ever recorded.

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    1. I don’t like Eternal Idol myself. I like Never Say Die a lot better than Forbidden.

      I know Tony has been very critical of this album and the whole period. They screwed him.

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      1. I was surprised by how much I liked Never Say Die. I think it and Technical Ecstasy have unnecessarily bad reputations. They’re not classics like the first 6, but considering the state of the band at the time, they were at the very least interesting & diverse, if not totally Sabbath-like.

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        1. I like that diversity. In light of what they later did on Seventh Star, those albums are still very Sabbath sounding. I love tunes like Junior’s Eyes.

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        2. Glad we agree. Since I was never a Sabbath fanatic, and I didn’t delve deep into their catalog until my series last year, I think I have a different perspective on their music (not better, just different). I don’t care if something sounds “Sabbath-y” as long as the music is cool, and there’s certainly a lot of cool music on Technical Ecstasy & Never Say Die.

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        3. I don’t like every song on those albums either, but their reputations seemed to indicate that they’re steaming piles of crap and that’s far from the case. I was just speaking with someone about David Bowie the other day. This guy grew up with his music, and stopped listening in the late-80s, thinking Bowie had lost the plot and had no interest in listening to the rest of his catalog. As someone who was never a fanatic but slowly worked my way through his discography, I was a lot more open to his later material, so it’s all about timing and exposure. There are plenty of bands I’ve stopped listening to at some point, and I’m sure lots of fans prefer the later material that I never even checked out. Not sure if I’ve made my point or if I’m just rambling, but I’ll leave it at that.

          Thanks for helping to launch another fun music discussion.

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    1. No doubt about Cozy. One of the greats. I’m glad I got to experience him amidst the prog grandeur of Emerson Lake & Powell in 1986. Phenomenal show.

      As for Headless Cross, it gets automatic thumbs-up for “Nightwing,” my favorite track from the Martin years.

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        1. It was with Sabbath near the tail of the Forbidden tour, just before he quit. Of course I had no way of knowing this was the end of Cozy and Sabbath!

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    1. I’d only be speculating, but I think we would have. After all they covered Smoke when Ian Gillan was in the band…

      Just glad this never happened. Sad that the option was even considered at all.

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  4. It’s cool reading these reviews cuz I was only into Sabbath when Dio/Ozzy was fronting.
    The whole band changing thing drove me crazy and being a Whitesnake fan as well that was enough member changes for me!
    Having said that I do have a boot of Ray Gillian fronting Sabbath….interesting to say the least…oh well give Iommi credit he kept the machine rolling….

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    1. I have one too Deke, maybe we own the same bootleg.

      There are lots of bands now that have plenty more lineup upheaval today. Though for the 80’s and 90’s Sabbath were definitely one of the worst. But just look at the lineup changes for big commercial bands like Foreigner now, or Boston. Who can keep track of who is in or out?

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  5. Yeah for sure I mean I read that Foreigner played some shows without Mick Jones as he is the lone original I mean that is a tribute act….

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    1. Yeah, and it seems like they go through drummers faster than Spinal Tap…there’s nobody else in Foreigner that was in the band during the classic Lou Gramm years…it’s bogus. It was bogus when Jason Bonham was in the band too, but a classy kind of bogus.

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  6. I’m working dilligently on finding all of the Sabbath records, and I’m about halfway there. This one is on my list, regardless. I want to hear them all! When I get to this one, I’ll let you know what I think.

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