A double-header for you today, folks! Head over 80’s Metal Shatz N Giggles to read Deke‘s review of the Never Say Die album!
BLACK SABBATH – Never Say Die (Live in 1978, 2003 Sanctuary DVD)
Recorded in 1978 at the Hammersmith, the DVD Never Say Die was recorded for TV, and not badly either. The video part, anyway! Great live angles and decent editing lead to a very watchable concert, albeit chopped down for length. The audio leaves something to be desired.
The muffled riff of “Symptom of the Universe” commences the set, Iommi sounding as if powered through a crappy battery powered transistor amp, such is the horrible sound captured. A blazed Ozzy growls through it, and Bearded Bill is in the back wearing braids and looking like a complete dirt bag. As for Geezer? He’s mixed too low to have any significant impact. Tony Iommi stands guard at center stage, while Ozzy claps along next to him.
The close-up shots are nice and vivid, Ozzy waving the peace sign during the start of “War Pigs”. He then commands the crowd to put their hands together, and they soon oblige singing along with him. There is something about a live version of this song with the full original lineup including Bill Ward. Bill was always a jazzy drummer, and that’s the vibe he loaned Black Sabbath. It’s especially necessary on tracks like “War Pigs” which require a certain swing on the traps. With Bill here still in vintage mode, the song has all the right heft and movement.
It’s hard to tell that this was a group of guys who couldn’t bear each other anymore. While they mostly keep to themselves on the large stage (as they always have), Ozzy acts as Tony’s cheering section during the guitar solos, and you can even see a hint of a smile in Tony’s eyes. Then Ozzy claps and screeches his way through the monolithic “Snow Blind”.
The only track from the new album, Never Say Die, is the title track. Its upbeat attitude and fast tempo allude to where Ozzy was going to go as a solo artist. For Sabbath, it’s one of their most unappreciated tracks. This live version is pretty sloppy but very rock and roll (including an old-tymey rock and roll riff that wasn’t in the original). Then, Ozzy introduces the all-time classic, “Black Sabbath”, with an interesting statement. “Thanks for the last 10 years, and we hope we’re around for another 10 years, and another 10 years.” It’s interesting because at this point, Ozzy had already left the band once, been replaced by Dave Walker (Savoy Brown) for one TV performance (“Junior’s Eyes”), and then returned to the band to do the Never Say Die album, refusing to sing anything they wrote for Walker. Not exactly the kind of environment to encourage longevity! Of course the amazing thing is that three of these guys are still together, winding up the band that they formed.
It’s worth noting that nobody can (or will) capture the vibe of “Black Sabbath” like the original four.
Detouring to Technical Ecstasy, Sabbath pour into the underrated prowl, “Dirty Women”. After this, uncredited, is a brief Bill Ward drum solo. That melds into “Rock and Roll Doctor”, another obscurity. Ward’s cowbell and Tony’s rock and roll riff give it a retro vibe. Bill plays it busy compared to the album version; that’s fine by me. Tony takes a guitar solo before the scary oldie-goldie, “Electric Funeral”. Always a treat to hear this rarely played Paranoid classic, but unfortunately this one is noticeably edited down.
Closing out the disc, “Children of the Grave” is an obvious highlight. Once again there is no drummer on Earth who can play it properly, except for Bill Ward. Some come close, but none capture the reckless engine that drives it. For the encore, Ozzy asks the audience “What do you wanna hear?” to which they are supposed to respond “Paranoid!” I don’t know if they do; the audio here is really not good. They trot out “Paranoid”, the flaw of which is that it always sounds by rote. Ozzy couldn’t sound less interested in singing it again for the millionth time.
You have to consider the sound quality on a DVD like this and if you’re the kind of person who will care or even be able to tell the difference. I don’t care. This is a great though imperfect glimpse at a rare period in Black Sabbath’s history. A short while later Ozzy would be solo, and Sabbath would go to Heaven and Hell with Ronnie James Dio.