black sabbath

#714: Born Again

GETTING MORE TALE #714: Born Again

They probably thought I was going to hell the day I showed up on the first day of school in that Judas Priest T-shirt.  Mrs. Powers was a devout Catholic, with a judgey side to go with it.  She enjoyed publicly humiliating her “misbehaved” students.  I can only imagine what she really thought.  Here was her “A” student, and over summer holidays, he’s got himself a T-shirt that says “Judas Priest” on it.  He’s drawing pictures of guitars in art and doing his class speech on a band called Kiss.  What the devil is with that Ladano kid?

If Catholic school was ever too sedate or solemn, this was magnified 100-fold in the lenses of the 8th grade.

It was the year you made the choice of which highschool to go to.  You’d undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation.  It was their last chance to make sure you didn’t go off the rails and do something stupid, like do drugs or leave the church!

There was a weeklong Catholic retreat to an old convent in Ancaster called Mount Mary.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” said Mrs. Powers.  Holy shit!  I didn’t want to be there and it was obvious.  It was the middle of winter and every day had extensive outdoor activities, but worse, you were not allowed to bring any of your music.  No Walkmans, no tapes.  There was a radio tuned to an approved radio station in one of the activity rooms.  I didn’t know what to do, so before we left, I listened to and memorised as many Kiss songs as I could.  Double Platinum worked for my last minute Kiss cramming session.  The song I was most successful with was “Love Gun”.  I had just received a taped copy of The Elder but did not have time to investigate it much.  I had to go to Mount Mary instead.  This intrusion into the wants and desires of my musical passions kind of pissed me off.  I had to wait a week to get into The Elder.  Stupid retreat.  I was so scared of being caught with any contraband that I flushed my candy before getting on the bus.  Humming “Love Gun” in my head, we were off.

Mount Mary conjures up some real discomfort.  They were trying to teach you to be open minded about it but all I can really recall are negative feelings, and some disgusting hot chocolate.  I was isolated from everything I loved and stuck with a bunch of people who I didn’t particularly like, and felt the same towards me.  I knew this because we had to form circles and tell everybody something we liked about them.  Nobody seemed to know much about me at all.  “You like Star Wars, uhhh…and I don’t, but that’s cool.” was the most memorable.

There was a day spent outside in the snow as “hunters” and “hunted”.  I don’t remember the moral of this activity.  The hunters had wooden sticks as rifles, and my bully Steve Hartman was one of them.  The role playing had a bizarre shade of reality.  There were no explanations to us as to why people were selected for their roles.  The hunted were supposed to find some specially marked trees, but I spent most of the time just hiding in the woods from hunters and teachers alike.  There was another day including a long hike up something called “Agony Hill”.

The day we were released from Mount Mary and sent home was cold and wet.  The snow was melting, but it was just dirty slush.  My parents were supposed to pick me up when the busses arrived at the school, but I didn’t see them and vice versa, so lugged a giant heavy suitcase home through the snow.  At least when I got there, a brand new Marvel Transformers comic was waiting for me with my mail in the kitchen.  #17, “The Smelting Pool”, considered one of the best of the series.

“Well that’s over,” I said to myself.  “Now I just have to get through the rest of this school year and it’s freedom.”

That teacher just had a bad impression of me.  There was the rock and roll devilry which seemed to bring humiliating public interrogation.

“How many of you went to church this past Sunday?” she questioned the class.  “Put up your hands.”  She was determined to find out just how devout our behaviour was.  No excuses.

About half the class raised their hands.

“How many of you were there last week?”  A few more hands went up.

“And the week before?”  A couple more.  “How many have been to church in the last month?”  She noticed me, and I noticed her.  My hands were in my laps.

“MICHAEL.”  Radar locked.

“WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WENT TO CHURCH?” she boomed.

My sister dubbed it “The Hell Hole”.  The school and church are right across from each other

It had been a couple years.  Powers had her “no excuses permitted” policy regarding going to church, so I didn’t even try to explain.  (Essentially her policy was:  You are old enough to go to church on your own now, so don’t tell me your mom was sick.)  I just endured the firepower of Mrs. Powers.  What else could she do; send a note home to my parents?  If I wasn’t going to church, chances are they weren’t either.  And there was a reason for that.

It was an Easter service a couple years prior.  Good Friday mass, very busy, and the church was packed.  My dad always liked to get an aisle seat so that’s what he did on Good Friday.  That was his mistake.

My sister and I had better instincts.  We preferred to hide somewhere in the middle of the pews.  Do you know what our least favourite part of service was?  The part where you have to shake hands and greet your neighbours.  We were shy and would rather not, so we just turned to face each other.  We’d shake hands and say, “Hello sir how are you today?”  “Oh, I’m good sir and how are you?”  We’d do this for as long as we could credibly ignore the adults around us trying to shake our child hands.

On Good Friday we tucked in down the pew while dad sat on the aisle, when the Priest announced that for this special service, volunteers would come and wash your feet if you were sitting on the aisle.  John 13:34:  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”  My dad has a hard time saying no.  He kicked off his shoes and socks and politely pretended not to be hating every second.  And the family simply stopped going to church after this.  Coincidence?

Mrs. Powers, you can judge all you like.  Maybe my dad was sick of church and I was sick of your shitty school.

One of the heavy metal albums from my childhood that reminds me most of that period is Born Again, by Black Sabbath.  Boy, Powers sure would have hated those lyrics. “Good life is contradiction, because of crucifixion.” You can only imagine, if she knew what was I was hearing!

The devil and the priest can’t exist if one goes away,
It’s just like the battle of the sun and the moon and the night and day,
Force of the devil, that’s we’re all told to fear,
Watch out for religion when he gets too near, too near….

Of course Ian Gillan isn’t a satanist; he’s just a singer!  But those lyrics would have set her head on fire, if the album cover didn’t do that first.  Do we mind “Disturbing the Priest”?  The truth is, the words were inspired by the rehearsal sessions for the album.  They were receiving noise complaints from the local church.  Do we mind “Distrurbing the Priest”?  “Not at all, not at all, not in the least.”  Once you know the genesis of the song, the lyrics fall into place.  Not exactly Catholic-friendly, but certainly not evil.

Evil-sounding though?  Absolutely.  Born Again might be the most traditionally evil sounding metal album in the history of the genre.  That’s why the original mix is so important even though it sounds like the refuse of the Golgothan excremental demon.  The lack of clarity, the muddy haze, and the echoing bottomlessness of it just add to the mystique.  You should not be able to clearly hear what the singer is saying.  It should remind of you a bad hazy dream.  Hell, it’s not the lyrics that make it evil; it’s Geezer’s fuzzy bass!

This article was produced after discussions with friends and acquaintances from different faiths and backgrounds.  Some had similar experiences.  Some are still dealing with residual Catholic guilt.  We were talking old church stories, and all this stuff came flooding back.  The sitting, the kneeling, the hand-shaking…my sister and I singing “Stars” by Hear N’ Aid instead of the hymns…the good and the bad.

One of the school bully kids was killed four years after Mount Mary, riding his motorcycle to work.  I morbidly wondered what Powers thought of that; he went to Mount Mary yet he was on her dead roster.  Would she add that detail for next year’s class?

It’s obvious I still hold a lot of resentment to those school years.  I wonder if that’s why I have such a strong attachment to the heavy metal music of the era.  Let the psychoanalysis begin!

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#709: The Stuff

GETTING MORE TALE #709: The Stuff

October 17 2018 was a day like any other day.  I got up, showered, went to work, worked, ate lunch, worked some more, and came home.  You might have had a similar day yourself.

I drove home with Cheap Trick in my ears (“If You Want My Love”, great pop rock) and it was a regular commute, just like any other.  Uneventful is good.  I exited the car into the cold air.  The chill has come, but as I walked towards the building, there was something new.  I smelled the Stuff.

The Stuff is legal in Canada now.  Cannabis, also known as marijuana, ganja, reefer, weed, pot, the electric lettuce…add your own to this list.  Where was I?  Legalisation.  The Justin Trudeau Liberals actually lived up to its campaign promise and the Stuff is now legal.  You can smoke it, you can grow it, and there are rules and regulations to go with it.  In the province of Ontario you can’t just walk into a store and buy it.  You have to order it online.  I heard they’re already sold out.  But it’s legal, is the point I’m making.  Somebody upstairs in the building was celebrating, and that’s fine.

My main point:  like many things, the world didn’t shift today.  I read worried nay-sayers asking questions like “Have they considered all the stoned pot heads driving during the winter while on the Stuff?”  Yes, that’s been considered.  Anybody stupid enough to drive while stoned was already doing it.  What’s one law when you can break two, I guess.  Life in Canada has gone on pretty much normally.  The mail came again.  It was all junk, again.  Gas is pretty much the same price as yesterday.  Same with milk.  Donald Trump tweeted stupid things.  Just a normal day in 2018.

There was one other minor difference today.  There was a mass email at work reminding everyone of the drug & liquor policies.  They haven’t changed though, it’s still basically “Don’t come to work drunk or stoned.”  Same as the day before.

Moving on, I like to think of all the songs I heard as a kid, loaded with references to the Stuff that I completely missed.  I was a pretty naive teenager, I guess, and I really didn’t have a clue!  “Sweet Leaf” by Black Sabbath?  I thought it was about a girl named Leaf.  Leaf isn’t a common name, but it’s a name.  “I love you Sweet Leaf, though you can’t hear.”  Hey, maybe she’s too far away to hear.  I didn’t know!  I swear to Christ almighty, believe me or not, I thought “Sweet Leaf” was about a girl.  Don’t forget Black Sabbath cassettes didn’t come with lyric sheets, so I was guessing at most of the words.  Same with “Flying High Again”.  No clue.

Early 1990, I was working at the grocery store at the mall with a guy named Scott Gunning.  I was obsessed with “Sweet Leaf” that spring.  I just got Sabbath’s We Sold Our Soul for Rock and Roll tape.  “Sweet Leaf” was one of many favourites, but I really loved that riff.  I thought the cough at the start was just an unrelated joke.  Scott, who was older and knew Black Sabbath, must have thought I was a complete stoner, how much I was talking about this song!  Meanwhile I wouldn’t have known the Stuff if it bit me on the nose!

As kids, we always preferred anti-drug songs to ones about getting high.  We were young, and we could relate to the “cleaner” lyrics of a band like Kiss.  “I don’t need to get wasted, it only brings me down.”  Clear cut and easy to understand.  Gene Simmons would be happy that his lyrics had a positive resonance with kids.

Here’s the irony:  Gene Simmons, who has always boasted that he’s only been high in a dentist’s chair, is now investing in Canadian weed companies.

Legalization is a good thing.  A lot of money is going to go right into the economy.  Hell, Mrs. LeBrain has had a prescription for a year and a half now.  Another irony:  she doesn’t take her meds.  She doesn’t like it.  And that’s another factor that people are forgetting.  There are going to be plenty of people who are going to legally try it for the first time, and they’re going to hate it.  They won’t like how it makes them paranoid, or lazy, or hungry, or whatever their reaction will be.  It’s won’t be like the nation will go pot-mad.

Even if it did, I’d rather be living here than down south.

 

#693: GUEST SHOT! Rock and Religion by Derek Kortepeter

A follow up to #657: Operation: Van Halen and #533: Spirituality as a Heavy Metal Fan

 

GETTING MORE TALE #693: Rock and Religion
Guest post by musician and songwriter Derek Kortepeter

Rock N’ Roll and Religion. These things, the two capital R’s if you will, were a constant presence growing up. Sometimes I think back on my growing and think how I developed into the person I am now, certainly rock and religion played a part in that. Being raised Christian by a really awesome single mom who also loved classic rock was truly the best of both worlds. She encouraged me to seek out spiritual and musical power in equal measure. She was laid-back and let me just be who I am as I figured life out.

When I became too self-righteous in my religious fervor she’d pull me back and give me a reality check that being a person of faith means being kind and not a judgmental dickhead (which I certainly could be at times). Even as I now am a rather irreligious (i.e. not super orthodox) 27-year-old, I still think the philosophical and theological basis for my life was positive at least in respect to my mother’s teachings.

It also led to some…interesting, shall we say, experiences with two subcultures that tend to clash. While I grew up after the heyday of Tipper Gore and her merry band of fuckwits (the PMRC) persecuting metal musicians, I still felt the aftershocks in the 90s. Couple that with having more hardcore fundamentalist evangelical extended family and friends, and you can bet I have some stories to tell.

I first started to notice the conflict as a 10-year-old when I got into Black Sabbath and some family members suggested I burn the CDs promptly. I’m pretty sure had I agreed they would have built a bonfire in their backyard and eliminated the demonic disc in a flash of fire (as we all know, Satan lives in poorly made CD-Rs burned on a shitty Dell PC). Not sure if the pen fake tattoo of “OZZY” on my knuckles would have also been burned off in the process…but we can’t rule anything out.

Knowing so many religious folks as friends since I went to a Christian high school after leaving public school due to bullying led to some pretty hilarious confrontations. Being a huge Van Halen fan I would get confronted with different accusations. These would range from me being a practitioner of idolatry (must’ve thought I had a shrine to Eddie Van Halen where I burn sage and chant the lyrics to “I’m The One”), to full-blown accusations of Van Halen being satanic (HAIL DAVID LEE ROTH AND HIS MINIONS OF SATAN).

These sorts of conflicts arose with all of the bands I listened to, from AC/DC and Judas Priest, to Iron Maiden and Metallica. I was constantly having to justify my faith and my love of music that involved pounding drums and wailing guitars. The more I became a bit more liberal in my faith I was able to eventually stop caring, but it was an eye-opening experience for me.

Some suggested I listen to more Christian rock bands, which is an odd label; I mean being a musician is a job, do you make sure your plumber is a Christian plumber (on second thought, maybe you do…bless thy toilet and its holy water)? The problem was, while I found some great bands like Pillar and P.O.D. (also U2 writes constantly about God), they were basically shitty imitations of the real thing. I mean if you want Coke, are you really going to drink store-brand cola and think it tastes just as good?

I imagine that this experience is pretty common for kids in certain religious circles and I wonder if they are scared away from either belief or music because of a false dualism being presented. I ain’t a preacher, and I’m definitely no role model, but rock n’ roll in all its forms has been nothing but a positive in my life. Simultaneously, while I eventually walked away from the church and orthodoxy of my faith for personal reasons, at the time, I also benefited from the comfort I could find in the belief of a supernatural being.

I’m reminded of Malcolm Young’s response when asked if AC/DC were Satanists, he humorously stated “me mum would kill me if we were.” The less boundaries we draw for ourselves in these little subgroups the better. I’m not saying we all have to hold hands and sing “We Are The World” (that song is overrated as hell), but you’d be surprised how much you’d have in common with people that seem to run counter to your own worldview. Rock and religion shouldn’t be enemies, and maybe someday they won’t be.

For now, I’ll start on that Church of the Holy Lars Ulrich shrine for human sacrifices and hope for the best.

Derek Kortepeter

 

#692: Summer of the Album

GETTING MORE TALE #692: Summer of the Album

I’ve had the same routine for over 10 years: get to work, turn on the radio, and listen. I would occasionally hear new bands that I had to get into. I wouldn’t want to do without Greta Van Fleet, Royal Blood, or A Rebel Few in my life. But every routine eventually gets stale.

For the last several weeks I’ve been trying something different. No matter how much radio tries to shake it up, you are guaranteed to hear certain songs and bands every single day. AC/DC, for example, are a radio staple. You will hear them on rock stations every single day, usually from a pool of 10 to 12 songs. In my regular daily album-listening life, I don’t actually listen to AC/DC that often. In fact, I’m less likely to listen to AC/DC when I hear them on the radio daily.

At the recommendation of Uncle Meat I’ve been loading up flash drives and bringing them to work instead. This has enabled me to not only listen to whoever I feel like, but also given me the ability to play full albums.

The first day without radio was an interesting experiment. In the morning, I played the entire Max Webster The Party box set in its completion. In the afternoon, an album I hadn’t played in years: Neil Diamond’s 20th Century Masters! Part of doing without radio is forcing myself to listen to albums that don’t get regular rotation at home. Especially multi-disc sets. It’s easy to listen to a box set when you’re seated at the same desk for eight hours.

A nice big flash drive means I have hundreds of my favourite albums available at a click, but there are pros and cons.

PROS:

1. The chance to spend my listening time with my own music; hopefully neglected music.
2. Hearing full albums.
3. The ability to “pause” when I am interrupted and have to do something else.

CONS:

1. No traffic or news reports.
2. A feeling of disconnection from the community and friends during the day.
3. Missing those new tunes and rarities that sometimes surprise you on the radio.
4. Going from a stereo radio behind me to a mono speaker in front of me.

It was really weird going without the morning radio news reports at first, but I’m used to it now.

This far into the journey I’ve played virtually every studio album by Kiss and Black Sabbath.  I’m working my way through Priest next, and a whole bunch of soundtracks. I actually played Jeff Wayne’s legendary War of the Worlds musical two days in a row, so enthralled was I with the album.  Featuring Justin Hayward, Richard Burton, and Philip flippin’ Lynott, it is an album I am glad to have finally caught up on.  It’s the kind of thing you need to have the time to play, the more the better.

Hopefully, listening to more albums will enable me to review more albums. The unfortunate thing is not being exposed to new and unfamiliar songs. I’ll just have to rely on readers and other sources for that.

With flash drives by my side, 2018 will be the Summer of the Album. Let’s see how this experiment works!

 

READER SPOTLIGHT: Harrison From Down Under

Welcome to the first ever Reader Spotlight at mikeladano.com!  It’s time to turn the mirror on you!

If you enjoy this feature, it might be the first of several.  Be sure to let us know.

There’s a story about how this came to be.  The timeline is as follows:

1997:  Record Store Tales Part 135:  Back in a Tracksuit

  • T-Rev discovers Irish band The Sultans of Ping F.C. and turns them into a local cult phenomenon.

2005:  Getting More Tale #425:  The History of the Holy Grail

2012:  Aaron FINDS THE SULTANS ALBUM and gives it to me for Christmas!

  • And there was much rejoicing.

 

2018:  Reader Harrison from Australia alerts me that there is a 2 CD “deluxe edition” of Casual Sex in the Cineplex, in stock at the Canadian Amazon store.

  • Three left in stock!  Ordered, shipped and delivered — thanks for the tip, Harrison.

In gratitude, I decided to do a Reader Spotlight on Harrison, a pretty cool guy who has now helped me solidify my music collection even further.  Harrison graciously agreed.  We had a chat and I asked him ten questions.  Then he went and added more on his own!

Meet Harrison!


M:  So Harrison, tell us how old you are and where you live, and what you’re doing at school.

H:  I’m eighteen (nineteen in July). I live in Perth, Western Australia and I’m currently at university studying Professional Writing and Economics.

M:  How did you discover heavy metal?

H:  Pure chance, almost. My dad likes Led Zeppelin a lot and my mother likewise with AC/DC, so I guess I kind of always had it in my life but is wasn’t until my uncle passed on his CD collection to my family after digitizing it that I experienced a moment of clarity (to quote LeBrain). Among the many other discs of varying genres was a battered copy of Iron Maiden’s Best of the Beast (2 CD edition but only disc 1 included). By the first chorus of the third song (“Man on the Edge”) I was hooked. That disc got a lot of play thereafter and is single handedly responsible for starting my love of metal.

M:  This helps explain why you love the Blaze era so much!  Was there ever any other music you loved this much?

H: My dad has varied musical tastes and a diverse collection, so I got to experience a wide variety of artists. Before Iron Maiden came along my favourite band was the Electric Light Orchestra

M:  Top five bands — GO!

H: Oh dear, I was dreading this question. Very difficult to do a top five, but here I go anyway.
1. Iron Maiden
2. Black Sabbath
3. Deep Purple
4. Dio
5. Electric Light Orchestra
(Honourable Mentions – Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Blaze, Zeppelin, Slade)

M: You’ve guest reviewed here before and I don’t think you’re done writing reviews. What’s next?

H: Well I’ve got some tales to tell but seeing as you can’t write your memoirs at age 20 that will have to wait until I’m older and (hopefully) wiser. I’m planning for it now though. I enjoy writing and discussing the reviews, so I hope to guest more in the future. I just want to keep them few and far between, to preserve the occasion.

M: Who would win in a street fight: Ozzy or Alice Cooper.

H: Hmm…yes…very deep question…very philosophical. They would never fight though. Ozzy can’t leave his mic stand for more than ten seconds, and Alice is too nice.

But for the sake of the question, Alice would. His head is bigger than a bat’s so he safe, and he once pulled a gun on Elvis. (Although he was promptly shown by Elvis how to deal with an armed man when you are unarmed.)

M: That’s right, Elvis was into Karate. Why the heck do you keep coming back here to read the garbage I post?

H: Firstly, it’s not garbage. Secondly, funny you should ask that, because there’s a bit of a tale involved (there’s a Japanese bonus paragraph if you want). In short, I stumbled upon your 2 CD Best of the Beast review a while back, and I enjoyed it a lot. The personal style and in-depth review was far better than the mediocrity I could scrape up from other sites. I liked it so much that I kept coming back to it (although I did disagree with some points). Eventually I branched out into other Maiden reviews before going the whole hog. It was definitely your writing style that hooked me at the start, followed by your great insights, humour and personality that kept me here.

M: Well thanks!  Speaking of writers:  Heavy Metal OverLOAD, or OverLORD?

H: Overload (which would make a decent Metallica album title).

M: Do you get a lot of concerts down your way?

H: Not really unfortunately. Of the classic rock and metal bands, AC/DC come here often. Sabbath has a couple times (they even filmed a DVD in Melbourne for some reason). Maiden seem to do it mainly for the album tours. While I’m sure we get a decent amount of concerts here, most of them are not by bands I would see (which might have something to do with the fact that most of them are pensioners now).

M: If you want LeBrain readers to know just one thing about you, what would that be? GO!

H: I love The X Factor. I love Virtual XI. And (Shock! Horror!) I love Virtual Lights Strikes Over France.

Dream Lineup:
Bass – Geezer Butler
Lead Guitar -Joe Satriani
Rhythm Guitar – Tony Iommi
Drums – Nicko McBrain
Vocals – James Hetfield
Keyboards – John Paul Jones
Acoustic/Harmony Guitar – Adrian Smith

Stats of Doom:
First album – Iron Maiden – Killers
First Concert – Haven’t been to one yet. Hoping Iron Maiden’s Legacy of the Beast Tour will be the one.
First Vinyl – Iron Maiden – Maiden Japan (notice a theme yet?)
First Bootleg -Iron Maiden – 24th May 1981
First album bought twice – None yet thankfully
Current Collection size – 45 jewel cases/digipaks


Thanks Harrison for taking part!  If you enjoyed this Reader Spotlight, please do let us know in the comments.  You could be next!

GUEST REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995) Part Two – the VHS

BLACK SABBATH – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995 IRS CD/VHS set)
Part Two: the VHS video by Harrison Kopp

As Mike’s VCR is currently stored away, he will be joined by Harrison, who was naughty and downloaded a 720p copy of the show when someone had it up on YouTube, and therefore will be reviewing the video half of this box set.

 

 

 


The video version is a great snapshot of the band at this period. The quality is quite good for a VHS, only betraying its origins with any large expanses of black shown. It also features some innovative action shots to capture the band, which is much appreciated as, although Geezer is still head banging away as usual, Bobby generally fades into the background and, as Mike has pointed out in other reviews, Tony Martin’s frontman-ship involves either singing up front or shaking his thinning hair by the drum riser.  As for Tony Iommi? Well he’s still the epitome of theatrical guitar playing.

The lighting is done well also, although the red occasionally gives the skin an overly pink tone. And for the first time, Geoff Nicholls is visible in the background of some shots, doing keyboards and backing vocals.

Puzzlingly, there is also a black and white filter used on a couple shots here and there, that really isn’t necessary. Those preceding niggles however, were only small nit-picks of a thoroughly enjoyable show to watch.

There are also three songs included on the video that aren’t on the CD and will be therefore be reviewed here. The first is fairly early in the set and is “Mob Rules”. Tony powers through verse after verse without fail. Although it inevitably falls short of the Dio renditions, it still deserved a place on the disc.

“Anno Mundi” is next. This is easily the best of the three. Tony Martin sings his heart out in an amazing performance of the only song from Tyr. This easily should have been on the disc as well.  (They all should have.)  On a side note, it’s really nice to see audience members head-banging and singing along to these Martin-era songs.  Last of these is a decent rendition of “Neon Knights” that just can’t compete with Dio’s versions. A couple subtle melody changes here and there don’t help it either.

Still, despite a couple small missteps:

4.5/5 stars, and Tony martin’s finest hour with Sabbath.

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995) Part One – the CD

BLACK SABBATH – Cross Purposes ~ Live (1995 IRS CD/VHS set)
Part One: the CD

Metal fans who recall the 80s and 90s will remember that Black Sabbath struggled to be relevant, in a time when they should have been dominant.  While Soundgarden soared up the charts with a sound that could never have existed without them, Black Sabbath limped along, with new lineups annually.  Singer Tony Martin has been relegated to the footnotes of rock — unfairly for certain — thanks to a successful Black Sabbath reunion with Ozzy Osbourne.  Fans in the know appreciate the Tony Martin era, and the tunes it produced.

With a lineup featuring original members Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, Sabbath rolled tape at the Hammersmith for a live video also featuring their newest drummer Bobby Rondinelli (Rainbow) and longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls.  They were on tour supporting Cross Purposes, their first since an aborted reunion with Ronnie James Dio.  This video was released in 1995, packaged with a CD that was shortened by three songs.

Today we’ll review the audio, and tomorrow a guest will review the video.

Some context:  in some circles, Tony Martin was seen as a Dio clone.  Therefore, it was brave and somewhat cheeky for Black Sabbath to open the show with “Time Machine”, a song specifically recorded for the Dio reunion!  The whole Dehumanizer era was dicey to begin with.  Tony Martin supposedly recorded an alternate set of vocals for that album just in case it didn’t work out with Ronnie.  Cheeky or not, Tony Martin was more than capable of covering Dio’s song, though with less of Ronnie’s unmistakable grit.

Back to Master of Reality, “Children of the Grave” is bloody sharp with Bobby on drums.  Nothing against Vinnie Appice or Cozy Powell (or Eric Singer or Bev Bevan or Terry Chimes or Mike Bordin or Tommy Clufetos) but I think Bobby Rondinelli was absolutely perfect for Black Sabbath.  His hard-hitting style really turned up the heavy, and he also adapted it to the old Bill Ward songs better than some of the other drummers did.

Sabbath churned out album after album, year after year, and they always played new tunes live.  Cross Purposes was a remarkably solid album, probably due to Geezer Butler’s influence.  “I Witness” was worthy of the Sabbath canon, fitting perfectly among the speed rockers like “Neon Nights”.  Next in the set was “Mob Rules” which was cut from the CD for time, so we skip through to a pretty authentic and unabridged “Into the Void”.  With Tony Martin in the band, Black Sabbath were able to do songs from any era.  That’s due to his versatility and his ability to put ego aside.

“Anno Mundi” (from 1990’s Tyr) should be next but it’s axed for time and instead it’s straight into “Black Sabbath”, a song that makes fools out of most singers.  And truthfully, nobody but Bill Ward can capture the random madness that is his original drum performance.  Sabbath ’94 do OK.

Another track is edited out (“Neon Nights” of all songs; who chose these?) and an odd choice from Cross Purposes is left in:  “Psychophobia”, a stuttering metal slab of anger.  Aimed at Ronnie?  You be the judge, when Tony Martin howls, “It’s too late now, it’s time to kiss the rainbow goodbye.”  The groove is pretty unstoppable whatever the motivation.

The surprise plot twist is “The Wizard”, an Ozzy oldie that few singers have dared to attempt with Black Sabbath.  First time in 24 years, according to Tony.  The harmonica part brings it closer to the old blues that Sabbath began with, and Tony Martin does fine with his own take on it.  Then it’s time for the Cross Purposes ballad, a killer “Cross of Thorns”, though one gets the sense of anticlimax after a track like “The Wizard”.  It would have worked better early in the set, but it’s an example of the quality heavy rock songs that Sabbath were still writing.  Martin’s voice cracks raw at times from pouring it all in, and Iommi’s guitar solo is one of his most melodically enticing.

Back once again to the past, “Symptom of the Universe” is a smokeshow, including the oft-skipped psychedelic groovy outro.  It kills any version by any lineup except the original quartet, and that’s due to Tony Martin’s throat-destroying singing.  Bobby Rondinelli gets a drum solo before “Headless Cross”; not the first time he’s had to play drum parts originated by Cozy Powell!  “Headless Cross” is a rhythm-based song with or without Cozy.  Geoff Nicholls helps out Tony Martin for the impossible notes in the chorus.

“Paranoid”, “Iron Man” and a downtuned “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” make for a fine conclusion, but “Heaven and Hell” was conspicuous by its absence on this tour.  It was only played in form of a brief segue between songs.

The CD release is 71 minutes, so given time limits of the day, that was about as many songs as they could squeeze in.  If you want to be creative, why not find the other three tracks and add them as a bonus CD?  Until a complete deluxe edition comes our way, this will have to do for audio aficionados.  Our bonus CD is 16:08 of more Sabbath, though at a noticeably lesser quality.  Tony remarked that picking a setlist was near impossible, but that “Mob Rules” had a “fucking good place in this set”, so why not the CD?  It’s a full-speed cruise that is over before you can break a sweat.  “Anno Mundi” is a special treat, as it was only played on the UK tour dates.  Another fine example of underrated Martin-era material that wasn’t given a fair shake, but at 6:20 it takes a lot of space.  As for “Neon Nights”?  “This is a fucking good track,” says Martin accurately.  There’s a lot of speedy metal on Cross Purposes ~ Live, but two of the most important ones in “Mob Rules” and “Neon Nights” were not on the standard CD.  Surely a better series of cuts could have been made.

Tomorrow a guest reviewer will have a look at the VHS.  For the CD, the math is simple:

4.5/5 stars

– minus 1 star for the missing three songs equals =

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Past Lives (2002)

BLACK SABBATH – Past Lives (2002 Sanctuary)
(CD 1 is a reissue of 1980’s Live at Last (NEMS))

Black Sabbath’s Live at Last (1980) has been reissued so often that its Discogs listing shows 81 distinct versions.  Those don’t include the Black Sabbath live set Past Lives, of which Live at Last forms its first CD.  The second disc is all unreleased live versions, from shows in 1970 and 1975.  These consist of some of the big Sabbath numbers that weren’t on Live at Last (“Iron Man”, “Black Sabbath”) and more obscure material like “Hole in the Sky”.

“Hand of Doom” from Paranoid is an unusual though doomy way to open the CD.  It rolls from gentle bass to a roaring mania.  It is a taut performance largely because of Bill Ward’s enviable swing.  “Hand of Doom” was recorded in 1970, but jumping ahead to ’75, Ozzy’s intro to “Hole in the Sky” is cute.  It wasn’t out yet.  “Listen to it, you might like it, OK?” asks Ozzy.  Then, “Are you high?  Are you high?  So am I!”

Some Sabbath songs are like a brand new bulldozer, unrelentlessly heavy, yet shiny and cool.  “Hole in the Sky” is one such riff-monster, an indispensable slab of heavy metal.  It’s followed by another new one, and even heavier:  “Symptom of the Universe”.  Young, wasted Sabbath blast through it — and stay the fuck out of Bill Ward’s way!  The drummer is a tornado.  “Megalomania” makes it a perfect trifecta of new songs.  It’s an epic 10 minutes of different paces, riffs and melodies.  Unlike other metal bands, Sabbath often welded two or three unforgettable riffs together into mega-compositions.  Look at “Black Sabbath” for example — they could have made two songs out of it, but instead we have one massive monolith.  On stage, “Megalomania” is tense and never boring.  Ozzy shreds his voice to pieces.

As far as Past Lives goes, these three songs (“Hole in the Sky”, “Symptom of the Universe” and “Megalomania”) are the nugget of gold in the middle.  It’s a first official live release for most of them.  A live “Symptom of the Universe” was issued by a Tony Martin-era lineup on 1995’s Cross Purposes ~ Live, but that cannot compete with the vintage original lineup.*

It’s only oldies from there in.  “Iron Man”, “Fairies Wear Boots” and “Black Sabbath” (with unique Tony Iommi guitar intro) make up for their absence on Live at Last.  “N.I.B.” and “Behind the Wall of Sleep” from the first Sabbath round out the set.  Nobody did them better than the original band in the 1970s.

Today we have more original Sabbath to choose from that just Past Lives; two complete concerts were included in the recent Paranoid 4 CD box set.  Back in 2002, this kind of release warranted bigger fanfare.  The audio is not pristine.  Flutter, static and amp hum are part of the deal.  If you’re into buying archival live material, you know what this is about.

The original digipack release of Past Lives comes with a booklet, a poster, and most importantly a guitar pick.  Collectors will probably want to hold out for a version with pick intact, though finding one might be a “holy grail” item.  If you don’t care about such things, a simple jewel case release is widely available.

4/5 stars

 

* Sorry Harrison.

 

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Live at Last (1980)

BLACK SABBATH – Live at Last (1980 NEMS)

Although the Black Sabbath discography is not that complicated, we still struggle to know exactly how to file Live at Last.  Recorded in 1973 (Vol. 4 tour), it was shelved because the band were not happy with it.  Much later on (1980) it was released officially but without the band’s consent or knowledge.  They have shunned it, while Live at Last has enjoyed a number of re-releases and remasters.  For maximum fun, why not track down an old vinyl pressing with the singer’s name spelled as Ossie Osbourne?  (The vinyl pressing is also one way to get a completely unedited version; most CD releases lack at least the band intro.)

Live at Last was, for many many years, the only live Black Sabbath album with Ozzy.  Live Evil, released in 1982, had then-current frontman Ronnie James Dio.  Although considered a sub-par album, you didn’t have much choice back then.  Excessive Tony Iommi guitar feedback may be one reason the band weren’t happy with it.

Starting with new single “Tomorrow’s Dream”, Sabbath sound coked to the brim.  Iommi’s guitar pukes sonic sludge, Bill Ward floating behind, and Geezer playing bass melodies from another world.  “Sweet Leaf” continues the trip; Ozzy howling “I love you!” while the stoned band pummels through.  Original Sabbath has a looseness that no other lineup possessed.  It’s just something special that happens with those four guys, and Bill Ward had the swing to it all.

Brand new tune “Killing Yourself to Live” hadn’t been released yet, but it’s pretty intact in live form.  “Get high!” screams Oz.  The challenging song demonstrates Sabbath’s ability to meld multiple memorable guitar riffs together into a single whole.  “Killing Yourself to Live” has at least three distinct riff sections, each cooler than the last.  Unfortunately the recording doesn’t allow us to really hear how the audience responded to the new material.

“Cornucopia” alone could be responsible for birthing half of grunge rock.  The young band’s energy is remarkable.  “Snowblind” is a blast, with Ozzy shouting “CO-CAINE!” rather than whispering slyly. Closing side one, we come to “Embryo/Children of the Grave” and its unforgettable chug riff that launched many a metal band.  You can hear the crowd clapping madly at Ozzy’s command to “Embryo”, before the riff cascades down like the Biblical flood.  Bill Ward paces it faster than the album version by several notches.  “War Pigs” also swings, a little faster than album, but with an unusually jazzy touch.

For some serious swing, check out the 20 minute “Wicked World” medley.  Ward jazzes it up like nobody’s business, when he’s not crushing the heavy parts.  Tony Iommi has a varied guitar solo section, becoming “Into the Void”, then a blues jam and the old standard “Sometimes I’m Happy”.  That turns into “Supernaut” and a drum solo, before reverting right back into “Wicked World” for the finale!  This insane extended track is the one to buy the album for.

After asking the audience several times “What do you wanna hear?”, Ozzy closes with “Paranoid”.  Once again it’s quite fast with Bill ahead of the beat.  Osbourne tells the crowd that they’re beautiful and of course “we love you all!”  and that’s that — a one hour live album on a single LP, all done.  No “Black Sabbath”, no “Fairies Wear Boots” or “Iron Man”, but plenty of the blackest Sabbaths.

Recommended CD edition:  Black Sabbath’s 2002 Past Lives set, which includes a slightly edited version of Live at Last plus a whole CD more of unreleased live stuff.  It even has a sticker on the front that says “Live at Last…deluxe edition”!  Full review of that CD tomorrow.

3.5/5 stars

#644: On the Road with Peter and Ozzy

GETTING MORE TALE #644: On the Road with Peter and Ozzy

Peter started coming up to the cottage with us in the summer of 1991, after we both finished highschool. Peter didn’t pack light. On any given trip, Peter would pack the following items:

  • Baseball gloves & ball
  • A football
  • Nintendo games
  • At least a dozen movies
  • Food, food and more food
  • Several tapes for the car

Peter’s favourite artist for cottage road trips was Ozzy Osbourne. During the summer of 1992, No More Tears was in the deck. Peter skipped the ballads. No “Mama I’m Coming Home” for him! We also enjoyed Billy Idol. Peter made a special mission to pick up Whiplash Smile before a road trip.  I can recall going to Fairview Mall, and opening the tape in the car.  We were also into a band called Transvision Vamp who had a couple great car tunes – “Baby I Don’t Care” was one.

When he had a car CD changer, we played a fun guessing game. We’d throw in Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Weird Al Yankovic’s Off the Deep End. Peter hit shuffle. When we heard the classic chords to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/”Smells Like Nirvana”, we had to guess who it actually was before the vocals began. It took a while to hear the difference.  Eventually I could tell.  Weird Al tends to do spot-on covers, instrumentally speaking.

Ozzy was good for passing other cars. Nothing like passing people going 150 kph on the highway, with Ozzy cackling “Crazy Train” out the windows. Black Sabbath was also handy. While visiting Frankenmuth Michigan, Peter scored a three CD Sabbath box set called The Ozzy Osbourne Years.  It had virtually every song from the first six Sabbath albums, only missing instrumentals.  I can distinctly remember passing cars to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Peter tried to synch up passing the cars to Ozzy shouting “You bastards!”

When we weren’t rocking, we were laughing. Peter had an extensive collection of comedy tapes and CDs. Andrew Dice Clay was a favourite. We liked his “Christmas song”:

“Suck his dick, til the veins are blue…
Suck his dick, til you take his goo…
Merry, merry Christmas….”

Dana Carvey also had a hilarious rock opera spoof song about choppin’ broccoli.

But the food! My God. Peter did not skimp on the food. He liked to treat the whole family to a chicken stir fry. He brought all the food and equipment. Once he even made his own chicken balls from scratch, with his mom’s special recipe. Noodles, bean sprouts, chopped veggies, and all the fixings: nothing was missing. Sometimes he’d bring a dessert, and always a bottle of wine.  Choppin’ broccoli indeed.

We were never hungry nor bored. When available, we would run into town to buy fireworks. When we ran out, if Peter hadn’t got his fill, we’d go back in town to buy more. My mother used to joke that there was no downtime with Peter. When done one activity, he’d move right on into the next one. And if we had a building project on the go, he’d be there with his tools, in the fray helping out.

Car trips with Peter were unforgettable. Try passing a car while Ozzy shouts “You bastards!” out the window and you’ll have an idea what it was like to hang out with us.