BMG [Release date 09.10.20]
Another year. Another anniversary. At the dawn of heavy metal as we know it, 1970, Black Sabbath released their second album which went on to achieve multi-million selling status.
A fan favourite it yielded a handful of songs that would remain in the band’s setlist, not least the title track which became a siren call for the emerging genre. Rolling Stone magazine described it as “the greatest heavy metal album ever”.
50 years on, BMG have issued a handsome package which in vinyl form features 5 LPs whilst there is also a 4-CD version. All have the extras including a 40-page hardback book with band interviews and recollections, a poster, and a facsimile tour programme from the 1971 US spring tour.
‘Paranoid’ took the doom laden blueprint a step further than the band’s debut less than 12 months previously. There is little filler, from the apocalyptic ‘War Pigs’ and ‘Iron Man’ to a song like ‘Planet Caravan’ which surprisingly introduced a jazzy edge. The second side includes the classic ‘Fairies Wear Boots’.
The band were not the black magic dabblers as portrayed in contemporary media, and which resulted in a temporary ban from the Royal Albert Hall. The album demonstrates more thoughtful lyrics ranging from anti-capitalism to sci-fi, deeper than their debut, and a musical leaning that could encompass jazz as much as blues and (heavy) rock.
And, as Ozzy recalls, in those early days they were very much a jamming band often stretching a 45 minute set with one song and, intriguingly, leaving a trail of recordings as they practised in various locations. ‘Planet Caravan’ is the best example of this approach.
This box set is an excellent celebration although, maybe for completism, there could have been an extra disc with the bonus tracks that appeared on the 2009 deluxe edition. Some early video would also have been welcome, given that the Brussels gig included here was filmed for Belgian television.
The two live gigs – from a 1970 European tour – appear on vinyl for the first time although they’ve appeared previously on bootleg CDs. Hardcore fans will also know the Montreux gig includes different lyrics for ‘Iron Man’. There is inevitable duplication, with three tracks featured from the first album.
The quad mix “folded to stereo” may interest audiophiles but is more a novelty than a sonic must-have. Perhaps a 5.1 mix would have been more relevant.
The hardback book is well presented, includes contemporary cuttings and quotes, and with band interviews from 2016. It charts the band’s early evolution, growing up in war-blighted Birmingham and launching in the war tainted world of the late sixties, early seventies (both Vietnam and the Cold War).
If this release is made all the more poignant by Ozzy’s current flagging health, and an unlikely future band reformation, we can still revel in their early prowess. This super deluxe version is an excellent and near-essential reminder. ****1/2
Review by David Randall
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In 2010 – coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Paranoid – David Randall chatted with Geezer Butler about the early days of the band (10:51)
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