Album review: BLACK SABBATH – Supersonic Years The Seventies Singles Box Set

LACK SABBATH - Supersonic Years  The Seventies Singles Box Set

BMG [Release date 08.06.18]

This is no ordinary reissue; for a catalogue that has been reissued more times stamps have first day covers, last year’s 8LP + crucistick box took reissues to a new sonic and packing level, and this augments that visually perfectly.

Aimed at the vinyl enthusiast and vinyl collector, of which Sabbath have many, this set features the 10 7” singles from the 1970s Ozzy years, with variants of world-wide picture sleeves. As a collector myself (I have over 210 7” singles by Nazareth, from around the world), there is a definite appeal.

Even where a 7” doesn’t have a picture sleeve, a unique catalogue number, a “Made In Guatemala” on the label, there’s lots that a collector will go for. And like with any collection, there’s a huge range of world-wide picture sleeves.

Aside from Thailand and Brazillian EPs and Japanese 45s, Europe is a goldmine of sleeves (some French sleeves duplicated artwork both sides), and even Yugoslavia, a country no longer in existence, is an abundant source of unique 45s.

Black Sabbath’s place in rock history is enshrined. Formed in the late 60s as The Polka Tulk Blues Band, the 4 piece line-up (Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi and Bill Ward) and sound was cemented in 1969 as Earth, changing their name to Black Sabbath before recording their eponymous debut before the end of the year. Suffice to say that in a world British psychedelic rock, blues and progressive rock, and American harder edged West Coast rock, Black Sabbath’s debut was the first of the Heavy Metal genre.

From their playing style, Ozzy’s vocals, Geezer’s driving rhythms and lyrics, Iommi’s guitar (Lord of the Riff and some great solos too), their style has been just so influential, not just on doom or stoner metal as a couple of the album typified, but across the whole of rock and metal ever since.

Given the number of world-wide variations of choice of singles and track couplings, such a box would be much like the collection itself – impossible (or impractical) to be exhaustive. So the 10 titles are centred on the UK and/or US discography.

The band’s first single ‘Evil Woman’ was a rare cover, originally released in the UK on the Fontana label (a major Sabbath rarity) in January 1970 before being repressed on the spiral Vertigo label shortly after the release of their debut LP a month or two later, and the bands earthy roots, including a blues nod, all present.

Back in the day, the band recorded quickly, the debut album recorded in couple of overnight stops on the way to (and from) a European tour, because they didn’t know any different, and the second album was recorded later in 1970. The title track was recorded quickly as a filler, and it almost single handedly changed the face of heavy metal and Sabbath’s place in history.

Some tracks, such as the aforementioned ‘Paranoid’, and the mid 70s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ (title track from an album that featured Rick Wakeman) are so well known, and rightfully so, that other parts of the 1970s’ catalogue get overlooked, and this set shows how the band’s sound changed throughout the decade as well as showing how colourful the packaging was around the world. Some of the 7” choices will surprise fans, even some of the UK editions.

A personal favourite, the Technical Ecstasy album, saw a single or two (I dare you not to love the tracks ‘Gypsy’ or ‘Rock’n’Roll Doctor’), and the decade’s final set (featuring Don Airey) I think is another classic. Here I think an opportunity overlooked as there was a UK picture sleeve and the original pressing of ‘Hard Road’ was issued on purple vinyl.

Holding the singles is to love and enjoy them. To go all Spinal Tap on them, the smell too. The replica Vertigo labels are a bonus, and the world-wide art coupled with band photo variations are a joy too.

To add real value is the booklet, which contains even more record artwork, discography information and extensive and informative sleevenotes from Sabbath aficionado High Gilmour (whose contribution is too often limited to project design). This whole box then becomes an essential part of the collection; not just to enjoy in its own right but it augments other reissue campaigns perfectly, especial the most recent 10 Year War vinyl box set.

Influential and original as the Ozzy years were, it would be prohibitively short sighted (as many fans sadly are) to think that Sabbath begin and end with Osbourne, for to do so overlooks some of the genre’s finest releases (I’m thinking Heaven And Hell and Headless Cross). Like with 10 Year War, a Volume 2 to encompass the 80s and 90s would go down just as well.  ****

Review by Joe Geesin

The discs (with sleeve source) enclosed are

Disc 1: Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me) / Wicked World – 1970
* Sleeve Holland (front), Germany (back)
Disc 2: Paranoid / The Wizard – 1970
* Italy (front), Sweden (back)
Disc 3: Iron Man (Single Edit) / Electric Funeral – 1970
* Custom Vertigo / Warners
Disc 4: Tomorrow’s Dream / Laguna Sunrise – 1972
* France (front), Germany (back)
Disc 5: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (Edited Version) / Changes – 1973
* Japan (front), Holland (back)
Disc 6: Am I Going Insane (Radio) (Single Edit) / Hole In The Sky – 1975
* Japan
Disc 7: Gypsy / She’s Gone – 1976
* Yugoslavia
Disc 8: It’s Alright / Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor – 1976
* Holland (front), Japan (back)
Disc 9: Never Say Die / She’s Gone – 1978
* Holland (front), Germany (back)
Disc 10: Hard Road (Single Edit) / Symptom Of The Universe (German Single Edit) – 1978
* Germany (front), Japan (back)

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