First let’s get one thing straight: the Boris Karloff film Black Sabbath, from which the band took its name, was released in 1963. It is NOT a “1930’s horror film… ” thank you very much. This drives me crazy. The only reason this error keeps popping up (like in the liner notes to Reunion) is because the usually correct Tony Iommi says it in a taped interview.
Harumph! Now that that’s over with, this double-CD album kicks major metal ass! Reunion was recorded during the amazing December 4-5 1997, full-on reunion of the original Black Sabbath in Birmingham, England after nearly a year’s tour of the US headlining Ozzfest.
Echoing Kerrang! Editor Phil Alexander’s liner notes (barring what I said above), it’s important that everyone understand that Black Sabbath didn’t end with the firing of Ozzy Osbourne in 1979. The band, which is owned by guitarist Tony Iommi, continued to record great heavy metal for fifteen years! But no one sings the classics like Ozzy, and no one hammers on the drums like Bill Ward, and no one has a roaring bass like Geezer Butler.
At the Sabbath-headlined Ozzfests, we were treated to the standard “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” “Children of the Grave,” and “Paranoid” medley, with “Into the Void” thrown in to terrify the kids who thought Pantera was heavy… While those songs are great, there’s so much more that was recorded on eight albums between 1970 and 1978, and it just doesn’t seem right that they go unheard when you’ve got the right band to play them. Now, Ozzy has released a number of live albums, especially Speak of the Devil, featuring songs from every Sabbath album, and so has Black Sabbath sans Ozzy (e.g., Live Evil and Cross Purposes). And while these albums, whether it’s Ronnie James Dio or Tony Martin or Ian Gillen or whomever singing, are all great and worth having, the originals played by the original lineup just have the right, I don’t know, “electricity” about them. They feel “fat” the way jazz is supposed to when played right. They also have a “defining” quality about them, as in “this is heavy metal.” Although no true fan of metal can ignore the original “metal” of Cream, Jimi Hendrix, and especially Blue Cheer; Black Sabbath was radically different, taking heavy guitar blues a hundred miles heavier. On that note, Led Zeppelin did exactly the same thing only they had, in my opinion, a much better idea of how to approach the music business, thanks to years and years of experience. Hmmm. Led Zep lost a band member and kept the money, whereas all the members of Black Sabbath shouldn’t have lived past twenty-five, what with snorting and crashing everything in sight, and losing nearly all their money in probably the second ugliest music industry history story of all time…
Back to the songs… Reunion contains some of the more obscure Black Sabbath tunes, like “Spiral Architect” — which, if heard by someone who doesn’t know Black Sabbath’s work, will think they’re listening to Rush — and “Dirty Women” off Technical Ecstasy. There’s also the heaviest version of “Electric Funeral” I’ve ever heard and “Behind the Wall of Sleep/N.I.B.” is just soooo heavy.
They’ve included two new studio tracks, “Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul,” which, like most Sabbath songs, quickly grow into fat, powerful heavy metal. As one must expect. I just wish I had been at the shows!