By Steve Newton
The hard-rock/metal world is all a-buzz with today’s news that the mighty Black Sabbath will release a CD boxed set containing the band’s first eight albums—the ones it recorded before Ozzy Osbourne got the boot and was replaced by Ronnie James Dio in 1979.
That’s all well and good. The more masterful Tony Iommi riffs circulating around the globe the better, in my books.
But the April 15 release of Black Sabbath: Complete Studio Albums (1970-1978) smacks a bit of overkill since the band issued the same boxed set 10 years ago when it was called Black Box: The Complete Original Black Sabbath, 1970-1978.
The good news is that newbie Sabbath fans—the kids who just got turned on to the band via last year’s number-one album, 13—can own all that original Sabbath magic for a pretty decent price. I’m seeing the new boxed set advertised on Amazon for $57.18 right now, whereas if you tried scoring Black Box it would set you back $174.98 for a new copy.
Mind you, Black Box came with some pretty sweet extras, as outlined in my original review from ’94, posted here for your perusal.
Now here’s the ultimate stocking stuffer for that die-hard metal freak on your Christmas list. It’s gonna cost you a fair chunk of cash—I just saw the Black Box going for $124 at A&B Sound—but little Timmy will be gaining invaluable insights into the roots of heavy metal. Never mind that the wee sprite may have to forfeit his very soul as well.
Thanks mostly to the power-riff genius of guitarist Tony Iommi, Black Sabbath paved the way for dark, foreboding hard rock in the early ’70s. While not as visible as frontman Ozzy Osbourne, Iommi was the musical brains behind the British quartet, which also included bassist Geezer Butler and drummer Bill Ward. Thank God (or the devil), Iommi figured out a way to continue playing guitar after chopping off the tips of his fingers in an industrial accident. Where would the rock world be without the riffs from “Paranoid”, “Iron Man”, and “Supernaut”?
Black Box includes the eight Sabbath albums—from 1970’s Black Sabbath to 1978’s Never Say Die!—that Osbourne made with the group before he was sacked and replaced by Ronnie James Dio. The original vinyl-version layout and artwork have been re-created in CD form, which brings a nice nostalgic feel but also makes it impossible to decipher most of the shrunken-down lyrics. Fortunately, they’re all reprinted, in readable type, in the accompanying 80-page book. So it’s easy for little Timmy to sing along with Oz when he greets Lucifer on “N.I.B.” or denounces the “evil minds that plot destruction” on the frighteningly topical “War Pigs”.
The beautiful, black felt-covered tome—which also holds a four-song DVD—includes a couple of essays, an in-depth Sabbath time line, and quotes on the band from a number of celebrity rockers. “The biggest, hairiest riffs ever invented,” raves Beck. “Sabbath will cremate your soul and make your grandma slaughter sheep.”
Consider yourself warned.
Which ever way you decide to go—new boxed set, old boxed set, or even a trip down to Zulu to search for dog-eared vinyl copies—I highly recommend the 2004 book How Black Was Our Sabbath as the perfect reading material to accompany all the long hours soaking up those ear-bustin’ sounds of the Seventies.