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Black Sabbath

Past Lives

Review by Gary Hill

This set features live recordings of the original lineup of Black Sabbath. Disc one had previously been released as Live at Last. It is a show from 1973. The second disc includes four songs (the first four) from a King Biscuit Flower Hour show from 1975. The remaining songs were recorded in 1970. Some of the material has a bootleg kind of sound quality. A few tracks, though, really make this a “must have,” among them the extensive sprawling version of “Wicked World,” (a full on medley), “Megalomania” and “Hand of Doom.”

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
Tomorrow's Dream

This killer Sabbath cruncher is a classic tune that shows both the slower side of the band and a more full on rock one. It’s a great live recording.

Sweet Leaf
Homage to the joys of smoking the “sweet leaf,” they put in a smoking hot live version here.
Killing Yourself To Live
This song from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath is perhaps a little rough in terms of the mix. Still, as strong as the piece is, it’s good that it’s presented here. The timing feels a little weird here at points and the recording quality suffers more than on some of the other music.
Cornucopia
The sound problems that seemed to plague the previous tune are pretty much gone here. This is a hard rocking Sabbath tune that pounds ahead in style.
Snow Blind
While the mellower section of this cut seems to lose a little of its charm here in this live telling, it’s still a strong number and this is quite a strong rendition.
Children of the Grave
Another smoking hot Black Sabbath classic, this live telling is very strong. This is arguably one of the strongest pieces on show here.
War Pigs
Here’s another Sabbath classic. This is perhaps not as strong a live version as the previous piece. There seems to be a little bit of a tuning or timing issue at points and there is also some feedback here and there. However, when they fire out into the faster paced movement it really works.
Wicked World
While this is listed as “Wicked World,” this track is almost nineteen minutes long and encompasses a lot more than that one song. For one thing, Iommi takes it out into an extended guitar solo that even includes a good chunk of old time rock and roll. They take it out into a blues jam that feels a bit like something Led Zeppelin might have done. They transition into “Supernaut,” but eventually make it back to “Wicked World” in time to end it. This powerhouse jam is worth the price of admission all by itself.
Paranoid
One of Black Sabbath’s best known numbers, this live version packs some punch. It’s got an almost punk raw nature at times.
Disc 2
Hand Of Doom
The mellow section of this song has an almost jazz-like texture to it. It shows an interesting side of Black Sabbath and this live recording is pretty cool. The recording quality seems similar to that of the first disc. Iommi seems to go really nuts on the guitar solo.
Hole In The Sky
This Sabotage tune seems to have more of a groove sound as captured in this live recording. It’s a strong tune and a great recording.
Symptom Of The Universe
Arguably the most aggressive song this version of Sabbath ever recorded, they give it a great live treatment here. It really sounds like thrash metal, even though that genre didn’t exist yet.
Megalomania
This cut has always been one of my favorite Sabbath songs. It’s epic and to have a live recording of it is another reason this live set is a “must have.” In some ways, the mellow sections of this cut are even more sedate here than on the studio rendition. There is a lot more menace in some of the crunchier parts of the track. An amazing guitar solo section is heard later, too.
Iron Man
Here is one of the best known Black Sabbath songs. This is very heavy and the performance is cool, but there seem to be some timing problems at the start. The recording here is the weakest of anything to this point.
Black Sabbath
The quintessential “spooky” Black Sabbath song is presented in a live setting here. There’s a little acoustic guitar bit tacked onto the beginning of the track. In fact, that solo makes up about the first two minutes of the number. Beyond that, they put in a strong live performance. The sound quality seems a little better than it did on “Iron Man,” even though they are both from the same show.
N.I.B.
The recording quality here is particularly bad, but the performance is strong.
Behind The Wall Of Sleep
Another track from Sabbath’s debut disc, this is a cool number and performed quite well here. The recording quality seems a little better than on the previous one. There’s a drum solo in the middle of this track and they take it out into some killer jamming from there.
Fairies Wear Boots
An inspired live telling of “Fairies Wear Boots,” the recording quality here is sort of middle of the road.
 
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