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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Heaven and Hell

Live from Radio City Music Hall

Review by Rick Damigella

Next year may be the 40th anniversary of Black Sabbath, but 2007 will be forever known in the lore of heavy metal as the year of Heaven & Hell. With three related releases from Tony Iommi, Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice since April of this year, the second incarnation of Black Sabbath (for likely political reasons under the moniker Heaven & Hell) has also been on tour in support of Black Sabbath: The Dio Years. This live recording documents their March 30th performance at the legendary concert venue and features only material from this line up of the band. Don’t spin this up and expect to hear anything Mr. Osbourne sang, and, frankly, this is a good thing.

What is unbelievable about this double-disc set is how good the entire band sounds. One would almost never know that a combined quarter century of non-involvement and animosity had passed between the three times this line up of Sabbath have been together. Iommi and Butler play like they have playing these songs every night their entire lives. What is most striking here is the voice of Ronnie James Dio. For being 64 at the time of this recording, the man sings like it is 1981 still. There are vocalists four decades his junior who can never hope to have his kind of longevity or sing with the power and intensity that Dio does.

The people behind the scenes rarely get name checked and kudos must be given to live recording producer Barry Ehrmann and Chief Engineer Kooster McAllister for recording an amazing sounding live album. Indeed, with this release, it is time for one of the top ten live albums of all time to leave that vaunted list, for Heaven & Hell Live from Radio City Music Hall is truly one of the best live albums ever.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2007 Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1
E5150/After All (The Dead)
The set opens with the band’s traditional aural journey into hell. The mix between stage sound and audience cheers is spectacular. If you were there and were near a mic set up, you will likely hear yourself. The sounds of evil segue into what I think is a truly ballsy opening number. “After All” comes from their third album Dehumanizer and is not a full out rocker. Instead, this number is downright moody, dark, slow and crunchy, sounding almost like a sequel in places to their eponymous song from their first album.
The Mob Rules
Ronnie James Dio summons a demonic scream straight from the netherworld to open this classic. Iommi and Butler’s interplay between their respective instruments can be heard in full explicit detail, a reason why the guys behind the recording should be commended so highly for bringing this performance to the ears of those not able to witness it in person.
Children of the Sea
Ronnie James Dio’s between song banter is left intact during the recording, further drawing the listener into the experience of the show. Dio takes the opportunity of the mid-tempo mysticism of this song to stretch his voice and add his trademark embellishments to the performance. Touring keyboardist Scott Warren gets his first chance to shimmer through the darkness during the bridge.
Lady Evil
Continuing with another number from 1980’s Heaven and Hell album, Geezer Butler plucks away at his four-strings to get this one going. Since this track didn’t get the live treatment on the Live Evil album, it is a welcome addition to this set. There’s no post-song talking from Dio as this number ends and transitions straight into one of the highlights of the disc.
I
While Dio’s performance of Ozzy’s material on Live Evil was strong in places, it is hearing songs like this played live that make this a must have album even more so than the aforementioned album. As metal was quickly giving way in popularity to flannel wearing types when Dehumanizer was released in 1992, this song was largely overlooked by any but the Sabbath faithful. The blazing performance here elevates it to lost classic status.
The Sign of the Southern Cross
Hands down this is one of my favorite numbers from Black Sabbath and I always thought it was a shame that on their previous tours the band would merely incorporate it as part of the extended version of “Heaven and Hell.” Here this epic masterpiece gets to shine in its full dark glory lasting over eight minutes including an extended instrumental ending.
Voodoo
Once again, Dio’s voice splits the air like a man possessed. The metallic groove put down by Iommi, Butler and Appice is undeniable and its nearly impossible to keep from banging your head along.
The Devil Cried
The first of the new Sabbath songs from Black Sabbath: The Dio Years makes its live recorded debut here. The song sounds even better live than its studio sibling and foreshadows that future recorded greatness could come from this Sabbath line up should they decide to haunt the inside of a recording studio again.  

Disc 2
Computer God
Vinnie Appice pounds out the intro to this foreboding and prophetic tale from ‘92’s Dehumanizer. Another great song from the largely overlooked third album from this line up gets a fantastic live treatment here.
Falling Off The Edge of the World
Once again the lack of songs by the original Sabbath line up is not missed as another rarely-played-live Dio-era number gets to soar on dark wings over the Radio City Music Hall audience who have gathered to worship at the altar of metal. The song builds from quiet beginnings to an all out metallic assault on the senses.
Shadow of the Wind
The second of the band’s three new songs from this year’s greatest hits set feels right at home alongside the classic numbers. I had the pleasure of interviewing Tony Iommi when his solo disc came out a few years back and at the time he told me how he had countless riffs in his head and on tape just waiting to become songs. The way this song and “The Devil Cried” fit in so well amongst the other songs it makes me think perhaps these could have graced a fourth Dio/Sabbath album had it been recorded years ago.
Die Young
As the end of the performance approaches, you may realize we are treated to all but two songs from the Heaven and Hell album, including this number that features the incomparable guitar mastery of Tony Iommi, who riffs for nearly three minutes before the band joins in full force.
Heaven and Hell
The signature song of this incarnation of Sabbath gets the audience chanting the intro riff along with the band without any prodding from Dio. He compliments the throng and invites them to continue. The band does not disappoint and plays the extended live version of this classic with Dio’s lyrical battle between the forces of good and evil even more chilling than on previous live recordings. Running nearly fourteen minutes in length, this is Dio’s Black Sabbath at its absolute finest.
Lonely Is the Word
After a minute of some fantastically mixed ambient cheers from the crowd, the band launches into the closing number from the Heaven and Hell album but the performance itself isn’t over yet.
Neon Knights
What was traditionally their live opener on past tours now rounds out the set. The band tears through this legendary number at full speed leaving the listener wanting to hear even more from this line up of Black Sabbath. Even though 2008 may well see an Ozzy-led Sabbath tour in celebration of the band’s anniversary and Ronnie James Dio’s previously stated intentions to return to his own band following the Heaven & Hell tour, one can only hope that perhaps we will see more from Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio and Vinny Appice in the not too distant future.
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