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Black Sabbath

We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'N' Roll

Review by Gary Hill

There are a lot of Black Sabbath compilation discs out there these days. This was the original. It was released during the original run of the band. This was originally released a double LP set. The version I'm reviewing here is the US CD. It's missing three songs from that original vinyl release. This is a good choice for a first introduction to the band. It should be noted that since I've reviewed all of these songs on their original albums, the track reviews here are copied or modified from those reviews for the sake of consistency.

 

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2017  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Black Sabbath

The sounds of a storm and a tolling bell ominously start off the album as they originally started the band's debut disc. A wonderfully creepy tale unfolds complete with appropriately ominous music. This mode creates the focus for the majority of the piece, up until the final fast paced metal riff-driven segment that takes it out. This cut can certainly send chills down one's spine under the right circumstances.

The Wizard

Beginning with harmonica, this strong number certainly has its roots in the blues. "Misty morning, clouds in the sky, without warning, a wizard walks by."

Paranoid

This might be a bit overplayed, but it’s still quite a cool track. It’s short, “paranoid” and to the point. It’s a safe bet that if you’ve ever heard Black Sabbath you know this number.

War Pigs

One of Sabbath's best known, tunes, this is just so cool. It's such a great album opener. The bass pounds away as the guitar powers over the top. An air raid siren screams. Then we drop to the stripped back drums only section with guitar bits as punctuation. Osbourne's vocals slice the silence with the opening lyrics. This song is doom and destruction. The more full arrangement after the first vocal segment has a great groove to it. That's one thing a lot of people forget about Sabbath - they had groove. This is screaming hot stuff. There is a reason this is a classic and a song they frequently used as an opener in concert. It's a killer tune. The guitar solo is just so perfect. The bass really shines. If you can listen to this and not appreciate how great Geezer Butler is, you must be deaf. This cut is really a dynamic number with a lot of different sections and moods. Yet, it all flows so well together. The guitar solo section late in the piece is just so great. The solo carries such great melody and yet jams like crazy, too. It's the perfect way to take this thing out in style. There's a weird little wind up effect at the end.

Iron Man

Here’s another that’s pretty safe to say if you are reading this, you know this song. It’s a great tune, but also one that suffers a bit from being overplayed. Still, it’s quintessential Black Sabbath.

Tomorrow's Dream

This is a fairly straight forward Sabbath track through much of it, but it shifts gears a bit later to a mellow segment, and a fast paced riff happy jam comes out of that. They return it to the previous segment to continue.

Fairies Wear Boots

This tells the tale of a man who is hallucinating because of all the chemical alteration of his mind that he does. There’s some awesome jamming later in this track, too. The swirling outro riff is quite tasty.

Changes

Piano on a Sabbath song? Not only that, but piano is the central instrument here. Piano, vocals and synthesized strings make up this melancholy ballad. As strange as it may seem for Sabbath, it works exceptionally well, and is truly a winner. This cut has no guitar, bass or drums, but still works - wow!

Sweet Leaf

Starting with a cough that echoes away, this is a crunchy tribute to a certain leaf that when burnt has a sweet smell. We at MSJ do not advise anyone to chemically alter their state of mind and here by remind you that such activity may well violate your local laws. I just am letting you know what the song is about. It’s a good early metal grind and still holds up pretty well.  There’s a cool faster paced segment that’s bass driven, too.

Children of the Grave

A cool instrumental section leads this off in an unusual way. They fire out from there in a fast paced jam that’s got an almost trash can feeling to the percussion. This is a killer cut that still holds up remarkably well. It’s classic Black Sabbath. They close this with a weird little “ghost like” section.

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath

Tony Iommi's guitar starts this with some classic riffing. The rest of the band join for a short time. Then Ozzy Osbourne comes over the top to delivery the lyrics. The song drops back after a time to a mellower motif for a vocal segment. It powers back up at the end of that. It works forward alternating between those two sections. A heavy movement later really takes it to a new level. It returns to the song proper from there, but modulates out to a different instrumental bit to end.

Am I Going Insane (Radio)

If there’s a misstep on the disc, this would be it. Musically it’s just kind of average and the vocal performance (especially the weird voices in the background and at the end) seem tongue in cheek and a bit over the top. It’s OK, but not up to the level of the rest of the disc.

Snowblind

An opening riff/jam runs through, then a bouncing chord progression forms the verse section. The opening returns as a verse end break. After the second verse they drop the cut to an incredibly dramatic, almost hypnotic progression. Ozzy takes a chorus, and then Iommi plays one of the tastiest solos of his career. Then the track just shifts straight back to the verse segment. After another verse a fast paced new Sabbath stomp takes it for another vocal section. Then, the familiar verse structure returns. This time keyboards come over top to punctuate Ozzy's lines. Iommi lays down another smoking solo at the end of this segment while keyboards lay horn like icing overtop. This track (which tells a story of the hazards of cocaine) remains of my all time favorite Sabbath songs.

N.I.B.

Quite a strong metal number, this is actually a love song. The twist on the lyrics is that the lover singing to his lover is none other than Lucifer. This song has one of the tastiest guitar solos ever recorded.

 
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