:hammer of the mods
Okay, I know many of you avid readers of this dark corner of Cult MTL will get your taint chafed but this month I am going to look at the recent Sabotage box set from Beelzebub’s favourite lounge act, Black fucking Sabbath.
“But Johnson, you already reviewed a Sabbath box set back in April!” Das right, Poindexter, of course I hipped you squares to the Sab’s monolithic super deluxe box set edition of Vol. 4 a couple of months ago, but c’mon fuckos… it’s Sabbath, by gummy!
Warner/Rhino started releasing the Black Sabbath super deluxe box sets last year with their sophomore stomper Paranoid, followed by the aforementioned souped up set of their second greatest record, Vol. 4 (first is Master of Reality, natch). The label clearly knew they had a good thing going when these weighty boxes sold like hotcakes as they pretty rapidly released Sab’s sixth slab of ballast, 1975’s Sabotage.
This sixth Black Sabbath release is by no means a slouch in the Ozzy era. While I consider it a great record, it would be the last good one that Ozzy would do with the band. The following albums Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die are widely regarded as garbage even by the most ardent fans, and most will probably give ’em the slip if they actually do get the box set treatment.
After making the tragic mistake of getting the CD edition of the Vol. 4 box, I grabbed the LP edition this time around — with Sabotage, size really does matter. What you’re treated with when you lift the lid is an extensively researched 40page hardcover book, a rare copy of the program from the band’s 1975 show at Madison Square Garden, a huge 1975 promotional tour poster, a Japanese replica 7” single, the remastered version of the record and the real reason you will want this set: the first official release of their widely distributed bootleg Live in Asbury Park 1975.
The triple LP live set shows the band at their most pulverizing and crushing. Recorded a week after Sabotage’s release, the band is absolutely bloodthirsty after being trapped in a studio for over a year. The fidelity is punchy and immediate as the band comes out swinging with a killer set list that includes a lethal version of “Symptom of the Universe,” “Hole in the Sky,” their doom-laden eponymously track “Black Sabbath,” “War Pigs” and more. It’s on this live recording that you realize that Iommi was indeed the architect of the band but the rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward were more than capable of running the engine room while the clown prince Ozzy kept the heart beating. Although we’ve been lucky enough to have rare live concerts padding out the previous super deluxe box sets, it’s this one that shows the band at their very peak and firing on all cylinders while giving no quarter.
Most of you who are getting hot under the collar about this release already have a copy of Sabotage on the shelf, and truthfully the remastering and completely silent pressing is a vast improvement (despite online hubbub about digital sources) but the triple LP live record and box set goodies make this yet another mandatory Sabbath purchase.