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A TICKING HITS LIST
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Critics' Choice
SABBATH'S "END" GAME
1/31/16

     

Sure, we all know Black Sabbath was influential, but damn—Black Sabbath was influential. Listening to Rhino’s deluxe reissues of the British band’s wickedly powerful first three albums is a reminder of their formative role in the evolution of metal, hardcore punk and grunge, to name but a few of the subgenres they helped to sire. It’s safe to say no band before them ever managed to sound so heavy and ominous. That sound, anchored by Ozzy Osbourne’s possessed wail and the jagged riffage of guitarist Tony Iommi, was the future.

As Ozzy and his mates bring fans “The End,” ostensibly their final tour, it’s a fine time to revisit these scorchingly powerful albums—Black Sabbath, Paranoid and Master of Reality—each of which Rhino has repackaged as a double disc on CD and vinyl featuring the 2012 studio remasters and a brace of outtakes, alternate versions and other fiendish rarities.

The first album’s title track is redolent of brimstone, and Ozzy’s infernal howl paved the way for a million metallic Satanists. But the debut also features the brilliant, harmonica-driven “The Wizard” and “N.I.B.,” and among the extras are two versions of the 1969 single “Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me).”

Sophomore set Paranoid, however, marked the band’s full flowering. The album boasts three prototypical Sabbath songs, “War Pigs,” “Paranoid” and “Iron Man,” not to mention the walloping “Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots.” Disc 2 includes alternate-lyric versions and an array of instrumentals. 

Master of Reality kicks off with the pot anthem “Sweet Leaf” and includes such sepulchral fare as “Children of the Grave” and “Into the Void.” The companion disc includes the previously unreleased (and delightfully titled) “Weevil Woman ’71.” 

Fans will also rejoice at the return (on both vinyl and CD) of Past Lives, a pummeling live collection first issued in 2002. These performances, from the crucial period of 1970-75, find Sabbath in peak form.

Now, with The End underway, you’ll want to crank these blistering sets—and be reminded why Sabbath will never really go away.