Quite an interesting article giving us an impression of how the band were viewed and who they were compared with at the start of their career. Today, some of the comparisons may seem a little “out there” for a lot of us. The album in question, “Master of Reality”, is still one of the better albums ever released. The song named “Children Of The Grave” is worth the price of this album alone. If you don`t like this, you surely can`t call yourself a rocker.
Black Sabbath: a band of our time?
SOUNDS Editor Billy Walker reviews the band`s new LP “Master of Reality” and looks at their almost fanatical following
Whatever criticisms are levelled at their third album “Master Of Reality” (Vertigo 6360 050) Black Sabbath and their fans know that, like their American counterparts Grand Funk Railroad, they`ll move straight to the top of the charts and further cement their almost fanatical following throughout Britain, the States and on the Continent. Sabbath aren`t fooling anyone, least of all themselves, they`ve found a cast-iron market – made up mostly of teenagers between the ages of fourteen and seventeen – they know what they want and they`re giving it to them, it`s as simple as that.
This particular market, adolescent if you like, relates strongly with the material Sabbath put out and regardless of its aesthetic value there`s no denying its financial value on one hand and the strong “message” for the kids on the other. Bill Ward, the band`s drummer, says “Most people are on a permanent down, but just aren`t aware of it. We`re trying to express it for the people.”
The astonishing success of “Black Sabbath”, “Paranoid” and the obvious success that will follow with “Master Of Reality” shows Ward`s statement to be most accurate and their heavy, droaning, repetative numbers full of thumping bass lines and doominess were described by one American fan as “sort of sadistic”.
This might be an imaginary thing arising from the band`s flimsy ties with Black Magic in early career but there`s no doubting the very weight of their music, the underlying suggestions and a strong sexuality that was brought to a peak by Led Zeppelin, a band that Sabbath have been compared with endlessly.
Former manager Jim Simpson is quoted as describing Sabbath`s music as “basic, raw, dirty and bad” and “an honest interpretation of their background and environment”. On the other side it might be said they are playing to a `success format`, giving the masses what they want without questions, and not trying to move artisticly forward. Certainly they weren`t playing the same sort of stuff when they were known as Earth and from reports they are far better musicians than their Black Sabbath materials/albums would have many believe.
The parallels with America`s Grand Funk Railroad are numerous and pretty obvious. Funk are slammed again and again by critics but it doesn`t stop the kids loving them and their records and concerts from being huge successes. In a way too both bands are laying down the same lines musically-aggressive, thumping, apparently without melody and aimed straight for the vitals – leaving little room for style and none for romantics.
In Britain Sabbath`s following seems to be regional – London audiences, for one reason or another, aren`t totally sold on them – but in the States and Europe, especially Germany, they are enormous and their appeal far more general. Their second date at Fillmore East, for example, sold out three weeks before the concert and the climate of American adolescence, rather than militance, holds the key – both here and abroad – to their appeal.
The audiences that flock to Sabbath`s concerts in the States are, to quote an American magazine, “the kids who are growing their hair long this year” and this sort of `no messing` music is the kind that expresses and perhaps relieves some of the hang-ups the fourteen and fifteen year olds are feeling. It`s also the sort of stuff that newcomers to music can easily pick up on and doesn`t need too much understanding, just listen and react.
When you`re fifteen, with all the hassles the age seems to be beset by, the rainbow world of James Taylor, complexity of Miles Davis or sunshine sailing of CSN & Y isn`t what it`s all about – Sabbath and Funk is – impulsive, strong, high-energy, music sexually brash and basic. This is true of audiences all over the world and therefore Black Sabbath`s market, for the moment at least, is evergreen with new additions every year.
Therefore, in reviewing any Sabbath record or concert all of these points must be considered. Whatever the verdict on “Master Of Reality” it will doubtless be a huge seller and Sabbath can afford to be generous and ignore their critics` remarks about lack of originality or progression.
The opening track on “Master”, “Sweet Leaf”, is pure Sabbath, virtually the same tempo throughout, cracked vocals with tremendously heavy guitar from Tony Iommi and equally weighty, undulating bass lines from Geezer Butler and seemingly unstoppable drumming by Bill Ward. There is a short guitar break in the middle but they`re soon back to the thrusting, repetition and thudding tempo.
“After Forever” suffers from this monotony and again it`s the lumpy bass work of Butler wedging and pushing its way to the top that comes over strongest. When guitarist Iommi occasionally breaks away from the steady thumping pace he seems restricted, as if tied by a piece of string to a post, and cannot move past a certain point. This sort of `trussed up` feeling in some of his work adds a lot of fuel to the belief that his guitar work is very limited.
An instrumental, “Embryo”, last little more than twenty seconds and with its Elizabethan feel sounds strangely out of place. The speed and drive of early cuts is continued through “Children Of The Grave”, a blanket-sound that droans on and on with an odd step up or down in tempo with the bass/guitar marriage sounding very close and hard to separate. Again there`s the usual guitar break in fast-fingered, time-honoured tradition from Iommi but he manages to keep away from any obvious Page/Clapton/Lee phrases.
Another shortish instrumental opens side two titled “Orchid” with acoustic guitar that`s hard to associate with the usual relentless purse of the band`s general material which is given its head on once more “Lord Of The World” where Ossie Osbourne gets his best chance so far to show his vocal abilities. Here, for the first time, there`s a spark of the true ability and style the band can show – the old predictable tempo but a nice guitar passage and solidity of bass and drums – lurking just under the skin.
“Solitude” as its title suggests breaks with the expected weight and drive, a soft lyrical track with good vocals and what sounds like a French horn at the back plus a fine piece of electric guitar from Iommi that sounds a lot like Peter Green in style and presentation. But just as you think that you`ve been a little too harsh “Into The Void” looms up with that directness of bass and undercurrent evil. Best of the `heavier` numbers, it can be likened to the controlled tightness that Led Zeppelin managed to produce but it`s spoilt by creeping off into a more stagnant, repetative mire.
But for all the drawbacks, criticisms etc., Black Sabbath, like the Beatles, Cream or whoever, are a band of our time. They`re perhaps not your meat or mine but to those many, many thousands who buy the albums and fill the concert halls they`re a band of their time. And whatever your views about their musical ability or taste of material or direction you`ve got to acknowledge their importance. They, and bands including Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin (perhaps less and less as time goes by) have a role to fill and it`s as important a role as any other in today`s music.
I have personally transcribed this from the original paper. Any errors in the text from the original magazine may not have been corrected for the sake of accuracy. If you have a music-related web-page where this fits – please make a link to the article. With credits to the original writer of the article from all of us music fans!
This number of Sounds also contains articles/interviews with these people: Alun Davies, Roger McGuinn, Rev. Gary Davis, Judy Collins, Ottilie Patterson, Gentle Giant, David Bowie, Moby Grape, Henry McCullough, Marc Bolan, Yes, Led Zeppelin, Family, ELP, Jethro Tull, Grease Band, Osibisa, Strawbs, Pink Floyd, Mimi Farina.
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