Many swore that it would never happen.The moral is NEVER say ‘never’,I guess.’Reunion’,the 2-CD live release of Black Sabbath was recorded at the NEC Arena in Birmingham,UK on December 12,1997.Proving that even though the band had called it a day in late 1978,’Reunion’ sounds like the four guys had never really been apart.Remember:it’s the four founding members of Ozzy,Iommi,Ward and Butler.I remember seeing the band once out on an Ozzfest tour and the guy in front of me KEPT repeating,”All four original members of Black Sabbath playing together – LIVE…..a chance of a lifetime!!”.Yes,I can certainly understand as to what he was all stoked about.As for the track listing,one honestly couldn’t ask for more.Always nice to hear the goodies such as “War Pigs”,”Fairies Wear Boots”,”Into The Void”,”Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”,the list goes on.A great live sound mix.A must-have for all Sabbath fans.
Nobody does Black Sabbath songs justice like the original four. With Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward all relatively sound of mind and body, Reunion finds them finally backed by a juggernaut of smart businesspeople and producers who realize what’s at stake. The mix is crisp and eye-watering, and the four legends rumble like one thick cloud of doom. Trackwise, it’s all the hits plus a few stray wanderings off-kilter (”Dirty Women”). The much-anticipated pair of new studio tracks are a mixed lot: ”Psycho Man” is a Kiss-grade metal lurch with an atrocious B-movie lyric that somehow escaped Osbourne’s usually reliable cheese radar. ”Selling My Soul,” however, is convincingly ominous, with Iommi creating piles of dark chords. –Martin Popoff
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This was a great disc I picked up on the day of release, new black sabbath with the original line up, unthought of for so long. All the classics with Ozzy. Now I keep waiting and hoping someday they will get together and do a new full album, but hope is shrinking. The two new songs are OK, Pscyhoman sounding more like recent Ozzy songs, but Selling my Soul sounds more like the Iommi riffs of past. Must have CD for the sabbath fan, the first official live release endorsed by the group with Ozzy on vocals…20 years after his leaving. Live at Last has been around for years, but was never endorsed by the band, and Live Evil, although good in its own right for DIO fans, just is not Ozzy. So Get this, its Sabbath at its best.
There have been three distinct phases of Black Sabbath, each determined by a different lead singer (no, I’m not forgetting the two Deep Purple refugees Ian Gillan and Glenn Hughes–it’s just that neither was around long enough to really make a difference). The current one–Tony Martin–whose stewardship of the mike represents Sab’ as the elder statesmen of Death Metal and the Wayne’s World headbanger sound. Before Martin was Ronnie James Dio, whose maniacal rant (the best example being the song “Neon Knights”) gave voice to a more hyper version of the band than before or since–that lineup probably formed the roots of Speed Metal. With Ozzy, we’re back to aquare one–a lineup that added a noir element to a then blues-dominated Metal (Hendrix, Cream, Grand Funk, Mountain–what have you), apocalyptic-flavored lyrics reinforced by the flat menace of Ozzy’s voice. They were the only band doing what would later be called Death Metal–in those days, one band did not constitute a genre. What we have in three live albums–the Dio-sung “Live Evil, the Martin-sung “Cross Purposes Live” (only available as a freebie CD packed with the concert video) and this album–adds up to a trilogy of a long career in a music style some might call “ugly” (my ex-wife’s theory was that ownership of their albums was symptomatic of a grudge against the world). Until now, the only live album we had out of the original quartet was the unauthorized “Live At Last”. So this album constitues a very belated part one of that trilogy. And it doesn’t really sound that much like a “nostalgia gig”–they all still work well together and I’ll bet Ozzy has been using a lot of this stuff on the road throughout his solo career. All–and I do mean ALL–of the live material here does justice to how we remember it from the studio tracks. Conspicuously absent is any material whatsoever from albums Ozzy wasn’t originally on–he obviouly noticed that none of the three singers has ever sounded worth a damn doing stuff created during the others’ time. The only weak point is Ozzy’s frequent use of the “eff-word” in onstage patter–obviously this fifty-something man is trying to avoid coming across middle-aged to an audience that has a lot of younger members. The good news is that this act doesn’t really “eff-word” up the music itself. I just bought this album about a year and a half after its release (too much other stuff first) and after hearing it, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long.
This is the kind of release I wish I would avoid (and save $25!), but that I always buy. Who can resist? A great band reunited! Undoubtedly one of the best live shows in recent memory and in person these performances are exhilirating.The problem is that what is great at a concert isn’t great on record. In a live setting, singing along to “War Pigs” is incredible. On record, however, listening to Ozzy and the crowd’s call and response makes you wish he’d sing it all himself. And the gratuitous vulgarity seems juvenile on record when you’re too hyped at a live show to notice.The songs are great. A solid performance of great Sabbath tracks – and a nice selection, too – not the standard “greatest hits.” You can tell that this is a tight band, best in their original incarnation. Almost too tight. The songs rarely vary from their studio versions (save for “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” in which Ozzy avoids the high vocal section he probably can’t hit anymore). The rhythm section is thunderous and it’s good to have Bill Ward back.All of this said, why do we need this album? Sure, it’s a great souvenier of a great reunion, but if you want to hear these Sabbath tracks the original albums are better. Sure, there are two new tracks, but they’re sub-par for this group.Overall, it’s a nice record and nicely packaged, but a little too predictable. Honestly, I prefer Ozzy’s live solo albums over this release, even though I prefer Sabbath’s studio work. It’s fun for a few listens, but it will gather dust eventually. I’d rather hear the original albums without “show me your f***ing hands!” shouted out every five minutes.
In 1979 Ozzy Osbourne was fired from Black Sabbath or quit, depending who’s side of the story you wanna believe. It was to be over eighteen years before the original lineup got back together, although there were brief moments of hope for the fans like the one off performance at Live Aid in 1985. In fact, over those eighteen years Sabbath had recorded ten different albums, all of which had different personnel. Twenty-three musicians had been through the ranks, not counting hundreds of auditions. Giant Stonehenge monoliths for the stage that could not be fitted into the concert halls they were playing; Dwarfs on stage; famous vocalists who did not know the lyrics to classic Sabbath songs; getting lost on the way to the stage; and drummers disappearing into the dry ice. You name it, Sabbath had either done it, or somebody had done it to them. But through it all there were still some great moments and great albums from both, Sabbath and Ozzy, who’s own band was just as liquid as Sabbaths. (Ozzy Osbourne, with the help of his wife Sharon, had gone on to be far more commercially successful than Sabbath had ever been. The two of them had been the main inspiration for a movie called ‘Spinal Tap’.)Realizing the time was right, and to be fair, they probably realized a buck or two could be made out of the gig, it was decided to put the original Black Sabbath together and do those songs properly again. Bridges were built and contracts were signed (which was more than Sabbath managed the first time around). They never received a dime in royalties for their first album as they were paid a one off sum of one thousand pounds, given two days to record, and that was it. The album went top twenty all over the world, is still on the Billboard lists today, over thirty four years later, and has been re-licensed to different labels countless times. Smart move, boys.As a token of goodwill their home town of Birmingham, England, was chosen for the comeback concerts, so the giant N.E.C. Stadium was booked to present the reunited Black Sabbath on two dark wet and windy nights in December 1997. Fearing that this could be a one off if Sabbath soon returned to their old habits, it was decided to record the whole thing for posterity. Add to that the fact that the boys were not as young anymore either. Rehearsals were a little tense, but apart from Bill Ward missing the odd flight and Toni Iommi setting Bill’s beard on fire, things went better than expected. But would the magic still be there when they took to the stage?Before going on stage the band admitted they had never been so nervous in all their careers. However, when the pre-recorded opening sirens and announcements boomed across the stage the band walked out and the crowd went mental. ‘War Pigs’, first played live by Sabbath in 1969, shuddered the rafters and thundered out of the speakers. By the time Ozzy came in with the first verse, they have got it, the groove was back. Not only the band knew it, the audience felt it too and went berserk along with their heroes. Toni Iommi established what the whole world knew anyway, he was the master of the heavy metal riff, his searing solos were splattered across every song, driving the band onto further heights. On the audio C.D. you can hear Geezer Butler throwing his bass guitar around, leaving the template for all heavy metal bassists. Truly a Master of Reality as he nails every note. On the drums there is Bill Ward, playing the bins with hammer blows reaching technical ecstasy. Ozzy comes through the Blizzard of sound, taunting the crowd onto a higher musical plain between songs, belting out the lyrics as only Ozzy can. After all, nobody has ever actually accused him of being able to sing. Geoff Nichols is unheard and unseen throughout the concert; merely a supporting role.But what you get is two hours of the live beast, plus two newly recorded studio tracks as a bonus. All the classics are played alongside some other songs that should of been classics (and would of been if they had been in other bands’ repertoires). Sabbath had such a wealth of songs that some got forgotten over a period of time. I for one am truly grateful that these concerts were recorded and released, as the original lineup never released a proper live album first time round. So this is a great memento of one of rock’s immortal giants. After what they have been through they must be immortal.I leave you with the opening lyrics to ‘Children Of The Grave’, written by Geezer Butler in 1971, which shows, I think, that not only in their heavy riffs and solid rhythms were Black Sabbath years ahead of everybody else. Who would of thought that there would be social awareness from this bunch of brummies?`So you children of the world, listen to what I say, If you want a better place to live in, spread the word today, Show the world that love is still alive, you must be brave, Or You children of today are children of the grave.’Mott the DogRemastered by Ella Crew