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Reunion [2-CD SET]

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  • 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.

    Posted on January 31, 2010