Black Sabbath: Ozzy Osbourne (vocals); Tony Iommi (guitar); Geezer Butler (bass); Bill Ward (drums). 1974's SABBATH BLOODY SABBATH is widely considered to be Black Sabbath's last true classic album. The musical experimentation that began on 1972's VOL. … see full wiki
Pros: Shows diversity that was not there on the previous Sabbath releases. Their greatest achievement.
Cons: I think Ozzy was a Detroit Lions fan from the title.
The Bottom Line: Black Sabbath's greatest by far. Shows what the band was capable of. Too bad they couldn't continue with this caliber of music.
I remember having this album in two versions. First I had the vinyl disc that was played so much it started to sound like Lou Reeds Metal Machine Music. Then I purchased the 8-track because that was the type of player in the family vehicle at the time. I kept both until the day that my mother happened to pull the tape out of the car player and saw the album cover. In full Baptist rage, she made a spectacle out of reducing that tape to nothing more than molten goo at the bottom of the fireplace. So that meant that I had to be a little more cautious next time. So I went and bought the tape one more time but before anyone could lay their hands on it, I peeled the label off and wrote Creedence Clearwater on it. This worked like a charm since my mother had this weakness for the song Looking Out My Back Door by the band. I even played it a few times in her presence and all she would say is that doesnt sound like Doo Doo Doo as she called the song by Creedence.
It just goes to show you, if the music is good it will find a way to be listened to. Black Sabbath had put out a collection of songs that they hoped would appeal to much wider audience than their previous four efforts but they also were trying to retain their loyal fan base with the artwork and the satanic connotation in it and the music itself. I always thought that the devil and satanic association with the band Black Sabbath was one of the best marketing ploys that they could ever come up with. At that time, anything that had to do with the dark side of life was considered cool. The group had a built in fan base without having to do anything thanks to their name and the style of music that they performed up to this release.
The guys also knew that to take the next step, the band had to expand their fan base. They were never going to do this if they continued to pound out the heavy metal sludge of the first four albums. (Well, 3 ½ albums anyway) They had to come up with something that would appeal to a large audience. So, that is how Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was born. Ozzy Osborne saw the benefit in this as his later career will testify too. His chameleon like musical style as a solo act would find a vastly bigger audience than anything that the band did. I think that this album was the key in the changes that we saw later in the attitude and the music of Ozzy.
The fist time that the needle found the groove that was the title song Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, this 13 year old kid knew that this album was something different than the other Sabbath albums in his collection. The opening guitar riffs, even though still as heavy as always, carried a much more melodic structure than anything Sabbath had produced before. Then as the song hit the tuneful chorus, that 13 year old jaw dropped as he realized that these guys were more than 4 chord masters. They actually knew something about musical styling. This is something that might even get to hear on the radio! Well that is until I saw what the lyrics were. No way would that hit the airways of that time period. But that was of no consequence to the young listener as he could listen to this rock and roll classic anytime he wanted.
Continuing with the heavy metal vein, Sabbath unleashes A National Acrobat. This song reminds me more of older Black Sabbath than any other on the disc. Having said that, it still seems to have a better musical flow than their previous work. Maybe they were learning! Tony Iommi still has a lot of fun with this riff filled number but all you have to do is listen to the lightness of the bridge to see that even he was changing musically. The true highlight of this piece though is the work of Bill Ward on percussion. He is just dynamic here but so is the whole band. This is one to please the masses of Sabbath followers. I am sure that the bongs were being lit about halfway through!
One of the hardest things to comprehend is how a four minute instrumental can cause such a panic among Black Sabbath fanatics. Fluff is really a beautiful melody that I think put a scare into the rabid fans who thought that the band was selling out. Acoustic guitars and keyboards? This is not what Black Sabbath is about. I think that this one caught too many listeners off guard the first time they heard it. The doobies were still burning when this came on and eyelids grew too heavy to appreciate what the band was doing. It is one of their best efforts in a lot of ways. Maybe that guy on keyboards had something to do with. I can hear a little bit of Rick Wakeman in this tune. I think he might have been a little more than just a studio musician for this album. I can hear his influence in a number of songs. Not just the playing but the structure and harmonic sound of so many of the songs. Just listen to the synthesizer riffs in the next song Sabbra Cadabra
Here the band fuses their heaviness with some terrific fills by Mr. Wakeman. Sometimes on the synthesizer, sometimes with just the piano but you can hear how he helps to soften the work of Iommi which also is superior on this song. Tonys guitar intro packs a real wallop before Ozzy ever gets a chance to open his mouth. This song exemplifies the diversity that the band was striving for. Even Ozzy seems to be trying to broaden his vocal ability here. You can hear him trying to become more of a singer and less of a wailer. You have to give them credit for the attempt anyway. Their effort was not in vane. This song had some lasting impressions. Metallica even covered it many years later on their Garage Inc. album.
Killing Yourself To Live is vintage Sabbath. Heavily laden with Iommis guitar riffs, this is the type of song that the most hardcore fans drool over. Tony delivers a heavy metal montage that will without a doubt contribute to the stiff necks caused by all the headbanging going on. I can also remember how everyone at the time thought that this song was the coolest tune to ever come along. I could not venture a guess at how many times I heard the line Smoke It Get High in my teenage travels back then. I can also remember how Ozzy said that they never promoted drug use either!
Rick Wakeman rears his ugly head again according to the Sabbath loyalist in the next song Who Are You. His synthesizer takes central stage in this haunting song that is either a conversation with God or with the Devil. The interpretation is still up in the air. But in the grand scheme of things relating to Sabbath, it is not all that important since it is an example of some very nifty lyrical gymnastics by Osborne. He can say it is anti Devil to those that want to hear this and then turn around to his followers and say ..You know what it REALLY means. Listeners either love this song or hate it. There seems to be no middle ground. I happen to think that the synthesizer work only helps to promote the heaviness of the work. It gives it an eerie feeling that no guitar can. A darkness that I believe is the work of Mr. Wakeman and his quick journey down the heavy metal pathway.
With what sounds like an ear for the pop music scene, Black Sabbath strays well off their beaten path with the very light and airy Looking For Today. Even Iommis guitar riffs seem more melodic than usual in this simply irresistible song that uses everything from twilling flutes to rhythmic hand clapping before ending with a very loud guitar solo by Tony. Many hard core fans are going to disagree with this but they are off drinking the bong water by this time anyway.
So what else can the band do to give their fanatics visions of bad acid trips, how about adding strings and orchestration to one of their songs! That is what happens after the equally unSabbath like acoustic guitar intro. The band makes a bold statement with their uncharacteristically melodic album ender Spiral Architect. This song will leave a lot of the old school Sabbath fans wondering just what they had listened to while also providing the more diverse musical coinsures with hope that another offering from this band would be as pleasant to the ears as this one. Even Ozzys voice carries a lighter and much happier sound to it. I guess that fits with a song that is the most upbeat of any in the Black Sabbath repertoire. If Ozzy keeps this up his is going to lose his title of Prince of Darkness!!
Although I owned 2 of the prior Sabbath albums I never considered them as anything more than an ordinary heavy metal band. This album changed my mind about them. I looked forward to more of this new direction but sadly, their future offerings were nowhere near as well crafted as this one. Even too this day, the album still sounds as fresh as when I first picked up the original vinyl. This is what truly can be called vintage rock and roll.