Friday, July 23, 2010

CD Odyssey Disc 157: Black Sabbath

The latest disc was so enjoyable, I was glad yesterday when I got home with one song still to play, because it meant I got another full listen today.

Great summer driving music, and the opposite of embarrassing with the top down.

Disc 157 is...The Mob Rules
Artist: Black Sabbath

Year of Release: 1981

What’s Up With The Cover?: It is totally awesome, that's what. The cover is by artist Greg Hildebrandt who did all kinds of fantasy and sci fi art back in the eighties. Here we have the mob (faceless, of course) and clearly they've been up to no good, as mobs usually are.

How I Came To Know It: I was a big Sabbath fan during the Dio years, and I loved this record. My brother introduced me to it, as he owned it on vinyl, so I played it that way whenever he'd let me. It great to have on disc, but last year I found a copy in good condition on vinyl so I bought. It is good on CD, but it was made for vinyl, and sounds better that way.

How It Stacks Up: I have ten Black Sabbath albums, including one live album. Of the three studio albums with Dio as the lead singer, "The Mob Rules" is second. Put up against all nine studio albums, I'd put it seventh. It isn't bad, it is just that the competition is tight.

Rating: 4 stars.

As I may have mentioned in previous Sabbath reviews, I actually came to know Black Sabbath in this period first, and I will always have a soft spot for Ronnie James Dio.

Dio was an amazing artist that accomplished what now seems impossible; he successfully stepped in for Ozzy Osbourne. Dio didn't just try to emulate Ozzy though - he brought his own unique talents to the band. He made them different - not better, not worse - just gloriously different.

I saw a great piece on Sabbath once that suggested Ozzy sang along with the beat, but Dio sang over top of it. It makes a lot of sense listening to this record.

This album also has a different drummer, with Bill Ward being replaced by career journeyman, Vinny Appice. I really love Appice's drumming, and while not as overt as Dio, he makes his own unique contribution to this record.

Of course, the driving force remains Tony Iommi, and this album has some signature metal riffs. With Dio's operatic style, these riffs lose something of their bluesy quality, but they pick up a hard metal sound that really works. The way Iommi's guitars change when playing with Ozzy to playing with Dio approaches alchemy.

The song "Mob Rules" is a classic, and was used in the movie "Heavy Metal" in a scene where a bunch of bad guys sack a city. I remember when "Heavy Metal" came out it was an R rated animated movie, but my brother took me (he was seven years older, so he got me in). I think he told me not to tell Mom there had been animated sex in the film, in addition to a very large amount of blood and gore. Whether he told me that or not, I'm certain I never told her.

"The Mob Rules" was far and away my favourite song on this album in junior high. I still love it, but I'm also partial to "Country Girl" these days, which takes a traditional English sounding folk tune and morphs it into a furious metal riff.

Despite riffs that are the equal to anything Sabbath recorded, the album slips a little at the end, and "Falling Off the Edge of the World" and "Over and Over" which close out the album are merely very good, but not great.

"The Mob Rules" is not the masterpiece that "Heaven and Hell" (Dio's first Sabbath album) is, but it is an excellent record, and holds a worthy place in the band's discography, and my disc odyssey.

Dio died earlier this year, and I for one am going to miss him. He was one of the good guys in the music industry, and always seemed to stay grounded despite his fame. What's more - the guy could write a great song, and boy could he sing it.

Best tracks: Turn Up the Night, The Sign of the Southern Cross, The Mob Rules, Country Girl, Slipping Away

1 comment:

Sheila said...

Oh, no mention of the lady yelling at you at the stoplight to turn your cassette down? Ha!