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The Old Wolf: Black Sabbath

Recorded because this is the first record of what later will be called Heavy Metal.
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YEAR: 1970


Tony Iommi :guitar)
Ozzy Osbourne (vocals)
Terry "Geezer" Butler (Bass)
Bill Ward (Drums)

in their possession:

1. Black Sabbath
2. The Wizard
3. Behind The Wall Of Sleep
4. NIB
5. Evil Woman
6. Wicked World
7. Sleeping Village
8. Warning

Recorded because:

BlackSabbath This is the first record of what later will be called Heavy Metal.

Let's take things from the beggining:

1969 Jimi Hendrix with his distorted implementation of Star Spangled Banner (National Anthem of the U.S.) sets the tombstone not just on Woodstock, but to all the movement of the hippies. Flower power gives way to the march of reality. A reality that is more cruel and ruthless than the Flower children imagined. And this reality, art must record. Of course there have been previous samples of hard sound, but none is what we'd call
hard music (except perhaps the Stooges, but that's another story).

So we have Jimi Hendrix distorting the sound of the guitar, Jimi Page distorting what then we knew as psychedelia and Blues and Alice Cooper making his first attempts, influenced by B-class horror. None of this however managed to prepare the public for the self-titled album of Black Sabbath.

Some of the members of the group passed outside a cinema playing a horror movie, called "Black Sabbath" thought to change their name from Earth (there was already another band with that name) to Black Sabbath. Also thought that since people payed to see horror films why not listen to the similar music. Something they achieved from the very first track (of the same name).

The openning with the storm, the bell and the impressive riff puts you immediately in the mood. So they started to write the songs that would fill  the first album. We certainly don't know how long it took to collect them all, but the album was recorded in one day and
the mixing lasted another day. Instead of an adverse effect from the hurrying, and characterizing the project by sloppiness, you get a sense from the album that it catches the spirit of a Live performance in a studio record and what crudeness there is gives a touch of charm in the final result. In order to achieve something like that of course, the members of the project would each have something unique.

TonnyIommi The sound of Iommi's guitar is unique. And
how could it not be, having played with the fingertips cut after a work accident at the age 17. He managed to continue playing by placing plastic pads to his cut fingers and using banjo strings which were thinner. But clothes don't make the man.  Iommi
may not have been characterized as a guitar virtuoso, but he took over the entire guitar part not only for the album but for the band in general. He is also perhaps the most influential guitarist in regard to riffs that later defined Heavy Metal and Hard Rock in general, reaching decades ahead (What would Doom or Stoner be without Sabbath?) Even Him say they were effected(?). As for his solos they are ripe and to the point without exhibitionist trends.

On the other hand the lack of a second guitar brought bassist Geezer Butler to the point where he had to cover two roles with one instrument, which he managed flawlessly. Guitarist himself in his previous group, he carried his guitarist origins in the way he played. The bass is therefore not just to keep the pace, but its distinctive sound fills all the gaps, turning it from an accompanying instrument to a star.

Ozzy Behind all these was the man who gave the necessary depth and volume in this project to transfer the feeling of a horror film
in a musical project. Bill Ward with his drums laid the foundations for the other members of the group to work on, putting as well (like Butler his bass) his drums in the forefront.

And above all the absolute expression of that style of the band, OZZY OSBOURNE.

Since that time can be seen, in the videos
left, a dose of madness and insanity in the eyes, that would break out in the coming years, creating the persona of Prince Of Darkness. He may not have ever been regarded as the best singer, but I doubt if anyone will be able to sing like
him the title track or N.I.V. (and the
truth is many have tried). The color of his voice is unique and the way he uses it form the perfect package for this first album of the band.

Other elements:

Although the tracks are signed by all the members of the group, the lyrics are mainly the creation of Geezer Butler. The title track is inspired by a nightmare of the latter who waking up thought he saw a black figure at the end of the bed. That figure dominates the cover of the album with the background of an abandoned mill .

There are songs inspired by fantasy. The track The Wizard comes from the mage Gandalf, of the lord of the rings.  Behind the Wall of Sleep is from a story by H.P.Lovecraft titled Beyond the wall of sleep.

The band has indicated that N.I.B. is not an abbreviation of Nativity In Black. The song is a story given from the side of the devil (My name is Lucifer please take my hand ....) who, according to the lyricist Geezer Butler, falls for and is "seduced" by the light side.

Evil Woman and The Warning are covers of blues songs. Evil Woman is by the American band The Crow and that's why it wasn't included in the American edition. The Warning is by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation. In this actually Ozzy sings "I was born without you babe..." misinterpreting the original lyrics that said "I was warned about you babe...." Hence the title The Warning.

Also in the American version some songs are accompanied by separate titles for their introductions. So Behind The Wall Of Sleep is mentioned as  Wasp/Behind The Wall Of Sleep, N.I.B. as Basically/N.I.B. and Sleeping Village as A Bit Of Finger/Sleeping Village.

There should be special mention to the song Wicked World, which was the b-side of single Evil Woman. It is the only part of the album with social and political view escaping from the themes of other songs but not putting you off the mood. Such tracks will follow in the other group albums. The English version is not Included in the normal LP .

The world today is such a wicked place
Fighting going on between the human race
People got to work just to earn their bread
While people just across the sea are counting their dead

A politician's job they say is very high
For he has to choose who's got to go out and die
They can put a man on the moon quite easy
while people here on earth are dying of all diseases

A woman goes to work every day after day
She just goes to work just to earn her pay
Child sitting by but his life's much harder
he doesn't even know who is his father

When released the album was literally buried by critics, even after the commercial success. The first version of the album is somewhat hard to find and has the following insert.

Inside the inverted cross is the poem:

Still falls the rain, the veils of darkness shroud the blackened trees, which contorted by some unseen violence, shed their tired leaves, and bend their boughs towards a grey earth of severed bird wings. among the grasses, poppies bleed before a gesticulating death, and young rabbits, born dead in traps, stand motionless, as though guarding the silence that surrounds and threatens to engulf all those that would listen. Mute birds, tired of repeating yesterday's terrors, huddle together in the recesses of dark corners, heads turned from the dead, black swan that floats upturned in a small pool in the hollow. there emerges from this pool a faint sensual mist,
that traces its way upwards to caress the chipped feet of the headless
martyr's statue, whose only achievement was to die to soon, and who couldn't wait to lose. the cataract of darkness form fully, the long black night begins, yet still, by the lake a young girl waits, unseeing she believes herself unseen, she smiles, faintly at the distant tolling bell, and the still falling rain.

Production is signed by Rodger Bain while the album was released by Vertigo. Deliberately or not this album was released Friday the 13th (February 1970)

The dismantling of the gang continues.....

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