Black Sabbath (album)

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Black Sabbath
Studio album by Black Sabbath
Released 13 February 1970 (1970-02-13)
Recorded 16 October 1969 at Regent Sound Studios in London, England
Genre Heavy metal, blues rock[1]
Length 38:12
Label Vertigo
Producer Rodger Bain
Black Sabbath chronology
Black Sabbath
(1970)
Paranoid
(1970)
Singles from Black Sabbath
  1. "Evil Woman" / "Wicked World"
    Released: 9 January 1970

Black Sabbath is the eponymous debut studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath. Released on 13 February 1970 in the United Kingdom and on 1 June 1970 in the United States, the album reached number eight on the UK Albums Chart and number 23 on the Billboard charts.

Although it was poorly received by most contemporary music critics, Black Sabbath has since been credited with significantly influencing the development of heavy metal music, and widely regarded as the first heavy metal album. (That said, Sabbath didn't solely invent metal -- they were part of a larger trend already moving in that stylistic direction.)

Recording[edit]

According to Black Sabbath guitarist and founder member Tony Iommi, the group's debut album was recorded in a single day on 16 October 1969.[2][nb 1] The session lasted twelve hours.[4] Iommi said: "We just went in the studio and did it in a day, we played our live set and that was it. We actually thought a whole day was quite a long time, then off we went the next day to play for £20 in Switzerland."[5] Aside from the bells, thunder and rain sound effects added to the beginning of the opening track, there were virtually no overdubs added to the album.[2] Iommi recalls recording live: "We thought, 'We have two days to do it and one of the days is mixing.' So we played live. Ozzy (Osbourne) was singing at the same time, we just put him in a separate booth and off we went. We never had a second run of most of the stuff."[6]

Key to the band's new sound on the album is Iommi's distinctive playing style that he developed after a welding accident at the age of 17 in which the tips of the middle fingers of his fretting hand were severed. Iommi created a pair of false fingertips using plastic from a dish detergent bottle and detuned the strings on his guitar to make it easier for him to bend the strings, creating a massive, heavy sound. "I'd play a load of chords and I'd have to play fifths because I couldn't play fourths because of my fingers," Iommi explained to Phil Alexander in Mojo in 2013. "That helped me develop my style of playing, bending the strings and hitting the open string at the same time just to make the sound wilder." In the same article bassist Geezer Butler added, "Back then the bass player was suppose to do all these melodic runs, but I didn't know how to do that because I'd been a guitarist, so all I did was follow Tony's riff. That made the sound heavier."

Iommi began recording the album with a white Fender Stratocaster, his guitar of choice at the time, but a malfunctioning pickup forced him to finish recording with a Gibson SG, a guitar he had recently purchased as a backup but had "never really played". The SG was a right-handed model which the left-handed Iommi played upside down. Soon after recording the album, he met a right-handed guitarist who was playing a left-handed SG upside down, and the two agreed to swap guitars; this is the SG that Iommi modified and later "put out to pasture" at the Hard Rock Cafe.[2]

Sabbath vocalist Ozzy Osbourne has always spoken fondly of the recording of the band's debut album, stating in his autobiography I Am Ozzy, "Once we'd finished, we spent a couple hours double-tracking some of the guitar and vocals, and that was that. Done. We were in the pub in time for last orders. It can't have taken any longer than twelve hours in total. That's how albums should be made, in my opinion." Drummer Bill Ward agrees, telling Guitar World in 2001, "I think the first album is just absolutely incredible. It's naïve, and there's an absolute sense of unity - it's not contrived in any way, shape or form. We weren't old enough to be clever. I love it all, including the mistakes!" In an interview for the Classic Albums series in 2010 Butler added, "It was literally live in the studio. I mean, (producer) Rodger Bain, I think he's a genius the way he captured the band in such a short time." In his autobiography Iron Man: My Journey Through Heaven & Hell with Black Sabbath, Iommi plays down the producer's role, insisting, "We didn't choose to work with Roger Bain, he was chosen for us...He was good to have around, but we didn't really get a lot of advice from him. He maybe suggested a couple of things, but the songs were already fairly structured and sorted."

Genre[edit]

According to AllMusic's Steve Huey, Black Sabbath marks "the birth of heavy metal as we now know it".[7] In his opinion, the album "transcends its clear roots in blues-rock and psychedelia to become something more".[7] He ascribes its "sonic ugliness" as a reflection of "the bleak industrial nightmare" of the group's hometown, Birmingham, England.[7] Huey notes the first side's allusions to themes characteristic of heavy metal, including evil, paganism, and the occult, "as filtered through horror films and the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dennis Wheatley."[7] He characterises side two as "given over to loose blues-rock jamming learned through" the English rock band Cream.[7]

Taking a broader perspective, author Pete Prown of Vintage Guitar Magazine says, "The first Black Sabbath album was a watershed moment in rock, but it was part of a larger trend already moving towards what we now call hard rock and heavy metal. The previous year had already seen metal-edged music from Led Zeppelin ("Whole Lotta Love," "Heartbreaker") and the Jeff Beck Group ("Plynth (Water Down the Drain)"), as well as the new power trio Mountain, which made a landmark performance at Woodstock. The Sabbath debut in the UK was matched only a few weeks later by Mountain's Climbing album and its proto-metal hit, 'Mississippi Queen.' So while Black Sabbath was an absolutely crucial band in heavy metal's arrival, they were not alone. The year 1970 further saw pivotal early metal releases from Deep Purple, the undervalued Uriah Heep, and Sabbath, with the more-important Paranoid album. Even the lone track 'Immigrant Song' from Led Zeppelin III can be safely categorized as metal."

In the opinion of the author and former Metal Maniacs magazine editor Jeff Wagner, Black Sabbath is the "generally accepted starting point" when heavy metal "became distinct from rock and roll".[8] In his opinion, the album transfigured blues rock into "something uglier, found deeper gravity via mournful singing and a sinister rhythmic pulse".[8] According to Rolling Stone magazine, "the album that arguably invented heavy metal was built on thunderous blues-rock".[9] Sputnikmusic's Mike Stagno notes that Black Sabbath's combined elements of rock, jazz and blues, with heavy distortion created one of the most influential albums in the history of heavy metal.[10] In retrospect, Black Sabbath has been lauded as perhaps the first true heavy metal album.[11] It has also been credited as the first record in the stoner rock[12] and goth genres.[13]

Cite error: A <ref> tag is missing the closing </ref> (see the help page). Contrary to popular belief, the name of that song is not an abbreviation for "Nativity in Black";[2] according to Osbourne's autobiography it is merely a reference to drummer Bill Ward's pointed goatee at the time, which was shaped as a pen-nib.[14] The lyrics of two other songs on the album were written about stories with mythological themes. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" is a reference to the H. P. Lovecraft short story Beyond the Wall of Sleep,[3] while "The Wizard" was inspired by the character of Gandalf from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.[15] The latter includes harmonica performed by Osbourne.[3] The band also recorded a cover of "Evil Woman", a song that had been an American hit for the band Crow. In his autobiography, Iommi admits the band reluctantly agreed to do the song at the behest of their manager Jim Simpson, who insisted they record something commercial.

Artwork[edit]

Mapledurham Watermill

The Black Sabbath album cover features a depiction of Mapledurham Watermill, situated on the River Thames in Oxfordshire, England. Standing in front of the watermill is a figure dressed in black.[16] The name of the woman pictured on the front cover is forgotten, though guitarist Iommi says that she once showed up backstage at a Black Sabbath show and introduced herself.[2]

The inner gatefold sleeve of the original release was designed by Keith McMillan (credited as Marcus Keef)and featured an inverted cross with a poem written inside of it.[17] Allegedly, the band were upset when they discovered this,[3] as it fuelled allegations that they were Satanists or Occultists;[2] however, in Osbourne's memoir, he says that to the best of his knowledge nobody was upset with the inclusion.[18] "Suddenly we had all these crazy people turning up at shows," Iommi remembered in Mojo in 2013. "I think Alex Sanders (high priest of the Wiccan religion) turned up at a gig once. It was all quite strange, really." The album was not packaged with a gatefold cover in the US. In the liner notes to Reunion, Phil Alexander states, "Unbeknownst to the band, Black Sabbath was launched in the US with a party with the head of the Church of Satan, Anton Lavey, presiding over the proceedings...All of a sudden Sabbath were Satan's Right Hand Men."

Release[edit]

Black Sabbath was recorded for Fontana Records, but prior to release the record company elected to switch the band to another of their labels, Vertigo Records, which housed the company's more progressive acts.[19] Released on Friday the 13th February 1970 by Vertigo Records, Black Sabbath reached number eight on the UK Album Chart.[20] Following its United States release in June 1970 by Warner Bros. Records, the album reached number 23 on the Billboard 200,[21][22] where it remained for more than a year and sold one million copies.[23][24]

Reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Retrospective reviews
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[7]
Robert Christgau C−[25]
MusicHound 4/5 stars[26]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 5/5 stars[27]
Sputnikmusic 4.0/5[10]

Black Sabbath received primarily negative reviews from contemporary music critics.[28] Rolling Stone '​s Lester Bangs described the band as, "just like Cream! But worse," and he dismissed the album as "a shuck – despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés."[29][nb 2] Robert Christgau, writing for The Village Voice, panned the album as "bullshit necromancy."[30] He later described it as a reflection of "the worst of the counterculture," including "drug-impaired reaction time" and "long solos."[31]

Negative early reviews are starkly contrasted by later critics, who recognized it as a significant milestone in the development of heavy metal music. In his retrospective review for AllMusic, Huey said that Black Sabbath was a highly innovative debut album with several classic metal songs, including the title track, which he felt had the "most definitive heavy metal riffs of all time." Huey was also impressed by how the band's "slowed-down, murky guitar rock bludgeons the listener in an almost hallucinatory fashion, reveling in its own dazed, druggy state of consciousness."[7] In The Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), the journalist Scott Seward highlighted Bain's grandiose production on "an album that eats hippies for breakfast."[27] In the opinion of Mike Stagno of Sputnikmusic, "both fans of blues influenced hard rock and heavy metal of all sorts should find something they like on the album."[10] BBC Music's Pete Marsh referred to Black Sabbath as an "album that changed the face of rock music."[32] In Mick Wall's book Black Sabbath: Symptom of the Universe, Butler reflects, "The London press absolutely hated us when we made it 'cos they'd never written an article about us, they didn't know of us. When our first album, the first week, went straight into the charts, the London press went, like, what the hell's going on here? And they've hated us ever since."[citation needed]

Legacy[edit]

In 1989, Kerrang! ranked Black Sabbath number 31 on their "100 Greatest Heavy Metal Albums of All Time".[33] In 1994, it was ranked number 12 in Colin Larkin's Top 50 Heavy Metal Albums. Larkin praised the album's "crushing atmosphere of doom," which he described as "intense and relentless."[34] In 2000, Q magazine included Black Sabbath in their list of the "Best Metal Albums of All Time", stating: "[This album] was to prove so influential it remains a template for metal bands three decades on."[35] In 2005, it was ranked number 238 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time;[4] it was ranked number 243 in a revised edition of the list in 2012.[36] Rolling Stone ranked Black Sabbath number 44 in their list of the 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time, describing the title track as the song that "would define the sound of a thousand bands."[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs credited to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne, except where noted.

European edition[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:24
3. "Behind the Wall of Sleep"   3:37
4. "N.I.B."   6:08
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Evil Woman" (Crow cover) Larry Weigand, Dick Weigand, David Wagner 3:25
6. "Sleeping Village"     3:46
7. "Warning" (The Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation cover) Aynsley Dunbar, Alex Dmochowski, Victor Hickling, John Moorshead 10:28
1996 CD reissue bonus track
No. Title Length
8. "Wicked World"   4:47
2009 Deluxe Edition of European version, disc two
No. Title Length
1. "Wicked World" (single b-side, TF1067) 4:44
2. "Black Sabbath" (studio out-take) 6:22
3. "Black Sabbath" (instrumental) 6:13
4. "The Wizard" (studio out-take) 4:46
5. "Behind the Wall of Sleep" (studio out-take) 3:41
6. "N.I.B." (instrumental) 6:08
7. "Evil Woman" (alternative version) 3:47
8. "Sleeping Village" (intro) 3:45
9. "Warning" (part 1) 6:58

North American Edition[edit]

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Black Sabbath"   6:20
2. "The Wizard"   4:22
3. "Wasp/Behind the Wall of Sleep/Bassically/N.I.B."   9:44
Side two
No. Title Length
4. "Wicked World"   4:47
5. "A Bit of Finger/Sleeping Village/Warning"   14:15
2004 reissue bonus track
No. Title Length
6. "Evil Woman"   3:25

Original North American Warner Bros. Records pressings of Black Sabbath quote incorrect running times for "Wicked World" and the "Warning" medley (4:30 and 14:32, respectively). These pressings also credit the album's original songs using the band members' given names: Anthony Iommi, John Osbourne, Terence Butler, and William Ward.[37] The Castle Communications edition of 1986 also featured a live version of "Tomorrow's Dream" as bonus track.

The Deluxe Version of the European Edition, disc two, contains "N.I.B. (studio out-take)" with vocals which is incorrectly listed "N.I.B. (instrumental)."

Personnel[edit]

Black Sabbath[edit]

Production[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Other sources give 17 November 1969 as the date of recording.[3]
  2. ^ In his autobiography, Osbourne said of Bangs, "The last line was something like 'They're just like Cream, but worse', which I didn't understand, because I though Cream was one of the best bands in the world ... I've heard people say he was a genius when it came to words, but as far as I'm concerned he was just another pretentious dickhead."

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.allmusic.com/album/black-sabbath-mw0000652046
  2. ^ a b c d e f Iommi, Lammers & 2012 chapter 16 - Black Sabbath records Black Sabbath
  3. ^ a b c d e Wells, David (2009). "Black Sabbath (1970)". Black Sabbath (CD Booklet). Black Sabbath. Sanctuary Records Group. 
  4. ^ a b Levy 2005, p. 169.
  5. ^ Black, Johnny (14 March 2009). "Black celebration: the holy grail of Black Sabbath". Music Week. Archived from the original on 5 March 2012. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  6. ^ Rosen 1996, p. 38
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Huey.
  8. ^ a b Wagner 2010, p. 10.
  9. ^ a b "The 100 Best Debut Albums of All Time: 'Black Sabbath'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  10. ^ a b c Stagno, Mike (15 August 2006). "Black Sabbath - Black Sabbath". Sputnikmusic. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  11. ^ "Black Sabbath Biography". Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  12. ^ Kolsterman, Chuck; Mlner, Greg; Pappademas, Alex (April 2003). "15 Most Influential Albums". Spin 19: 84. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  13. ^ Baddeley 2002, pp. 263–234.
  14. ^ Osbourne 2010, p. 99.
  15. ^ Neeley, Wendell (26 April 2005). "20 Questions with Geezer Butler". Metal Sludge. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  16. ^ Cope, Andrew L. (2010). Black Sabbath and the rise of heavy metal music. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 978-0-7546-6881-7. Retrieved 26 October 2010. 
  17. ^ Black Sabbath at Black Sabbath Online
  18. ^ Osbourne 2010, p. 103
  19. ^ Iommi & Lammers & 2012 chapter 17 - Now under new management
  20. ^ "The Official Charts Company - Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath Search". The Official Charts Company. 17 September 2013. 
  21. ^ George-Warren 2001, p. 82.
  22. ^ "Black Sabbath Billboard Albums". AllMusic. Retrieved 7 September 2013. 
  23. ^ Ruhlmann, William. "AMG Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  24. ^ "Black Sabbath Biography". RollingStone.com. Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 February 2008. 
  25. ^ Christgau, Robert. Consumer Guide Album. Robert Christgau. Archived from Christgau's 1990 book Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  26. ^ Graff & Durchholz 1999, p. 1187.
  27. ^ a b "Black Sabbath: Album Guide". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 4 June 2012. 
  28. ^ McIver, Joel. Black Sabbath: Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Music Sales Group. p. 119. ISBN 085712028X. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  29. ^ Bangs, Lester (17 September 1970). "Album reviews Black Sabbath". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved 6 September 2009. 
  30. ^ Christgau, Robert (19 November 1970). "Consumer Guide (14)". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  31. ^ Christgau, Robert. Consumer Guide Album. Robert Christgau. Archived from Christgau's 1990 book Rock Albums of the '70s: A Critical Guide. Retrieved 24 February 2013. 
  32. ^ Marsh, Pete. "Black Sabbath: Black Sabbath Review". BBC Music. Retrieved 20 January 2014. 
  33. ^ Hotten, Jon (21 January 1989). "Black Sabbath 'Black Sabbath'". Kerrang! (London, UK: Spotlight Publications Ltd.) 222. 
  34. ^ Larkin 1994, p. 183.
  35. ^ "Best Metal Albums of All Time". Q (London): 126. August 2000. 
  36. ^ Rolling Stone (6 April 2009). "500 Greatest Albums of All Time: #243". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 20 May 2013. 
  37. ^ As per the album labels from the original North American LP release of Black Sabbath, Warner Bros. Records, catalog no. WS 1871, released June 1970.

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]