Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan
Sad news today from the camp of heavy metal forebears Black Sabbath, who report that longtime keyboardist Geoff Nicholls has died following a long fight with lung cancer. Nicholls, who occasionally also contributed rhythm guitar and bass to the band on stage, was a rarely-seen but often-heard presence in Sabbath, adding texture to the crucial albums of the band’s first era post-Ozzy Osbourne and taking part in the great expansion of their sound that 1980’s Heaven and Hell and 1981’s Mob Rules represented, as well as the continuing process of remaking the aesthetic the band helped create across outings like 1983’s Born Again, which brought in Ian Gillan to replace Ronnie James Dio, and into the Tony Martin years with 1987’s The Eternal Idol, 1989’s Headless Cross, 1990’s Tyr, their Dehumanizer 1992 Dio reunion LP, 1994’s Cross Purposes, and 1995’s Forbidden, which brought Martin back into the fold.
During this time of change for Sabbath, Nicholls was a steady presence alongside founding guitarist Tony Iommi amid an often tumultuous lineup. Some of his greatest work can be heard on these under-heralded outings, as well as on 1982’s Live Evil, and though he doesn’t receive the same kind of credit as Iommi, Osbourne, original bassist Geezer Butler or drummer Bill Ward, the atmospheric crux he was able to bring to Black Sabbath during his years with the band still resonates in their ongoing influence on metal in both the commercial and underground spheres.
Nicholls continued to play with Sabbath through their first reunion with Osbourne in the late ’90s, appearing on the single “Psycho Man” and on the 1998 Reunion live album, and into the middle of the last decade, also working with Iommi on the 2004 side-project, The 1996 DEP Sessions. His last appearance on a Sabbath record was 2007’s Live at Hammersmith Odeon, which captured recordings from the early ’80s, but in 2016, he would rejoin with his former bandmates in Quartz to release Fear No Evil, their first album since 1983 and his final studio appearance.
Said Tony Iommi of Nicholls’ passing:
I’m so saddened to hear the loss of one of my dearest and closest friends Geoff Nicholls. He’s been suffering for a while now with lung cancer and he lost his battle this morning. Geoff and I have always been very close and he has been a real true friend to me and supported me all the way for nearly 40 years. I will miss him dearly and he will live in my heart until we meet again.
Rest In Peace my dear friend. Tony
On behalf of myself and this site, condolences to the friends and family of Nicholls as well as to the fans who have appreciated his work over the last five decades.
Black Sabbath are in the process of winding down their farewell shows prior to a reported retirement. Their most recent album, 13, was released in 2013.
Among the several maligned periods of Black Sabbath‘s almost-50-year history, from the late-Ozzy era to the Tony Martin years to the various reunions, “Psycho Man” and all that, I don’t think any single album has found redemption over the years more than 1983’s Born Again. It’s simply a record that won out over time. Condemned in its day for its mix, its sloppiness of sound and off-balance, coked-up, thrown together feel, it’s now appreciated for many of the same reasons. Until the 2011 charity one-off project WhoCares?, whose single was reviewed here, it would be the only collaboration between founding Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi and frontman-of-frontmen Ian Gillan, of course known for his work in Deep Purple. The stories by now are legion, and don’t need my retelling. Gillan has discussed at length over the years how the whole thing was put together by management, how he barely took part in writing these songs — almost apologizing for an album that was poorly received — and that’s fair enough. Born Again is likewise something different from anything he’d done before as well, and for Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, drummer Bill Ward and keyboardist Geoff Nichols, it was a stark contrast to the grandiose reach of the band’s (first) era fronted by Ronnie James Dio, which produced two brilliant, landmark albums in 1980’s Heaven and Hell (discussed here) and 1981’s Mob Rules (discussed here), before coming to a close in time for Dio to issue his solo debut, the also-landmark Holy Diver, a few months before Born Again, in Spring 1983.
I’m not interested in defending Born Again against detractors — it still has many. Rather, in considering it as the pivot point for Black Sabbath in the ’80s, which is a time when it’s easy to think of them as wandering in the desert, working with Gillan, Glenn Hughes, Ray Gillen, etc., en route to the decade Iommi would team with Tony Martin, the nine-track/41-minute offering might be the first Sabbath record that knew it was heavy metal and that being heavy metal was coming to mean something different from even a few years earlier. Born Again strips away the acoustic flourish of “Heaven and Hell,” the expansive progressivism of “The Sign of the Southern Cross,” in favor of raw tracks like “Zero the Hero,” the dissonant and jagged “Disturbing the Priest,” and barnburners like opener “Trashed” — a car song, which shines as a vehicle (pun totally intended) for Gillan post-Purple — and the almost unfortunately catchy “Digital Bitch,” to which, admittedly, history and context have not been as kind. The title-track meanders as a proto-ballad, and with the rocker “Hot Line” and the semi-sleaze of “Keep it Warm” closing out, Born Again is not without filler, but that’s precisely the point. It’s not a perfect record, and if one considers even the most basic measure of creative intent behind that stripping down, it not only sets up what Sabbath would do for the rest of the ’80s and well into the ’90s, but it makes for a standout from their catalog even in comparison to their earth-shattering, genre-defining early albums, which coalesced blues rock, weighted tones and darker themes into what eventually became the heavy metal from which Born Again could be seen as drawing influence.
As Sabbath move inexorably toward retirement, I’m keeping my fingers crossed Iommi and Gillan renew their studio collaboration. It’s a long-shot, granted, but even if they didn’t tour together — Gillan still hits the road with Deep Purple on the semi-regular — a studio album perhaps under the working moniker Born Again would certainly be welcome.
Love it or hate it, I hope you’ll take on Black Sabbath‘s Born Again with an open mind and enjoy the process of paying it another visit. Thanks for reading.
If closing out the week with Sabbath felt too easy or cliché, I’ll ask you to note that in the four-plus years I’ve done “Friday Full-Length,” it’s only been Sabbath in two prior instances, both linked above. That’s tied with Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Dozer, Goatsnake and Masters of Reality, among others. Not outlandish in that context to push for a third, what with them being Sabbath and all. There. I told myself I wasn’t going to justify it and I did anyway.
Short week at work with Monday off. Apparently when you have a real job they give you Columbus Day. First time that’s ever happened to me. Somewhat problematic from a colonial standpoint — all that rape and pillage — but a day off is a day off, and given where the rest of the week went work-wise from Tuesday on, I’ll especially take it. A mess of emails, meetings, emails about meetings, reading copy over and over and taking on more and more assignments. I’m also looking at starting another part-time gig on the side to hopefully give me some saving/playing money. And yes, I know how troubling it is to put “saving” and “playing” so close to each other in this context. Oh, Canon 5D Mark IV. You will be mine.
But anyway, it was stressful and I’m glad it’s just about over. Just about. Next week I’m doing myself a couple favors. I’ll be reviewing stuff from Truckfighters, Worshipper, and Asteroid, as well as hosting album streams from Dorre/Bethmoora and Zaum. Not exactly taking it easy, but none of it is going to be a slog to write about by any means. Also look for news on Samsara Blues Experiment, Freedom Hawk and others, and videos for Sergio Ch. and members of Across Tundras. If I can, I’m also going to squeeze in an extra stream of a couple tracks from lost-but-way-ahead-of-their-time NY riffers Begotten that have come into my possession. I’ve been fortunate enough to be granted permission to host them, so don’t want to let that opportunity slip by. Look for that Wednesday or Thursday.
I think I mentioned something last week or the week before about wanting to shave off my beard. That didn’t happen, but I did get my hair cut last week and asked the dude who does that to take the facial hair in considerably as well. No regrets, as far as that goes. The Patient Mrs. noted that it completely changed the shape of my face. I’m fine with that.
So that’s your Beardwatch 2016 update. I’m sure you were glued to the edge of your seat waiting for news.
The Patient Mrs. has a friend in this weekend from abroad, so I expect there will be some running around probably in Boston on Saturday. My ankle’s resurgent soreness notwithstanding, sounds fine. I also at this point don’t care if my fucking foot falls off though, so maybe that’s not the best attitude. It’s cool. Not like it’s been two years or anything. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but between that and the barrage of fascist bullshit this election cycle, from which even Star Trek and the MLB playoffs have ceased to provide respite, it’s rough going.
Oh, and I started Luke Cage. First episode was a bunch of racial tropes — really? a Biggie portrait? — and not much compelling character development. Haven’t gone back to it yet. Jessica Jones and the second season of Daredevil were kind of disappointing as well, so I may or may not get there anytime soon. If you’ve seen it, I’d welcome any opinions on whether it’s worth the effort or if I should just say screw it and keep going with my Deep Space Nine/Voyager deep-dive.
Alright. Can’t imagine anyone’s still reading, but if you are (and I suppose if you stopped), I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please make sure to check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
As of right now, there isn’t much more to go on when it comes to Dunsmuir than a logo and a lineup, but it’s a considerable lineup to start with. Frontman Neil Fallon of Clutch brings a loyal following with him wherever he goes, and in Dunsmuir he’s joined by The Company Band guitarist Dave Bone, Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis and Heaven and Hell/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice. The band takes its name from the sleepy fishing getaway town in Northern California that, in 1991, was the site of the largest chemical spill ever to happen in the state — a train fell off a cliff into a river carrying toxic, ecosystem-destroying this-and-that — and while there’s no word yet as regards what they’ll actually sound like, for the rhythm section pairing of Davis and Appice alone, the safest bet seems to be that it’ll rock.
For those reading between the lines of the above, the roots of Dunsmuir would seem to be in The Company Band. Dave Bone played guitar in that band and was principal songwriter, but Fallon and Davis were also members along with CKY‘s Jess Margera and Jim Rota of Fireball Ministry. That group’s last outing was the 2012 Pros and Cons EP (review here), which followed behind their 2009 self-titled debut full-length (review here) and 2008’s debut EP, Sign Here, Here and Here. If Dunsmuir is a continuation on some level of what The Company Band were doing, perhaps without the underlying corporate thematic that the last EP seemed to push away from anyhow, then I doubt they’d meet with many complaints, but it’s really all speculation at this point until some audio begins to surface.
As to that, there’s nothing yet at least that I’ve been able to find. When and if something comes along, I’ll let you know, but here’s that logo and lineup in the meantime, as posted by Davis, along with website/social links in case you’d also like to keep an eye:
Brad Davis (Fu Manchu) Vinny Appice (Dio / Black Sabbath / Heaven & Hell) Dave Bone (The Company Band) Neil Fallon (Clutch)
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
I think if Black Sabbath were going to extend their tour based on “overwhelming demand,” they probably wouldn’t ever be able to retire. Still, the forefathers of modern doom — and, less relevantly, metal as a whole — have added dates to their “The End” 2016 tour, which will head to Europe after completing an initial North American run and then circle back for summer dates in the US. It will be the band’s first run since 2013, when they came through heralding their first Ozzy Osbourne-fronted release in over 30 years, 13 (review here).
And yeah, I know you’ve seen this. Everyone’s seen it. Shit, it was trending on Thee Facebooks, so let alone those who’ve made riffs into a lifestyle, people who in no way give even the remotest shit about Black Sabbath have seen it. Consider it here for the ICYMI crowd and for posterity. Never know when you’ll want to refer back to it later. Or at least I will.
And yeah, no Bill Ward.
PR wire-esque info follows:
BLACK SABBATH TRIUMPHANTLY RETURN TO NORTH AMERICA
DUE TO OVERWHELMING DEMAND, “THE END” TOUR EXTENDED INTO FALL 2016 WITH ADDITIONAL NORTH AMERICAN SHOWS
Due to overwhelming demand, the road to THE END just got longer.
On the heels of their much-anticipated performances in North America, Australia, New Zealand and Europe, BLACK SABBATH will end the epic journey they began nearly five decades ago with another run of North American dates in fall 2016. These shows will follow a mix of summer headlining and festival performances throughout Europe.
The second run of North American dates kicks off August 17 at Jones Beach Amphitheater in New York and includes stops at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (where the band last performed a sold-out show on their wildly successful 13 world tour in 2014), Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit, and Dallas, among others, before wrapping September 21 at AK-Chin Pavilion in Phoenix, AZ.
The massive 2016 world tour by the greatest Metal Band of all time marks THE END for Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler as they close the final chapter in the final volume of the incredible BLACK SABBATH story with this tour. BLACK SABBATH’s THE END farewell tour promises to surpass all previous tours and will feature the band’s most mesmerizing production ever.
When this tour concludes, it will truly be THE END, THE END of one of most legendary bands in Rock ’n Roll history…BLACK SABBATH
BLACK SABBATH’s 2016 Tour Dates are as follows:
NORTH AMERICA 1/20 Omaha, NE CenturyLink Center 1/22 Chicago, IL United Center 1/25 Minneapolis, MN Target Center 1/27 Winnipeg MN MTS Centre 1/30 Edmonton, AB Rexall Centre 2/1 Calgary, AB Scotiabank Saddledome 2/3 Vancouver, BC Rogers Arena 2/6 Tacoma, WA Tacoma Dome 2/9 San Jose, CA SAP Pavilion 2/11 Los Angeles, CA The Forum 2/13 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay 2/15 Denver, CO Pepsi Center 2/17 Kansas City, MO Sprint Center 2/19 Detroit, MI The Palace of Auburn Hills 2/21 Hamilton, ON First Ontario Centre 2/23 Montreal, QC Bell Centre 2/25 New York, NY Madison Square Garden 2/27 New York, NY Madison Square Garden
AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND 4/15 Perth, AU Perth Arena 4/17 Adelaide, AU Entertainment Centre 4/19 Melbourne, AU Rod Laver Arena 4/23 Sydney, AU Allphones Arena 4/25 Brisbane, AU Entertainment Centre 4/28 Auckland, NZ Vector Arena 4/30 Dunedin, NZ Forsyth Barr Stadium
EUROPE 6/1 Budapest,Hungary Groupama Arena 6/8 Berlin, Germany Waldebuhne **6/11 Donington, UK Download 6/13 Verona, IT Arena Di Verona 6/15 Zurich, Switzerland Hallenstadon **6/17 Dessel,Belgium Grasspop **6/23 Halden, Norway Tons of Rock **6/25 Copenhagen, DE Copenhell 6/28 Vienna, Austria Stadthalle 6/30 Prague, Czech Rep. 02 Arena 7/2 Krakow, Poland Tauron Arena 7/5 Riga, Latvia Riga Arena **7/7 Helsinki, Finland Monsters of Rock **7/9 Stockholm, Sweden Monsters of Rock 7/12 Moscow, Russia Olympisky Arena **Denotes festival appearance
NORTH AMERICA 8/17 Wantagh, NY Nikon at Jones Beach Theater 8/19 Philadelphia, PA Susquehanna Bank Center 8/21 Washington DC Jiffy Lube Live 8/23 Holmdel, NJ PNC Bank Arts Center 8/25 Boston, MA Xfinity Center 8/27 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena 8/29 Toronto, ON Molson Canadian Amphitheatre 8/31 Detroit, MI DTE Energy Music Theater 9/2 Indianapolis, IN Klipsch Music Center 9/4 Chicago, IL Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre 9/7 Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion 9/9 Albuquerque, NM Isleta Ampitheater 9/11 Salt Lake City, UT USANA Ampitheater 9/13 Portland, OR Sunlight Supply Arena 9/15 Oakland, CA Oracle Arena 9/17 Las Vegas, NV MGM Grand Garden Arena 9/19 Hollywood, CA Hollywood Bowl 9/21 Phoenix, AZ AK-Chin Pavilion
It’s been a quick four years since the passing of Ronnie James Dio. One of heavy metal’s most principle figures, an inimitable voice that continues to ring out a righteousness that the entire genre in its wake has aspired to, Dio succumbed to stomach cancer on May 16, 2010. From The Vegas Kings through Elf, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Dio and, finally, Heaven and Hell, his was a legacy a lifetime in the making. He was there at metal’s birth, and as a frontman and the architect of some of its most landmark moments — from Rainbow‘s Long Live Rock and Roll to Black Sabbath‘s Dehumanizer — he was human, had his ups and downs, but was as close to a god as anyone singing in a rock and roll band ever could. Truly larger than life, as the inspiration he continues to spark proves every day.
Though at the time of his death he was talking about getting back with the Dio band and creating the second and third parts of what would have made a trilogy out of the narrative to the 2000 concept album, Magica, his last studio-recorded output was Heaven and Hell’s The Devil You Know(review here), which reunited him with Black Sabbath‘s Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice. They toured on that album, were a stately live act, and did justice to the Dio-fronted Sabbath more than I think anyone could have anticipated. Thinking about hearing them play “Falling off the Edge of the World” from 1981’s Mob Rules, I still get a chill up my spine.
That song, the penultimate on the Mob Rules before the epilogue of “Over and Over,” is just one of the factors making the album so essential. The follow-up to Sabbath‘s 1980 debut with Dio in the vocalist role replacing Ozzy Osbourne, Heaven and Hell, it built on that record stylistically, whether it was Iommi making another toss-off single into a landmark opener with “Turn up the Night,” or the bizarre sway of “Country Girl,” the epic “Sign of the Southern Cross” or the sing-along in the making “Slipping Away,” Mob Ruleswas an album that ingrained itself on heavy metal’s consciousness, and its reverberations continue to be felt. Through his work, timeless, Ronnie James Dio remains vital and very much present. Here. We may never get another Dio album — posthumous live releases, collections and tributes notwithstanding — or another tour, but Dio‘s catalog is a canon that generations to come will explore and grow to love, just as generations have done for the last 40-plus years.
Quick week, but I guess that’ll happen without a Monday. I was driving back north from being in New Jersey last weekend. Didn’t hear any complaints and wouldn’t really expect to, but in case anyone was wondering what was up, that was it. Pretty rare at his point that I’ll take a whole day off between Monday and Friday, but every now and then it’s unavoidable. Believe me, as I sat in the seemingly eternal traffic of I-95 North, the compulsion was there.
Heading out to see Swans in Boston tomorrow, which I’m very much looking forward to. I’ve been battling in my head back and forth which show I’m more excited for, them or Fu Manchu, but I think it’s a different appeal either way. That Fu show is on Tuesday, and I’ll have a review on Wednesday. Next Friday, Negative Reaction come north. They’re always a good time as well, and it’s been a minute at this point, so I’m looking forward to that too. Doesn’t look like there’s much of a way to lose.
Well, changing up the radio adds modus seems to have fallen flat at least in terms of the immediate response, but I’ll keep it going for a bit anyway, see if anything catches on. Can’t really judge anything by its first day, especially on a Friday. Was grateful to see the Fu Manchu review getting shared around. Hey, it’s the internet. I don’t get a lot of comments, so I take what I can get in terms of judging a response. If that’s Facebook likes for the time being, then until something else comes along, so be it. I appreciate it all, each one, everything. Thanks to everybody who downloaded the podcast as well. It’s been a while since I was able to do one of those, and I was glad to see there were still a few people interested.
There’s more stuff next week I’d like to plug, but it’s late and I’d rather just let the Sabbath ride out. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.
Posted in Reviews on December 26th, 2013 by JJ Koczan
In the introduction to the DVD, we see Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler driving to the Rod Lever Arena in Melbourne. There are backstage shots of the crew, the soundboard monitors, the dressing rooms where the three legendary players warm up, Butler with his bass, Iommi working out a riff and Osbourne on a stationary bike. There are fan testimonials, parents in Venom t-shirts talking about how Sabbath is the best thing that ever happened to rock and roll and whatnot.For some reason, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith are there — I guess they were in town. Then the siren blares, the screen goes black and as the drums start the intro to “War Pigs,” the band’s logo appears on screen in its wavy Master of Reality font: Black Sabbath. With Live… Gathered in Their Masses (Vertigo/Republic Records), the forefathers of doom chronicle two nights in Melbourne on their Spring 2013 Australian tour. It was the first round of dates they did to herald the arrival of the Rick Rubin-produced 13(review here), the first Osbourne-fronted Sabbath album since 1978’s Never Say Die. Alongside such classics as “Into the Void,” “Black Sabbath” and “Symptom of the Universe,” 13cuts “Loner,” “Methademic,” “End of the Beginning” and “God is Dead?” are aired, totaling about an hour and 43 minutes of footage — more if you get the deluxe edition, which also has “Under the Sun” and CD version of the release, etc.
Anyone who followed Sabbath in 2013 or approached the new album with realistic expectations should probably know what they’re getting. This isn’t a warts-and-all kind of bootleg, it’s a commercial live release culled from two distinct shows. It’s been gone over in the studio, cleaned up. Its sound is crisp, its editing is tight, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler are brilliant, Ozzy does his best with the voice he has left, and they are, of course, well received by the Aussie crowd(s). Like 13 itself, Live… Gathered in Their Masseswas never going to be anything innovating, but it’s a set-piece for fans and there you go. Most of the shots of drummer Tommy Clufetos — listed as a “guest musician” along with keyboardist Adam Wakeman (son of Yes‘ Rick Wakeman) — are from behind when they’re just of him, and the stage design is the same large oblong triple-screen they had on their subsequent US arena run. Are they the original Sabbath? Nope. Any mention of drummer Bill Ward? Nope. Does Live… Gathered in Their Massesstack up to, say, the utter brilliance of their Paris 1970 bootleg? Nope. Is it as close as you’re ever going to get at this point? Yeah, probably. Much as with the gig I caught on the US tour (review here), by the time they played “Into the Void,” I felt like I got what I came for. The difference was that with Live… Gathered in Their Masses, it’s the second song, though the highlight of the whole release might just be an up-close look at Butler stomping his wah pedal at the start of “N.I.B.,” near the halfway point of the set.
“What the hell are you going to do with those?” asked The Patient Mrs. when I got back to the car and showed her the two Black Sabbath 8-track tapes I’d bought at the annual “Not Just” Rock Expo outside of Philadelphia this past Friday afternoon. It was a fair question. My answer was somewhat less reasoned: “Set up an altar and worship them as gods, who fucking cares?”
My point, expressed with my usual eloquence, was that it wasn’t about listening to Heaven and Hell and Sabbath‘s 1970 self-titled debut — which I can do at this point on any number of physical media — but just about enjoying owning the albums on this format. And hell, if I wind up with an 8-track player someday, at least I’ll know what to put on first. Whether that came through or not, I was greeted with the usual rolled eyes and a, “Time to go.” Fair enough. We were already running late.
This was the 27th “Not Just” Rock Expo — it’s actually put together by the same dude who does the Second Saturday Record Show in Wayne, NJ, that I’ve enjoyed many times in the past — and it just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Held in Oaks, PA, which is northwest of Philly, this past Friday and Saturday, normally, it’d be well out of my geographic range at this point for a day trip, but The Patient Mrs. and I (also the little dog Dio) spent Thanksgiving in Maryland. Friday found us heading back north to see family in New Jersey, so the “Not Just” Rock Expo was more or less on the way, and that’s just how I sold The Patient Mrs. on the idea of making a stop.
The GPS took us what felt like halfway across PA, but we got there eventually and found the hangar-sized room where the expo was happening. Three long, two-sided rows of vendors were set up, and there was a good crowd there. I recognized a few faces from shows and such, and while it might not have been just rock, there certainly was enough of it. It seemed like almost every table, save perhaps that run by King Fowley of Deceased, had one or another kind of Beatles memorabilia on offer, but there were plenty of other ways to spend money as well. More money than I had, but I did alright. The first place I looked had Death‘s Individual Thought Patterns on tape for like two bucks, so I made that happen, and an original Alternative Tentacles pressing of Neurosis‘ Souls at Zerothat I’ve very much enjoyed revisiting despite a skip or two in “The Web,” as well as Death in 3s by Meatplow, which I picked up essentially because I recognized the name and thought it would be fun. So far that’s worked out.
Across the aisle was a vendor who had an entire section devoted solely to Repertoire Records reissues. Fuck me. But for the ones I already owned, I probably could’ve shelled out $300 on that stuff alone and walked out of the “Not Just” Rock Expo with a smile on my face. I didn’t. Money’s tight, and sooner or later I’d have to buy gas to get back up to Massachusetts, so I nabbed the digipak version of Atomic Rooster‘s In Hearing Ofand left it at that. By then, The Patient Mrs. had adjourned to the car, but I made my way through at what was apparently a leisurely place — when it was over, I seemed to have lost an extra hour in there somewhere — finding other odds and ends along the way like a Nuclear Blast edition of the first Count Raven CD, a full-jewel-case promo (imagine such a thing!) for Russian Circles‘ debut, Enter, and a cheap tape copy of Band of Gypsysthat made the rest of the ride to Jersey a little easier to take, despite traffic.
Toward the end of the last row, a guy who had some other decent stuff as well was selling a copy of the 2007 split between Sons of Otis and Queen Elephantine for $20. I wanted it. I was decently enough past my spending limit, however, so I offered the $13 in my hand, he said no, and I put the disc back. The one that got away. More the fool I, since I can’t seem to find the CD version online anywhere. That’ll show me not to recklessly shell out dollars.
It was a downer note to end on, but overall, I can’t really complain. I hadn’t even known the “Not Just” Rock Expo existed until reading a post about it Thanksgiving night on Thee Facebooks, so considering that and the tri-format haul, I’d say I did alright. They’ve already got the space booked for the 28th installment of the “Not Just” Rock Expo (their website is here), and if you happen to be in the area, it seems like a good way to make yourself late to wherever you might be headed next.
Queen Elephantine, “The Battle of Massacoit/The Weapon of the King of Gods”
It’s well documented at this point that by the time 1976 rolled around, Black Sabbath had demolished the majority of their brain cells. If you ever need proof of this, look no further than the immediate drop in quality between 1975’s Sabotage, which brought such classics as “Hole in the Sky” and “Symptom of the Universe,” and 1976’s Technical Ecstasy, which languished in the comparative mediocrity of “Rock and Roll Doctor” and “It’s Alright.” It’s like you could pinpoint the exact moment where they traded pot for cocaine for real (“Snowblind” notwithstanding) and where the music took a backseat to the chemicals their money could buy.
Of course, they toured for several more years before giving Ozzy Osbourne the boot in 1978, and got it together enough to put out Never Say Die before that, which though it was a far cry even from the heights of 1973’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbathlet alone the sacred texts of their first four albums, was still a step up from Technical Ecstasy, which was arguably the nadir creatively of the band’s first Osbourne-fronted run — Black Sabbath‘s actual rock bottom would come years later, prior to reuniting with Ozzy in the late ’90s — and a record that while it showed some stylistic experimentation on a song like “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” wound up an utter bore.
Which brings me around to “Dirty Women” and Sabbath‘s Fall 1976 North American tour in support of Techincal Ecstasy. It’s a cut that Sabbath played even up to their latest US run, which heralded another reunion with Osbourne and the long-awaited new studio album, 13(review here), and I don’t know if they wrote it so that the ladies in their audience would take their tops off in the arena crowds, but the softcore vintage porn they played while trotting out the chorus seemed hopeful. Probably less likely in 2013 — these are mothers who’ve brought their children to the show! — than it was in 1976.
I’ve chased down a couple bootlegs from that ’76 tour, and almost universally, Sabbath are a trainwreck. Osbourne was never one for remembering lyrics when the band were at the top of their game, but even up to Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward‘s playing, they’re like the dudes at their own party who threw up on the rug. Just a mess.
I’m not a big fan of the song “Dirty Women,” but in the context of that tour and of the utter self-directed wrecking ball that Black Sabbath became in that era, it’s perfect. Of the versions I’ve heard from that tour, the soundboard recording from Pittsburgh, taped Dec. 8, at the Civic Arena for the King Biscuit Flower Hour is my favorite. It’s raw and raunchy and caked in its own crust like nothing else from Sabbath that I’ve ever come across. When Osbourne starts in with, “Ohh dirty women,” he sounds like he’s about to fall over. I don’t know whether to cringe or laugh or travel back in time and call a doctor. Amazing.
Take a listen:
Black Sabbath, “Dirty Women” live in Pittsburgh, PA, Dec. 7, 1976