Monday, February 9, 2015

Black Sabbath 13: The Second Time Around

When I heard the opening seconds of the original Sabs return in 2013, it was an immediate turn off. I had hopes, not incredibly high, but high enough. Rick Rubin was on board and I am fan of both he and the band. But when "The End Of The Beginning" began, with the almost exact riff from "Black Sabbath," the first song from the band's debut, I thought, "So this is what it's going to be. Rewriting all the signature tunes from the past." One minute into "13," the 2013 comeback and I was already bored.

I let iTunes play the entire record, in one ear and out the other, never to return again.

Over the last year, some friends had good things to say about "13," agreeing that the opening number was "Black Sabbath,"  sideways sort of, but that there was some truly great performances on the record and I should give it another shot. Play it LOUD, they all said.

I never did...until this weekend, when a vinyl copy happened to come through my hands.

Now I don't want to turn this into a CD/MP3/VINYL debate, but the difference between listening to this record on my computer (with really nice speakers) versus a high quality vinyl pressing on my stereo is like the difference between shooting a bullet versus throwing one.

The opening song remains the same and though it still tries too hard to remind us of what this band was all about, what got lost on my computer was now front and center. The production is massive. I was suckered right into the band and producer's plan. "13" took hold and it never let go.

The vinyl is four sides, each having just two songs, and that space makes all the difference. I was so impressed with the sound of "13," I played the record back to back to back and each time, I loved it more.

If you're a fan, you will recognize riffs and melodies from such Sabbath classics as "N.I.B," "You Won't Change Me," and "The Wizard," but unlike my first pass in 2013, these memory joggers did not feel desperate. Songs like "God Is Dead,""Loner" and the two posted here, "Age Of Reason" and "Damaged Soul" are as good as anything this band has released.

I realize I have been guilty of the "about face" a number of times, but the outcome is always to my benefit. It is also why I urge you to give records more than a quick spin while you're on the treadmill, or a little more than the 30 second per song preview. "13" is a monster record. Ozzy sounds terrific, and Tony Iommi & Geezer, with help from drummer Brad Wilk, sound inspired.


dogbreath said...

You're preaching to the converted, Mr N - at least as far as "13" is concerned. Eagerly anticipated, listened to in half-hearted snatches, revisited less than optimistically, more in hope than belief, but got into the stoner/doom zone & was rewarded with some excellent playing, production & power. Doesn't always work when I give an album another chance but, hey, c'├ęst la guerre. In fact, where is that Bay City Rollers LP.......

William Repsher said...

While I'll never buy a turntable again (I was pretty OK with CD's taking over from vinyl ... actually cassette at the time in the late 1980's), I understand your point about listening apparatus. I recently bought a pair of (for me) high-priced Bose headphones (which most audiophiles would scoff at) as I'd been listening to the iPod for years with relatively cheap ear buds (never more than $30/pair).

The difference was stunning ... now I'm one of those guys wearing headphones on the subway (albeit not Beats, judge accordingly). First track I played was "Baby You're a Rich Man" by The Beatles and I could hear everything in that stereo mix. And I've found that R&B and more gritty/under-produced rock even sounds better through these things.

Not sure how Sabbath would pan out in this scenario. But I have experienced what you're getting at with a simple audio switch like that.

buzzbabyjesus said...

I admire Tommy's gift for riff, and especially his ability to Django Rheinhardt-like overcome missing important parts of his left hand, but I can't stand Ozzy Osborne. I don't believe anything he sings except maybe "Paranoid", which I love.
That is the reason some Black Sabbath product is in my house.
I'll take your word for it.
I'll pass, anyway.
I have a good turntable, nice speakers, and really good beyer dynamic headphones. They do make a difference.

buzzbabyjesus said...

Most importantly, the "about face" says good things about your character.