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Black Sabbath - Paranoid CD (album) cover


Black Sabbath


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4.30 | 898 ratings

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5 stars Originally War Pigs was called Walpurgis about Satan`s Christmas thing, but we had to change the lyrics because all the Satan stuff was going on. - Geezer Butler

The four horsemen of the rock `n roll apocalypse join a holocaust well underway as if it didn`t even need them in the first place. A symphony of air raid sirens evocative of the London blitz of 1940 conveying eerie futuristic premonitions usher in an armageddon that has finally arrived on the opening requiem War Pigs augmented by Tony Iommi`s resounding skull shattering chords and Ozzy`s solitary hyena couplets reading out mankind`s final soliloqy. One can almost envisage ICBMs sitting warm in the womb of pregnant missile silos attentive and at the ready to recieve their ultimate cue to issue mankind his final death blow in a scripted play where the only survivors will be madman powermongers huddled in the comfort of bunkers below witnessing the final unmitigated indemnification of every tree of life which ever inhabited a troubled Earth which will soon be on the threshold of unimmaginable post-historic horrors.

Released in September 1970, a scant few months following their eponymous debut which sold thousands of units on both sides of the Atlantic to tired audiences eager to break free from flower power idealisms, this second dose of Black Sabbath was far more focussed, refined and together. With it`s sheer heaviness and not-so-subtle messages, Paranoid made groups like Led Zeppelin sound like housebands at tea parties at retirement homes. Unbeknownst to them at the time they had just forged the definitive template for dozens of metal genres and sub genres which dared to follow in ther vortex over the next 20 years. Written entirely in the studio and on the road where they smashed all Beatles`attendance records from Liverpool to Hamburg, songs of unabashed substance about the realities of death, war, madness, bad drugs as well as a a time travel experiment gone horribly wrong pervaded over this bottomless abyss of despair delusion and frustration.

The release of Black Sabbath`s second album also coincided with an anticipated first tour of the United States which raised questions regarding it`s proposed title, War Pigs. The war in Vietnam, the usage of the word pig in contemporary American slang as well as it`s association with the Charles Manson murders caused the band`s two record labels at the time ( Vertigo in the UK and Warner Bros in the US ) to take stock and rename the album after a song called Paranoid, a heavy lament about a lost soul who cannot find happiness in anything including chicks and feels that he never will, which was added to the album at the eleventh hour which also became the band`s only top 10 hit peaking at no 1 in the UK in August 1970. Strangely enough, the cover photography for the album under the proposed title War Pigs had already been completed prior to the decision being taken to switch the title and metaphorically, the pink guy weilding the scimitar had much more to do with with every other track on the album except War Pigs itself conjuring up hallucinatory images taken out of some bad drug trip or as result of uncontrollable bouts with insanity. Whatever it meant, it provided kids with something to actually think about, however unintentional it might have been, given the blatant lyrical messages which were served up on silver platters.

Just prior to the recording of the album, which took place sometime between June 20 and 25 1970 ( nobody seems to know excatly when ), the Sabs found themselves trying to distance themselves from direct associations with the occult and black magic in the music press. Their previous album contained so many references to occultism on the cover, in the lyrics and most glaringly, in their name itself that they began to recieve requests from witches and warlocks to perform at their black masses! To compound matters even further they were often being compared to another band called Black Widow from Leicster who gained certain noteriety at The Isle Of Wight Festival where they featured a mime in their stage show simulating human sacrifices. Black Sabbath were adamant about making it clear that their interest in the occult was only slightly less than a passing one. This aversion was exemplefied by by their own rather tedious stage show at the time which had little visual impact as reflected by Caroline Boucher, a critic with the prominent UK music magazine Disc & Music Echo in which she referred to a March 1970 performance at the Marquee Club in London saying that Although there isn`t a set of rules for what Black Magic music should be like, Sabbath`s certainly doesn`t seem to faintly resemble anything evil, mysterious, black or doomy. At London`s Marquee on Monday, I was positively bored.

Nonetheless, the hyteria, instinctive fear and mis-understanding towards the occult forced the band to change the lyrics for the opening track on their second album which could trace it`s ancestry to a piece called Walpurgis which they had been playing live since late 1968 when they were still calling themselves Polka Tulk. The portent lyrics referred to ancient dark German rituals which were performed on the last night of April of each year and some music journalists even linked these early lyrics to the writings of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe. Although this may be going off the deep end it must be also remembered that that Sabbath`s principal lyricist, Geezer Butler was a fan of such literature which also included H.P. Lovecraft, Dennis Wheatley and every rock star`s favourite at the time J.R. Tolkein. Nevertheless, the lyrics were rewritten and the song was recorded as War Pigs for the album which for the time being was still being referred to as War Pigs. Many bootleg tapes and records began circullating throughout the `70s of these early versions of varying quality and also contain several variations of the early lyrics. A live version of Walpurgis appears legally on the Ozzy Osbourne compilation The Ozzman Cometh while arguably the best outlaw version appears on a bootleg album of a concert recorded in Koln, West Germany on March 3, 1970. Fanatic collectors might note that it contains different lyrics from the Ozzman Cometh version. As with the subsequently changed title, the changed lyrics of the title song allowed it to fit in more comfortably with the general aura of the remaining tracks recorded for the album, thus averting the black magic accusations complete with disclaimers from both Vertigo Records in the UK and Warner Bros in the US freeing the Sabs to concentrate more on the general themes of their messages which basically consisted of everything getting snuffed out. From one`s individual mind to the entire sorry planet.

The heaviness of Paranoid cannot be over emphasized which was purposely developed by the Sabs to put forth their stark messages as effectively as possible, doing away with any notions of any idealistic hippie flower power visions. Some of the lyrics defiantly emphasize this intention especially the opening of verse two on the gloomy Electric Funeral hammering their point home with the line, plastic flowers, melting sun. And if the track Hand Of Doom doesn`t permanantly scare the hell out of anyone who ever considered trying heroin then nothing will. Insanity caused by an imperfect world are emphasized on Fairies Wear Boots while a mad scientist makes a fatal miscalculation while conducting a time travel experiment on Iron Man which results in horrific consequences. Perhaps the most overlooked Sabbath track of all time appears here in the form of the nocturnal ballad Planet Caravan where Tony Iommi gets off some smooth jazzy licks and Bill Ward takes a break from his kit for some mystic bongo accompaniment. Even Ozzy takes a break on this one and delivers some ethereal vocals. More powerful than black magic.

The undisputed holy grail of heavy metal among critics and serious musicologists alike, Paranoid is essential listening for anyone interested in music period. Even Queen Elizabeth II was treated to a rendition of the title track Paranoid by Ozzy Osbourne and Tony Iommi when the Kings Of Metal met The Queen Of England in 2002 during the celebrations of her Silver Jubilee at Buckingham Palace.

Simply one of the most important rock albums ever recorded. Period.

Vibrationbaby | 5/5 |


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