Wednesday, October 31, 2007


A few weeks ago, Ozzy Osbourne did a press conference promoting his upcoming tour, and he mentioned that he would - as far as he knew - be headlining Ozzfest in the summer of 2008; this past summer, he played on just a few of the gigs. He also mentioned wanting to (maybe) finally do a reunion album with Black Sabbath.

I know that the Sabs - Ozzy, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward - have toyed with working together again in the studio. The results have been OK: two studio tracks on the live Reunion album, plus a pretty cool -but quiet - song called "Scary Dreams" that they were playing live for a while. A song called "Who's Fooling Who," on Tony's solo debut featured Ozzy and Bill, and Ozzy and Tony did a collaborative track with The Wu-Tang Clan that was, well, OK.

The reality is, it's hard for a band to come together after decades apart, and come up with material that approaches thier earlier stuff. I don't think that The Stooges achieved it with thier reunion album (although The New York Dolls' reunion album was quite good). It's just really hard to imagine them coming close to their early material. But since they seem to be getting along well ever since they reunited 10(!) years ago, they've toured a lot.

I saw their first reunion tour, which was really a 75% reunion. It was Ozzy, Tony and Geezer with Ozzy's drummer, Mike Bordin (formerly of Faith No More) at the first Ozzfest tour in 1997. It was one of those reunions that no one thought would happen: it almost happened in 1992, after the band played at Ozzy's two "final" gigs, but then plans totally fell apart. But, in 1997, they pulled together for Ozzfest - and it was awesome. I was at the Giants Stadium show, I couldn't believe how great it was. Ozzy actually did a solo set followed by the Sabbath set. I met him backstage after the gig, and he looked pretty "knackered" as the Brits say, but, man, the Sabbath set was incredible. And Mike Bordin did an incredible job.

Two years later, Sabbath did Ozzfest again, this time with Bill, and on this tour, Ozzy didn't do solo sets, so it was a pretty powerful performance. Of course, they've done Ozzfest a few times since then.

But earlier this year, Tony and Geezer reunited with Ronnie James Dio (who replaced Ozzy in Sabbath) and Vinny Appice (who replaced Bill), and called themselves Heaven & Hell. I've always thought that it was pretty remarkable that Sabbath, back in the day, were able to evolve and survive the departure of a frontman like Ozzy, and a lot of that should be credited to Dio. Personally, I'm not nearly a huge fan of any of the post-Ozzy Sabbath lineups, but the Dio one was impressive. I always thought that it was kind of a different band, especially as Dio took over as the lyricist as well (Geezer wrote most of the lyrics during the Ozzy era). But I was happy for Tony and Geezer when the Heaven & Hell thing happened: it gives them something to do when Ozzy is out doing his solo thing, and gives them a chance to play some of the music from their past that they don't get to do with Ozzy.

But now, Geezer and Tony are saying that they're going to do a studio album with Heaven & Hell. Good for them, I guess. I kind of wanted to see the original Sabbath one more time: it's hard to imagine it happening again if they do a new Heaven & Hell album, and then promote it with another tour. Ozzy, Tony and Bill will all be 60 next year; Geezer is a year younger. Are they going to do a Black Sabbath tour at age 63?

If the original Black Sabbath never ride again, maybe it's OK. I spoke to Geezer about this a while ago: he said, after doing a few reunion tours, he was happy if that was it (and they've toured a few times since that conversation). He felt that it was important that all four guys were friends again, and they got to tour together again, after all those years apart.

I guess that there's a chance that Sabbath's final appearance may well end up being their (overly late) induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They decided not to perform, just to show up. Of course, Metallica performed for them, which I thought was fitting. If that's the last page in the Sabbath book, it's a good ending for four guys who traveled, as they put it, "A Hard Road." I'm glad they lived to enjoy the spoils of thier work, and to see how many millions of people they influenced, and how many lives they affected.

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