Thursday, July 15, 2010


In honor of tonight's Black Sabbath documentary airing on The Biography Channel, I wanted to do something Sabbath-centric, like a list of my favorite Sabbath songs. But I can't whittle it down to ten or twenty.  But it did get me thinking about how I first experienced the band.

I started listening to music, like a lot of other kids, with classic rock radio (and like lots of people, got bored with it quick and soon stuck with my own tapes).  But I am pretty sure that's where I first heard songs like "Paranoid," "Iron Man" and "War Pigs." Or maybe it was MTV's "Closet Classics" or even "Headbanger's Ball." I really heard a lot of the songs for the first time on Ozzy Osbourne's live album, Speak Of The Devil, which features all Sabbath tunes. And also Black Sabbath's Live Evil, released at almost the same time, which featured Ronnie James Dio on vocals (that album featured Dio singing his songs, as well as a few Ozzy tunes). At the time I didn't get why Ozzy and Sabbath had the same songs on their albums.  There was no internet to look this stuff up on! To make things more confusing, soon there was another new Black Sabbath album, Born Again, with a different singer! But as I got more into metal, I learned about the band's different eras (and by then Glenn Hughes was the singer!). 

I picked up the greatest hits album, We Sold Our Souls For Rock And Roll, and loved it, then got Paranoid.  I caught up and realized what an awesome band they were. But the tribute album Nativity In Black, released in 1994, really re-ignited my interest in the band, and made me listen more closely to some of the songs. That may not be a hip thing to admit, but it's true.  The same was true for me when I listened to the live recording of the Bob Dylan 30th anniversary tribute concert. I don't remember if NIB got good reviews, and I've read some bad ones of the Dylan tribute concert. But the fact was, both of those tributes made me re-examine each artist.  

Anyway, Nativity In Black was pretty great, and had a lot of happening bands of that moment.  The first single was Biohazard's cover of "After Forever," which has gone on to become maybe my favorite Sabbath song. That song made the collection for me, although today the rap-metal does sound a bit dated.  But it also had White Zombie's re-imagining of "Children Of The Grave," Corrosion Of Conformity's "Lord Of This World," and my other highlight of the album, Sepultura's "Symptom Of The Universe." It also had previously released covers: Faith No More's live version of "War Pigs," which I liked, but I didn't feel like it belonged, because Mike Patton was clearly making fun of the song (I felt the same way about Type O Negative's "Black Sabbath"). It also had 1000 Homo DJs' version of "Supernaut" (the "DJs" were Al Jourgensen of Ministry and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails). The whole album got me to go back and listen to the original versions of "After Forever," "Children Of The Grave," "Lord Of This World," "Symptom Of The Universe" and "Supernaut" and appreciate them even more.  I think that's the job of a tribute album! 

A couple of years later, they went back to the well for Nativity In Black II. It didn't have as big of an impact on me, but again, some cool versions of the songs made me listen more closely to the originals: Pantera's "Electric Funeral," Slayer's "Hand Of Doom," Soulfly's "Under The Sun" (another one of my favorite Sabbath songs) and Monster Magnet's "Into The Void." 

I hope that they do a third: it may not have any bands that I like, but I think that every generation of hard rock kids need to know where their music started.  Long live Black Sabbath! 

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