In a perfect world, Black Sabbath’s relationship with Ronnie James Dio wouldn’t have soured quite so quickly and the band would have followed their excellent ‘Mob Rules’ album with a world-conquering classic. Then again, in that alternate universe, Dio wouldn’t have released ‘Holy Diver’ – one of the most perfect metal albums ever – so, maybe, things worked out for the best.
That was certainly the case for Dio. Black Sabbath’s immediate fortunes were less perfect. Their 1983 release, recorded with Ian Gillan, was a hit and miss affair that came housed in one of the poorest album sleeves you could ever (not) hope to see. Their Reading Festival headline slot later that year bordered on a car crash, culminating in a terrible rendition of ‘Smoke On The Water’, further cementing fan feelings that the short lived musical union between Tony Iommi and ex-Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan probably shouldn’t have happened.
Such feelings are amplified by the fact that that Reading performance remains the only live document of that line up to surface officially. The tour wasn’t a complete disaster, and various fan sourced recordings actually show a new band that could have had so much potential. Most of these live recordings are horribly thin sounding and often sourced from the back of cavernous venues, but here are a couple from radio sources that really put the listener right in the centre of the show.
For the Worcester gig, especially, there’s something of a huge sound being explored. Geezer Butler’s bass playing is especially on point and hearing Iommi launching into the lead breaks during ‘Iron Man’ and ‘War Pigs’, he plays like a man who knows his band may well be the underdogs, so he’s more than out to impress.
The Paris radio broadcast is incomplete, but still gives a hint of a better night than most fans experienced via the live material on the ‘Born Again’ deluxe set. Although Gillan sounds most at ease on the then brand new material, there are times where you might just wonder what the next album and tour might have sounded like, had he been given time to settle…
This is Black Sabbath’s most maligned era, ready to be revisited. You’ll still encounter unnecessary maulings of ‘Smoke’ as part of the then new Sabbath experience, but with a great ‘War Pigs’ and powerful ‘Zero The Hero’ somewhere along the way, we hope you enjoy at least some of it.