BLACK SABBATH - Heaven And Hell / Mob Rules Deluxe Edition

March 3, 2021, a month ago

(Rhino)

Martin Popoff

Rating: 9.5

review heavy metal black sabbath

BLACK SABBATH - Heaven And Hell / Mob Rules Deluxe Edition

Reissued in a “Deluxe Edition” along with the Mob Rules follow-up is Heaven And Hell, Black Sabbath’s first album with Ronnie James Dio at the helm. It’s 1979 and Ozzy has been uncomfortably shuffled out the door, to be replaced by the ex-Rainbow legend who also surprisingly takes over the lyric-writing from Geezer Butler, who in fact, for a spell, was also out the picture like Oz. Heaven And Hell was issued on April 25, 1980, and the band found themselves armed with a record that allowed them to compete with all manner of NWOBHM upstart, not to mention Judas Priest, who were going through their own reinvention with British Steel. Unfortunately there are no completely new songs kicking about to add to this celebration package, but we do get two live B-sides, a mono edit, a few live renditions from the previously released Hammersmith Odeon set along with four previously unreleased live performances from Hartford, CT, August 10, 1980. What is of interest here is that three of the live tracks are the same songs, so the deep fan can toggle between them to hear Vinny drumming them in late 1981, against Bill Ward drumming them on August 10 of 1980, 20 days before he would take a flier (in his Winnebago, driven by his brother) to be hastily replaced by Appice, who had to work his way through the Sabbath set for the first time in front of 30,000 fans in Hawaii on short notice. 

Pretty much all you need to know about the contrast is how Bill straight-lines it toward the first vocal in “Neon Knights” while Vin says hello with a roll around his toms. The 1980 set is a bit faster of tempo as well, but both sound crushing, although the 1980 material is rendered a bit rawer and more urgent, the band perhaps inspired by heavy metal’s surprise good standing during the first days of the new decade, at least back home in the UK. As for the original album, producer Martin Birch gives the band a newly bright and efficient sound, with uptight and immediate bass tones and chainsaw guitars, as the band re-establish their legend through songs like “Die Young,” “Children Of The Sea,” “Lady Evil,” the aforementioned “Neon Knights” and the unassailable title track, possibly the greatest single song Ronnie James Dio was ever part of, something he’d agree with had he not left us all too soon. Rating: 10

Along with a “Deluxe Edition” version of Heaven And Hell comes a reissue of the second album with Ronnie James Dio at—and as—the lip of the stage, Mob Rules, originally unleashed upon Ozzy Osbourne’s new and quickly growing audience, November 4, 1981. Martin Birch was returning to the new Sabbath as producer, but now the band was recording in LA at The Record Plant, with Birch painting an uncharacteristically fat and beefy sound picture for the band, which would carry through to Live Evil, after which Dio would bolt for a successful career with his namesake band. Mob Rules went gold and was well-received in its day, but still considered a bit of a Heaven And Hell redux, a slightly weaker cousin. It’s risen in stature greatly over the years, and now it’s been made crisper through a new remastering, Tony’s solo slicing through what was previously a mire. 

Additional to the package is a remix of “The Mob Rules,” to no discernible effect, plus the original version of that song recorded at John Lennon’s house for the Heavy Metal soundtrack album. There’s also the previously released live “Die Young” B-side and a few of the Hammersmith Odeon live tracks. Previously unreleased is a full concert from Portland, Oregon, April 22nd, 1982. Through this energetic, quick-paced set, Geezer’s bass is sharp and crackling and articulated almost to Steve Harris levels. Amusing but even occasionally distracting (see “Voodoo” and “Children Of The Sea”) is the keyboard work of Geoff Nicholls, an interest side-story in the Sabbath saga. 

One last impression is how much Ronnie vamps and phrases and plays with the vocal melodies of these songs like Paul Rodgers. But it’s the original album that is the anchor to this package, the guys led into battle against Oz to the monstrous strains of “Falling Off The Edge Of The World,” “The Sign Of The Southern Cross” and the aforementioned “Voodoo.” The title track, “Slipping Away” and “Turn Up The Night” form a party-rocking trio, while “E5150” is Eddie Van Halen-like sound effects, “Country Girl” is the under-rated classic and “Over And Over” is a monolithic blues that would have felt about right on Technical Ecstasy. Rating: 9


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