Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Black Sabbath - Sabotage (Classic Album UK 1975, Highly Rated)


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Sabotage is the sixth studio album by English rock band Black Sabbath, released in July 1975. It was recorded in the midst of litigation with their former manager Patrick Meehan and the stress that resulted from the band's ongoing legal woes infiltrated the recording process, inspiring the album's title. It was co-produced by guitarist Tony Iommi and Mike Butcher.

Black Sabbath began work on their sixth album in February 1975, again in England at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London. The title Sabotage was chosen because the band were at the time being sued by their former management and felt they were being "sabotaged all the way along the line and getting punched from all sides", according to Iommi. Iommi credits those legal troubles for the album's angry, heavier sound. 



In 2001, bassist Geezer Butler explained to Dan Epstein, "Around the time of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, we found out that we were being ripped off by our management and our record company. So, much of the time, when we weren't onstage or in the studio, we were in lawyer's offices trying to get out of all our contracts. 

We were literally in the studio, trying to record, and we'd be signing all these affidavits and everything. That's why it's called Sabotage – because we felt that the whole process was just being totally sabotaged by all these people ripping us off." In his autobiography I Am Ozzy, singer Ozzy Osbourne confirms that "writs were being delivered to us at the mixing desk" and that drummer Bill Ward "was manning the phones." In the liner notes to the 1998 live album Reunion, Butler claimed the band suffered through 10 months of legal cases and admitted, "music became irrelevant to me. It was a relief just to write a song."



Tony Iommi later reflected, "We could've continued and gone on and on, getting more technical, using orchestras and everything else which we didn't particularly want to. We took a look at ourselves, and we wanted to do a rock album – Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath wasn't a rock album, really." According to the book How Black Was Our Sabbath, "The recording sessions would usually carry on into the middle of the night. Tony Iommi was working really hard on the production side of things with the band's co-producer Mike Butcher, and he was spending a lot of time working out his guitar sounds. Bill, too, was experimenting with the drums, especially favouring the 'backwards cymbal' effect." Osbourne, however, was growing more frustrated with how long Sabbath albums were now taking to record, writing in his autobiography that "Sabotage took about four thousand years."



Sabotage is a mix of heavy, powerful songs and softer experimental tunes, such as "Supertzar" and "Am I Going Insane (Radio)". In 2013 Mojo observed, "Opener 'Hole in the Sky' and the crunching 'Symptom of the Universe' illustrate that, for all their problems, Sabbath's power remained undimmed on what was what many consider one of their finest offerings." In the article "Thrash Metal - An Introduction" in University Times Magazine, Vladimir Rakhmanin cites "Symptom of the Universe" as one of the earliest examples of thrash metal, a heavy metal subgenre which emerged in the early 1980s. 

Tony Iommi describes the song's dynamics in his autobiography Iron Man: "It starts with an acoustic bit. Then it goes into the up-tempo stuff to give it that dynamic, and it does have a lot of changes to it, including the jam at the end." The final part of "Symptom of the Universe" evolved from an in-studio improvisation, created very spontaneously in a single day and the decision was made to use it in that song. 



The London Philharmonic Choir was brought in to perform on the song "Supertzar". When vocalist Ozzy Osbourne arrived at the studio and saw them, he thought he was in the wrong studio and left. The title of the pop-leaning "Am I Going Insane (Radio)" caused some confusion due to the "(Radio)" part, which led people to believe the song was a radio cut or radio version. However, this is the only version of the song: the term "radio-rental" is rhyming slang for "mental".



"The Writ" is one of only a handful of Black Sabbath songs to feature lyrics composed by vocalist Ozzy Osbourne, who typically relied on bassist Geezer Butler for lyrics. The song was inspired by the frustrations Osbourne felt at the time, as Black Sabbath's former manager Patrick Meehan was suing the band after having been fired. The song viciously attacks the music business in general and is a savage diatribe directed towards Meehan specifically ("Are you Satan? Are you a man?"), with Osbourne revealing in his memoir, "I wrote most of the lyrics myself, which felt a bit like seeing a shrink. All the anger I felt towards Meehan came pouring out." During this period, the band began to question if there was any point to recording albums and touring endlessly "just to pay the lawyers".

The brief instrumental "Don't Start (Too Late)" is an acoustic guitar showpiece for Iommi, titled for tape operator David Harris who often despaired at Sabbath being prone to start playing before he was ready.


Sabotage was released on 27 June 1975 and peaked at number 7 in the United Kingdom and at number 28 in the United States. It was certified Silver (60,000 units sold) in the UK by the BPI on 1 December 1975 and Gold in the US on 16 June 1997, but was the band's first release not to achieve platinum status in the US. For the second time, a Black Sabbath album initially saw favourable reviews, with Rolling Stone stating "Sabotage is not only Black Sabbath's best record since Paranoid, it might be their best ever", although later reviewers such as Allmusic noted that "the magical chemistry that made such albums as Paranoid and Volume 4 so special was beginning to disintegrate". Guitarist Yngwie Malmsteen told Nick Bowcott of Guitar Player in 2008 that the riff to "Symptom of the Universe" was the first Tony Iommi riff he ever heard and that "Tony's use of the flat fifth would have got him burned at the stake a couple hundred years ago."

The band toured the US in support of Sabotage in 1975, which included a filmed appearance for the prestigious series Don Kirshner's Rock Concert at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Sabbath played "Killing Yourself To Live", "Hole In The Sky", "Snowblind", "War Pigs" and "Paranoid". During Iommi's guitar solo during "Snowblind", plastic snowflakes were dropped from above on the audience and the band, a gimmick used during the band's live shows during this period. According to the book How Black Was Our Sabbath, "The audience was limited to just a couple thousand fans, and it seemed like the whole of LA got wind of it." Due to the band's expanding use of orchestras and other new sounds in the studio, the tour in support of Sabotage was the first in which Black Sabbath used a full-time keyboardist onstage, Gerald "Jezz" Woodroffe. Black Sabbath toured with openers Kiss, but were forced to cut the tour short in November 1975, after vocalist Osbourne was injured in a motorcycle accident. "Allmusic Rating: ★★★★ +Half 

The Band:
 Ozzy Osbourne – lead vocals
 Tony Iommi – all guitar, piano, synthesizer, organ, harp
 Terry "Geezer" Butler – bass guitar
 Bill Ward – drums, percussion (piano and backing vocals on "Blow on a Jug")

01. "Hole in the Sky"  04:00
02. "Don't Start (Too Late)" (Instrumental)  00:49
03. "Symptom of the Universe"  06:29
04. "Megalomania"  09:46
05. "The Thrill of It All"  05:56
06. "Supertzar" (Instrumental with vocalising choir)  03:44
07. "Am I Going Insane (Radio)"  04:17
08. "The Writ"  08:46

Some versions of Sabotage contain a short hidden track entitled "Blow on a Jug" at the end of "The Writ", recorded at very low volume.

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1 comment:

northierthanthou said...

Always loved this album. Thank you for teaching me the story.