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BLACK SABBATH Reissues Universal (2010)

Black Sabbath

With Ronnie James making a recovery from stomach cancer, and a major headlining gig lined up this summer (Bloodstock), these expanded reissues are timely. Both as a reminder of the Dio period of Sabbath and as a portent of more shows to come. With Ozzy/Sabbath in hiatus in 2006, the Heaven and Hell configuration was indeed heaven sent, with Dio coming together with Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice to record new tracks for the compilation 'The Dio Years' released in 2007.

The comeback was captured on 2008's 'Live from Radio City Music Hall' but the three reissues merely reinstate the power of the original with a grand helping of contemporaneous live tracks.

Hotfooting it from Rainbow in 1979, Dio's Sabbath debut came on the 1980 album Heaven and Hell. The deluxe edition comes with a bonus disc of live tracks including a couple of single B sides. This classic album is thirty years old this April and has never sounded so good. ***½

The history of the band is well documented, but drummer Bill Ward was fired during the band's first US tour and Vinny Appice (younger brother of Carmine) stepped in for the follow up album released in 1981, Mob Rules. At the time this album split the critics somewhat although the passage of time has proved more favourable with a more positive re-evaluation of such classics as 'The Sign Of The Southern Cross' and the title track.

The bonus disc features live tracks from 1981/2 recorded at London's Hammersmith Odeon (originally released as a limited edition by Rhino in 2007) and a live version of 'Die Young'. There is also an alternate take of 'The Mob Rules' that featured in the 1981 animated film 'Heavy Metal'. ****

Black Sabbath

The third reissue Live Evil pretty much duplicates those live tracks and is a straight reissue of the original double album with no extras. Punters would be well served going for 'Mob Rules' as a reasonable overview of the band in the studio and live. However completists should note that 'Southern Cross' isn't included on the bonus Hammersmith disc. ***

History tells us that things fell apart after the mixing of the 'Live Evil' album and Dio wasn't happy with the finished product. The classic Heaven and Hell line up reformed for the 'Dehumanizer' album in 1992 but the possibility of a full-blown Ozzy reunion forced Dio to walk again.

These handsome reissues (with the usual excellent packaging and liner notes) help us re-evaluate the Dio years and for a time he rejuvenated Sabbath although perhaps dividing some critics and fans in the process. But it might be said that the spectre of Ozzy himself may have indirectly (or directly) scuppered this version's chances of longer term success.

Review by David Randall

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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