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Saturday, May 16, 2009

BLACK SABBATH : Heaven And Hell (1980)

Black Sabbath without Ozzy? How is that possible?? Well, it was possible for about 16 years after Ozzy left/got sacked. And for a brief time, Sabbath were more popular than they had been in years. They picked up Elf/Rainbow singer Ronnie James Dio, and went in a more 'traditional' heavy metal direction. The riffs were still there, just a little more theatrics, and those ubiquitous metal wizard-n-warrior lyrics.
Allmusic says it well with run-on sentences:
After Ozzy Osbourne left the mighty Black Sabbath, they hunted down Elf singer Ronnie James Dio and tried their hand at making an album with him. Bassist Geezer Butler stepped aside as head lyricist for the first time in a decade and allowed Dio to pen his own songs, which drastically changed the direction of the band and affected them years after Dio had moved on to do solo work. "Heaven and Hell" is one of the first songs they ever collaborated on, and the result is one of the best songs they managed to muster in their post-Ozzy years. A thunderous bass line (rumored to have been written by Geoff Nichols) carries the song throughout, while a slab of sludge guitar pops up whenever Dio stops singing. The lyrics are the usual doomy nonsense, but they focus much more on kings and bringers of evil and lose much of their Christian paranoia in exchange for a Dark Age mythology. Luckily, this recording forgoes Dio's later additions to the song, which included lyrics about "little white sheep" asking him to go to heaven, but he turns them down to rock with his fans. But the Dungeons and Dragons formula works well here, building to the raging second half where all the instruments meet up to carry Dio's campy theatrics to their natural end. But to even be able to notice a drop in lyrical quality when talking about Black Sabbath is a bad sign, and only two years later they would no longer have the musical chops to compliment the subpar words written by Dio. But for one brief moment it looked like the band would really pull it together, and this song was by far the best example of that optimism.

Other tidbits from wiki:
Dio explains the song is about how every individual has "heaven and hell" inside him or herself, as well the ability and the choice whether to choose good or evil.
In live performances by Black Sabbath or Dio, the song is usually stretched out with extended guitar solos, audience participation, and new or ad libbed lyrics.
The song is featured on the soundtrack for the 2007 movie "Halloween", and is featured in the 2008 video game "Grand Theft Auto IV" on the radio station "Liberty Rock Radio 97.8".

This song is basically written in three parts. The first part is the main body of the track, with the bass providing the pulse while Dio does his thing. Riffs come in an out, adding to the gradual buildup. After a well-balanced guitar solo, the second part begins at 4:16 which basically picks up the pace so the back can rock out. Finally, in true Sabbath fashion, a seemingly random coda ends the track with Iommi on double-tracked acoustic guitars playing a soft minstrel-like piece. Taken together, it captures the theme of the song quite well, balancing darkness with light.

Song : "HEAVEN AND HELL" by Black Sabbath (1980)
From the LP "HEAVEN AND HELL" (Warner Bros) Apr. 25, 1980

Tony Iommi : guitar
Ronnie James Dio : vocals
Geezer Butler : bass
Bill Ward : drums
Geoff Nicholls : keyboards

This version is from the recent 2008 remaster, released in the box-set "THE RULES OF HELL".
Get it here : Heaven And Hell

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