Geezer Butler - bass; Tony Iommi - guitar; Ozzy Osbourne - vocals; Bill Ward - drums
Zeppelin might have made the mold, but Sabbath crushed the mold into a fine powder, snorted it, and proceeded to scare the hell out of everybody.
Not as musically ambitious as that other monolithic four-piece from England, Black Sabbath in their prime did one thing and did it better than anybody, making a uniquely terrifying brand out of the HUGEST riffs anywhere and a strange contrast of druggy utopian fantasies with the bleak, end-of-the-world industrialism of their native Birmingham. This is the sound of the factories: man and machine, or man versus machine, struggling to escape the pummeling drudgery of a clock-punching, coal-covered existence by any means necessary. And it's AWESOME!!
As evidenced by some of the more recent tracks in this appearance from a New Jersey tour stop, some variation had crept into their format in the shape of more complex song structures and (gasp!) synthesizers (care of Yes's Rick Wakeman on 1974's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath). This is the classic line-up at the peak of its power - heavy as a locomotive and louder than hell. One couldn't imagine a more gracious and enthusiastic performer than Ozzy - when he's not inciting the crowd to stand up and shout, he's thanking them profusely and professing his undying love. Among the finer entries in the Sabbath catalog, "Hole in the Sky" is the ultimate soundtrack for muscle car cruising while "Black Sabbath" begins as a frightening, satanic sludge-fest before galloping into oblivion.
Following the 1975 release of Sabotage, the original Sabbath would never again achieve the same magic in the studio, and with Ozzy's exit in 1979, guitarist Tony Iommi nearly ran the franchise into the ground with a succession of front-men each with less talent and sophistication than the last (with all due respect to Ronnie James Dio, of course, but he was always better on his own). Luckily, there would always be the perfection of the band's first incarnation to fall back on. This is a chance to hear the heaviest of the heavy before their tragic decline. Remember them this way.