Sabbath’s last album of the 70’s was called Never Say Die, although it seems Ozzy wasn’t in on the joke, as he was unceremoniously sacked not long afterwards. Of course, legend has it he first walked out on the band during this recording. Speaking of which, this record was recorded right here in Toronto at the now-defunct Sounds Interchange. So, if it wasn’t for The Centre of the Known UniverseTM and its contribution to this disasterpiece, you wouldn’t have Heaven and Hell or Mob Rules. You’re welcome.
The title track kicks this one off, another generic 70’s rocker with a shuffling backbeat. The stop-start riffing that picks up after the first chorus almost seems like they’re aping Thin Lizzy, but even the Irish rocked harder than this. “Johnny Blade” is perhaps most memorable for its super-cheesy chorus (“Jaaah-neee Blaaaade!”), not to mention, Holy Synthesizers Batman! Perhaps the least inspiring riff of Tony Iommi’s career, he simply sounds like a subpar copy of Earl Johnson (of Toronto heavy rockers Moxy) at this point, and that’s a shame.
“Junior’s Eyes” is the second straight song to surpass the six-minute mark, and it starts off softly, the bass barely audible at first as Iommi does some swirlies in the background. Hey, this almost has a desert-rock feel. But by the time Ozzy and Iommi kick in, this song hits like a bag of feathers with a subpar power-ballad chorus… before bringing things back down again. Meh. “A Hard Road” also eclipses six minutes. Perhaps the best riff of the record starts this one out, although the production’s so thin that it doesn’t pack much of a punch. Still, it’s a far cry from doom metal, more of a mid-paced, pedestrian pounder that easily could have stopped a couple minutes sooner. Oh man, is that the guitar solo from “Reelin’ in the Years” by Steely Dan!? Uh, take back what I said about Iommi’s guitarwork on here…
The liner notes on the album state, and I quote, “Standout cuts include ‘Johnny Blade,’ ‘Breakout,’ ‘Shock Wave’ and the title track, all included in the group’s live repertoire.” Yeah, for the tour where they got upstaged every night by Van Halen, maybe. Anyhoo, “Shock Wave” is another half-decent 70’s rock tune, with a solid bluesy breakdown or two, but I’d definitely take Van Halen over this. “Air Dance” (lolwut!) is light and, erm, airy, with way too much piano. This almost sounds like prog rock, but not good prog rock. I’d rather hear Yes see all the people turn their heads each day so satisfied they’re on their way than listen to this song again. Sheeeet, it even has a bossa nova beat that starts around the four-minute mark. That’s right, Black Sabbath is playing bossa nova. Is it any wonder the band fell apart after this?
“Over to You” sorta sounds like April Wine or Autograph “Turn Up the Radio” or something; at this point, Sabbath’s gone from being a highly influential act to a band inspired by the mediocre dreck oozing out of the studio next door. But hey, at least Autograph didn’t throw a rolling jazz piano all over the chorus of their greatest hit… “Breakout” is supposedly the last “inclusion in the group’s live repertoire” on here, and at least at two-and-a-half minutes, it’s mercifully short. Hey, I almost hear a doom-metal riff on this one. I also think I hear a saxophone, which shows how much the band has lost the plot. They didn’t bring that horn section on stage with them, did they? I mean, this is like the band’s own “Jazz Odyssey,” ‘cept that Harry Shearer didn’t write it…
Rumour has it that Bill Ward sang on “Swinging the Chain” after Ozzy refused to do so. No wonder—they’ve essentially stolen the riff from Boston’s “Carry on My Wayward Son,” added a muddy layer of distortion and run it into the ground, before burying it with some lazy harmonica wailing. I guess the Prince of muthafookin’ Darkness didn’t wanna pay royalties to Tom Scholz, litigious bastard that he is, eh?
So there you have it, folks. This is the only Black Sabbath album that elicits comparisons to Steely Dan, April Wine, Autograph and Boston. No wonder Dio was such a breath of fresh air!