Black Sabbath – Master Of Black Masses (The Godfatherecords G.R. 997/998)
City Hall, Sheffield, England – January 14, 1971
Disc 1 (76:42) War Pigs, Into The Void (Alternate Lyrics), Iron Man, Guitar Solo / Black Sabbath, After Forever (Alternate Lyrics), Wicked World, Fairies Wear Boots, Paranoid. Bonus Tracks: Pre album mix downs and alternate versions for “Black Sabbath” and “Paranoid” albums dated between early and late 1970: Black Sabbath, Evil Woman, The Wizard, Paranoid
The recording from Sheffield is from the middle of a UK tour in support of the Paranoid record, the creative juices were flowing and the band were already working on material that would be found on the Master Of Reality record. The audience recording used for this release is from a low gen tape that has recently circulated, it is a fair to good audience recording, there is a small amount of tape hiss present but surprisingly enough all instruments and vocals can be heard yet there are occasion volume fluctuations as if the tape machine was being moved about. It is more than listenable and in fact, should be turned up loud for the full effect. There has been a previous release on Pro CDR as Master Of Sheffield (Lost and Found LAF-165), so to the best of my knowledge this tape is getting its first pressing on silver disc.
The recording starts about 45 seconds into War Pigs, one thing that catches me from the beginning is the superlative drumming of Bill Ward, he seems the be the driving force for the song. Ozzy introduces the next song as being from their new record to be released in “two months or something” and we get a great early version of Into The Void. The music is complete for the most part, the lyrics are in a transitional phase and most similar to what is referred to as the “Spanish Syd” version of the song. Ozzy demands the audience “Get Your Hands Up!”, they respond by clapping in time to the opening of Iron Man and keep the pace for the majority of the song, just before the bass driven ending Ozzy nails the “Iron Man lives again” in fine fashion.
Tony gets a guitar solo prior to Black Sabbath is short and very ambient type of structure and is in contrast to the heavy opening riff of their signature tune. The second rarity of this show is After Forever, the lyrics are not about ones Religious beliefs but more of questioning authority, musically the song is a powerhouse and one can wonder why it never made the set long term until the 1999 reunion tours. It is obvious after listening to the two pre Master songs that considerable work had been done on them to this point and other than the lyrics both were either in the process of being recorded or were not far from being. Bill’s cymbal lead in to Wicked World is most jazz like and shows the group were a blues band tinged with jazz in their formative years. The thirteen minute track is a vehicle for band improvisation, about 2:30 in they play a bit that sounds similar to Electric Funeral and for the first guitar interlude Tony noodles around with some Orchid styling’s before blasting into a furious blast of leads. What makes this song so interesting is the manic playing of Tony and how he switches from different styles of music from the heavy to the mellow styles of Django Reinhardt, the French guitarist who unutilized only two fingers of his left hand and was an obvious influence on Iommi after the accident that left him without two finger tips on his fret hand. Ozzy introduces Tony to the audience at the songs conclusion to a huge round of applause.
Fairies Wear Boots is the final song of the set, after some brief tuning Ozzy demands “Get Up!” and as the song starts the tape is suffering from either drag or tape wobble giving the starting an interesting sound, and although the issue does improve you can hear it is sporadically throughout the song, thankfully it does not really detract from ones listening pleasure. The audience is really into it and clap throughout the song as the band play a storming version of the classic, the ovation at its conclusion is massive. There is a cut on the tape, no music is lost but some of Ozzy’s stage banter may be, and the band returns to deliver the obligatory encore of Paranoid. There is a slight amount of the tape issue present but again the band is turning in a barn buster version to end the concert. Not only a historical significant concert but a fabulous performance by the band.
Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles, California, USA – September 15, 1972
Disc 2 (77:19) Tomorrow’s Dream, Sweet Leaf, War Pigs, Snowblind, Iron Man, Under The Sun, Wheels Of Confusion, Embryo / Children Of The Grave. Bonus Tracks: Pre album mix downs and alternate versions for “Paranoid” and “Master Of Reality” albums dated between late 1970 and early 1971: Planet Caravan, Rat Salad, Sweet Leaf, Children Of The Grave, Into The Void. Group’s first ever recording dated 1969: The Rebel, When I Come Down
The second disc features the band playing the famed Hollywood Bowl in Los AngelesCalifornia while on tour to support the as of yet issued Vol.4 record. Sadly the taper only recorded a portion of the show due to tape limitations. The audience recording is good to very good with a clear and balanced sound with some top end distortion yet all instruments and vocals can be clearly heard, the audience around the taper at times is loud but this only adds to the hysteria of the event, to my knowledge this has not been issued on silver pressed disc yet. The concert begins with a new track, Tomorrow’s Dream and by the audience response you would think it was an oldie yet goodie and they are ecstatic about seeing the group. The stoned crowd goes crazy when Ozzy introduces Sweet Leaf, after reading the liner notes of this release and the story of Tony collapsing after the concert due to exhaustion one would never know, as the band are playing with much energy. Ozzy tells the audience that it’s a beautiful night to get high at the songs conclusion, they can only agree.
The audience is loudly protesting the volume of the PA as Ozzy introduced Snowblind with shouts of “We can’t hear you”, surprisingly as the band plow into the as of yet unreleased song they start clapping along invigorating the band. A standard version of Iron Man follows, the ending is muffled like the taper was hiding his equipment, curiously Bill Ward’s drums have a deep rumbling sound that is quite interesting. The next two songs are what make this recording so special, live versions of deep classics from Vol.4. The first is Under The Sun, the main song has a rollicking riff that is introduced by a massive dinosaurian riff. The quality is still a bit muffled but clear enough. The band plays a brilliant version of the song that garners some nice applause amongst the constant demands for “LOUDER”. The second is the equally intense Wheels Of Confusion, played like a funeral dirge it lumbers on the stage. The lyric of life and death all while the wheel of the Earth keeps turning is rather poignant, sadly the tape fades out about 5 minutes in eliminating the rest of the song as well as three or four songs, possibly Cornucopia, Wicked World, and Paranoid. Speaking as a long time Sabbath fan it is simply a joy to hear these two songs in the live setting, thankfully the band elected to resurrect them for their most recent reunion, thankfully I was able to hear one of these tracks live.
The last song present on the tape gets an audience introduction by someone close to the taper who simulates the cough intro to Sweet Leaf, but the band go into a monster version of Children Of The Grave that roars out in full speed. Like a call to arms the band play it so heavy, Ozzy’s vocals sounds like they are echoing around the venue and the audience gives the band a massive ovation to end the recording. This tape, along with the Dayton July 15, 1972 are essential listening for all Sabbath fans, showcasing the band at a high point in their career, finally enjoying the fruits of what they had been laboring so hard to achieve.
The bonus tracks from both discs are taken from the 2009 Sanctuary Deluxe editions of the first three Black Sabbath records. For anyone who has not bought these please do so, immediately. All three sets come with a bonus disc of each song in an alternate form, lots of different lyrics and instrumental versions. The packaging on each set is great with a treasure trove of eye candy along with informative booklets, all three releases are must haves. The final two songs are early Sabbath and have been released on Sabbath Early Sabbath Outtakes 69-71 (Hound Dawg Records) and Discovery Of Madness (Bondage Music BON 353). The sound quality is certainly better than what is found on the Hound Dawg release, clear with a much warmer sound.
The tri gatefold packaging features a cover based upon the Master Of Reality record as well as posed shots and a great live photo of a young looking Sabbath and there are accurate liner notes by the impeccable Paul De Luxe. While I believe the space taken by the bonus material could have been better utilized with other rare live material from this era, the Sheffield and Hollywood Bowl concerts are incredible listening experiences for the Sabbath fan and I am grateful that Godfathers again took a chance by not only releasing something new but something considered essential listening.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)