1974 (no label)
Civic Center, Providence, Rhode Island, USA – February 21, 1974
Disc 1 (30:05) Intro, Tomorrows Dream, Sweet Leaf, Killing Yourself To Live, Snowblind, War Pigs
Disc 2 (61:50) Sabbra Cadabra, Jam, Guitar Solo, Sometimes I’m Happy, Drum Solo, Supernaut, Iron Man, Jam, Black Sabbath, Guitar Solo / Jam, Sabbra Cadabra (reprise), Embryo / Children Of The Grave, Paranoid
A few years back, Dan Lampinski shared his vast archives with the world, the first series was the creme de la creme of audience recording due to their very high quality. At its conclusion there was a minor series done with Dan’s earliest recordings done with a dictation style tape recorder with a mono external microphone. These recordings were not up to the high standards as the first group but were more than listenable. This is the source for the first two discs on this new set by the folks at No Label documenting Black Sabbath’s American tour of 1974 in support of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath record.
The audience recording is good and borders on very good in some places, it is thin sounding with little bottom end and suffers from distortion on upper frequencies or when the bands sound is too much for the tape recorder. It is a very listenable and enjoyable document, the band is in superb form and turn in an excellent performance. The recording begins with Ozzy talking to the audience as the band do a final tuning of their instruments, of course Ozzy asks if everyone is high and makes a comment about being atop the Empire State Building, there is a brief cut that leads to the announcer introducing the band and they launch into “Tomorrows Dream” from the Vol 4 record, the sound at this point has the vocals and drums being very clear and drums slightly buried and bass is really inaudible. Ozzy’s first speech has him telling the audience that music means freedom so do what you want and they go into a high energy rendition of “Sweet Leaf”. While it retains it natural heaviness the band are playing with a definite purpose, when listening through the music dirtied haze you can hear Bill Ward is seriously on top of his game, his beat and steady fills seem to push the band, point in case is he lets loose just before and after Tony’s guitar solo to great effect.
The band has to give Bill a minute to sort out his drums, but we are rewarded with “Killing Yourself To Live” from the new record, it is worth the wait. The later rollicking section is particularity effect as the band gets a chance to show off their jazz swing style in the context of heavy music. “Are You High?…..That’s good so am I” is Ozzy’s war cry as the band does some extensive tune ups, he even introduces their road manager but the crowd is growing restless, thankfully the band is ready and plow into “Snowblind”. The distortion seems to add to the haze of the “My eyes are blind but I can see” portion and does give Tony’s guitar a nasty sound that is quite nice actually. There is what sounds like a storm coming as a prelude to “War Pigs”, the band goes into monster riff and after about 30 seconds the siren starts wailing, all to great effect as it has incredible ambience. The audience is ready and claps with the band as Ozzy begins the vocals. Again Bill’s drumming is simply outstanding, his fill are lightning fast, it is a shame they are not more prevalent in this recording.
The second disc starts off with Ozzy introducing a song from the new record which garners some applause then he gives a shout out to a guy down front who is really enjoying himself. The new song in question would be the beginning of a long jam that will encompass much of the remainder of the concert, “Sabbra Cadabra” would take the place of “Wicked World” as a vehicle to lead to improvisation and individual solo’s, and would be most effective in this purpose. Taken by itself it is effective on its own as it is the song on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath that is a really good time rock song, during the later part Ozzy gets carried away with the “No more..no more” as he obviously is lost in the music. The first jam is likened to “Supenaut” in its formation but quickly turns into a great Iommi led band jam that gets the audience involved clapping as Ozzy shouts “C’mon!”. You get your first real taste of Geezer during the first jam, he is playing a funky sounding thing that sounds like it’s ran through a wah pedal to great effect. It leads in a Tony solo that one has to hear, he plays one of the fastest solo’s I have ever heard him play, he shreds his fretboards to pieces. They flow right into “Sometimes I’m Happy” where Ozzy is doing a 1…2…3…scream chant much to the delight of the audience, he is certainly having a great show. If one thought Tony was out to impress they only have to wait until Bill gets his chance to solo, like a horse charging from the gate, he lets loose with a flurry on beats and simply hammers the hell out of his kit much to my delight. His fast paced solo goes into a full band version of “Supernaut” with vocals but as is the case it is just a fragment of the Vol. 4 classic, but something is always better than nothing.
“Iron Man” rises from the depths, much to the delight of the audience, it lumbers across the stage in true dinosaurian fashion in it heaviness. The band seem intent to grind the audience to a pulp by this point, “Iron Man” succeeds in doing so, although the fast finale is not played but instead leads into another band jam again Geezer gets a little funky. Tony is not, however, and takes the lead but ripping some fast leads then going into the haunting “Orchid” complete with a few loud explosions from some enterprising fireworks to great effect. From its ashes rises the bands signature song, “Black Sabbath” in all its gothic glory. The distortion gives it a dark haze but the song is most up tempo, especially after the “Satan’s Coming around the bend” as the band figures on all cylinders to the end of the piece.
The band goes back into jam mode, well Tony goes into solo mode, and it has to be heard to be believed. He plays so fast it is astounding as he lights up the frets showcasing incredible speed and dexterity. It all leads into another band jam, this time slower and simpler but the audience is completely with the band and can be heard clapping along. Ozzy introduces the band as Tony breaks back into the “Sabbra Cadara” riff ending what has been an epic 50 minute jam session. To end the main set we get “Children Of The Grave” complete with “Embyro” introduction, the audience are in state of frenzy by this point as “Children” roars over them like a tidal wave as Sabbath kicks it into overdrive. The audience scream, clap and shout “MORE” as the band leave the stage, they will not wait long as Ozzy comes back and repeatedly screams “WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HEAR?”, “Paranoid” is the answer and again the tempo is most certainly up a notch as the band storm through the classic song, one that brings an end to this fantastically played concert and one that leaves the audience wanting more.
“California Jam 1974”
Ontario Motor Speedway, California, USA – April 6, 1974
Disc 3 (66:03) Tomorrows Dream, Sweet Leaf, Killing Yourself To Live, War Pigs, Snowblind, Sabbra Cadabra, Jam, Guitar Solo#1, Sometimes I’m Happy, Drum Solo, Supernaut, Iron Man, Jam, Guitar Solo #2, Sabbra Cadabra (reprise), Paranoid, Children Of The Grave
The massive Cal Jam took place in Ontario California in the Spring of 1974, the event was done in part with ABC television who would broadcast parts of the festival. The bill of Deep Purple, ELP, Sabbath, as well as Black Oak Arkansas and the Eagles drew a staggering 250,000 music fans to the day long event. While the Deep Purple set has been released on both audio and video, precious little of the Sabbath set has made its way to fans on video, but thankfully the soundboard audio of the band’s entire performance has been circulating for some time. Some years ago I have a silver version of the show Canabis Confusion (Chase The Dragon CTD 005), while the sound quality was great it was pressed with 2 second gaps, it was actually stolen so I have been wanting an improved version for sometime. Portions of the video have surface, first glimpse was on the old VHS Black Sabbath Story release, there was a post concert interview with an overwhelmed Ozzy that was quite nice as well as a clip of “Children Of The Grave”. In trading circles “Killing Yourself to Live”, “War Pigs”, and “Paranoid” all circulate in good quality.
The soundboard audio source is very good and sounds to be in mono, it has kind of a boomy sound to it but all instruments and vocals are cleanly heard, by far the best sounding document of the tour. It is however, a bare bone kind of recording that robs it of that concert ambience but as with the Providence show, the band is in excellent form and rise to the occasion, to give the largest crowd they had played to at this point, something to remember.
The recording starts off with the opening of “Tomorrows Dream”, short and sweet it sets the stage for the lumbering “Sweet Leaf” but for me things heat up as the band go into “Killing Yourself To Live”. The new song is played perfectly, it also includes some kind of swirling noise effect that is interesting to say the least. Ozzy demands “Smoke it” then as if doing it himself “Get High” that is followed by some stoned laughter. “War Pigs” does not have the storm sounds and the siren typically found at the beginning of the song, most probably due to it being a festival set. You can clearly here Bill Ward’s count in to “Snowblind”, Tony plays a beautiful yet mournful solo that is perfect for the bleakness of the song.
Ozzy introduces a new song and says he can’t say too much as they are “on the telly”, the band then play another long “Sabbara Cadabra” complete with all the jams and solos, but this time due to time constraints “Black Sabbath” is not included. There are no keys on the song, unlike the Sabbath Occultism (Tarantura TCDBS-8) release, with no crowd noise it does sound a bit thin in places. The jam is the same as the Providence one, they play the “Supernaut” Jr. jam and the funky jam is great due to Geezer being clear in the mix, we can fully enjoy his contribution. We can also fully enjoy the Bill Ward drum solo, as we hear many small nuances that were not fully heard in the Providence tape. Ozzy’s voice sounds particularly interesting during the “I Am Iron Man” intro and while the music does not sound effected, his vocals for the beginning of the song sound as if he has some kind of warped vocal effect as the music lumbers across the stage, yes it is very heavy.
Again Iommi rips out a great solo just prior to “Sabbra Cadabra” reprise, Ozzy gives him a solo introduction as the band breaks into the latter. During this part of the song the bass is even more bass heavy, thankfully it clears in time for “Paranoid”. Ozzy thanks the large audience for the “great time” and they play the set finishing “Paranoid”. The band finish with a high energy and simply rousing version of “Children Of The Grave”, one can feel the energy bristling from the notes, if you have ever seen the video you know how the energy was translating to the audience. This set really showcases how great a live band Sabbath was in their prime.
The packaging is full color inserts, all live or backstage shots of the band at the massive Cal Jam. The font cover seems to be a take of the Deep Purple import, Live In Japan. The cd’s have a picture of the Sabbath Bloody Sabbath record cover on them, all this is packaged in a fat boy jewel case. While the rough sound of the first two discs may not be to everybody’s liking, the performance more than makes up for it and the complete Cal Jam concert is the icing on the cake, this is a release that is definitely worth having.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)