Sakuntala (No Label)
Stadthalle, Bremen, Germany, November 25, 1987
Disc One: Supertzar; Neon Knights; Children of the Sea; War Pigs; Die Young; Drum Solo; Iron Man; Born to Lose
Disc Two: Black Sabbath; Glory Ride; Heaven and Hell; Guitar Solo; Sabbath Bloody Sabbath / Heaven and Hell (return); Children of the Grave; <encore> The Shining; Paranoid
It is no secret that Black Sabbath experienced numerous personnel changes during its storied career. The one constant, however, was Tony Iommi, who embodied Black Sabbath’s black leather, otherworldly image and sound through his brilliant, distinctive left-handed guitar playing. No Label’s Sakuntala presents the line-up that toured in support of The Eternal Idol, a 1987 release that was originally sung and recorded in the studio by Ray Gillen, but released with the vocals performed by Tony Martin because of problems that caused Gillen to leave and join Badlands.
The Eternal Idol was also recorded with Eric Singer on drums, and bass performed by Dave Spitz and Bob Daisley. None of these superb musicians accompanied Sabbath for the tour supporting the release, leaving only Iommi and Martin to carry the torch. Their dedication to this stage of Sabbath’s music is rightly symbolized by the front jewel case insert, which opens to display separate shots only of them.
Sakuntala can be comfortably described as a very good to near excellent audience recording with equal bottom and top ends. The set list consisted of songs drawn from Sabbath’s entire history, such as “Black Sabbath”, “War Pigs”, and “Neon Knights”. Of course, each of these songs was originally performed by different vocalists, namely Ozzy and Dio.
One would think that Tony Martin would be put to the test singing in the shadows of these legends, but this recording beautifully shows that he more than held his own and, in his personal, original way, sang them perfectly. His incredible range was on full display in “Neon Knights”, as well as “Children of the Sea” and “Heaven and Hell”, which can be heard clearly and free from any distortion in this recording. Not surprisingly, he hit his stride in the 3 tracks performed from The Eternal Idol, “Born to Lose”, “Glory Ride”, and “The Shining”. Iommi’s playing was also as masterful as ever, making for a very enjoyable listening experience.
The rhythm section in this recording was, however, a bit of a hybrid that parted from Sabbath’s powerful line-ups before, and after, this point in the band’s history. Although he was clearly an excellent player in his own right, Jo Burt on bass was not Geezer Butler on bass. Listening to “War Pigs” performed on stage by Butler in 1980-81, and it performed in this concert by Burt, demonstrates the palpable artistic differences between them.
More glaring in difference, though, was the drummer in this 1987 concert, Terry Chimes. He played with The Clash, Hanoi Rocks, Generation X and Billy Idol, and somehow landed this gig. Although he kept time perfectly, he sounds out of place. Gone were the spirited, driving interpretations of songs by Vinny Appice, with Chimes largely laying down straight beats with little, if any, improvisation to enhance the live version.
It may be that Chimes’ heart was no longer into music, or being a performing musician, because he retired from the industry after 15 years to start his career in alternative medicine and become a chiropractor and acupuncturist. For fans of Sabbath’s songs as performed by Appice, or Eric Singer in the studio on The Eternal Idol, Chimes’ performance in this concert, including his rather unimaginative, pounding solo, suggest that he was nearing the end of his passions for music. In fact, he was out of Sabbath about 1 year after he joined them. Still, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003, so there is no denying his accomplishments as an artist during his career.
The inserts for this fine No Label title contain separate images similar to Rodin’s sculpture used in the artwork for the official Eternal Idol release, and the recording is clear, powerful, and with substantial “in concert” atmosphere to easily make this release worth picking-up for fans of this era of Black Sabbath.