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Black Sabbath – California Jam 1974 The Complete Master (Zodiac 343)

California Jam 1974 The Complete Master (Zodiac 343)

Ontario Motor Speedway, California, USA – April 6, 1974

(75:07) 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, Guitar Solo / Jam #2, Sabbra Cadabra (reprise), Paranoid, Embryo / Children Of The Grave, Interview

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. There have been several previous releases of this recording, Metal Mess (Oh Boy 1-9016), Bagdad (German Records GR-032), Live USA (Imtrate IMT 900-098), Iron Man Vol 2 (Bananna BAN 053-B), Canadian Nightmare (Aulica A 120), Canabis Confusion (Chase The Dragon CTD 005), and most recently on the third disc of 1974 (No Label). The soundboard audio source is excellent, instruments and vocals are cleanly heard with perfect balance, by far the best sounding document of the tour. It is however, a bare bones kind of recording that robs it of that concert ambiance, the band is in excellent form and rise to the occasion and gives the largest crowd they had played to at this point something to remember.

I pulled out my copy of the No Label release 1974, disc 3 which features this recording for comparison. This new Zodiac title sounds a notch louder but much clearer than the no label. The No Label has a layer of noise that is not found on the Zodiac which is certainly from a better generation recording and thus is a nice upgrade. There are a few other items of interest, this version includes a snippet of the introduction, a stage introduction of “Black Sabbath” whereas the No Label begins with the opening riff of Tomorrows Dream. There is a tape stretch three minutes into Sweet Leaf that is not found on the No Label as well.

Tomorrows Dream is the opening number, its 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 Scandinavium 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” jam and the funky jam is great due to Geezer being clear in the mix, we can fully enjoy his contribution. Iron Man is played in full within the Sabbra Cadabra jam, Ozzy’s voice sounds particularly interesting during the “I Am Iron Man” intro and while the music does not sound affected, 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 the “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.

As a bonus Zodiac has included a 1:22 interview with Ozzy pre and post show, he seems legitimately moved by the experience of playing to the massive crowd. He also speaks of how well organized the event is. I have seen these interviews before, most notably on the old History Of Black Sabbath VHS tape. A nice addition to this set.

The packaging is typical for Zodiac, full color inserts wonderfully showcasing the band onstage at the California Jam, the front cover is similar to the No Label 1974, an overhead shot of the band looking dwarfed by the massive crowd. Of course a picture CD and numbered sticker are included. A very nice release by Zodiac of Black Sabbath’s classic Cal Jam 1974 performance in front of a quarter million fans.

If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)

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