Black Sabbath – Definitive Fresno 1978 (Zodiac 572)

Definitive Fresno 1978 (Zodiac 572)

Selland Arena, Fresno, CA, USA – September 22, 1978

Disc 1 (34:38) Supertzar, Symptom Of The Universe, Snowblind, War Pigs, Never Say Die, Black Sabbath

Disc 2 (54:41) Shock Wave, Dirty Women, Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor, Drum Solo, Guitar Solo, Electric Funeral, Iron Man, Children Of The Grave, Paranoid

This title by Zodiac is a companion release to their excellent Definitive Fresno 1976 (Zodiac 571) title, same taper, same band, different tour. The root source is also the similar lineage, the excellent KRW_CO transfer from 2011 which was released in 2012 on In Fresno (No Label 2012), a 3 CD set which also included the 1976 recording. Like Definitive Fresno 1976, this new title features mastering by the Graf Zeppelin team, certainly the major selling point of this release. The No Label and Zodiac titles are not the only ones featuring this excellent recording, Fresno 1978 (Zeus Z-2016001/2) and One For The Nose (Air Dance Rec-031) are early titles dating back before the No Label.

This recording was done by the same individual who recorded Sabbath’s 1976 Fresno gig as well as a host of other artists. The equipment used was high quality and the result is an excellent recording, all instruments and vocals are easily heard, perhaps the drums are just slightly providing a real punch to the recording. Like the vast majority of recordings done by this individual, this is not the complete show, missing Fairies Wear Boots. No worries this sounds great at loud volume, which is how this title needs to be played. I do not have the In Fresno (No Label 2012) to compare it to but can assume that the mastering by Graf Zeppelin makes this an improvement.

Supertzar is the intro music with the band hitting the stage with Symptom Of The Universe, other than Ozzy’s vocals being brought up in the mix, the sound is excellent from the beginning, Bill’s drumming is very powerful and in your face. Ozzy’s vocals are a bit ragged but overall the band is bringing it. Based upon the audience reaction, the band is well received and enthusiastic. Ozzy introduces Snowblind as being “One for the nose”, this would be used as a fan produced title, he gets the crowd going in the middle demanding action during the Sabbatarian cocaine haze the song invokes. An energetic War Pigs follows, certainly a song that the audience was anticipating, a song they are not familiar with is Never Say Die as it is still a week or so away from release. Nevertheless, Sabbath play a blinding version of the song, while unknown at the time, the new songs upbeat tempo brings headbanging energy to the set as it’s sandwiched between two monolithic monsters.

“OK…I don’t know if you people know it tonight, this tour is Black Sabbath’s 10th Anniversary tour. I just like to say on behalf of Gezzer Butler, Bill Ward, Tony Iommi and myself Ozzy Osbourne. Thanks for those fucking 10 years. We’re gonna carry on now with a number that sums it all up for us entitled Black Sabbath…We Love You All!” is the Ozzman’s rather heartfelt thank you to the fans, they respond positively to him and the brilliant self titled song. The recording cuts instantly after the songs conclusion. The recording, and disc 2, picks back up with another new song from the Never Say Die album, Shock Wave. Like much of the material on NSD, the tempo is more upbeat yet retains that Sabbath crunch. This is an album that took some time to warm up to, this is definitely one of the better songs on the album and translates well to the stage, the uptempo beat gives way to a typical crunchy Iommi second riff that gives the song a unique feel.

Ozzy’s introduction to Dirty Women is hilarious, “F me..F Me..”, the song is the first half of a double dose from Technical Ecstasy and features some great playing from Tony using a wah pedal, the effect adds color to the song since they did not have a keyboard player touring like previous years. Bill keeps the drum beat going at the end which leads into TE part two with Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor. This song has a sick groove and is unique to their catalog but boy does it work! Ozzy sounds a bit out of breathe and for a couple parts doesn’t sing, rather simply speaking a line or two, perhaps he needs to see a Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor himself. The song leads into a great Bill Ward solo, his playing is excellent and energetic, along with Ian Paice certainly another great unsung drummer from the 70’s that just doesn’t get his due. His solo evolves into a band jam as Tony arrives back onstage and eventually Bill gets a break as Tony takes his solo spot with a wonderful variation of Orchid. A band jam happens again with what sounds like a variation of Hole In The Sky, they certainly get into a nice jam on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, iconic demonic heavy riff leads to more ripping solo leads into more band jamming, a bit more interesting than endless guitar solos.

Tony gets into a real haunting mood that brilliantly gives way for the Paranoid deep cut Electric Funeral, doom sludge at its finest. A long time favorite from the classic album the song just oozes the classic vibe. Glad they kept it in the set for the 1976-78 tours, song Rocks from every angle. Ozzy tells the audience to get their hands in the air as Bill bridges the gap between Funeral and Iron Man, when Ozzy sings the classic intro you can hear a nice cheer from the audience. The first half is smoking hot but after bass break the guitar solo sounds rather dull and tired. A tape cut certainly eliminates Fairies Wear Boots and leads into Children Of The Grave during which Ozz tells the audience to “Clap your hands, bang your seats …Let’s GO!” A bit of tape warble about 1:30 into the song that is followed by a barrage of firecrackers exploding in the halls, this is Metal baby! Paranoid is the standard encore and ends the concert in fine form, one that makes me think that while the band was in the midst of an eventual break up, onstage they were a force to be reckoned with, based upon the final ovation, the audience certainly thought so.

The packaging is nice, Zodiac uses live shots from the tour in the same format as Definitive Fresno 1976 (Zodiac 571), like that title the CD’s and sticker feature artwork taken from the Never Say Die LP. I was glad to finally be able to have this recording in my collection, there are not a lot of Black Sabbath bootleg titles from 1978, this is certainly the best of the audience recordings, although I think the Nashville concert is a bit better performance, this title is certainly no slouch. All this goodness is packaged in a slim line jewel case, this one deserves to be turned up loud!  

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