San Bernardino 1972 (Golden Eggs EGG 95)
Swing Auditorium, San Bernardino, CA – March 17, 1972
(76:01) Crowd Anticipation / Opening Announcements, Guitar Solo / N.I.B., Tomorrows Dream, War Pigs, Sweet Leaf, Iron Man, Snowblind, Wicked World (incl. guitar & drum solo), Embryo / Children Of The Grave, Paranoid, Encore Call, Drum Intro / Fairies Wear Boots
The recording of Black Sabbath’s concert from San Bernardino in March of 1972 comes near the end of the groups touring cycle for the sophomore effort Master Of Reality album. The line up featured tour stalwarts Wild Turkey as well as up and coming Prog Masters Yes and recordings circulate for all three groups, to my knowledge this is the first silver release to feature Black Sabbath’s set, a CD-r title was released years back as San Bernardino 1972 (Power Gate 152). The audience recording is very good with guitar and vocals being up front, the bass and drums are less defined but still can be heard albeit slightly lower and as one would expect, only a minor amount of low end distortion is present. Between songs there are some audience comments from either the taper or his friends but instead of being annoying, it really adds to the enjoyment of the tape, California Rock fans seeing Sabbath for the first time and being blown away in the process. No major tape hiss or defects and is a great sounding recording full of ambiance that demands to be played at loud volumes.
The band take the stage and Tony Iommi rips into a frenzied flurry of leads that evolve into N.I.B. from their debut record, the story of love from Lucifer’s perspective, the song really swings in the Swing. Ozzy’s between song comments are quiet yet one can make out “We’re gonna due a number now, it’s gonna be off our new album which we’re working on at the moment…its entitled Tomorrows Dream”. This version is unique as it contains alternate lyrics, the first line is the same but the rest is not although does hit on the same subject matter, woman drives man crazy so he has to leave. Other than the lyrics, the vocal melodies, guitars and solos are all the same, great song and cool to hear it in its early stages. Our heroes comment oh shit when Ozzy introduces War Pigs and again when the band plow into the song, the sound is one of a wave that washes over the listener giving the feeling of a dark storm cloud rolling overhead. The band play a tight and heavy version of the song, the audience is very receptive and like me, are blown away by the song.
Even though Bill Ward’s drumming is a bit low in the mix and takes a tad more focus to listen, once you do one finds he is incredible, the cowbell in Tomorrows Dream to the complex fills in Sweet Leaf, some fast some slow and Mason like (Nick that is). Ozzy admonishes the crowd to wake up and get into it, obviously they are not crazy enough, he takes matters into his own hand, getting them clapping and stomping and screaming to the count of three to begin Iron Man. While the band would not record their fourth record, Vol. 4, until mid 1972, recordings like this document that they had been hard at work on new material as we are blessed with another “preview” in the form of Snowblind. Like Tomorrows Dream, this version features alternate lyrics although the subject matter is the same yet the structure is there yet with an abrupt ending.
“We’re gonna do a number now featuring our guitarist Tony Iommi…it’s a number entitled Wicked World”, all the while the taper and his friend talk about the remaining tape not knowing this song will be long. This song is a favorite, the band play a fast tempo intro before hitting into that iconic riff and groove, yes folks this song wreaks of groove. The song is a 20 minute instruction on improvisation by messers Iommi, Butler, and Ward featuring solo spots from Tony and fat jams with the rhythm section. The crowd claps along while Tony plays Orchid from Master Of Reality. The band get into a bit of Cornucopia about 13 minutes in followed by a Bill Ward solo that is spectacular, in his prime he was just incredible. To me Bill Ward is one of two drummers from this era who seem to get overshadowed by Bonham and Moon (the other you ask? Ian Paice from Deep Purple). More Iommi solo goodness leads back into Wicked World, that 20 minutes just flew by.
Children Of The Grave is a monster, from the sound of it the audience is fully involved as the band seem to blow them back from sheer musical power, what a riff, simple and direct. The audience relentlessly claps and one can almost hear the sound of Heavy Metal insanity taking over as they succumb to the bands overwhelming musical delivery, each song seems better than the previous. The band answer quickly with Paranoid which simply devastates the audience, the band hammer the song out fast and furious laying waste to San Bernardino. Ozzy’s shout of “We Love You All” ends the main set and is immediately followed by chants of “More…More…”. Bill plays a cool drum intro to Fairies Wear Boots, Ozzy asks if they are having a good time, hell yes Ozzy, we are! Tony starts that riff to Fairies and a smile crosses my face, it sounds so atmospheric when coupled with Bill’s drum intro. With the crowd awake and giving the band the feedback they wanted, the band seems to take this energy and throw it back at them by playing a nice, fast version of Fairies Wear Boots ending the concert proper and to a massive ovation, just a blistering performance.
The packaging is a tri-fold sleeve adorned with mostly black and white photos of the band, I love the cover with the band’s name in purple paying homage to the Master Of Reality record. Black Sabbath circa 1972 were a devastating live act, this release is a stunning example of how great this band was and is just what I needed, a must have.
I am not a big Sabb fan, but this release works fine. I haven’t heard any past versions of this show so cannot do any comparison, but the quality here is just stunning, drums are little behind of everything but overall a great aud recording from the era. The show itself is simply hot, I feel it was the absolute peak for Sabbs. The inclusion of many yet unreleased songs during the very long Wicked World makes this set valuable just for that moment. Why there are no official live releases from the era? I am leaving this question for anyone who may answer to this.