Chicago 1983 The Legendary Master (No Label)
U.I.C. Pavilion, Chicago, IL. USA – November 18, 1983
Disc 1 (47:01) Supertzar (inc Baby Crying), Children Of The Grave, Hot Line, War Pigs, Disturbing The Priest, Supernaut, Drum Solo, Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor, Stonehenge, Iron Man
Disc 2 (38:38) The Dark, Zero The Hero, Heaven And Hell, Guitar Solo, Black Sabbath, Smoke On The Water, Paranoid / Heaven And Hell (Reprise)
With the departure of Ronnie James Dio and Vinnie Appice during the mixing of what would eventually be released as Black Sabbath’s first live album Live Evil, the band were once again in a state of chaos. The war of words between the two camps was well played out in the press, Dio would quickly recover and form his first solo band, Dio, and release the iconic Holy Diver. Things were more precarious for Sabbath, with the departure of two high profile singers in a short period of time, Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler were at a crossroads. Thankfully the chance meeting with former Deep Purple wailer Ian Gillan and the resulting night of heavy drinking, the band would have their new lead singer, the union would produce one of the bands finest platters of music they would release in the 80’s. The aptly titled Born Again was released in August 1983 to much commercial success; the album would go top 40 in America and the Top 5 in the UK. Bill Ward would also return to the fold and play on the record, freshly sober he was still on shaky ground with his sobriety and turned down the resulting tour and the band would recruit sticksman Bev Bevan from ELO fame.
The tour for Born Again was relatively short, beginning with dates in the UK and Europe including a date at the prestigious Reading Festival, part of which can be found on the Deluxe Edition of Born Again released in 2011. The band would do an extensive American tour spanning four months beginning in October and ending in early March 1984 with the band taking the entire month of December off. The set list would include much of the new record as well as Ozzy era classics as well as the title track “Heaven And Hell”, but most curious was the band’s inclusion of the Deep Purple classic “Smoke On The Water”.
This new release from the folks at No Label gives us the recording of the group’s stop in the windy city, Chicago. Taken from a digital transfer of the master tape, the recording is very good bordering on excellent. It is well balanced with all instruments being clearly heard in the mix with little crowd interference, the ambience is perfectly captured. There is, at times, a bit of distortion and there is a slight hiss most noticeably in quieter parts. Most importantly it sounds great at loud volumes, the way this music demands to be played.
The recording picks up with the cries of a demonic offspring as a prelude to “Supertzar”, the band take the stage in full force with a rousing “Children Of The Grave”, Ian does a great job and in decent voice as he adds many wails throughout the song to great effect. Ian greets the Chicago audience and talks of being a cunning linguist, his humor is well received in the presence of such serious music. The band play a new song, “Hot Line”, the song would maintain a spot in the set throughout the tour and is very strong live. The sound has a slight distortion here mainly from the drums and bass but thankfully the sound is still very clear. Tony takes a great solo and the song is simply slamming live. “War Pigs” lumbers to the stage, the beginning riff sounds like a massive monolith crawling to the stage but the band pick up the pace and turn in a typically wonderful version of the song, as with much of the older Ozzy era material Ian put a fresh take on the music and like Dio would infuse energy into the band, something that would be sadly lost after his tenure.
More new music follows; Ian introduces the song as being about the neighbors that were in the proximity of The Manor recording studio where the record was made. The band were visited by one neighbor who asked if they could keep quiet during certain times as they were having choir practice, the visitor was the vicar of the church hence the title “Disturbing The Priest”. The song is ultra heavy in nature, Iommi plays a killer lick that reeks of evil but the majority of the lyrics more or less tells the story as well as gives his opinion of the priesthood in general. At the end Ian says critically “I will touch you” to end the song in a most interesting fashion. Ian brought an energy to the band they had not had since Ozzy, he gets the audience to clap quietly as a prelude to a rousing “Supernaut”, an abridged version of course but thankfully with lyrics, Tony has a swirling effect on his guitar similar to what he used for “Die Young” that gives the song much depth. The song is also a vehicle for a Bev Bevan drum solo, most interesting as he is a great drummer but really not in the Sabbath vein of hard hitting and thunderous skin beaters. He plays it more like Neil Peart, keeping time with his hi hat while going through his kit, piece by piece. Bev’s drum solo ends with a gong blast and the band return with the resurrected “Rock N Roll Doctor” much to my delight, one thing that Sabbath is not known for is delving deep into the past catalog, thankfully this song is perfect for Ian, he puts his wit and charm in his vocal for the song and its up tempo music makes for a set highlight.
The band would have two short musical interludes from Born Again, the first aptly titled “Stonehenge” is an ambient style instrumental in the vein of “E5150” and would serve as a prelude to “Iron Man”, the old war horse sounds slow yet muscular, Ian has a weird effect on his voice that makes him sound almost robotic. While the song can be considered overplayed it is Sabbath at its best, slow and heavy and so metallic. Ian again puts his stamp on the song, he nails the lyrics and the vocal effects add to the song, especially when he does his trademark wails. The song heats up when they go into the fast tempo section and Tony lays down a blistering solo and then locks in with the rhythm section to go back into the main theme. There is a super quick tape cut at 6:16 of the song, if it is a tape flip it is ultra fast as only a second or two is lost.
The second disc starts off with Ian introducing another friend in England, “Zero The Hero”. But first we are treated to a Geezer solo in the form of “The Dark”, heavily augmented by Geoff Nichols the sound is reminiscent of Jimmy Page’s “Lucifer Rising” with an electronic element, all to great effect. Iommi starts the riff to “Zero The Hero”, heaviness personified, the main riff is just beyond heavy and is almost molten in form, and nothing is lost in the live setting. Geoff Nichols adds the fills at just the right moment to great effect and the song is most satisfying. The band go non stop into “Heaven And Hell”, the only Dio era material to make the set it is much welcomed to my ears. Gillan does not try to compete with Dio, who possible could, but gives his own interpretation and uses a lot of vocal effects to boot. Ian does a great vocal improvisation about 2 minutes in with something that sounds similar to “Fireball”, and Iommi does a great solo that takes the piece into a dream like state but sadly the band do not finish with the dramatic “World is full of Kings and Queen” section but instead leave Tony to perform his solo spot. It begins very reminiscent of what he did on the Heaven and Hell tour that would leads into “Die Young” but soon devolves into a wonderful take on “Orchid”, perhaps his most haunting solo piece. He proceeds to then go more metal and starts ripping out a flurry of notes and riffs to great effect, he is truly “The Master”. The doom continues as he does the “Black Sabbath” prelude that welcomes the draws the others back to the fold, Bev does his heaviest drumming on this song and interjects some cymbals in spots that sound quite interesting and surprised me as typically Tony Iommi was not one for allowing improvisation on the bands signature song. Even Ian does his best evil impersonation and it is simply stunning, his use of echo as well as his rendition is spot on making for a splendid rendition of the song that has to be heard.
The addition of the Purple classic “Smoke On The Water” garnered some crap from the press with cries of Purple Sabbath but truth be told it’s not only great to hear the band step outside its standard set and play a cover song. The band make Ian feel right at home and play, as they would during the entire tour, a great rendition of song, Ian even does a little howling back at Tony during his solo. Of course the final encore is “Paranoid”, Bev seems to be pushing the band as they play it a little faster to great effect, it also includes the “Heaven And Hell” reprise that was customary during this period and thus brings the end to a simply fantastically played concert of this short lived yet exceptional version of Black Sabbath. After this tour was finished the world would hear of the departure of Ian Gillan and the reunion of the Mark II Deep Purple, and all we are left with are the memories….and the tapes.
The packaging is simple full color inserts; the cover has the band with the crying demon child superimposed on the cover, looking very gothic in nature. The rest is made up of mainly live shots as well as the customary picture discs, simply yet effectively packaged in a slim line jewel case. I have a few other boots from this tour and this one is by far my favorite, great sound and complete performance make for an exciting release. No Label, No Brainer.