Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, CA – October 1, 1971
(66:22) Intro, N.I.B, War Pigs, Sweet Leaf, Iron Man, Wicked World, Guitar Solo, Wicked World (reprise), Embryo, Children Of The Grave, (cut in) Paranoid, Fairies Wear Boots
By the time Black Sabbath released their iconic third album, Master Of Reality, they had become a worldwide sensation thanks to their first two records and unrelenting touring schedule. Master of Reality remains a Doom laden classic and propelled the band into the upper echelon of hard rock. The band would tour America extensively with a UK tour sandwiched in between. A recording from the first American leg is the source for this release and is culled from the famed Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, CA, the venue owned and run by Promoter impresario Bill Graham. The source used for this release features an incomplete good audience recording, all instruments are audible but the bass frequencies are a bit overpowering giving a boomy timber to it. There is a minor amount of hiss audible but nothing that hinders one’s listening experience and there is no real audience interference near the taper, overall a great listen.
The recording begins with a furious blast of leads from Tony leading into N.I.B., a concert staple from the first Sabbath record it makes for a perfect opener, one that garners much applause from the crowd. War Pigs crawls upon the stage like a behemoth, while standard fare today the song was written with inspiration from the Vietnam War that was raging during this time, a most relevant statement about the Masters of war. The song gets help from the audience who clap along in all the right places, Bill Ward’s drumming during this piece (we call them pieces now) is superlative. “Are you high?” is Ozzy’s between song comments, they are in San Francisco so we can assume there was more than a couple who were in an altered state and their reward is a mega heavy rendition of the bands ode to marijuana Sweet Leaf. The heavy bass gives the song an audio haze that works quite well, the bass does occasionally distort as one would expect, nonetheless the rendition is perfect and sounds close to the recorded version.
Ozzy does his best to get the audience on their feet and get moving and he does succeed as Bill Ward does the intro drum beat for Iron Man. The song starts off a bit sluggish but heats up during the middle section with a great Iommi solo, the latter part of the song finds Geezer pounding the hell out of his bass to great effect. There is a tape cut at the song’s conclusion with no music lost, another quick cut leads into Wicked World, first thing that hits you is the pace has certainly quickened, the band has kicked it into high gear. This song is a favorite of mine, I love the live versions oven more as they are the vehicle for great improvisation among the band member and the results are usually impressive to say the least. The main part of the song gives way to a solo Iommi segment, naturally the sound clears significantly since there is only one instrument. A cluster of leads gives way to Orchid, this piece is new to the audience thanks to the recently released Master record, and is a virtually complete version of the song. Iommi then moves into a an almost jazz feel for the next bit, that is what made these early Sabbath recordings so interesting is they still had their root influences on their sleeves. It quickly gives way to a furious stretch of leads and heavy riffs that leaves the audience, and listener, breathless. The rhythm section comes back onstage and they go into an embryonic version of Supernaut that is most interesting, unfortunately it is short and Iommi then takes over, he starts a long solo and in the middle plays a riff sort of reminiscent of Sabbra Cadabra at around the 12:15 mark. He finally leads the band back into a Wicked World reprise, Ozzy acknowledges him with “Tony Iommi on lead guitar…thank you very much”. The band take a minute to fix an issue with the snare drum, they noodle around briefly until Iommi plays the songs opener of Embryo, but it is Children of the Grave that seems to shake the rafters of the old hall.
There is another tape cut and fade that eliminates most of Paranoid, the song picks up “here these words telling you now of my fate” and only about 20 seconds of the song is present. The audience sound rabid by this point and while Paranoid is mostly cut the recording does pick up the audiences cheering. The only encore is Fairies Wear Boots with a great Bill Ward drum solo type intro to the song that has the audience happily clapping along and the segue into the song is most interesting. Great performance by the band, one can only wonder the fate of the song Black Sabbath, most certainly removed from this tape during Iron Man and Wicked World cut and sadly not present on this recording.
The packaging is simple inserts with a Master Of Reality style Sabbath logo coupled with a few pictures of the band and a live shot of Ozzy on the rear, there is a picture of a tape reel in the tray insert labeled “Black Sabbath Live” but I am unsure if it is an actual photo of the master reel. This title has been out of print for a few years but I do see copies floating around from time to time and is certainly worth seeking out.