August 2021 Rock/Pop Record Reviews

Black Sabbath: Sabotage Super Deluxe
Rhino R1 645954 (4LP). 2021. Black Sabbath, Mike Butcher, Hugh Gilmour, prods.; Andy Pearce, Matt Wortham, engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ***

Black Sabbath's sixth album was birthed amid legal warfare between the group and their management. In an all-too-familiar music-biz story, management skimmed large sums and the group was left in deep debt, despite a half-decade of endless touring and rapidfire release of an oeuvre that invented and defined heavy metal music.

Slogging through 1973–75, the group battled in court, toured relentlessly, and sweated out long sessions at Morgan Studios' facilities in London and Brussels. They emerged with a masterpiece. Aside from enhanced studio production, the album includes two extended cuts, "Megalomania" and "The Writ" (referring to court papers served during a recording session). And then there are the Sabbath classics, "Symptom of the Universe" and "Am I Going Insane (Radio)."

Rhino's 4-LP reissue leads with the original album remastered from the "best sources available," says reissue producer Hugh Gilmour, noting that original master tapes are lost or unobtainable.

The other platters are a 1975 USA Tour concert recording, all but three cuts previously unreleased. The exact location and date aren't clear, Gilmour says, but it's early because Ozzy Osbourne calls out songs from an "upcoming" album and Sabotage's US release was midway through the tour. The road-hardened band was locked in tight and delivered the full-on gut punch their fans expected.

Along with an amply illustrated 12" × 12" booklet, the Super Deluxe package includes reproductions of a tour book from Sabbath's premiere run at NYC's Madison Square Garden, a 7" Japanese single, and other goodies.—Tom Fine


Chrissie Hynde: Standing in the Doorway
BMG UK B0948JY5Q4 (streaming; physical release in August). 2021. Tchad Blake, James Walbourne, prods. and engs.
Performance *****
Sonics ****

Aside from being the tough, rocking, sexy, enduring leader of the Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde is a musical seeker. Her solo outings include a jazz turn with the Valve Bone Woe Ensemble, and the Pretenders have been a great cover band from Day 1. Here, she and Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne dive into Bob Dylan's songbook during the folk legend's 80th-birthday year.

Hynde is no stranger to Dylan or folk. She has covered both during Pretenders concerts and performed with Dylan, including at his 30th anniversary concert. Dylan's lockdown release "Murder Most Foul" inspired Hynde and Walbourne to undertake a YouTube-remote series of Dylan covers. This album comes from those recordings. Producer Tchad Blake tied the long-distance home recordings together into a coherent, minimalist soundscape.

Hynde/Walbourne's interpretations are fresh and revealing. They choose some well-knowns, like "Blind Willie McTell" and "Love Minus Zero/No Limit," and they dig deeper, including the early-era "In the Summertime" and the highlight, "Don't Fall Apart On Me Tonight," from Dylan's Infidels. As her 70th birthday approaches, Hynde's voice is still all that, matched perfectly to Dylan's poetic lyrics.

With the easy delivery of skilled musicians, Hynde and Walbourne show a clear-eyed understanding of Dylan's aesthetic, including the always-present humor. They are never starchy-earnest or overserious. They lilt rather than lecture and toss a wry sneer here and there.

Although recorded in the depths of a plague, this album is fresh like the reopening spring.—Tom Fine

Briandrumzilla's picture

These Black Sabbath box sets are very nice. I would add another star to the sonics. The vinyl is flat, quiet and with impressive sound. The main album from the box set is the best version I have listened to. The Sabotage cover has a textured finish which is a neat feature. The main album also includes
"Blow on a Jug."