We move on in our Black Sabbath reviews with the second album, "Paranoid". Considered to be one of the finest and most successful albums in the bands repertoire. I personally think the third is better, but this one definitely is a good one. It also has some rather interesting stories behind it, with the cover being one of those, but I’m jumping ahead of myself and there is much to talk about first. I am unsure of the exact year and the CD I own is a cheapo version and has little information so I will be delving into my own knowledge which may be a little wrong, so forgive me if you will.
I believe the year of release was either 1970-71, I know it was around that time period. When I was a kid I used to know all of this off the top of my head, but now I’m getting old and forgetful! I can’t give any more info on the technical aspects of the album because I don’t know any of that and I’m not going to look it up on the net. If you want you can do that, but I’m way too lazy to do that myself.
There are themes, once again, running through this album. The most notable being war and mental delusions. The album is once again very dark and at times can be a little hard to listen to.
There are some real gems in this album and it would be remiss of me not to mention "Paranoid" at this point. "Paranoid" was and still is Black Sabbath’s most successful song commercially. You will take note of the fact I said commercially. I consider many other songs much, much better than "Paranoid", but this number has etched itself into the history books of metal and music in general. I don’t remember how it did in the music charts but I do think it did very, very well. It’s a short song that was hastily put together by the band as a filler. If you go on YouTube you can find a nice little story probably told by either Butler, Iommi or Osbourne on the story of how this song was made. I didn’t find it that interesting the first time I heard it or the five hundred other times I have heard the same rather boring story. I find the story of how Bill Wards pants caught fire much more appealing. You can find that on YouTube as well and I suggest you do indeed look for it you won’t be disappointed! But needless to say that this little gap filler of a song has become very popular and propelled Sabbath onto the big time.
My personal favourites on this record would be the mercurial "War Pigs", a ballad on the issues surrounding war, although there are earlier lyrics that were more supernatural in tone. An early demo can be found online. I have a copy of this demo from my Ozzy Osbourne library. Definitely worth a listen. "War Pigs" has elements of blues worked quite well into it’s make up and is a clever constructed piece in both forms. I would say that most fans would put it up there in their top five best Sabbath songs. "Iron Man" is another classic song from this era and I love the intro. Ward’s steady beat, combining with Iommi’s menacing chords create the perfect backdrop for the start of a truly inspiring piece of music. The tempo of "Iron Man" goes up and down easily and efficiently as and where needed. And it tells a cool story of "Iron Man", someone who gains superpowers and then is ostracised by humanity for his difference and then sets about to make humanity suffer. As I said, really cool. "Hand of Doom" is another example of Sabbath’s ability to speed up and slow things down without losing the plot or the substance of the song. "Hand of Doom" at times is controlled well by Butler and Ward in a little groovy jazz beat and Osbourne keeps things on the down low, not at all insane or out of control and then, BAM!!! Things get real, with Iommi blasting his way in and forcing the other three members to join his aggression!
The song is about drugs and how some soldiers after the war would turn to addiction to escape the pain of war. So this song combines intelligently, the two main themes of the album, war and drugs and the eventual cost of mental sanity that can bring. I will mention the last track on the album, "Fairies Wear Boots". It has some brilliant work by both Iommi and Butler, who show once again what can be achieved when you get a good guitarist and bassist working in tandem with each other. The song is another take on drugs from both the perspective of the user and the doctor. The user sees fairies wearing boots and goes and seeks help. Osbourne brings a lot of personal authority to this number as his drug abuse is common knowledge.
Right, time for the fun facts. This is a well-known story within the Sabbath vaults. The front cover of "Paranoid" contains a blurred picture of a samurai warrior coming out, Katana raised (that’s a sword) moving so fast as displayed by the three versions of himself. If you look closely at the first version you will notice that he looks a bit different. You will see what seems to be a snout. Hmm, yes if you have guessed that the cover would suit the title "War Pigs" then you would guess right as that was supposed to be the title of the second album. "Paranoid" became such a huge success that the powers that be persuaded the band to change the title from "War Pigs" to "Paranoid", but there wasn’t time to change the album artwork so the "War Pigs" cover stayed. It does give the term paranoid an interesting idea, with a dude jumping out of the forest, changing from a pig into a man with a sword raised, looking just a tad irritated!!
I like this one for a few of the well-known knock out blows. "War Pigs" has always been a classic metal epic, "Iron Man" is a good head bopper, "Electric Funeral", "Hand of Doom" and "Fairies Wear Boots" are all good songs. This album feels more of a winner than the previous one and has some good knock out blows supporting the public stunner, "Paranoid". Not as dark as the first, but makes up for that with some perhaps better, more relatable themes and the music is perhaps tighter and better constructed, showing that the lads from Birmingham were learning as well as drinking and doing drugs. But as good as this was, more was yet to follow.
I give this 8/10.
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