Monday, November 30, 2015

Gene Page - (1977) Close Encounters Of The Third Kind 12''


Gene Page recorded several albums, with the 1978 Arista LP Close Encounters being the most successful. The title track, a disco cover of the John Williams theme from the 1977 Steven Spielberg/ Richard Dreyfuss movie, charted at number 30 R&B in early 1978. 


After an encounter with UFO's, a line worker feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness, where something spectacular is about to happen.

Rick Wakeman - (1977) White Rock LP


This was the soundtrack to a motion picture documentary of the same name of the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Olympic Games. It features only Wakeman's huge assortment of keyboards and drummer Tony Fernandez, with a choir on two tracks. It's a fine album with many moods, from the rocking title track to the stately "After the Ball" to the sprightly "Montezuma's Revenge," Wakeman's arrangement of some Hungarian Gypsy music. His piano throughout is exquisite

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Hermann Kopp, Daktari Lorenz & John Boy Walton - (2015) Nekromantik (Original Expanded 1987 Motion Picture Soundtrack) LP


Nekromantik is known to be frequently controversial, banned in a number of countries, and has become an international cult film over the years due to its transgressive subject matter (including necrophilia) and audacious imagery.
Daktari Lorenz, Hermann Kopp & John Boy Walton make up the holy trio of composers called upon by film maker Jörg Buttgereit. Between the three of them they produced some of the most haunting and beautiful tracks to be paired up with Buttgereit’s controversial on-screen works of art.
The Nekromantik score displays the dynamic ability and range of the composers. It strikes a perfect balance of beauty, horror, joy and dissonance. The score is both minimalistic and hauntingly atmospheric at the core, and yet remarkably complex at the same time. A wide variety of instruments and sound effects are utilized throughout it’s making. Kopp wastes no time displaying his mastery of the violin, which takes center stage, captivating the listener with his powerful, rhythmic, and beautiful solos. He also uses the violin to create some of the strangest tracks on the album, significantly slowing down the rhythm, creating an ominous, off-key droning sound. Kopp is no slouch on the piano either, with a number of beautiful piano interludes that appear throughout the score. In sharp contrast are the tracks which sound as if they are from an old school industrial album. Harsh noise, clanging metal, pounding drums, synthesizers, and various sound effects come together to create a truly dark and desolate picture. The moog synthesizer, also makes a few appearances. This is an amazing collection of music that appeals to a wide variety of people.




Andrew Liles - (2014) The Maleficent Monster And Other Macabre Stories LP


Massively prolific UK artist, and Nurse With Wound and Current 93 member, Andrew Liles returns to Blackest Rainbow. This new full length LP consists of themes, incidental music, bridging songs, interludes, creaks and groans created as imaginary soundtracks for imaginary horror films. 40 minutes of musical interpretations on a ‘horrific’ theme influenced by such maestros as Donald Rubinstein, John Carpenter, Fabio Frizzi and Ennio Morricone. The tracks cover a vast amount of ground including austere orchestral pieces, voodoo drums, torture porn, possession, cheesy 80′s soundtracks, Giallo, 70′s synths, mellotrons, flutes, piano and much much more.

Andrew Liles - (2014) Wanton Wives, Monstrous Maidens And Wicked Witches LP


Limited to 350 copies, pressed on 180 gram "Rotting Zombie Brains" pink vinyl with red & green splatter.

This is the sister album to ‘THE MALEFICENT MONSTER & OTHER MACABRE STORIES’ and another instalment in the ever expanding MONSTER series of releases.

Side one is an array of faux Giallo soundtracks and music created for imaginary horror films influenced by such maestros as Donald Rubinstein, John Carpenter, Fabio Frizzi and Ennio Morricone. The tracks cover a vast amount of ground including austere orchestral pieces, voodoo drums, torture porn, possession, cheesy 80′s soundtracks, Giallo, 70′s synths and Mellotrons.

The second side of the L.P. is a horror story written by Liles which was translated and narrated in French by Isabelle Magnon. Saxophone comes from Quentin Rollet.

As with ‘THE MALEFICENT MONSTER & OTHER MACABRE STORIES’ the artwork comes from Graham Humphreys (the revered British designer and illustrator responsible for some of the best film posters of the 1980′s including Evil Dead, Nightmare on Elm Street and album covers for The Cramps and The Lords of the New Church).

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Emeralds - (2010) Does It Look Like I'm Here? 2xLP


There are all kinds of familiar elements at work on Emeralds' third album, and those elements will be especially familiar to anyone who was listening to avant pop electronic music in the 1970s. The slightly cheesy-sounding keyboard arpeggiations, the waveform generators, the sweet-and-sour analog synth sounds -- these are all basic elements of the earliest synthesized pop (and synthesized classical) music. To say that Emeralds take these elements and make them new would be an exaggeration, but to say that they make them their own would not be. Does It Look Like I'm Here? consists largely of tracks previously issued as a series of 7" vinyl singles but also includes new material recorded exclusively for this CD release; some of it sounds like a more energized Fripp & Eno (notice in particular the uptempo Frippertronics of "Candy Shoppe") and some of it seems a bit too self-consciously dated (consider the rather silly Moogisms of "Genetic"), but there are many moments of pure genius: "Summerdata" is intensely involving despite being largely arrhythmic; "It Doesn't Arrive" sounds like a slow helicopter going by with Brian Eno's Music for Airports playing on its stereo; "Access Granted," the album's final track, is four minutes of pure, pulsing beauty. All of it occupies a slightly uneasy borderland between ambient music and avant-garde experimentation, and all of it is well worth hearing.

Emeralds - (2012) Just To Feel Anything LP


Mark McGuire, John Elliott, and Steve Hauschildt - the talented trio of synthesizerists and guitarscapers collectively known as Emeralds - have taken a break from their own personal, prolific release schedules and other music-related activities like running labels and such, to enter Tangerine Sound Studios in Akron, Ohio and come up with this, their umpteenth (we have no idea really, what with all the limited cassettes and cd-r's as well as cds and lps!) album together, following 2010's Does It Look Like I'm Here?
The instrumental shimmer of Just To Feel Anything carries on from that prior release, Emeralds' mix of motorik beats, majestic ambience, and "glowing guitar workouts" again being expressed in shorter form, more "song-like" compositions. After an opening track, "Before Your Eyes", which begins as a barely audible bliss-scape of subdued synth before building up into militant beats and soaring melodies, this new Emeralds opus keeps the old school drum machine beats going on the bright and energetic "Adrenochrome", which goes from kinda dancey to guitar-oriented by the end of its own epic trajectory. Emeralds are annexing some Zombi/Moore/Majeure territory there, or sounding like something by Trans Am. A sudden shift of mood brings us to "Through & Through", a pensive & romantic sounding piece for guitarÉ But the very next track, "Everything Is Inverted", gets us back to the late-night-driving, early '80s krautronica soundz that make us think Zombi (and Michael Rother). Gorgeous future-retro grooves. Then, "The Loser Keeps America Down", at the start of side two, sees Emeralds embrace their not forgotten, more experimental side, its textural distorted crackle not unlike a burning fire of electronic origin. Following that, eerie Goblin-like tones open up the album's title track, which blossoms into probably our favorite cut here, encompassing all the attractive features of the current Emeralds program. 'Tis shimmering, burbling, propulsive, and ultimately emotionally stirring. The album then comes to a close, bookended by another beautiful bliss-out piece. Nice!

Suicide - (1977) ST LP


Proof that punk was more about attitude than a raw, guitar-driven sound, Suicide's self-titled debut set the duo apart from the rest of the style's self-proclaimed outsiders. Over the course of seven songs, Martin Rev's dense, unnerving electronics -- including a menacing synth bass, a drum machine that sounds like an idling motorcycle, and harshly hypnotic organs -- and Alan Vega's ghostly, Gene Vincent-esque vocals defined the group's sound and provided the blueprints for post-punk, synth pop, and industrial rock in the process. Though those seven songs shared the same stripped-down sonic template, they also show Suicide's surprisingly wide range. The exhilarated, rebellious "Ghost Rider" and "Rocket U.S.A." capture the punk era's thrilling nihilism -- albeit in an icier way than most groups expressed it -- while "Cheree" and "Girl" counter the rest of the album's hard edges with a sensuality that's at once eerie and alluring. And with its retro bassline and simplistic, stylized lyrics, "Johnny" explores Suicide's affinity for '50s melodies and images, as well as their pop leanings. But none of this is adequate preparation for "Frankie Teardrop," one of the duo's definitive moments, and one of the most harrowing songs ever recorded. A ten-minute descent into the soul-crushing existence of a young factory worker, Rev's tense, repetitive rhythms and Vega's deadpan delivery and horrifying, almost inhuman screams make the song more literally and poetically political than the work of bands who wore their radical philosophies on their sleeves.

Suicide - (1981) 1/2 Alive LP


There was an aesthetic revolution implied in the coupling of Alan Vega's reckless rockabilly howling and the hypnotic buzz and drone of Martin Rev's keys, and that revolution in sound birthed (perhaps unwittingly) two primary schools of synthesized rock: wimpy, gutless new wave duos and the painful dissonance of bands like Skinny Puppy, Foetus, and the later Chicago Wax-Trax scene. For better and for worse, Suicide enabled the industrial revolution. Half Alive is an essential reissue of the original ROIR cassette from 1981, compiling extremely rare early demo material and live tracks from 1974-1979. It's a mesmerizing, confrontational listen, and even more importantly – when contextualized in that time period, that harsh and beautiful juxtaposition of futuristic minimalism and anachronistic crooning (imagine Gene Vincent cornered on a mixture of quaaludes and speed), is confounding. Vega's scream is as damn reckless, damn frightening, and as full of abandon as a Stooges live show from the early '70s. Suicide went on to record a handful of indispensable albums before splitting up and reuniting innumerable times. If nothing else, this collection documents the peculiar fury of proto-industrial music prior to its eventual emasculation and/or reconfiguration as the millieu of studio hounds and gothic make-up artists.

Suicide - (1986) Ghost Riders LP


Originally a cassette-only release, this live recording at Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis marked Rev and Vega's tenth anniversary. And while not as deliberately offensive as some of their earlier live gigs (the impossible-to-locate 23 Minutes Over Brussels), this is a compelling, interesting document of their ever-evolving stage show. Not as transcendent as their debut album, but well worth the effort.

Friday, November 27, 2015

LR - (2015) The Fragility Of Happiness LP


LR is another project from Loke Rahbek, also one of the main members from the well-known label Posh Isolation. I will be reviewing his record called “The Fragility Of Happiness”.

The first track starts with very spacious, wood sounding percussion (with much reverb from the space it was recorded in) and upcoming and fading static noise. Later on, a high ranged tone comes in, to be also joined by junk noise. It’s not really messy, but all well controlled actually. The second track, “America Disfigured”, has some soothing soundscapes, but quickly gets darker with very eerie power electronics, mesmerizing drones and cool sounding vocals, followed by screeching, rasp feedback intervals and harsh noise. “The Wife Is The Head Of The Husband As Christ Is The Head Of The Church”, the third track, (has a very long title but is a very short track) has some messing around with objects and a tone dial-like loop. The fourth one, “Olympia Dies Soon”, begins with a monotonous tone, maybe from a guitar. Whispering vocals, object noises and waved, high ranged tones join in later. On the background are some nice low ranged, dark loops going on. It is followed by “The Happening Casued Public Hysteria 1970”, which has a dark and deep wind, distant bass sequencers and frantic percussion. Later on they are followed by factory noises and all kinds of synth noises. A very nice track, with a old school feeling to it. The last track “Sabella”, has a very filthy and lofi sound, maybe a field recording. Mournful guitar tunes set in a very melancholic mood, joined by vocals. The field recording noise and vocals suddenly disappear, and the moodfull tunes are the only ones left to close of this mind shaking record.

I really enjoyed this album. It has everything you want it to have: dark, unsettling moods, rawness and freshness in sound. Listened outdoors, it gives a truly morbid and fascinating look on our society of today.

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Huge fan of this. Between the FFH LP that came out this year and this are some of the best PE/noise to come out in a while. I would also say this is LR's best work too. This isn't as fierce as the newest FFH, Make Them Understand, or as noisy as the new Bizarre Uproar, Perverse Bizarre Humiliation, both albums I strongly recommend, but it's in the middle between them. I'm done explaining but you should buy this. I think it's sold out from Posh Isolation direct but there are probably a few places stateside getting them, don't miss out.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Black Sabbath - (1970) ST LP


Black Sabbath's debut album is the birth of heavy metal as we now know it. Compatriots like Blue Cheer, Led Zeppelin, and Deep Purple were already setting new standards for volume and heaviness in the realms of psychedelia, blues-rock, and prog rock. Yet of these metal pioneers, Sabbath are the only one whose sound today remains instantly recognizable as heavy metal, even after decades of evolution in the genre. Circumstance certainly played some role in the birth of this musical revolution -- the sonic ugliness reflecting the bleak industrial nightmare of Birmingham; guitarist Tony Iommi's loss of two fingertips, which required him to play slower and to slacken the strings by tuning his guitar down, thus creating Sabbath's signature style. These qualities set the band apart, but they weren't wholly why this debut album transcends its clear roots in blues-rock and psychedelia to become something more. Sabbath's genius was finding the hidden malevolence in the blues, and then bludgeoning the listener over the head with it. Take the legendary album-opening title cut. The standard pentatonic blues scale always added the tritone, or flatted fifth, as the so-called "blues note"; Sabbath simply extracted it and came up with one of the simplest yet most definitive heavy metal riffs of all time. Thematically, most of heavy metal's great lyrical obsessions are not only here, they're all crammed onto side one. "Black Sabbath," "The Wizard," "Behind the Wall of Sleep," and "N.I.B." evoke visions of evil, paganism, and the occult as filtered through horror films and the writings of J.R.R. Tolkien, H.P. Lovecraft, and Dennis Wheatley. Even if the album ended here, it would still be essential listening. Unfortunately, much of side two is given over to loose blues-rock jamming learned through Cream, which plays squarely into the band's limitations. For all his stylistic innovations and strengths as a composer, Iommi isn't a hugely accomplished soloist. By the end of the murky, meandering, ten-minute cover of the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation's "Warning," you can already hear him recycling some of the same simple blues licks he used on side one (plus, the word "warn" never even appears in the song, because Ozzy Osbourne misheard the original lyrics). (The British release included another cover, a version of Crow's "Evil Woman" that doesn't quite pack the muscle of the band's originals; the American version substituted "Wicked World," which is much preferred by fans.) But even if the seams are still showing on this quickly recorded document, Black Sabbath is nonetheless a revolutionary debut whose distinctive ideas merely await a bit more focus and development. Henceforth Black Sabbath would forge ahead with a vision that was wholly theirs.

Black Sabbath - (1970) Paranoid LP


Paranoid was not only Black Sabbath's most popular record (it was a number one smash in the U.K., and "Paranoid" and "Iron Man" both scraped the U.S. charts despite virtually nonexistent radio play), it also stands as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time. Paranoid refined Black Sabbath's signature sound -- crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock -- and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics. Where the extended, multi-sectioned songs on the debut sometimes felt like aimless jams, their counterparts on Paranoid have been given focus and direction, lending an epic drama to now-standards like "War Pigs" and "Iron Man" (which sports one of the most immediately identifiable riffs in metal history). The subject matter is unrelentingly, obsessively dark, covering both supernatural/sci-fi horrors and the real-life traumas of death, war, nuclear annihilation, mental illness, drug hallucinations, and narcotic abuse. Yet Sabbath makes it totally convincing, thanks to the crawling, muddled bleakness and bad-trip depression evoked so frighteningly well by their music. Even the qualities that made critics deplore the album (and the group) for years increase the overall effect -- the technical simplicity of Ozzy Osbourne's vocals and Tony Iommi's lead guitar vocabulary; the spots when the lyrics sink into melodrama or awkwardness; the lack of subtlety and the infrequent dynamic contrast. Everything adds up to more than the sum of its parts, as though the anxieties behind the music simply demanded that the band achieve catharsis by steamrolling everything in its path, including its own limitations. Monolithic and primally powerful, Paranoid defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.

Black Sabbath - (1971) Master Of Reality LP


The shortest album of Black Sabbath's glory years, Master of Reality is also their most sonically influential work. Here Tony Iommi began to experiment with tuning his guitar down three half-steps to C#, producing a sound that was darker, deeper, and sludgier than anything they'd yet committed to record. (This trick was still being copied 25 years later by every metal band looking to push the limits of heaviness, from trendy nu-metallers to Swedish deathsters.) Much more than that, Master of Reality essentially created multiple metal subgenres all by itself, laying the sonic foundations for doom, stoner and sludge metal, all in the space of just over half an hour. Classic opener "Sweet Leaf" certainly ranks as a defining stoner metal song, making its drug references far more overt (and adoring) than the preceding album's "Fairies Wear Boots." The album's other signature song, "Children of the Grave," is driven by a galloping rhythm that would later pop up on a slew of Iron Maiden tunes, among many others. Aside from "Sweet Leaf," much of Master of Reality finds the band displaying a stronger moral sense, in part an attempt to counteract the growing perception that they were Satanists. "Children of the Grave" posits a stark choice between love and nuclear annihilation, while "After Forever" philosophizes about death and the afterlife in an openly religious (but, of course, superficially morbid) fashion that offered a blueprint for the career of Christian doom band Trouble. And although the alternately sinister and jaunty "Lord of This World" is sung from Satan's point of view, he clearly doesn't think much of his own followers (and neither, by extension, does the band). It's all handled much like a horror movie with a clear moral message, for example The Exorcist. Past those four tracks, listeners get sharply contrasting tempos in the rumbling sci-fi tale "Into the Void," which shortens the distances between the multiple sections of the band's previous epics. And there's the core of the album -- all that's left is a couple of brief instrumental interludes, plus the quiet, brooding loneliness of "Solitude," a mostly textural piece that frames Osbourne's phased vocals with acoustic guitars and flutes. But, if a core of five songs seems slight for a classic album, it's also important to note that those five songs represent a nearly bottomless bag of tricks, many of which are still being imitated and explored decades later. If Paranoid has more widely known songs, the suffocating and oppressive Master of Reality was the Sabbath record that die-hard metalheads took most closely to heart.

Black Sabbath - (1972) Black Sabbath Vol 4 LP


Vol. 4 is the point in Black Sabbath's career where the band's legendary drug consumption really starts to make itself felt. And it isn't just in the lyrics, most of which are about the blurry line between reality and illusion. Vol. 4 has all the messiness of a heavy metal Exile on Main St., and if it lacks that album's overall diversity, it does find Sabbath at their most musically varied, pushing to experiment amidst the drug-addled murk. As a result, there are some puzzling choices made here (not least of which is the inclusion of "FX"), and the album often contradicts itself. Ozzy Osbourne's wail is becoming more powerful here, taking greater independence from Tony Iommi's guitar riffs, yet his vocals are processed into a nearly textural element on much of side two. Parts of Vol. 4 are as ultra-heavy as Master of Reality, yet the band also takes its most blatant shots at accessibility to date -- and then undercuts that very intent. The effectively concise "Tomorrow's Dream" has a chorus that could almost be called radio-ready, were it not for the fact that it only appears once in the entire song. "St. Vitus Dance" is surprisingly upbeat, yet the distant-sounding vocals don't really register. The notorious piano-and-Mellotron ballad "Changes" ultimately fails not because of its change-of-pace mood, but more for a raft of the most horrendously clichéd rhymes this side of "moon-June." Even the crushing "Supernaut" -- perhaps the heaviest single track in the Sabbath catalog -- sticks a funky, almost danceable acoustic breakdown smack in the middle. Besides "Supernaut," the core of Vol. 4 lies in the midtempo cocaine ode "Snowblind," which was originally slated to be the album's title track until the record company got cold feet, and the multi-sectioned prog-leaning opener, "Wheels of Confusion." The latter is one of Iommi's most complex and impressive compositions, varying not only riffs but textures throughout its eight minutes. Many doom and stoner metal aficionados prize the second side of the album, where Osbourne's vocals gradually fade further and further away into the murk, and Iommi's guitar assumes center stage. The underrated "Cornucopia" strikes a better balance of those elements, but by the time "Under the Sun" closes the album, the lyrics are mostly lost under a mountain of memorable, contrasting riffery. Add all of this up, and Vol. 4 is a less cohesive effort than its two immediate predecessors, but is all the more fascinating for it. Die-hard fans sick of the standards come here next, and some end up counting this as their favorite Sabbath record for its eccentricities and for its embodiment of the band's excesses.

Black Sabbath - (1973) Sabbath Bloody Sabbath LP



With 1973's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, heavy metal godfathers Black Sabbath made a concerted effort to prove their remaining critics wrong by raising their creative stakes and dispensing unprecedented attention to the album's production standards, arrangements, and even the cover artwork. As a result, bold new efforts like the timeless title track, "A National Acrobat," and "Killing Yourself to Live" positively glistened with a newfound level of finesse and maturity, while remaining largely faithful, aesthetically speaking, to the band's signature compositional style. In fact, their sheer songwriting excellence may even have helped to ease the transition for suspicious older fans left yearning for the rough-hewn, brute strength that had made recent triumphs like Master of Reality and Vol. 4 (really, all their previous albums) such undeniable forces of nature. But thanks to Sabbath Bloody Sabbath's nearly flawless execution, even a more adventurous experiment like the string-laden "Spiral Architect," with its tasteful background orchestration, managed to sound surprisingly natural, and in the dreamy instrumental "Fluff," Tony Iommi scored his first truly memorable solo piece. If anything, only the group's at times heavy-handed adoption of synthesizers met with inconsistent consequences, with erstwhile Yes keyboard wizard Rick Wakeman bringing only good things to the memorable "Sabbra Cadabra" (who know he was such a great boogie-woogie pianist?), while the robotically dull "Who Are You" definitely suffered from synthesizer novelty overkill. All things considered, though, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath was arguably Black Sabbath's fifth masterpiece in four years, and remains an essential item in any heavy metal collection.


Black Sabbath - (1975) Sabotage LP


Sabotage is the final release of Black Sabbath's legendary First Six, and it's also the least celebrated of the bunch, though most die-hard fans would consider it criminally underrated. The band continues further down the proto-prog metal road of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, and this time around, the synthesizers feel more organically integrated into the arrangements. What's more, the song structures generally feel less conventional and more challenging. There's one significant exception in the blatant pop tune "Am I Going Insane (Radio)," which rivals "Changes" as the most fan-loathed song of the glory years, thanks to its synth-driven arrangement (there isn't even a guitar riff!) and oft-repeated one-line chorus. But other than that song and the terrific album opener, "Hole in the Sky," the band largely eschews the standard verse-chorus format, sticking to one or two melody lines per riffed section and changing up the feel before things get too repetitive. The prevalence of this writing approach means that Sabotage rivals Vol. 4 as the least accessible record of Sabbath's glory years. However, given time, the compositional logic reveals itself, and most of the record will burn itself into the listener's brain just fine. The faster than usual "Symptom of the Universe" is a stone-cold classic, its sinister main riff sounding like the first seed from which the New Wave of British Heavy Metal would sprout (not to mention an obvious blueprint for Diamond Head's "Am I Evil?"). Like several songs on the record, "Symptom" features unexpected acoustic breaks and softer dynamics, yet never loses its drive or focus, and always feels like Sabbath. Less immediate but still rewarding are "Thrill of It All," with its triumphant final section, and the murky, sullen "Megalomania," which never feels as long as its nearly nine and a half minutes. But more than the compositions, the real revelation on Sabotage is Ozzy Osbourne, who turns in his finest vocal performance as a member of Black Sabbath. Really for the first time, this is the Ozzy we all know, displaying enough range, power, and confidence to foreshadow his hugely successful solo career. He saves the best for last with album closer "The Writ," one of the few Sabbath songs where his vocal lines are more memorable than Tony Iommi's guitar parts; running through several moods over the course of the song's eight minutes, it's one of the best performances of his career, bar none. Unfortunately, after Sabotage, the wheels of confusion came off entirely. Yes, there were technically two more albums, but for the non-obsessive, the story of Osbourne-era Sabbath effectively ends here.

Black Sabbath - (1975) We Sold Our Souls For Rock 'N' Roll 2xLP


We Sold Our Soul for Rock 'n' Roll is a good single-disc collection of many -- but not all -- of Black Sabbath's best tracks from the Ozzy Osbourne era, drawing about half of its material from the group's first two albums, Black Sabbath and Paranoid. That makes it ideal for the fan who only wants one Black Sabbath disc, but those who want to dig deeper should be advised that all six LPs from the Osbourne period contain high-quality items not present here, especially the under-represented Master of Reality and Vol. 4. Still, there's no quibbling with what is here.

Black Sabbath - (1976) Technical Ecstasy LP


Black Sabbath was unraveling at an alarming rate around the time of their second to last album with original singer Ozzy Osbourne, 1976's Technical Ecstasy. The band was getting further and further from their original musical path, as they began experimenting with their trademark sludge-metal sound. While it was not as off-the-mark as their final album with Osbourne, 1978's Never Say Die, it was not on par with Sabbath's exceptional first five releases. The most popular song remains the album closer, "Dirty Women," which was revived during the band's highly successful reunion tour of the late '90s. Other standouts include the funky "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" and the raging opener, "Back Street Kids." The melodic "It's Alright" turns out to be the album's biggest surprise -- it's one of drummer Bill Ward's few lead vocal spots with the band (Guns N' Roses covered the unlikely track on their 1999 live set, Live Era 1987-1993).