Even after Ozzy Osbourne became a beloved figure, embraced even by conservative politicians, it's amazing that the leader of a band as anti-social and malevolent as Black Sabbath has ever become a household name. Even more amazing, the music made by the first lineup of Black Sabbath -- or "the Original Black Sabbath," as they are billed here on this double-disc collection on Rhino -- still sounds threatening, menacing, and ugly, surely not ready for wide acceptance. Which just goes to show, it can occasionally be easier to embrace the artist than the art, since surely those that now hug Ozzy haven't heard his Tony Iommi-fueled sludge, which is expertly chronicled on this Rhino collection. Yes, those who are hardcore metalheads will want the original albums, but for those who just want the highlights -- those riffs that have entered your subconscious through osmosis -- this is the way to go, since it cherry picks the best hits and album tracks to fill out two discs, enough to offer proof that even if Zeppelin were more versatile, Sabbath were the definitive heavy metal band, especially if you were only looking for power, volume, and strength. Nothing is missing here, at least nothing that the casual observer would know (and that's all that matters), and it all proves that not only did Sabbath define heavy, they still are the heaviest metal band ever -- nothing else sounds as oppressive as this. Yes, Paranoid and Vol. 4 and Master of Reality are cornerstones of the genre, but this captures the essence of the band, which may make it preferable to many listeners.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2