Black Sabbath

Past Lives

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Originally released in 1980 under the name Live at Last, this infamous live disc has never been heard in its entirety until its 2002 reissue. Where the original album suffered from flat sound and an abrupt ending, this has been remastered and remixed to give it the spacy vibe and airy sound it needs. Recorded at several different points in their career, this live disc is a psychedelic journey into the primal sludge of early heavy metal, warts and all. Wrong notes, tempo mistakes, meandering jams, and a stoned Ozzy Osbourne (he proudly admits this fact) may seem like detriments, but when paired with music this ugly it gives it an endearing urgency that keeps the album interesting. Black Sabbath plows through these songs like a tank, offering up a wall of grunge that has more in common with the Stooges than the technical hard rock being offered up by the band's contemporaries at the time. Tony Iommi is the star here, delivering blistering guitar work that is drenched in fuzz and sharp as a sword. Osbourne's performance is also quite respectable, channeling a venomous stream of angst and rage that seems uncharacteristic when compared to his solo career. But his attitude is a key element, pushing him to steer his voice way out of his given range out of sheer passion during several key moments. A terrible rendition of "Megalomania" (hindered by Ozzy's inability to stay in tune) is a jarring low point in an otherwise strong set, but overall this is an inspired performance that shows what an original and smart group Sabbath was at the time. Constantly growing and shaping itself through the first half of the '70s, this may be one of the last documents of Sabbath at its peak before the group began its downward spiral.

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