By: Jay Broderick - Although I came to be in 1971, I simply wasn't around when the album hit the streets on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The US release of Black Sabbath's second studio album came about 4 months after the record's official release in the UK and Europe in September 1970. It was on January 7, 1971 that the album was released over here, via Warner Bros, and is considered to not only be Black Sabbath's greatest recording, but it is also considered to be one of the greatest metal albums of all time.
At the time of this album's release, the hippie movement was starting its decline. Regardless of this, the music of the likes of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple must have been beyond anything ever imagined. Early Black Sabbath is heavy as hell. Even by today's standards, the music of the band's first 10 years stands the test of Heavy Metal time. So can you imagine what it was like when this shit first hit the airwaves? I for one, cannot even fathom society first hearing this stuff.
Let's take a trip back 53 years, and revisit this legendary album, and one of rock and roll's greatest bands of all time.
The album starts off with what is widely considered to be one of the greatest Black Sabbath songs of all time. A brooding, doom laden guitar, drums and bass come through the speakers. A war siren sounds in the background, and Ozzy Osbourne recites the opening lyrics to the anti-war track "War Pigs"...
Generals gathered in their masses
Just like witches at black masses
Evil minds that plot destruction
Sorcerer of death's construction
It's as synonymous, and iconic a lyric that heavy metal has ever heard. Even your unassuming, non-metal music fan will know this one. As the track progresses, a certain groove takes hold. The music is not overly complicated. In fact, it is fairly simplistic, but the arrangement, and the tempo is completely brilliant. There's a reason this is considered one of the band's greatest writings. As a bit of trivia, the US release titled the songs instrumental ending as "Luke's Wall" which did not appear on the UK release.
"Paranoid" comes in as track #2, and this is another song that ranks in the upper echelon of the Black Sabbath catalogue. It's one of the album's shorter songs, but the track immediately hooks you in with it's rhythm and distinct guitar riff. This was the album's first single, but was wrought with controversy due to the song's (seemingly) misheard lyric "I tell you to end your life, I wish I could, but it's too late". As has been described, the lyric actually is "I tell you to enjoy life". Where there can be no controversy, however, is that this is one of the band's greatest.
It's with the third track however, that I get completely enthralled. The lesser known, psychedelic mind-fuck of "Planet Caravan" is what raises the bar for me on this album. It's a departure from the band's typical sound thus far, including their full self-titled debut album. When you hear this one, you'll immediately feel like you are floating through space. Throw on some headphones, turn out the lights, and you'll immerse yourself in an experience that is quite unlike any other. As an added, 90s metal giants Pantera covered this one on their 1994 album Far Beyond Driven, and they completely nail it, staying true to the original.
Closing out the first side of Black Sabbath's second offering is actually the first song I ever heard from the band. My cousin first played "Iron Man" for me, and I instantly fell in love. It was one of the songs that transformed my musical genre of choice. The beat of the bass drum, the robotic opening line "I am Iron Man", and that classic Sabbath guitar sound makes the hair stand on your neck. At the time, the single was the band's highest ranking on the charts, and gained additional notoriety with the Marvel Movie release of the same name (although completely unrelated in any manner). The song ends, possibly the greatest side of any album, of any genre, of any time.
With the collection of songs that are comprised on Side 1, it would be a near impossibility to follow it up on side 2. So it's without doubt that I find the second side a little less appealing. And maybe that's unfair.
More brooding psychedelia as the opening track "Electric Funeral" kicks off. The track tells the tale of the horrors of nuclear holocaust. It's a subject that had completely terrified me as a kid, and the haunts of this track take me back to those fears. The music accompanies the lyrics perfectly, at least until the 2:17 mark, where the tempo picks up for a quick minute, before the doomy final minute and a half.
Another track about the horrors of war, and the torment that befall the surviving soldiers, in "Hand of Doom", and the instrumental "Rat Salad" are the 2nd and 3rd tracks on side 2, ahead of the album's final track. For my money, "Jack the Stripper/Fairies Wear Boots" is the best offering on the second side, and it's a killer way to close out this album. Like the US release's first song title, the last track included the "Jack the Stripper" format change for the US release only. Another track with some serious groove, amazing guitar riff and vocally superb, "Fairies Wear Boots" is another one of the tracks from this album that is ranked as one of the band's greatest ever.
For me, Side 2 of Paranoid makes this release a little less appealing to me than the band's debut record (which I think is one of the Top 10 Best Metal Albums of All Time), but that is purely personal opinion. Paranoid is considered one of metal's greatest albums of all time by many, and its place is music history is undebatable. Even after more than half a century, the music contained herein is regarded as some of the best of all time, and not just within the genre it sits.
A literal TON of bands have covered songs off of Black Sabbath's second full length release. It highlights the love for this band's music, on this particular album within the music industry.
War Pigs - Luke's Wall
Hand Of Doom
Jack The Stripper - Fairies Wear Boots
release date: January 7, 1971
Black Sabbath Online
You got a favourite track on this classic album? Share a comment below!