ALBUM REVIEWS: Black Sabbath Reissues – Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules

Photo credit: Mark Weiss with permission

Photo credit: Mark Weiss with permission

When Ronnie James Dio joined metal legends Black Sabbath in 1980 the former Rainbow frontman’s appointment couldn’t have come at a better time. Sabbath were a sinking ship. A drowning vessel from which enigmatic frontman Ozzy Osbourne had been trying to escape for some time. However, even though it was painfully clear that new blood had to be added to halt the band’s alarming deterioration the hostility that greeted Dio from some corners was quite shocking.

Replacing songs about war, politics and drugs with rainbows, magic and wizard’s sleeves, many saw the diminutive frontman as completely the wrong fit. A stance that a few still hold even after all this time. However, over the coming years, something curious happened. Even though Dio’s output only amounted to a couple of studio albums, a handful of singles and a live record released after his departure, his two full length studio releases went on to become the only serious challengers to Sabbath’s untouchable first six records. Indeed, fans to this day still argue over whether Dio’s contributions are as good as, if not better than some of those.

Although it would eventually lose out in sales to Ozzy’s solo debut Blizzard of Ozz (Epic) released later that year, Heaven and Hell (Warner/Vertigo) still made a huge impact on the scene. Aided by future Iron Maiden producer Martin Birch, Dio’s more dynamic approach was in complete contrast to Ozzy’s flat but brilliantly unique delivery and songs like ‘Neon Knights’, ‘Children of the Sea’ and the epic title track would go on to feature in Sabbath’s sets for decades. With the noticeable absence of any filler material, underrated classics such as ‘Die Young’, ‘Lady Evil’, and ‘Wishing Well’ still stand up today. Featuring a host of bonus material such as live versions of ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘Heaven and Hell’, this latest remaster also includes the 7” mono edit of ‘Lady Evil’ and live performances from The Hartford Civic Center in 1980 and the Hammersmith Odeon in 1982.



Released in 1981, Mob Rules (Warner/Vertigo) lived up to the promise of its predecessor even though by now it was only Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi serving as the original beating heart of Sabbath, drummer Bill Ward having been replaced by New Yorker Vinny Appice. Classic riffs come thick and fast on the likes of ‘The Sign of the Southern Cross’, ‘Voodoo’, ‘Turn Up The Night’, the title track and ‘Country Girl’, making Mob Rules another essential Sabbath release. Bonus material on this remastered version features alternative mixes of ‘The Mob Rules’, more live material and an entertaining live show from the Portland Memorial Coliseum in 1982 which certainly appears to have been recorded while the band were under the influence of something other than good vibes.

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