Paranoid by Black Sabbath
Well the grand re-listening project didn’t get off to a terrific start because halfway through the first album on the list, I fell asleep. The next day, with excited thoughts about Judas Priest’s ‘Unleashed In The East’ in my head it was difficult to bring myself to put aside the recently received live album and actually listen to Paranoid, having to wait until Priest had finished ‘The Ripper,’ before I could tear myself away.
When I finally got around to Paranoid (while being awake enough to take it in) I realised there was alot of stuff I would have to shake off to be able to get a good clear opinion on this album.
Originally I had just thought I’ll have to get rid of the ‘its classic,’ public opinion, but after a few bars I realised I also had to hear this away from all the documentaries, live performances and cover versions. Its difficult to even hear ‘War Pigs,’ or ‘Electric Funeral,’ because I hear Sacred Reich or Pantera’s version in my brain at the same time, I hear the voice overs of interviews on their ‘The Last Supper,’ DVD at the same time and my brain plays me some superior amalgamation of every version I’ve ever heard multiplied by optimism.
After finally learning to hear the music that was coming out of the speakers as it actually was and not manipulated by a dozen prior decisions and associations I found the album to be very good. It really surprised me just how much Clutch and Kyuss I could hear on the album, especially on ‘Hand of Doom,’ for while I always knew that Stoner bands (I can’t be bothered qualifying that with exceptions and a list of sub genres) sounded Sabbath-y; I guess I never really heard Sabbath sound like them, if you follow.
What also surprised me is that the album sounds great. I am by no means a classic rock snob and completely reject the idea that old stuff ‘sounds better,’ for the most part. That being said, once ‘Iron Man,’ or ‘Hand of Doom,’ really get going they just sound brilliant, there is just something fantastic about the spaces between the instruments, the way all the bassy music links together and the bizarre tom sound is so enjoyable. It really is easy to see why whole genres sprang up around trying to be a bit like this era of the band’s career.
Also worth mentioning is that I have a particular personality flaw that makes me dismiss a band’s more famous material once I get into them properly and so Paranoid, which consisted almost exclusively of these big anthemic songs was always destined to be one of my least listened to Black Sabbath albums. Actually listening to ‘Paranoid,’ ‘Iron Man,’ ‘War Pigs,’ and ‘Planet Caravan,’ without skipping them and feeling like I’d heard them too often before was great. What a great collection of songs, seriously.
Of the songs I’m less familiar with: ‘Rat Salad,’ I may as well have never heard before, with its high pitched jazzy soloing and general interesting and fresh sound isn’t something I associate with the first five Black Sabbath albums at all, and ‘Fairies Wear Boots,’ is just brilliant, with its swinging main riff, climactic ending and Led Zeppelin style vocal production making Ozzy sound so Bluesy and 1920s its hard to square with his current output in my mind.
To summarise, this first re-listening was pretty informative as well as entertaining, having completely changed my opinion of the album entirely. I hope the majority of the albums will be as refreshing and blow out my preconceptions in the same way, leaving me finally rid of this problem I have with what I would previously insist were over famous songs and albums.
PS. If I’ve mentioned ‘Hand of Doom,’ alot it is because that song has moved from me barely remembering it to it being my favourite Ozzy era Sabbath song on the basis of this re-listening.