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Top 100 Hard Rock Groups

By James West,

#2 Black Sabbath


Ozzy is God!!! Ok, maybe not a God, but Iron Man, he is definitely Iron Man! Well, wait a minute... isn't Tony Iommi Iron Man? Well, whatever Ozzy is, it's hard to believe The Oz-Man has survived over 75 years on the planet that he named his first band after- Earth!

As great as Mr. Osbourne is he is only a quarter of equals who make Black Sabbath the Second Greatest Hard Rock Group of all time, behind only the mighty Zeppelin. Much as been said about how "The Godfathers of Metal" came upon their unique sound thanks to an unlikely accident to Riff-God Tony Iommi.  An accident that gave birth to dozens of genres.


The Secret Lies Within The Riff-God!

Dark Metal, Death Metal, Stoner Rock... The list goes on.  But it's not just a de-tuned sound that makes Sabbath so influential in Hard Rock and Heavy Metal.  The secret lies within the Riff-God himself, Mr. Iommi!  If you were ever blessed to have witnessed the mighty Sabbath in concert you will know what I'm talking about.  Hundreds, even thousands of people all humming and singing along in unison, not to lyrics, but to Tony's riffs!

I remember my friend Leslie and I were just getting into heavy rock, and for some reason, there was another younger kid down the block who had a "Master Of Reality" album.  It was probably his dads or his older sisters.  Ok, on second thought, probably definitely his dads! Chic's don't dig Sabbath! Ha!  Anyway, I wasn't sure what it was going to take to get this slab of Sabbath from the little brat.  I sure wasn't giving up any Kiss or Aerosmith for it, and Leslie wasn't for sure giving up anything.  Hey, what are friends for anyway? So, instead of quality we went with quantity and offered him some old Chicago, Three Dog Night and Bee Gee records my Mom had given me.  Success! I couldn't understand why he would give up an actual Sabbath album for all those "weak" bands! And then I played the album for the first time...


What we heard next blew our minds... but not in a good way!  I swear it sounded like the album was recorded in a toilet bowl or something - and probably by people smoking a bowl of weed at the same time! Lol


The sound was dark, thuddering, and the tempo was all slowed down in speed.  I literally thought something was wrong with the record player.  Did I have it on the right setting?  Maybe putting it to "45" would make it sound better.  Nope, now it sounded like a bunch of chipmunks, Hey Alvin!!!  As was the case with Led Zeppelin's Light and Shade, it would take me a few years to really get a grasp of the "Stoner Sound" of Sabbath. 


In high school I picked up the 8-track of "We Sold Our Souls For Rock And Roll" and reconnected with that familiar toilet bowl sound again.  This time out my mind was blown again, but in a very positive way, as those Iommi riffs were like peanut butter to my ear jelly.  Plus, I didn't need to be stoned to get the munchies for this type of music!

We should call ourselves Black Sabbath!

The contract was impossible to sign!

Then In the 90's I scarfed up every Sabbath CD I could find and was surprised at how well the digital age enhanced that "toilet bowl" sound.  I could then realize that it wasn't just the Ozzy and Iommi show.  Geezer Butler is probably the greatest lyricist in Rock, and his playful bass lines help keep Tony's guitar riffs moving forward.  I also now appreciate how great a drummer Bill Ward is.  For such a dark and gloomy rock band, Bill had a certain "swing" feel in his drumming that was the bread to keep all these incredible talents together.

The older I get the more I can relate to the Soul of Sabbath.  I would gladly stick my head in any toilet to hear the original Iron Men play again...


Sabbath Dio Sabbath!


When Black Sabbath is mentioned I always initially think of the original with Ozzy, Toni, Geezer, and Bill onstage storming through my favorite Sabbath song Sabbath Bloody Sabbath!  But then in a blink of an eye I then automatically go to Dio with the band and picture him with horns in the air leading them through my second favorite Sabbath song Children Of The Sea!  Is this blasphemy?  Did I sell my soul for a double dose of Rock and Roll?  Of course every metalhead has his preference; and to me it's a total toss up!  I love both versions of the band, but I can do without other incarnations of the band that included, among others,  Ian Gillan and Tony Martin.  There is just no comparison to the perfect combinations with Ozzy and Dio.

Dio had the ability to scare the living hell out of you with one sentence, and then he could also bring you to tears with the next.  It truly was Heaven and Hell in the form a singer, and there has never been another vocalist to even come close to delivering this technique better  than Mr. Ronnie James Dio!  Of course the King Of Riffs Toni Iommi played they hell out of everything he touched with both vocalists, but with Dio he brought more feeling into his solos, especially on masterpieces like Over and Over and Lonely Is The Word.  They say that feeling comes from the fingertips in guitar playing, so I guess in Iommi's case it must come straight from his soul instead!


I was extremely saddened to hear of the passing of Ronnie James Dio in 2010.  I know there have been several losses in the Rock and Metal scene the last few years, but the loss of Dio has affected me more than all the others combined.  What a tremendous emptiness in music right now...  To top it off now Black Sabbath is no more also.  It will be great to hear Ozzy singing his solo stuff once again with Zakk Wylde shredding on guitar, but it just won't be the same without the Mighty Metal God Tony Iommi delivering the Doom and Gloom every Rocker craves!

Best Black Sabbath Albums

This cool photo of the mighty Black Sabbath was taken by my wife Danette, The Rocker Chic, during Sabbath's "Reunion" tour in Las Vegas as part of my 50th birthday celebration.  

Here we go again!  I couldn't decide which singer was better, how am I  going to decide which album is the best?  Well, the issue has to be resolved, and I'll be your huckleberry! lol

First place has to go to the album Paranoid!  Between the title song, Hand Of Doom and the cool-ass Planet Caravan you can't go wrong as every song is killer on this one.  Second place has to go to Master Of Reality!  Yes, despite the 'toilet-bowl' sound that takes some getting used to this album is a non-stop riff-fest with songs like Lord Of This World and After Forever.  Third place belongs to Heaven and Hell with Dio.  Children Of The Sea, Die Young, and Lonely Is The Word are some of the best crafted songs, both lyrically and musically, ever put down on vinyl.  As far as the rest of the list goes; you'll have to stay tuned for a future story altogether! 

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