With 1976's Technical Ecstasy, influential heavy act Black Sabbath moved even further away from their bludgeoning roots and continue on with their diverse array of sounds & styles that began with Vol. 4 and permeated much of Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage. With Technical Ecstasy however, the band went out even further into left field, creating an album that still contains some classic songs but saw them starting to show the cracks of the relentless touring and unending substance abuse.
Opening up with the hard rocking and quite groove laden "Back Street Kids", it appears that Sabbath were still up to their normal tricks, but there's somewhat of a clean sheen to this piece that seems far removed from their early material. "You Won't Change Me" however is a gloomy, doomy, somewhat prog/psych styled number that easily fits in with the bands adventurous, occult styled classics, and one of the highlights here. Bill Ward not only penned the pop/folk tune "It's Alright" but was allowed to sing lead vocals, and it's one of the major departures for the band yet still an endearing, lovable song. "Gypsy" rumbles along with some crunchy Iommi riffing and Ozzy's high pitched wail, another strong piece here but again missing that dark, menacing heaviness of the bands prior material. Another somewhat change of pace is the upbeat "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)", a mix of heavy rock and prog with a neat middle section that reminds of Deep Purple and plenty of fiery Iommi lead guitar. The band's tribute to their drug dealer, "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor" (apparently the same doctor that fed Elvis his daily intake), takes a more late '70s hard rock/blues stance, a slightly generic number that Ozzy basically morphed into "No Bone Movies" a few years later with his Blizzard of Oz band. Some nice Bill Ward cowbell however, and honky tonk piano courtesy of Gerald Woodruffe. The band dives into ominous yet quite lush prog/classic on the spooky "She's Gone", which features tender acoustic guitar, strings, and Ozzy's passionate vocals, which leads into the albums finale and true powerhouse, "Dirty Women". There's a reason this is the only track from the album that the band still plays live, as it's a moody, complex rocker with plenty of crushing riffs, evil Ozzy vocals, twists & turns galore, intricate rhythms, and a wild Iommi solo to close things out.
As the second to last reissue in the initial era of the band remaster series, Technical Ecstasy sounds crystal clear thanks to the remastering by Andy Pearce and Matt Wortham. The digipack includes a booklet complete with original artwork (the iconic Hipgnosis robot sex!), live & promo photographs of the band, and an essay on the album with commentary from the band. While it might not be one of the upper echelon of releases from the original line-up, there's are still a host of splendid songs here that have stood the test of time, and you have to give the band credit for really taking a chance with much of the material here. Next up, the 1970s finale...Never Say Die.
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1) Back Street Kids
2) You Won't Change Me
3) It's Alright
5) All Moving Parts (Stand Still)
6) Rock 'n' Roll Doctor
7) She's Gone
8) Dirty Women