"Are you high? Are you high? So am I!"
So yowls everybody's favorite TV dad, Ozzy Osbourne, before launching into "Hole in the Sky," a psychedelic boogy from Sabbath's Sabotage platter.
A fascinating live retrospective culling material from Sabbath gigs of the 70s, Past Lives proves beyond any doubt that the Sabs created heavy metal. Anybody fortunate enough to have caught their 1998-99 Reunion tour, yet too young to have attended these vintage shows will be amazed at the difference a quarter century makes.
The much younger foursome from Birhingham, captured on tape during a window of lucidity before substance abuse and insanity dissolved the band's original lineup in 1978, slam through classic numbers like "Black Sabbath," "War Pigs," "Sweet Leaf," "Iron Man," etc., showing that side of the band destined to later reinvent punk as much as forge metal. The recent tour found the lads tighter and doomier than ever, even slowing down the unbearably heavy stuff like "Electric Funeral" (not included on this 2-CD set)-- whereas Past Lives sounds like sonic rocket fuel.
Though the production on these discs couldn't be sharper, it also highlights some performance flaws (good for the Sabs that they're willing to show the warts too!) Tony Iommi's guitar needs tuning on the loooong semi-acoustic intro to "Black Sabbath," while the manic Ozzman fluffs lines, repeats verses and hits a few sour notes. Not that these goofs make much of a difference when you consider the extrordinary power of the performances -- "Symptom of the Universe," with its monster riff and Geezer Butler's bass filling the pocket like geometry, couldn't be finer; and Bill Ward makes like the powerhouse drummer he truly is.
Liner notes by Bruce Pilato shed light on the band's history and the story behind the songs -- in one of the neater anecdotes, he reveals how the all-time rock radio standard "Paranoid" was penned in 20 minutes as album filler!
Sanctuary deserves a medal for this outstanding package -- a must-have for any serious fan.