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DVD Review: Black Sabbath – Paranoid (Classic Albums Series)

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Eagle Rock Entertainment continues their impeccable track record for finding new ways for music fan boys to praise their idols with their latest release in the Classic Album DVD series, the making of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.

Despite the focus on the “Heaven and Hell” lineup of Black Sabbath (Ronnie, not Ozzy) who have been covered extensively in recent years, all four original members participated in this very well produced show, which includes in-depth interviews that go much further into the lore of the pioneering heavy band than the usual magazine fare.

Following a historical line to Sabbath’s surprising rise in 1970-’71, their first, and self-titled album’s resonance and importance is glossed over on the DVD. The told tales here focus of the solidity and formation of their sound with the making of Paranoid, their second full length release.

The nuggets are plentiful and at times revelatory, perhaps even for the band’s devoted faithful. Ozzy Osbourne, from the sharp end of his familiar mumble, explains his super simple secret to coming up with such memorable vocal melodies: “If I couldn’t come up with a melody to what Tony had, I’d sing the riff.”

Guitarist Tony Iommi explains how after a depressing period following the on-the-job accident that cut off the tips of his two middle fingers, it was his boss who pestered him to keep playing by giving him a Django Reinhardt album for inspiration. Reinhardt was a famous jazz guitar virtuoso from the 1930s who rose to prominence despite having a mangled hand.

Discussing his lyrical exploration and influence, bassist Geezer Butler corrects critics and historians of the band who deemed the songs satanic by explaining, “I was into learning about the astral plane. It was all about the future of the world. I was really into pollution. There were a lot of things going wrong in the world and nobody was saying anything about it.”

Yes, Black Sabbath wrote protest music. Despite its ominous tonal qualities and overall heaviness, Paranoid was basically a science fictionalized anti-war album. These songs, discussed and dissected in well produced fashion, may force a fan to listen with new ears to the lyrics to tracks like the classic “War Pigs,” yes, but to also shine new light on the nearly 40-year-old deep cuts “Hand of Doom” and “Electric Funeral.”

From first manager Jim Simpson, we learn how through tedious early gigs contracted for an exhausting eight sets at 45 minutes each, songs for the second album were built from portions of long jams that the band had to stretch out to fill up the time. The album is discussed track by track, with a fantastic bonus of original studio engineer Tom Allom, who is once again in the studio and equipped with the original masters. He includes his candid input as well as bringing up highlighted portions of the song being examined while raising the faders of the mixing board.

Another stunning highlight from the DVD are the intimate performances from the musicians, playing along with their respective parts from the tracks, and discussing their architecture and origins. The viewer may get the feeling that Tony, Geezer or drummer Bill Ward are answering a one-on-one request to play a part from their favorite track while chatting together in a quiet, well-lit room.

These special requests and many more are granted with this DVD release, a must have for any Sabbath fan, or for anyone interested in learning how an album is born from ideas and grows to be an indelible classic.

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