Eagle Rock Entertainment has issued a new “Classic Albums” documentary on Blu-ray, Black Sabbath: Paranoid. Sabbath’s second album, released in 1970, is put under the microscope. Early in their history, the band was reviled by many established rock critics. The tide has since turned, with Black Sabbath rightfully recognized as one of the most ground-breaking bands in rock music history. All but one of the album’s eight songs are examined in the documentary (the lone absentee, “Rat Salad,” is covered in the bonus material).
Insightful new interviews from the four original band members, Tony Iommi, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler, and Bill Ward, help tell the story of the making of Paranoid. Luckily for those new to the band their formative years are covered right at the outset, giving some context to the main focus of the documentary. Music critics and historians chime in throughout, ultimately giving a slight fanboy-ish tinge to the documentary. That’s really nothing new for the “Classic Albums” series, as they mostly focus on albums that have long been accepted as worthwhile. The point is, don’t come to this program looking for anything too contrarian.
As for presentation, the 1080i high definition video is serviceable. The new interview footage is crisp. Colors are natural and fairly vibrant. All the archival footage comes from a variety of sources, as with most documentaries the quality varies. Not that it’s a problem, as it can hardly be avoided with this type of program. The audio is presented in no-frills LPCM Stereo. Seeing as this isn’t a concert film, the lack of soundtrack options isn’t troubling. The bits and pieces of music that we hear sound fine. The majority of the program is talking head interviews, and the participants’ speech is free of distortion.
The running time listed on the Blu-ray case is 97 minutes, even though the main program is less than one hour. In a disingenuous maneuver, the back of the case also touts 42 minutes of additional footage. In other words, the 97 minutes include both the program and the bonus material. While this is unfortunately misleading, the bonus footage itself is quite valuable. There is an even greater examination of the Paranoid album, with studio demonstrations that isolate the various instrumental tracks in order to better hear how the music was recorded. Fans are likely to be thrilled with the wealth of extra information.
Black Sabbath: Paranoid follows the tried and true structure of previous documentaries in the “Classic Albums” series. As such, it tells the story of the classic Black Sabbath album, giving casual fans in particular a lot to sink their teeth into.