Review: Black Sabbath: Live Evil (Super Deluxe Edition)

Black Sabbath

Live Evil (Super Deluxe Edition) – BMG

Born from a time of tension in their ranks, Black Sabbath’s first official live album came cloaked in controversy. Tales of studio skulduggery and substance abuse hang over this set like a witch’s cowl, and such was the highly-charged atmosphere during the record’s production that drummer Vinny Appice abruptly departed during the mixing stage. Fortunately, such conditions can make for great art and the turmoil surrounding Live Evil certainly added spice to proceedings, and in doing so created the template for every live album that followed.

With the instrumental ‘E5150’ building a suitable suspense, the spell is suddenly shattered with a rabble-rousing ‘Neon Knights’, and never has a better opening couplet been conceived. It sets a dangerous precedent for the rest of the record, and the band rarely look back over 80 furious minutes. Those who had the honour of seeing Ronnie James Dio in the flesh will attest to just how hard he worked the stage, and that ethic seeps through every note of Live Evil. Even at this stage of his tenure in Sabbath, Dio was still viewed as an intruder for having the audacity to replace Ozzy, yet his performance here pours cold water on such notions, and his arrival certainly breathed new life into a band who were becoming stagnant. Tony Iommi in particular was galvanised by his arrival and unleashes lots of spiky solos, in addition to his trademark tombstone riffs. Split evenly between Dio and Ozzy material, Live Evil reads like a greatest hits album, only with the added oomph of that live magic, and subsequently the Satanic stomp of ‘N.I.B.’ sits next to the atmospheric ‘Children Of The Sea’ while the muscular ‘Iron Man’ tussles with the raucous ‘The Mob Rules’.

This Super Deluxe Edition of Live Evil takes the opportunity to right a few wrongs that blighted previous reissues. Firstly, prior releases made several edits (most notably Dio’s stage raps) to make the double album suitable for a single CD, the 40th Anniversary Remaster restores these, and makes for a more complete listen. Secondly, the crowd (eerily absent on the original album) plays a more prominent role on Wyn Davis’ 40th Anniversary Remix to provide an authentic live experience. Bolstered by replica tour programme and poster, along with a 40-page book, makes this the ultimate edition of the ultimate live album.

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Review by Peter Dennis