08-10 Tony Iommi cancer update
01-14 Black Sabbath's farewell gift
12-10 Black Sabbath Cancel New Album
06-19 Black Sabbath plan reissue
09-29 New Black Sabbath album

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Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath have been so influential in the development of heavy metal rock music as to be a defining force in the style.The group tooktheblues-rock sound of late-'60s acts like Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge to its logical conclusion,slowing the tempo, accentuating thebass,andemphasizing screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of lyrics expressingmental anguish and macabre fantasies. If theirpredecessorsclearlycame out of an electrified blues tradition, Black Sabbathtook that tradition in a new direction, and in so doing helped givebirth to amusical style thatcontinued to at more

Black Sabbath have been so influential in the development of heavy metal rock music as to be a defining force in the style.The group tooktheblues-rock sound of late-'60s acts like Cream, Blue Cheer, and Vanilla Fudge to its logical conclusion,slowing the tempo, accentuating thebass,andemphasizing screaming guitar solos and howled vocals full of lyrics expressingmental anguish and macabre fantasies. If theirpredecessorsclearlycame out of an electrified blues tradition, Black Sabbathtook that tradition in a new direction, and in so doing helped givebirth to amusical style thatcontinued to attract millions offans decades later.

The group was formed by four teenage friends from Aston, near Birmingham, England: Anthony "Tony" Iommi (b. Feb 19,1948), guitar;William"Bill"Ward (b. May 5, 1948), drums; John "Ozzy" Osbourne (b. December 3, 1948), vocals; and Terence"Geezer" Butler (b. July 17,1949), bass.Theyoriginally called their jazz-blues band Polka Tulk, later renaming themselvesEarth, and they played extensively in Europe. Inearly 1969,they decidedto change their name again when they found thatthey were being mistaken for another group called Earth. Butler hadwritten asong that took its titlefrom a film directed byMario Bava, Black Sabbath, and the group adopted it as their name as well. As theyattractedattention for theirliveperformances, record labels showed interest, and they were signed to Philips Records in 1969. In January 1970,thePhilipssubsidiary Fontanareleased their debut single, "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Games with Me)," a cover of a song that hadjustbecome aU.S. hit for Crow; it did not chart.The following month, a different Philips subsidiary, Vertigo, released BlackSabbath's self. titleddebut album,which reached the U.K. Top Ten. Though itwas a less immediate success in the U.S. --where the band's recordings were licensedto Warner Bros.Records and appeared in May 1970 -- the LPbroke into theAmerican charts in August, reaching the Top 40, remaining in thecharts over a year,and selling a million copies.

Appearing at the start of the '70s, Black Sabbath embodied the Balkanization of popular music that followed the relativelyhomogenoussecondhalf ofthe 1960s. As exemplified by its most popular act, the Beatles, the '60s suggested that manydifferent aspects of popular musiccould beintegrated intoan eclectic style with a broad appeal. the Beatles were as likely toperform an acoustic ballad as a hard rocker or R&B-influencedtune. At the start ofthe '70s, however, those styles began tobecome more discrete for new artists, with soft rockers like JamesTaylor and theCarpenters emerging to playonly balladmaterial, and hard rockers like Led Zeppelin and Grand Funk Railroad taking a radicallydifferent course,while R&B musicturned increasinglymilitant. The first wave of rock critics, which had come into existence with the Beatles,was dismayedwiththis development, and the new acts tendedto be poorly reviewed despite their popularity. Black Sabbath, which took anevenmore extreme tackthan the still blues- and folk-based Led Zeppelin,was lambasted by critics (and though theyeventually made their peacewith Zeppelin, theynever did with Sabbath). But the band had discovered anew audience eagerfor its uncompromising approach.

Black Sabbath quickly followed their debut album with a second album, Paranoid, in September 1970. The title track, releasedas a singleinadvance ofthe LP, hit the Top Five in the U.K., and the album went to number one there. In the U.S., wherethe first album had just begun tosell,Paranoid washeld up for release until January 1971, again preceded by the title track,which made the singles charts in November; thealbumbroke into the Top Tenin March 1971 and remained in the charts overa year, eventually selling over four million copies, by far theband's best-selling effort. (Its sales werestimulated by thebelated release of one of its tracks, "Iron Man," as a U.S. single in early 1972; the45 got almosthalfway up the charts, theband'sbest showing for an American single..

Master of Reality, the third album, followed in August 1971, reaching the Top Ten on both sides of the Atlantic and sellingover a millioncopies.BlackSabbath, Vol. 4 (September 1972) was another Top Ten million-seller. For Sabbath BloodySabbath (November 1973), the bandbrought inYeskeyboard player Rick Wakeman on one track, signaling a slight change inmusical direction; it was Black Sabbath's fifth straightTop Ten hitand million-seller. In 1974, the group went throughmanagerial disputes that idled them for an extended period. When theyreturned to action inJuly 1975 withtheir sixth album,Sabotage, they were welcomed back at home, but in the U.S. the musical climate hadchanged, making thingsmore difficultfor analbum-oriented band with a heavy style, and though the LP reached the Top 20, it did not matchprevious sales levels.BlackSabbath's record labelsquickly responded with a million-selling double-LP compilation, We Sold Our Soul for Rock'n' Roll(December 1975), andthe band contemplated a morepronounced change of musical style. This brought about disagreement,withguitarist Iommi wanting to addelements to the sound, including horns, andsinger Osbourne resisting any variation in theformula. TechnicalEcstasy (October 1976), whichadopted some of Iommi's innovations, was anothergood -- but not great -- seller, and Osbourne's frustrationeventually led to his quitting theband in November 1977. He was replaced for somelivedates by former Savoy Brown singer Dave Walker,then returned in January 1978. BlackSabbath recorded their eighth album,Never Say Die!(September 1978), the title track becoming a U.K.Top 40 hit before the LP's release and"Hard Road" makingthe Top 40 afterwards. But the singlesdid not improve the album's commercialsuccess, which was again modest,andOsbourne left Black Sabbath for a solo career, replaced in June 1979 byformer Rainbow singer RonnieJames Dio (b. July 10,1949, d. May 16,2010). (Also during this period, keyboardist Geoff Nichols became a regular partof the band'sperformingand recording efforts, though he was notofficially considered a bandmember until later..

The new lineup took its time getting into the recording studio, not releasing its first effort until April 1980 with Heaven andHell. The resultwasacommercial resurgence. In the U.S., the album was a million-seller; in Britain, it was a Top Ten hit thatthrew off two chart singles,"NeonKnights"and "Die Young." (At the same time, the band's former British record label issued afive-year old concert album, Black SabbathLive atLast, that wasquickly withdrawn, though not before making the U.K. TopFive, and reissued "Paranoid" as a single, getting it into theTop 20.)Meanwhile, drummerBill Ward left Black Sabbath due toill health and was replaced by Vinny Appice. The lineup of Iommi, Butler, Dio,and Appicethen recorded Mob Rules(November1981), which was almost as successful as its predecessor: In the U.S., it went gold, and in theU.K. itreached the Top 20and spawned twochart singles, the title track and "Turn Up the Night." Next on the schedule was a concert album,butIommiand Dio clashed over the mixing of it, andby the time Live Evil appeared in January 1983, Dio had left Black Sabbath, takingAppicewithhim.

The group reorganized by persuading original drummer Bill Ward to return and, in a move that surprised heavy metal fans,recruiting IanGillan(b.August 19, 1945), former lead singer of Black Sabbath rivals Deep Purple. This lineup -- Iommi, Butler,Ward, and Gillan -- recordedBornAgain,released in September 1983. Black Sabbath hit the road prior to the album's release,with drummer Bev Bevan (b. November25,1946)substituting for Ward, who would return to the band in the spring of 1984.The album was a Top Five hit in the U.K. but only made theTop 40inthe U.S. Gillan remained with Black Sabbath until March1984, when he joined a Deep Purple reunion and was replaced by singerDave Donato,whowas in the band until Octoberwithout being featured on any of its recordings.

Black Sabbath reunited with Ozzy Osbourne for its set at the Live Aid concert on July 13, 1985, but soon after theperformance, bassistGeezerButlerleft the band, and with that the group became guitarist Tony Iommi's vehicle, a factemphasized by the next album, SeventhStar, releasedin January1986 and credited to "Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi."On this release, the lineup was Iommi (guitar); anotherformer DeepPurple singer, GlennHughes (b. August 21, 1952)(vocals); Dave Spitz (bass); Geoff Nichols (keyboards); and Eric Singer (drums).The albumwas a modestcommercialsuccess, but the new band began to fragment immediately, with Hughes replaced by singer Ray Gillen forthepromotional tourin March1986.

With Black Sabbath now consisting of Iommi and his employees, personnel changes were rapid. The Eternal Idol (November1987), whichfailedtocrack the U.K. Top 50 or the U.S. Top 100, featured a returning Bev Bevan, bassist Bob Daisley, andsinger Tony Martin. Bevan andDaisleydidn'tstay long, and there were several replacements in the bass and drum positionsover the next couple of years. Headless Cross(April 1989),theband's first album for I.R.S. Records, found veteran drummerCozy Powell (b. December 29, 1947, d. April 5, 1998) andbassist LaurenceCottlejoining Iommi and Martin. It marked a slightuptick in Black Sabbath's fortunes at home, with the title song managing aweek in thesinglescharts. Shortly after itsrelease, Cottle was replaced by bassist Neil Murray. With Geoff Nichols back on keyboards, thislineup madeTYR(August1990), which charted in the Top 40 in the U.K. but became Black Sabbath's first regular album to miss the U.S. charts.

Iommi was able to reunite the 1979-1983 lineup of the band -- himself, Geezer Butler, Ronnie James Dio, and Vinny Appice -. forDehumanizer(June1992), which brought Black Sabbath back into the American Top 50 for the first time in nine years,while in the U.K. thealbum spawned "TVCrimes,"their first Top 40 hit in a decade. And on November 15, 1992, Iommi, Butler,and Appice backed Ozzy Osbourne aspart of what wasbilled as thesinger's final live appearance. Shortly after, it wasannounced that Osbourne would be rejoining Black Sabbath.

That didn't happen -- yet. Instead, Dio and Appice left again, and Iommi replaced them by bringing back Tony Martin andaddingdrummerBobRondinelli. Cross Purposes (February 1994) was a modest seller, and, with Iommi apparently maintaining aRolodex of all formermembersfromwhich to pick and choose, the next album, Forbidden (June 1995), featured returningmusicians Cozy Powell, Geoff Nichols, andNeil Murray,alongwith Iommi and Martin. The disc spent only one week in theBritish charts, suggesting that Black Sabbath finally hadexhausted theircommercialappeal, at least as a record seller. Withthat, the group followed the lead of the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac, puttingthe most popular lineupof theband backtogether for a live album with a couple of new studio tracks on it. Recorded in the band's hometown ofBirmingham,England,inDecember 1997, the two-CD set Reunion -- featuring all four of Black Sabbath's original members, Iommi, Osbourne,Butler,and Ward --wasreleased in October 1998. It charted only briefly in the U.K., but in the U.S. it just missed reaching the TopTen andwent platinum. The track"IronMan" won Black Sabbath their first Grammy Award for Best Metal Performance. Theband toured through the endof 1999, concluding theirreunion touron December 22, 1999, back in Birmingham.

In February 2001, Black Sabbath announced that they would reunite once again to headline the sixth edition of Ozzfest,Osbourne'ssummerconcertfestival, playing 29 cities in the U.S. beginning in June. More surprisingly, the group alsoannounced their intention to record astudioalbum of all-newmaterial, the original lineup's first since 1978. By the end of theyear, a failed recording session with producer RickRubin provedwhat an unreasonableidea this was, and the band laiddormant while Osbourne enjoyed scoring a hit TV series the followingspring. The band splitonce more. Osbourne wentonrecording and touring on his own, while the Iommi and Butler reunited with Vinny Appiceand Ronnie James Dio toform Heaven& Hell. The bandrecorded a live album at Radio City Music Hall, performing Sabbath material from theHeaven and Hell andMobRules albums in 2007, before releasinga studio effort entitled Devil You Know in 2009. Dio was diagnosed withcancerand passed away in 2010that year.

In late 2011, all four of Black Sabbath's original members announced yet another reunion; this time they claimed the bandwould recordnewmaterialas well as tour. Iommi was diagnosed with early-stage lymphoma early in 2012, however, and itwas spring before Osbourne,Iommi, andButler tookthe stage on May 19th at O2 Academy in Birmingham, England for theirfirst show together since 2005. At the end of thesummer itwas announcedthat the band was indeed in the study workingon material for a new album. The long-awaited "13" surfaced in theearly summerof 2013; however,drummer Bill Ward wasabsent from the recording process completely. In his stead was Rage Against theMachine drummerBrad Wilk, whoprovideddrums for the album as well as its accompanying live dates. « hide

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