Review Summary: Sabbath + Ian Gillan turns out to be a recipe for disaster.
Some good and some bad new followed in the wake of Black Sabbath’s tenth album Mob Rules
. The bad news was that vocalist Ronnie James Dio, the tiny man with the tall voice, who had replaced Ozzy Osbourne following his inevitable firing from the group, would quit. Dio had been accused of sneaking into the studio in order to raise the volume of his vocals on Live Evil
, the live album record on the Mob Rules
tour, by Iommi and Butler. He, on his part, found that he didn’t have enough say in the group, being a full member for a few years now. He flew off and took drummer Vinny Appice with him to for his own band Dio
and recorded the very successful metal classic Holy Diver
. The good news was that when the drummer spot re-opened, original Sabbath member Bill Ward returned to the front, and Sabbath was closer to its original shape.
In search of a third vocalist, the band were turned down by some, including David Coverdale, before eventually settling on ex-Deep Purple
vocalist Ian Gillan. While the combination of one of the vocal gods of 70’s hard rock with the famous riffs of Sabbath might have seemed an admirable formation, the question was really whether this would all work. And let’s be clear about it: it clearly did not. Gillan is used to the traditional bluesy nature of rock and fitted perfectly with Deep Purple, but where Dio was also very different from Osbourne, Ian just isn’t the right man for the job. To start with, he’s not in his best shape: the early 70’s were his absolute prime, as can be heard on everything Mk. II Deep Purple did, but this is 1983 we’re talking about. (‘I mean, we all loved Child in Time, but I’m afraid you DID ruin your voice a bit by all that screaming, Ian.’
) This is not by any means the main issue here though. Born Again
tries to sound ominous and scary like Sabbath’s earlier work, but tried just a bit too hard. Gillan is still a good screamer at this point, but when trying to do scary-sounding ones in order to fit in with Sabbath's themes (e.g. Disturbing the Priest
), he just falls flat.
So no, Gillan and Sabbath is not the most brilliant of combinations, and it’s not the singer’s fault, because he is trying most definitely. It’s not the chemistry that’s Born Again
’s only problem. Iommi and company are far from their most inspired, and the classic doom riffs that used to make Sabbath so powerful are completely gone. Iommi’s guitar sounds unpleasantly high-pitched, and is more annoying than helpful (which is a disaster, considering he IS Black Sabbath, whichever way you turn it). Butler doesn’t exactly make his presence known like we have come to expect from him, and Ward is not up to his usual game either (not very surprising, as he had always been an alcoholic and had to quit because of this, again, after this album). The songwriting is incredibly stale, and none of the tracks here are particularly memorable. On top of that, the production is downright awful. Everything sounds incredibly unclear and muddled, and that’s not something this album can have next to the truckload of issues it already carries.
If you can look through the fact that Gillan just doesn’t work with Sabbath, the production is awful, the players are uninspired and none of the tracks are actually memorable in any way whatsoever, I suppose you could like this. Among the worst things Sabbath has ever done. Born Again
is the first stain on the group’s legacy, which probably just should have disbanded after Mob Rules
. Because truly, even though some post-Dio-era records were quite decent, nothing they did afterwards came even close to that before it. As for this: avoid at all costs.
Born Again’s Black Sabbath was:
- Frank Anthony ‘Tony’ Iommi ~ Lead Guitar, Flute
- Ian Gillan ~ Vocals
- Terrence Michael Joseph ‘Geezer’ Butler ~ Bass Guitar
- William Thomas ‘Bill’ Ward ~ Drums
- Geoff Nicholls ~ Keyboards
TO BE CONTINUED…