Review Summary: The humble beginnings of a Rock ‘n’ Roll juggernaut.
It was just a few days before Sabbath’s new album would become available online, when I discovered these very early recordings. Dating back to 1969, these songs were recorded during a transitional period when the band’s name was still Earth. So, for all of you who are interested in Sabbath’s backstory, this offer is intriguing to say the least.
Regarding these early recordings, Tony Iommi said:
We didn't write those songs. They were written by a chap named Norman Haines. At the time we were managed by Jim Simpson, who was a local Birmingham guy. He insisted that we record these songs. We just wanted to play, so we recorded them. We wanted to write our own songs and make our own record, but this was just an initial effort. We had never been in a recording studio in our lives before that
So these demos are indeed Black Sabbath’s baby steps. Their very first attempt at becoming a studio band. Seeing that this work is not a result from a band who has set their goals, do not expect the doomy ‘n’ gloomy kind of music that followed just a few months later. Even if there are some foreshadowing elements, the overall feeling is that you’re listening to a typical 60’s British Rock band. If we put aside Thomas Jane
, (I will make a reference in just a few lines), the rest of the recordings sound happy, naïve and really cheesy for a band that, only a few months later, forged the noisy and loud Heavy Metal genre.
Apart from Tony Iommi, who’s lead guitar playing really steals the spotlight, Butler and Ward seem to be confined. Ozzy’s voice is surprisingly good in these demos. His signature off key-wails were unwoven at the time. The twenty one year old Iommi acts like a leader. The fluidity of his playing doesn’t surprise me at all as he was an active guitarist since 1963-1964, playing with local bands in various pubs and clubs around his neighborhood. Sure, he wasn’t an accomplished musician yet, but he was an experienced guitar player already. His bluesy, imaginative solos are not that different from what you hear on the first Sabbath record. Finally, we have two guest players. Norman Haines who, according to Iommi, was the original composer of these songs plays keyboards on The Rebel
and Jim Simpson, the manager of the band, plays Trumpet on Thomas Jane
The Jazz-influenced Thomas Jane
is easily the band’s best effort. It’s like King Crimson meets Black Sabbath. An epic-eight minutes long instrumental, it opens with some classic doomy riffs played from Iommi and then, after one minute, his guitar cease so that we can be properly assaulted by the twin attacks of Simpson and Butler. In what is undoubtedly his most shining moment in these demos, Butler transforms into the bassist we all know, playing 3-4 notes rapidly, thus creating the backround for Simpson’s Trumpet. The song ends in a rather spooky way, with Iommi playing a Black Sabbath
reminiscent riff. Overall, the song is not anything special, it’s just interesting.
To summarise, these demos are nothing more than a low budget attempt by a bunch of kids trying to exploit their first studio opportunity, disclose their potential and enjoy themselves at the same time. Little did they know for what fate had in store for them. Unbeknownst to them at the time, they would shake the very foundations of Rock music like no other band had done before.
Thomas Jane (Again, it’s nothing special, but futures those classic doomy riffs from Iommi and the closing riff is surprising).