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Album Review : Black Sabbath – Technical Ecstasy – Super Deluxe

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Review by Mark Montgomery for MPM

Every now and then the question “If you could say anything to your younger self, what would it be?” pops up. I always respond by asking “Which younger me?”

Take for instance the 16-year-old me. I am a world away from the 9-year-old me, when I had no idea I could choose what music I could listen to, wearing cycling shorts and asking my older sister to teach me how to dance like New Kids On The Block…. (true story). The 16-year-old me was now well versed in rock and metal, it didn’t take me long to get savvy with Slayer, Metallica and Pantera. And by 16 I had also gone back to the classics, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and of course Black Sabbath.

Sabbath stand out from the crowd, and we know why. I’m not here to go into the missing appendages, or the types of chords Tony Iommi can play. Or why those chords were considered bad form during the renaissance period. I will however point out that the sound created by Tony does something to our emotions, it does sound unsettling, and evil. And I loved it……. right up until I got my hands on a copy of Technical Ecstasy. I listened to the whole thing. Once.

I made the same shrug Alan Partridge did when he’s introduced to the man that is revamping the Current Affairs output.

The 2021 Super Deluxe reissue landed on my desk this week. And I like a challenge. I had not listened to this album since 1995. So, I rolled my eyes, put my headphones on, poured myself a drink and was ready to be as arrogant as the 16 year old me.

Hol’ up, wait a minute, suttin ait right! This is it! I have been racking my brains since 2014 to remember a track. Because in 2014, the Album ‘Once More ‘Round the Sun’ by Mastodon was released, and the track ‘Motherload’ had me chasing my tail trying to remember what it reminded me of! The first track on Technical Ecstasy, ‘Back Street Kids’, is clearly an influence on ‘Motherload’

*Press pause.

I was wrong, Technical Ecstasy had imprinted on my brain. No, it’s not as heavy as Slayer, and not trying to literally summon Beelzebub. But it was, it is, most certainly Black Sabbath. I need to regain my thoughts. Why didn’t I like this?

I didn’t get it back then.

Lets start afresh.

Why does this album sound different? This is Sabbath being insecure, and rightly so. At this point (1976) Sabbath couldn’t even trust their own lawyers. And they felt that their signature sound had run its course. Tony Iommi wanted to evolve the sound of the band and wanted to produce the album himself. The rock audience had made their tastes known, and the sales of Black Sabbath’s 1975 album ‘Sabotage’ did not hit the heights of Queen’s ‘A Night at The Opera’ or Eagles’ ‘One of These Nights’ and that made Tony want to change.

This is a band trying new things, and it worked so well. Even if, by Iommi’s own words, “Sabbath fans don’t get this album”. They try everything, there are influences from Kiss, Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles. If the Beatles let Ringo sing on a few tracks, then why not let Bill Ward have a go? The track ‘It’s Alright’ has aged incredibly well, and it would sit very well amongst some Lennon and McCartney recordings and hold its own.

This album has a Movie Soundtrack feel to it. The Synthesizers and the feel-good progressions create cinematic images of open roads and carefree attitudes. The lyrics are most certainly telling a story of not only where the band has been, but where they want to go.

The remastered Issue is a welcome addition to any music lover’s collection, if you want to see why remastering is a challenging and positive process, see my review of The Black Album (Remastered) by Metallica, as I wish not to repeat myself here, but the real jewel in the crown of this collection is the New Mix by Steve Wilson (Porcupine Tree).

This is an amazing piece of work; this mix of the album is so pleasing to listen to. It allows you to hear each member of Black Sabbath for their own brilliance. The bass flourishes of Butler sitting perfectly in the mix without it stepping on the toes of Ward’s very technical percussion. The stereo phasing of Ozzy’s vocals next to the synth is perfect. This mix totally compliments Iommi’s guitar and moreover his production. This is a masterpiece. It sounds so warm and sweet, like somebody pouring a warm Cadbury’s Cream Egg into your ears.

Also in the Super Deluxe package is a Live Album, pickings from the best performances from the World Tour in 1976-77. Including some crowd pleasers. And a disc of Alternative Mixes and Outtakes.

I can pinpoint parts of my life by what albums I was listening to at that time. Leaving School, my 1st car crash, meeting my wonderful wife, Anna, the births of my children. I am currently going through some massive life changing events, including moving nearly 300 miles across the UK. Technical Ecstasy is the marker for this big event for me. I will be listening to it more than once as I to and fro the M5 and M6, and for the rest of my life I will be reminded of what my life is like at the moment.

What would I say to my younger self?

“You’ll get it.”

TECHNICAL ECSTASY: SUPER DELUXE EDITION

4-CD/5-LP Track Listing

Disc One: Original Album 1976 (2021 Remaster)

  1. “Back Street Kids”
  2. “You Won’t Change Me”
  3. “It’s Alright”
  4. “Gypsy”
  5. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)”
  6. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor”
  7. “She’s Gone”
  8. “Dirty Women”

Disc Two: New Steven Wilson Mix

  1. “Back Street Kids” *
  2. “You Won’t Change” *
  3. “It’s Alright” – Mono Version
  4. “Gypsy” *
  5. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” *
  6. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” *
  7. “She’s Gone” *
  8. “Dirty Women” *

Disc Three: Outtakes & Alternative Mixes

  1. “Back Street Kids” – Alternative Mix *
  2. “You Won’t Change Me” – Alternative Mix *
  3. “Gypsy” – Alternative Mix *
  4. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” – Alternative Mix *
  5. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” – Alternative Mix *
  6. “She’s Gone” – Outtake Version *
  7. “Dirty Women” – Alternative Mix *
  8. “She’s Gone” – Instrumental Mix *

Disc Four: Live World Tour 1976-77

  1. “Symptom Of The Universe” *
  2. “War Pigs” *
  3. “Gypsy” *
  4. “Black Sabbath” *
  5. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” *
  6. “Dirty Women” *
  7. Drum Solo / Guitar Solo *
  8. “Electric Funeral” *
  9. “Snowblind” *
  10. “Children Of The Grave” *

LP One: Original Album Remastered
Side One

  1. “Back Street Kids”
  2. “You Won’t Change Me”
  3. “It’s Alright”
  4. “Gypsy”

Side Two

  1. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)”
  2. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor”
  3. “She’s Gone”
  4. “Dirty Women”

LP Two: New Steven Wilson Mix
Side Three

  1. “Back Street Kids” *
  2. “You Won’t Change Me” *
  3. “It’s Alright” – Mono Single
  4. “Gypsy” *

Side Four

  1. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” *
  2. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” *
  3. “She’s Gone” *
  4. “Dirty Women” *

LP Three: Outtakes & Alternative Mixes
Side Five

  1. “Back Street Kids” – Alternative Mix *
  2. “You Won’t Change Me” – Alternative Mix *
  3. “Gypsy” – Alternative Mix *
  4. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” – Alternative Mix *

Side Six

  1. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor” – Alternative Mix *
  2. “She’s Gone” – Outtake Version *
  3. “Dirty Women” – Alternative Mix *
  4. “She’s Gone” – Instrumental Mix *

LP Four: Live World Tour 1976-77
Side Seven

  1. “Symptom Of The Universe” *
  2. “War Pigs” *
  3. “Gypsy” *

Side Eight

  1. “Black Sabbath” *
  2. “All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” *

LP Five: Live World Tour 1976-77
Side Nine

  1. “Dirty Women” *
  2. Drum Solo / Guitar Solo *

Side Ten

  1. “Electric Funeral” *
  2. “Snowblind” *
  3. “Children Of The Grave” *

Order your copy here: https://blacksabbathband.lnk.to/technicalecstasydlxFA

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