Review by Paul Monkhouse for MPM
Famously, the album that split the Dio fronted Sabbath, ‘Live Evil’ has suffered mixed reviews over the years, the production and set list mixing old and new material the cause of many debates in rock and metal circles over the years.
With this stunning new 40th anniversary release, the album we always knew was there comes to fire breathing life, capturing the legendary band in full flight.
A riposte to the unsanctioned ‘Live at Last’ album released three years previously and hot on the tails of Ozzy Osbourne’s double set ‘Speak of the Devil’ that consisted of twelve numbers from his former band, Sabbath wanted to bring out their own record of their onstage power.
Having been revitalised by the global success of both ‘Heaven and Hell’ and ‘Mob Rules’ following their disintegration at the end of the original line-up’s first stretch together, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Vinnie Appice and Ronnie James hit the road, along with keys player Geoff Nicholls.
It was a triumphant return to form and cherry picked from their back catalogue, the songs sounded as ferocious as ever. Some may have an issue with Ozzy not putting his signature unhinged delivery on the classics but Dio was in a class of his own, the singer bringing his own feel to standards from his predecessor’s reign. Thus, a wisely fan pleasing set was performed, giving everyone exactly what they wanted.
The Super Deluxe vinyl and CD editions of the album brings four discs that present a remastered take on the original, along with a remix using the original analogue tapes and both are a sonic treat, bristling with their own individual magic. Given the power of the band, what’s captured here is a rough edged and titanic rock ‘n’ roll band, the majesty of the material scuzzed up with some viscerally rough edges that add an additional buzz to what we hear.
The crowd noise is still frustratingly low in the mix but the playing is what draws you in, these new sonic polishes putting you right there in the action.
Following the atmospheric intro of ‘E5150’, the ballsy ‘Neon Knights’ kicks things off with a roar, the locomotive riff unstoppable and Dio in pugnacious form and things don’t let up from there. Old classics like ‘N.I.B.’, ‘Black Sabbath’ and ‘War Pigs’ are given a new coat of paint, their ferocity touched with class as this line-up replaces the Midlands Mania and cackle of O.O. with the grander and more commanding tones of R.J.D. but it’s the newer material where the diminutive powerhouse excels the most.
It was no secret that Ronnie didn’t enjoy singing material written for Ozzy’s vocal range but with the transposing of keys and his own magic added, ‘Iron Man’ and ‘Paranoid’ take on a different life, a monumental ‘Heaven and Hell’ and gritty ‘Voodoo’ let things truly fly though.
Throughout, Iommi, Butler and Appice shine, their performances passionate and these new mixes help you appreciate just what a tight unit they’d become by then. The guitarist was always one of the leading inventors of the huge riffs but here you can really hear him play with a touch that few, if any, could match. Butler and Appice make an unstoppable rhythm section too, balancing killer punch with nuance. Nicholls too is an unsung hero, his playing adding real colour to the sound here that’s never intrusive but always welcome.
With the addition of some gorgeous extras in the vinyl box set, including a perfectly illustrated hardback book, the release offers so much more than ‘just another’ anniversary cash-in that the record companies of other artists may push.
Whilst that aforementioned lack of suitable levels of crowd noise takes away a little of its immersive feel, it’s still one of the most brilliantly realised live recordings out there and deserves to be re-evaluated. All heaven, no hell.