Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The opening riffs of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid single pointed the way towards modern heavy metal. Released in August 1970, the song was a step forward from the band’s debut album released just 6 months earlier. All of the elements that made Black Sabbath great came together for this song – memorable doom laden riffs, pounding drum & bass, and Ozzy’s detached & demonic vocals. If Ozzy sounds like he is reading the lyrics as he is singing them that’s because he is. The song was written as an afterthought for their 2nd album (also named Paranoid) and came together in under an hour according to all band members. The song was a top 10 hit in the UK and remains one of Black Sabbath’s signature tunes. Curiously, the song never mentions the word paranoid in its lyrics – instead, the lyrics deal with depression in a poetic fashion. Worlds away from the Satanic imagery the band was / is known for. I’ve always thought the band’s lyrics were deeper than their reputation in some circles and this song is proof. “People think I’m insane because I am frowning all the time / All day long I think of things but nothing seems to satisfy / Think I’ll lose my mind if I don’t find something to pacify”. Perfection.

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Charles Bradley – Changes

Changes

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

The upcoming final tour by Black Sabbath (I’m attending the February 2016 show in Tacoma, WA) had me playing all the Ozzy albums and creating playlists of my favorite songs. I kept coming back to the song Changes from 1972’s Vol. 4. A sad ballad inspired by (former) drummer Bill Ward’s divorce, it stands out from the doom metal the band is known for. As great as the original is, the song was covered in 2013 by soul singer Charles Bradley to stunning effect. The original featured a sparse production which helped highlight the sad nature of the lyrics. Charles Bradley takes that and builds on it – he adds a deep rhythm section to the tune, making it a perfect transition to a soul stunner. Bradley sings his heart out – in fact, if a listener heard this version 1st they probably wouldn’t believe you if you told them Ozzy Osbourne had sung this originally, 44 years ago. When talking about heartbreak, the direct approach has always spoken to me – and this song’s lyrics take the cake: “I feel unhappy / I feel so sad / I lost the best friend / That I ever had / …I’m going through changes”

Ozzy Osbourne – Dreamer

Ozzy

Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

 In the wake of global or personal tragedies, people tend to reach for musical anthems that provide a feeling of unification. After the attacks in Paris at an Eagles of Death Metal show, my Social Network feed was inundated with clips of John Lennon’s Imagine. Truly, one of the best songs in history by one of my favorite artists. I also found myself playing Dreamer by Ozzy Osbourne – a song that equally embraces hope while facing the realities of this world head on. One of Ozzy’s musical heroes is John Lennon and this song was written with a Lennon-esque vibe in mind. A plaintive ballad, it lays bare Ozzy’s voice along with some true emotion. You trainspotters might realize that Robert Trujillo plays bass on this song (and the album it is taken from, Down To Earth). Trujillo went on to play bass for Metallica and will soon be the longest tenured bassist in Metallica’s existence (no small feat!). At any rate, this is one of my favorite songs of all time. Ozzy goes through seemingly insurmountable problems – the destruction of Mother Earth, religion, prejudice – and dreams for an end to these problems. It might not be the worldview you think Ozzy would have or even the song you’d expect from Ozzy. Give it a try – what it is, is a perfect song in the style of The Beatles by an artist who isn’t always given a fair shake. “If only we could all just find serenity / It would be nice if we could live as one / When will all this anger, hate and bigotry… / Be gone? / I’m just a dreamer / I dream my life away”

The Stone Roses – I Wanna Be Adored

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Attack of the Killer Track! is a series that explores tracks from artists from a variety of genres. Some of the tracks were singles, some of them were obscure b-sides or long forgotten album tracks. One thing is certain – all of them are killer tracks.

Mick Jagger had sympathy for the Devil. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads. Ozzy Osbourne sold his soul to Rock ‘N’ Roll OR the Devil (depending on what you believe). Ian Brown? Ian Brown didn’t need to do any of that. As far as opening lines in the history of music, I’d be hard pressed to think of one more impressive than “I don’t have to sell my soul / he’s already in me” from I Wanna Be Adored by The Stone Roses, released in 1989. A statement of intent, confrontation, and mystery. The Stone Roses hadn’t arrived overnight, of course – they’d toiled as a Goth-lite outfit in the mid 80’s before slowly arriving at their sound. In the UK it was “Baggy” – in the US it was “Indie” or whatever else the press could think of (Alternative was a few years away). I Wanna Be Adored was the 3rd single to be lifted from the self-titled debut album, and remains my favorite song by The Stone Roses. The slow fade in of instruments increases anticipation for Brown’s opening lines – make no mistake – Mani’s bass lines, John Squire’s guitar licks, and Reni’s drum fills are among the most memorable ever laid down to tape. Ian Brown doesn’t enter the mix until the 1:45 mark and it’s a vocal performance for the ages. Defiant, questioning, full of emotion – it is simply perfect. The song is a not just an 80’s classic or a great song from the Baggy era – this is one of the greatest songs in all of Rock ‘N’ Roll history.

A Geek’s Guide to Music in 2013

2013

Another year gone by too quickly. Nothing left to do but try and recount all the great music releases of 2013. We saw the return of David Bowie, (3) new Mark Kozelek records, band reunions, and high-profile hip-hop releases. We also saw people upset with Miley Cyrus quite a bit and while I don’t enjoy her music I thought that the controversies were overblown. I was really looking forward to the new Eminem record but ended up liking only a few songs. Kanye West’s new record didn’t really do anything for me and I couldn’t get into the long-awaited My Bloody Valentine. My list is lacking some of those albums that are on other sites – some of them I didn’t dig all that much and some of them I just didn’t replay very much.What can I say? I march to my own beat. On the flip side, I loved every Mark Kozelek related album, discovered a few gems, and rocked out to Black Sabbath. So here’s a look at 50 music releases from 2013 that I played over and over again. I’ll see you in about a week with the 1st article of 2014.

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Black Sabbath – 13

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Black Sabbath’s 13 is the first #1 record for anyone in the band – even taking into consideration the wonderful solo career of Ozzy Osbourne. I didn’t believe that when I 1st read it, but a scan through historical data confirms it is true. How we got to this point in mid 2013 is a story of persistence and endurance. Black Sabbath had actually reunited in 2007 or so with their other iconic lead singer, Ronnie James Dio (I still love you too Tony Martin). What started out as 3 song mini session for a box set turned into a full-fledged reunion, resulting in the 2009 album The Devil You Know (released under the Heaven & Hell name due to legalities). Life is funny sometimes though, and not “ha ha” funny. Ronnie was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and almost just as quickly was taken away from us. The band regrouped with original vocalist Ozzy Osbourne – officially announced on 11-11-11 – and have overcome Tony Iommi’s Cancer and Ozzy Osbourne’s relapse into alcoholism to deliver a masterpiece. An album that clearly is a follow-up to The Devil You Know but also looks to the early 70’s for inspiration.

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Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

Part 10 of a series that will run every Friday throughout 2012 as I discuss records that have affected me throughout the years – Flashback Fridays

I have to admit to something – when I think of the band Black Sabbath, my mind’s eye instantly conjures up visions of Ozzy Osbourne. Perhaps playing into the whole “Sabbath IS Ozzy” game, yes – but it’s true. When I was first discovering older heavy metal bands, Black Sabbath was the first band that I really got into. Each of their records with Ozzy gave me something to enjoy (yes, even Technical Ecstasy). I moved on to Ozzy’s solo career, read blurbs about how Black Sabbath were never the same after he left, and considered it a case closed – nothing left to explore.

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