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”

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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