Black Sabbath Black Box: The Complete Black Sabbath 1970-1978

After years of fervent anticipation of band-sanctioned remasters, this mammoth eight-CD/one-DVD box set compiles all eight Ozzy Osbourne-era Sabbath albums from the ’70s plus the rare track "Evil Woman.” Re-mastered from the original Warner tapes (also the source for 2002’s two-CD Symptom Of The Universe hits collection), Sabbath simply never sounded better. Bill Ward’s drum fills are clearer, Geezer Butler’s bass lines are more defined, and Osbourne’s vocals and Tony Iommi’s guitars are much more resonant than previous editions. The anthems are heavier ("The Wizard,” "Iron Man,” "Snowblind”), the fan faves are punchier ("Hand Of Doom,” "Into The Void,” "Hole In The Sky”), and the acoustic cuts are more heavenly ("Orchid,” "Fluff,” "Don’t Start (Too Late)”). Moreover, the presentation gives a truer sense of the band’s advancement from the proto-doom of Paranoid and Master Of Reality, to the hard rock superstardom of Vol. 4 and Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, to the keyboard experimentation of Sabotage, and finally to the sputtering fizzle of Technical Ecstasy and Never Say Die! Each disc is housed in its own digipak, featuring the original, front-and-back album art. The DVD compiles the well-known "Beat Club footage,” the same used by MTV for videos. "War Pigs” and "Paranoid” have swirling psychedelia all around, much like Monster Magnet’s "Twin Earth” or Cathedral’s "Autumn Twilight.” "Black Sabbath” features the house and trees from the first album cover as a backdrop, which imparts a fitting aura of grim foreboding, thanks to strobe-lightning and sound effects, but a cover of Carl Perkins’ "Blue Suede Shoes” proves that Sabbath were better off in sticking to their own originals. The 77-page hardcover book, sheathed in black velvet, sports two insightful historical essays plus a timeline and complete lyrics to all the songs. Black Box is undoubtedly and definitively Sabbath the way it was meant to be, and much like the Van Halen re-masters, you’ll hear things that you’ve never heard before. (Rhino)