Black Sabbath Past Lives

Well, the inevitable has happened. Now that Ozzy Osbourne and his family have become the most popular family on TV, the well-kept Black Sabbath rarities vault has finally opened for mass consumption. And really, the timing couldn't be better. Past Lives marks the first official release of vintage '70s Black Sabbath archival material since 1997's The Ozzman Cometh spared us a few demos, although the material here won't be that big of a surprise to long-time Sab-heads. Disc one is made up of 1980's semi-legit Live At Last, taken from two separate Sabbath shows from their English tour in March, 1973. Never officially released in North America, the album has been widely available for more than 20 years and is a great view of where the band were at, even if the recording isn't quite up to snuff. The second CD, with material advertised as being previously unreleased, comes from the two most readily available Sabbath bootlegs. Six tracks were recorded at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, France on Dec 20, 1970, for the BBC documentary Rock Of The Seventies. The other three come from a King Biscuit Flower Hour broadcast recorded live at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in Asbury Park, NJ, on August 6, 1975, from a show that just preceded the release of the Sabotage album. This is definitely satisfactory quality stuff. The performances themselves are great too. The 1970 Paris show finds the band at the very top of their game; more so that on the Live At Last material, although because of age the quality isn't as crisp. Nonetheless, there are some amazing musical moments within, especially on "Black Sabbath," "Iron Man" and "Behind The Wall Of Sleep." The 1975 material is also well done. Instead of repeating the songs also recorded on the 1970 show, the three songs offered up are all newer Sabotage-era material: "Hole In The Sky," "Symptom Of The Universe" and "Megalomania." All are played well, although you can tell the band is in a totally different mindset when compared to the playing of the 1970 material, definitely the results of nearly five years of excessive drug and alcohol consumption. Still, the band shines on the material, with the rarely played "Megalomania" being an extra sweet treat. Past Lives is in fact a treat itself, although one wonders why they didn't use more rare performances or major archival landmark stuff, such as the Ontario Speedway set of 1974. It is well known that TV-quality footage and well recorded tapes of the band's set exists, and since a lot of the photos inside this package come from that, it seems a little odd that none of it was included here. Oh well, maybe they're saving the DVD and CD of that show until after the second series of the Osbournes airs. If it takes off even more, the demand for Sabbath might be at its pinnacle then. (Sanctuary)