Warner Brothers Records, 1971
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/30/1997
Whenever I find myself having a hard time deciding what should grace the pages of this site - do I really feel like tackling the B-52s, or do I work on a retrospective of Elvis Costello... or do I just piss away my time watching cable TV? - I usually turn to some of the chat rooms around the Internet to get other people's opinions.
The other night, I was talking to someone on Firefly who mentioned that he was into Black Sabbath. Ah, a band with over two decades of material to pull from, I thought. Technical Ecstasy! Mob Rules! Sabbath Bloody Sabbath!
But then, he mentioned his favorite album from the band was Paranoid. Uh, oh... disappointment set in. So much for pulling a forgotten album out of my hat.
But, in retrospect, this person (whose online name I've forgotten) has chosen one of the best hard rock albums ever recorded as his favorite - and it is one that I've loved for over a decade since I bought my vinyl copy.
From the opening moments of "War Pigs," you know you're in for one hell of a ride with Paranoid - Ozzy Osbourne's vocals plastered on top of Tony Iommi's solid guitar work was a one-two punch. (I always thought Iommi was a better rhythm player, though - his leads on this one, except for the jazzy riffs on "Planet Caravan," are a tad simplistic.) Add the thundering bass of Geezer Butler and the frenzied drumming of Bill Ward, and you have a band that legends are made of.
But some of the best performances aren't always found in the songs that everyone knows - in this case, the title track, "War Pigs" and "Iron Man." The closing track, "Fairies Wear Boots," is a controlled panic that settles down just long enough for one's neck to stop snapping back and forth. "Hand Of Doom" is a track that shows off the mastery of all four band members to go from one mood to the next, sometimes in a split second. Ward shows all aspiring drummers how to perform a solo without going into overkill on the track "Rat Salad."
In fact, there is not a single track that can be considered a stinker on Paranoid, a claim that precious few albums can make. Black Sabbath hit a creative peak with this one, but while lesser bands would never achieve that pinnacle again, Osbourne et al. would release work that would even top this album... but that's another story for another review.
So, the acrid music critic learns something from the populous - sometimes, the established work is worth featuring. Paranoid is one of the few albums that I claim should be in every person's record collection.