Black Sabbath – Import or Domestic?

More of the Music of Black Sabbath

More Rock Classics with Hot Stampers

The domestic copies we’ve played over the years for all the Black Sabbath titles are clearly better sounding than any import we’ve ever auditioned. It may be counterintuitive but these are exactly the kinds of things you find out when doing blinded shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original = better sound).

Hard data — the kind you get from actually playing the records — trumps them all.

Our Previous Hot Stamper Commentary

A stunning early WB Green Label pressing with shootout winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish. The first “Triple Triple” copy of Paranoid to hit the site in a long long time — that’s how tough these are to come by! This copy has the kind of energy, presence, and fullness needed to bring the best out of this hard rock / heavy metal classic.

This Warner Bros. pressing has two amazing sides! It’s tough to find great copies of Paranoid and even tougher to find good sound on the original Green Label — most are awful, if even playable. Drop the needle on a good copy and you’ll quickly hear how correct it sounds. It’s got a HUGE bottom end, excellent presence, a good amount of tubey magic and TONS of energy.

It’s taken us ages to find good pressings of this album, probably because just about every copy we see has been beat to death by the crazy muthas who originally bought ’em! Let’s face it — this wasn’t an album bought and treasured by people who know how to take care of their records, this was a record bought by kids who probably played it after getting wasted with their buddies. (No shame in that, of course!)

The music is freakin’ great, by the way. Since Ozzy has basically become a cartoon version of himself (as charming as that is) it’s easy to forget that these guys were a serious classic rock band that was duking it out with Zep for the hearts and minds of young hard rock fans in the late ’60s and early ’70s.

This album set the foundation for heavy metal, and I’m not sure anyone ever topped it. Play this album back to back with Zep II and it’s pretty clear the two bands were fueling each other, pushing both bands into creating bigger, bolder, better riff-based rockers.

Allmusic calls this “one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time” and when it sounds this good, I’m guessing you’ll agree! War Pigs, Fairies Wear Boots, Electric Funeral, Rat Salad (drummer Bill Ward’s answer to Bonham’s Moby Dick) and the title track are some of the classic tracks on this album.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

War Pigs
Paranoid
Planet Caravan
Iron Man

Side Two

Electric Funeral
Hand of Doom
Rat Salad
Fairies Wear Boots

AMG Review

Paranoid was not only Black Sabbath’s most popular record, it also stands as one of the greatest and most influential heavy metal albums of all time. Paranoid refined Black Sabbath’s signature sound — crushingly loud, minor-key dirges loosely based on heavy blues-rock — and applied it to a newly consistent set of songs with utterly memorable riffs, most of which now rank as all-time metal classics. Where the extended, multi-sectioned songs on the debut sometimes felt like aimless jams, their counterparts on Paranoid have been given focus and direction, lending an epic drama to now-standards like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” (which sports one of the most immediately identifiable riffs in metal history). Even the qualities that made critics deplore the album (and the group) for years increase the overall effect — the technical simplicity of Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals and Tony Iommi’s lead guitar vocabulary; the spots when the lyrics sink into melodrama or awkwardness; the lack of subtlety and the infrequent dynamic contrast. Monolithic and primally powerful, Paranoid defined the sound and style of heavy metal more than any other record in rock history.

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