Black Sabbath - 'Seventh Star' and 'Eternal Idol' Deluxe Editions (Sanctuary) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Johnny H   
Sunday, 14 November 2010 05:00

Seventh_StarThere is another dimension to the band they call Black Sabbath, a dimension beyond that which is known to most men It is the middle ground between light and shadow, It is an area which we call the post Ozzy and Dio Twilight Zone.


In my opinion it all started going a bit wrong for the peerless Black Sabbath name around about 1983 when Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler recruited ex Deep Purple singer Ian Gillan for the ill fated (but not that terrible) 'Born Again' album. Following a truly horrendous appearance at that years Reading Festival the end was nigh for that line up, and after finishing the tour in support of the album in early 1984 Black Sabbath would once again find itself singer-less as Gillan jumped ship to the Mark II Deep Purple reunion.


Next up was a brief vocal dalliance with one David Donato (wasn't he supposed to be a model or something?), and an original line up reunion for 1985's Live Aid before left as the sole original member Tony Iommi decided on recording a solo album with Dio era keyboardist Geoff Nicholls to get things back on track.  A rhythm section of Dave 'The Beast' Spitz (bass) and Eric Singer (drums) was assembled to give things an American new blood transfusion whilst providing the perfect bedrock for the intended array of guest vocalists set to appear on what would eventually become known as 'Seventh Star'.


With ex Deep Purple vocalist Glenn Hughes one of the first guests to make his vocal contribution to 'Seventh Star', the results immediately made Iommi reconsider the contractual hassles of waiting for people like Rob Halford and (bizarrely) Ronnie James Dio to become available, and he subsequently decided to hand Glenn the the whole album's vocals. Something the 'voice of rock' tackled with his usual zeal. You must remember at this point that this was never going to be a Black Sabbath album, but at the time contractual issues with the band's record label ensured that it would finally see the light of day in early 1986 billed as Black Sabbath featuring Tony Iommi. So any fan discovering this expanded two disc version of this album for the first time would best be warned of that fact that 'Seventh Star' definitely doesn't sound like any other Black Sabbath you might own


The Jeff Glixman (Kansas/Paul Stanley/Gary Moore) produced studio sheen gives album opener 'In For The Kill' an instantly anthemic arena rock sound, and it isn't really until the guitar solo that Tony Iommi's unmistakable trademark SG sound becomes noticeable, something that continues throughout the ten tracks that make up 'Seventh Star' (the original version ran for nine tracks but here in its Deluxe Edition you get an alternative version of the single/ballad 'No Stranger To Love' added).  But here in lies the wonderful conundrum that makes 'Seventh Star' such an underrated classic, as tracks like 'Turn To Stone', 'Danger Zone', Angry Heart' and the album's title track whilst maybe not what you would call classic Black Sabbath tracks are in fact superb chunks of classic hard rock, all delivered with a real commitment to the cause. Glenn Hughes in particular turning in a performance he wouldn't match for nearly a decade.


Forced to tour 'Seventh Star' billed as Black Sabbath, it wasn't long before the (at the time) problematic and troubled Hughes was soon replaced by the unknown Ray Gillen.  And that line up is captured on Disc Two of this Deluxe Edition set recorded live at London's Hammersmith Odeon in June 1986.  Whilst the source tapes of this gig may be what you might term 'not perfect' it is refreshing to hear Gillen singing so well on such a fine cross section of all the Black Sabbath eras.  Hardly an essential purchase on its own but definitely a welcome addition to possibly the most underrated album from Black Sabbath's back catalogue, next to 'Technical Ecstasy'.


Eternal_IdolThe second of these Deluxe Edition sets expands Black Sabbath's 13th album 'The Eternal Idol' to two discs. Released originally in 1987 this was the first album to feature the vocal talents of the band's second longest serving singer after Ozzy Osbourne Mr Tony Martin.  But before I get ahead of myself here, let me finish off where I was in 1986 by picking up on the second disc of this set, where you get eight tracks from Ray Gillen's Eternal Idol sessions.  Initially decamping to Air Studios Monserrat with 'Seventh Star' producer Jeff Glixman the sessions were fraught with 'problems' before Glixman was released from his duties.  Returning to Air Studios in London the band would work with firstly Vic Coppersmith-Heaven and finally Chris Tsangarides before settling on the direction and sound everyone was expecting Black Sabbath to take when around them bands like Metallica and Guns 'N' Roses were starting to make major inroads into the mainstream metal markets. Even whilst back in London the sessions weren't without further 'problems' Dave Spitz being the first casualty leaving to be replaced by Bob Daisley, who in turn replaced the bass parts whilst also writing the albums lyrics before quickly departing with Eric Singer to tour with Gary Moore.


Soap operas of the time definitely had much simpler plot lines than the recording sessions that would eventually give us 'The Eternal Idol'.  But it is safe to say that with Iommi returning to a more established riff driven formula for the songs, and Ray Gillen giving an accomplished and bluesy edge to tracks like 'Born To Lose' and 'The Shining' you wouldn't have guessed that behind the scenes things weren't exactly rosy.  There are some slight glitches sound wise on this second disc (most notably on 'Ancient Warrior'), but as this session was quickly binned when Gillen decided to jump ship to join Blue Murder it is a minor miracle that they have survived at all. It's great to see these recordings finally see the light of day, and unlike the live disc that accompanies 'Seventh Star', these tracks really do add to the overall package, making this a much more VFM reissue, even if the album itself isn't as strong as its predecessor.  Recruiting Bev Bevan and the aforementioned Tony Martin to complete what would become the commercially released version of 'The Eternal Idol' the tracks didn't really change that much from the Gillen era recordings of the second disc. Bevan adding what was termed as Percussion whilst Martin took full opportunity to squeeze his slightly more Dio-esque vocal refrain into proceedings.  Although I will never profess to having been a huge fan of this Tony Martin fronted version of Black Sabbath, I do recognise that 'The Eternal Idol', along with the following 'Headless Cross' and 'Tyr' albums are all a huge part of the band's legacy.  OK so they were no new 'Heaven and Hell' or 'Paranoid' but to simply take the view that this era was substandard couldn't be further from the truth.


I'm not exactly sure how many of these Deluxe Editions Sanctuary will sell in relation to the Dio and Ozzy classics they have expanded previously but if they keep releasing expanded editions of this quality (I almost forgot to tell you that 'The Eternal Idol' album also boasts two additional single B Sides) I for one will continue to pick them up.  My only disappointment, apart from not having seen the final finished editions until after I'd written this review was I didn't even get the chance to mention the controversy around the band playing Sun City and Terry Chimes joining the band. Perhaps that will come when 'Headless Cross' gets its own makeover sometime soon....who knows?