Black Sabbath

The mostly terrific Classic Albums series serves up another musically focused documentary – this time with Heavy Metal pioneers Black Sabbath. While metal may not be your thing, there can be little debate that Black Sabbath is ground zero for the genre. The great thing about the Classic Albums series is a fan is not a prerequisite for enjoying the hour-long documentaries – many of which have become staples in constant rotation on VH-1. By now, you should be familiar with “Who’s Next” or “Nevermind,” both excellent and played hundreds of times on the video music channel.

Paranoid is one of two releases from Eagle Rock Entertainment (Kayos Productions) coming in 2010. The other being Tom Petty and Heartbreakers’ Damn the Torpedoes. Looking forward to that one, which is due in September.

For those unfamiliar, Classic Albums re-examines a “classic album” by the artists and musicians who made them along with a cadre of hit-or-miss talking head critics and fans. The series’ gimmick is returning to the studio where the album was produced and replaying the master tapes with their creators isolating tracks and performances while often providing lively commentary. This is indispensable documentary material for any serious music fan. There is nothing else quite like Classic Albums. While there have been a few duds along the way (Simply Red, and Stars, to name one), the most recent ones have been wonderful (Plastic Ono Band and Zappa). Paranoidextends this winning streak for the British series.

That is because Sabbath’s influence is immense and songs like “Iron Man” and “Paranoid” have the kind of monster riffs that motivate many teenagers to stop picking their zits and start reaping the guitar. It’s a virtual right-of-passage for any budding electric guitarist to fumble through “Smoke on the Water,” “Stairway to Heaven,” and Sabbath’s “Iron Man” to be excellent.

There is a lot to Sabbath. Tony Iommi (who freaking looks fantastic, BTW) cut off the tips of their fingers as a child and then fashioned himself with some prosthetics of his design. The story is retold here. You know, it’s great that Brian May of Queen made his guitar, but Tony Iommi made his fingers! Try that sometime! Iommi is a riff master, and his humility here is refreshing.

Then there is the Blizzard of Oz, Ozzy Osborne. One of the most distinctive and unlikely charismatic singers in rock, Osbourne mumbles his way through the documentary adding a frank and sometimes humorous retrospective to the album that was instantly derided by critics on its release in 1970 but has gained favor as Heavy Metal became more mainstream. Ozzy’s star quality here is undeniable.

The album stars are the rhythm section of drummer Bill Ward and bassist Geezer Butler whose contributions (thanks to isolating their tracks) are made abundantly clear. Their tight playing borders on brilliant. Plus, who knew Butler, not Osborne, wrote those anti-Vietnam lyrics? Just one of several revelations found on Classic Albums – Paranoid.

Suppose you are a Sabbath fan, a must-own; if you are a music fan, a must-see. Available in Blu-Ray with bonus features.

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