This is the album that a lot of Sabbath fans feel should never have happened. They feel there was only one true Black Sabbath, and Ozzy was a part of that. I love me some Ozzy Sabbath, but I also love me some Dio Sabbath. I can have my cake and eat it too. Ozzy was in a bad place in 1979. He was so full of booze and drugs that he had to get cleaned up. Sharon Arden (later Osbourne) suggested the band work with Ronnie James Dio until her father Don Arden could convince Ozzy to clean up and get back in the band. This never happened though. Perhaps this was for the best. Both Sabbath and Ozzy were rejuvenated and released great albums separately.
This is also the album that almost never happened. The record company did not want a Sabbath album without Ozzy so they would not back the album. The last few Sabbath albums had lacklustre sales, so the band had to fork out the cash themselves. A few days into the song writing process Bill Ward, who was stoned and drunk every day at the time, could barely play and Geezer Butler left to take care of personal issues at home. Fill-in musicians including Geoff Nichols, and Craig Gruber (Gruber has stated that he co-wrote most of the songs, and that it is actually his bass playing on Heaven and Hell) were brought in for some initial recordings. After the songs were written, Butler and Ward wanted back in. Iommi stated that Butler re-recorded all of the bass tracks and even though Ward was dealing with the death of his parents and alcoholism, he does an amazing job on the album (even if he states he did not remember recording it).
Neon Knights – You can tell 1 second into this song that this is a different Sabbath. The guitar riffs are faster, the drums are jazzier, and the vocals are crisper and higher pitched. The only thing that seems the same is the wicked bass playing. I would say Gruber should know his own playing. Sorry mate, this sounds like Geezer to me.
Children of The Sea – Such a wicked tune. The acoustic guitar at the start is so un-Iommi like. Even when the electric kicks in it is crisper than he usually sounds. Then the pounding drumming, Dio’s wonderful growl, Butler’s booming bass and Tony’s riffs. So good. So fucking good!!!
Lady Evil – Hey. I’ve heard that riff before. Ok where? It sounds like Fool For Your Loving by Whitesnake. Ok, who copied who? The Whitesnake album Ready An’ Willing was recorded December 1979 and February 1980. Heaven and Hell was recorded October 1979-January 1980. What could be the common link? Oh yeah, Martin Birch produced both albums. Now it all makes sense.
Heaven And Hell – The guitar on this one is one of the best ever, but I would place this bass playing as easily one of the top 100 bass songs of all time. If this really was Craig Gruber he would have been the most sought after bassist of the 80’s and 90’s, instead of a bass player that mostly fizzled out after Rainbow. Sit back and just listen to Geezer slappa da bass mon.
Possibly one of the best a-sides ever. Top 100 material again. Let’s listen to that again shall we.
Before we begin I shall say that side b is no slouch. Side a is that beautiful Hollywood a-list actress that everyone knows and loves. Side b is her sister. She is a long legged model that you’ve probably seen in ads, but just don’t know her name. Not as famous, but still amazing in her own right.
Wishing Well – I love this one. “Wish me love a wishing well to kiss and tell….” Wait? No. Not that shit. This is a Sabbath song, not Terence Thomas Dolby or whoever the hell.
Die Young – The second single off the album. It sounds so much like the song Heaven and Hell during the faster paced portions, but has a quieter portion with some spacey keys mixed in. Different but similar at the same time.
Walk Away – This is a completely different song for Black Sabbath. It almost sounds like a mash-up of some popular late 70`s rock bands. As if Dio was fronting Styx, Cheap Trick or REO Speedwagon. I`m not sure if it was an attempt to lure in non-Sabbath fans, but it is a nice change on this album.
Lonely Is The Word – More like lonely is the Ward since he left the band in a drunken haze during the tour for this album. The song is a heavy chugger to end this album on. Fans of the slower, deeper tone of the band from their earlier days (read everyone, everywhere) should enjoy this one. Also of note is the amazing guitar work here. It sounds at times as if Tony is playing in a tunnel, but it really works. Amazing guitar work is a great way to finish off a great album in my mind.
The only very minor glitch is the song placement on the back album cover. They are not in the same order as on the vinyl.