Black Sabbath - _Reunion_
(Sony/Epic, 1998)
by: Paul Schwarz (8 out of 10)
Before I list the pros and cons of this record, I want to point this out: a Black Sabbath live record featuring one entire show, with the original line-up, reunited in 1997, in their hometown, should be worthy of a 10 out of 10 from a Sabbath fan such as myself. I was at this show (December 5th, 1997) and it was a momentous experience, but I had problems with the set list and performance offered at the time, and thus I have problems with _Reunion_. There are sixteen live tracks on offer here. Twelve come from the first three Sabbath records, only three come from albums four to six and there is "Dirty Women" from _Technical Ecstasy_. I don't really like "Dirty Women", so to me this is somewhat a waste of six odd minutes of valuable set time, and I feel that albums four to six are unfairly under-represented. Classics like "Supernaut" and "Wheels of Confusion" from _Vol.4_ are missed and nothing from _Sabotage_ is even played. There are two tracks ("Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and "Spiral Architect") from _Sabbath Bloody Sabbath_ (my favorite album) and, though there are plenty more off this album I wish they had also played, my main point of contention with these two tracks is the performance given of them. Ozzy can no longer reach the high pitched lines like "[...] the truth I want to know" in "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", and instead goes down an octave to sing them -- it is disappointing and in some ways makes me wish they had just not played these songs. Of course, from the twelve songs off the first three albums I can't say any shouldn't have been included on a Sabbath live album, it's just that I feel the band could have been more balanced in their set list allocations. There are times when small mistakes are made or Ozzy's voice cracks, but this is all part of the live feel and doesn't dent the record's near unshaking musical excellence. The crowd sound great and are amazingly loud (talk about patting yourself on the back...) and Ozzy's comments and exchanges are funny, giving _Reunion_ further live character. The two new studio tracks are decent, though nothing to write home about, and I would suggest listening to them in a separate sitting, as they otherwise totally screw with the whole "live performance" feeling. Overall, despite my gripes, this is a great live record documenting the show near flawlessly and making you feel like you're there (again). It's also quite a good record to play to those who haven't heard the band and don't understand "what all the fuss is about". Even though I think albums four to six are under/mis-represented here, this is still an essential for any fan of classic Black Sabbath.

(article published 16/1/1999)

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