Review: Paranoid

What is the thing that sticks out the most about Black Sabbath’s album Paranoid? Is it the hit single? The Deep Cuts? Or perhaps the fact it has one of the worst cover sleeves known to man?

1970 was a hell of a year of music, there were many great releases back then. One of which was the stunning début album from Black Sabbath. Later on that same year the foursome squeezed out a second classic in the re-titled horrible looking Paranoid. This album is an all time classic that bridges the gap between hard rock and heavy metal, doing so for nearly fifty years.

If you ever want to hear Black Sabbath during their peak, do not listen to the post Paranoid albums. Pick up this record, crank it up and sink your teeth in real good. The Birmingham based noise makers never quite succeeded in topping the sheer power and creativity that they had here.

No one will ever forget the first time they hear the opening track War Pigs. A tough politically driven song with some fantastic rhythm work, memorable guitar hooks and some of Ozzy Osbourne’s most recognisable vocal melodies. This song has been a concert staple for Black Sabbath since the get go and has opened many a concert as a playback for bands like Judas Priest amongst many others.

Of course you have the short three minute title track. A little hit single that knocked off Dazed and Confused, features some fairly eccentric lyrics and a classic chugging guitar riff. It is immediately follow by what I consider the acquired taste of Paranoid, the song Planet Caravan. This is a psychedelic folk track that really stands out amongst the other seven songs. I personally think the song is fantastic but I have never enjoyed the effects used on Ozzy’s voice. It puts a downer on an otherwise great track.

On top of this you have the plodding Iron Man, a song about a mechanical man who gets obliterated by man only to seek revenge. This song needs no introduction and is most notable for the great riff and the backing rhythm, which I am pretty sure involves Bill Ward building a shed. The second side of the album features the haunting Electric Funeral, Hand of Doom, the wonderful instrumental Rat Salad and the drug induced Fairies Wear Boots (Doc Martens?). The lyrical themes are all over the place with their political edge, questionable fantastical experiences and total annihilation of the human race. Real hit making stuff.

In terms of production, well it was the early ’70s so everything sounds as meaty and raw as it did when the band were playing it in studio. In those terms it has dated just as much as it has aged well. You can instantly tell the period in which this was recorded, it is primitive from a technical perspective but it also creates a wonderful charm that the band never managed to re-create with album after albums worth of bad production.

If you do not already own this album, you owe it to yourself to do so immediately. I recommend not only picking it up with the original Black Sabbath record but pick it up on vinyl if you have access to a turn table. This is one of those albums that never quite sounded “right” on CD to my ears. The original vinyl LP sounds magnificent for its age and there was a nice Rhino re-issue released some years back that gives it a run for its money.

Paranoid is a genre defining classic, one that is only held back by its truly god awful art work. There are eight magnificent song, some of the bands best performances (especially Bill Ward) and a milestone that Black Sabbath never managed to achieve again (despite some worthy attempts).

Rating : 10 / 10

Where to buy :

Track Listing :

  1. War Pigs
  2. Paranoid
  3. Planet Caravan
  4. Iron Man
  5. Electric Funeral
  6. Hand of Doom
  7. Rat Salad
  8. Fairies Wear Boots

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