BLACK SABBATH – Vol.4 [Super Deluxe Edition 4CD / remixes by Steven Wilson] (2021)
The just released “Vol.4 [Super Deluxe Edition 4CD / remixes by Steven Wilson]” is a fantastic glimpse into the studio and onto the stage of BLACK SABBATH’s turning-point classic, remastered with an appropriate excess of extras in a 4-CD pack.
This mega reissue brings together just about all the ”Vol.4” one could ever need. As well as a remaster of the album itself, there are alternate takes of the songs lovingly remixed by Porcupine Tree genius Steven Wilson, studio outtakes, and a live album comprised of recordings from various shows on the band’s 1973 UK tour.
It’s these extras that make this box set worth getting for Sabbath-heads. The Steven Wilson remixes are superb, a collection of alternative versions of the songs that are worth it for the curiosity factor alone.
Having constructed much of the material for their first three records from ideas formed during lengthy jams at shows, especially during their tenure at Hamburg’s Star Club where The Beatles had also done time, their riff cupboard had become somewhat bare.
Thus, when they set up camp at a mansion in Bel-Air to record their new opus, it would require much more songwriting time than previously. Flush with fame and money, the band managed to spend $75,000 – $15,000 more than the recording budget. But these resources also meant that the band were able to exercise their creative muscles with far fewer limitations on them than had previously been the case.
On ”Vol. 4” there was a far wider scope to things than on the doomy Paranoid, or the bonged-out Master Of Reality. Cornucopia and Under The Sun boasted trademark bottom-end Iommi riffs, but elsewhere there were more twitchy, upbeat moments like the groovy Supernaut, epic opener Wheels Of Confusion, and even a piano ballad in Changes.
But there’s also a shine to everything on Vol 4, an energy that makes Tomorrow’s Dream and Snowblind (the most obvious drug song, in which Ozzy whispers an unsubtle ‘Cocaaaaaine’) arrive far more swaggering and confident than previously.
As said, the ‘New Mixes’ sound awesome, the ‘outtakes’, meanwhile, capture false starts, studio chat (“What’s this one called?” asks the engineer at the start of Wheels Of Confusion; “Bollocks,” replies Ozzy), and run-throughs that collapse halfway through. It’s a curiosity, but a window into the studio of one of the greatest rock albums of all time, nevertheless.
As for the live stuff, the band are simply on fire, heavy as hell, and completely in the zone throughout.
And it’s in this quality that these extras underline just what a band Black Sabbath were at the time. Already a group who could turn it on and get into the groove at the flick of a switch, that the studio stuff sounds so close to the ‘canon’ versions is testament to how strong the musical core of the band had become.
The live stuff, meanwhile, amply demonstrates just how different they were to their peers in Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple, or forebears like The Beatles or The Rolling Stones – they were really heavy, the rhythm section of Geezer Butler and Bill Ward was positively elastic, and they now had a confident energy that lightninged out of them constantly.
It would be this that propelled Sabbath on to even greater heights, and solidified them as not just one of the biggest, but also the most important bands of their time.
In years to come, the drugs would clearly not always work, to the point where, creatively bereft and fed up, the band fell apart. But when they did, they attached a rocket to something already great, and resulted in something genuinely magic.
CD1: Vol.4 Remastered 2021
01 – Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener
02 – Tomorrow’s Dream
03 – Changes
04 – FX
05 – Supernaut
06 – Snowblind
07 – Cornucopia
08 – Laguna Sunrise
09 – St. Vitus Dance
10 – Under the Sun / Every Day Comes and Goes
CD 2: Outtakes – New Mixes
01. Wheels of Confusion / The Straightener
05. Laguna Sunrise
06. Under the Sun (Instrumental)
CD 3: Alternate Takes, False Starts and Studio Dialogue
01. Wheels of Confusion (False Start with Studio Dialogue)
02. Wheels of Confusion (Alternative Take 1)
03. Wheels of Confusion (Alternative Take 2)
04. Wheels of Confusion (Alternative Take 3)
05. Wheels of Confusion (Alternative Take 4)
06. The Straightener (Outtake)
07. Supernaut (Outtake)
08. Supernaut (Alternative Takes with False Starts)
09. Snowblind (Alternative Take 1 – Incomplete)
10. Under the Sun (False Start with Studio Dialogue)
11. Under the Sun (Alternative Take with Guide Vocal)
CD 4: Live in the U.K. 1973
(* previously unreleased; all others released in alternate mixes on Live at Last – NEMS BS001, 1980)
01. Tomorrow’s Dream *
02. Sweet Leaf *
03. War Pigs
04. Snowblind *
05. Killing Yourself To Live
07. Wicked World (& medley)
08. Supernaut/Drum Solo
09. Wicked World (Reprise)
11. Children Of The Grave
Tony Iommi – guitars, piano, mellotron
Geezer Butler – bass guitar, mellotron
Bill Ward – drums, percussion
Ozzy Osbourne – vocals