The original Black Sabbath lineup with Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, Tony Iommi on guitar, Bill Ward on drums, and Geezer Butler on bass stands as one of the most talented, consistent, and influential bands of all time. Even when they were barely holding it together behind the scenes, these guys could still create magic when they pressed “play” in the recording studio and let ‘er rip.
To honor that early Sabbath lineup, I’m highlighting five deep cuts that more casual fans may have never heard. There’s no “Black Sabbath,” “Paranoid,” or “Iron Man” on this list, and I also tried to leave out songs that have gained big cult followings over the years (“Children of the Gravel,” “Sabbra Cadabra,” “Symptom of the Universe”). If you’re a diehard metalhead, you already know these songs by heart; if not, just buckle in and enjoy the ride.
“Lord of this World” – Masters of Reality (1971)
Black Sabbath’s third album, Masters of Reality, featured eight songs, but two of them were actually instrumental genre experiments (“Embryo,” “Orchid”). Only giving fans six new Sabbath tunes could have been a potential flaw with the record, but each and every one of those six songs was an absolute behemoth.
“Sweet Leaf” and “Children of the Grave” are Masters of Reality’s stone-cold classics, but the other four songs are great as well … and that brings us to “Lord of this World.”
In a career known for brutally heavy guitar riffs, did Iommi write anything that was actually heavier than this one? Just listen to that thing and tell me it doesn’t rattle your bones; go on, I’ll wait. Iommi even solos for a bit, a part of his game a lot of people seem to forget when they discuss the band’s sound.
Ward’s drumming is huge on his one as well, especially right before the chorus. And there’s even some cowbell if you follow along long enough!
“Supernaut” – Vol. 4 (1972)
I want to reach out and touch the sky! Ozzy sings on “Supernaut.” I want to touch the sun/ But I don’t need to fly!
The first thing that stands out about this song, from 1972’s Vol. 4, is once again Iommi’s guitar work—and for good reason. But there’s also a wicked drum solo from Ward hiding in the darkness.
And as if “Supernaut” wasn’t great enough, it came after the band’s first ballad (“Changes”) and a pointless interlude (“FX”), so fans were always dying with anticipation to hear something heavy when they heard it for the first time. Way to play with your fans’ emotions, guys!
“The Thrill of It All” – Sabotage (1975)
Other than Paranoid, Sabotage might just be my favorite Black Sabbath album. “Hole in the Sky” and “Symptom of the Universe” are two of the band’s greatest triumphs while “Megalomania,” “Supertzar,” and “The Writ” show that Ozzy and company were still experimenting and taking their sound in new directions.
In the middle of it all is “The Thrill of it All,” a cut that manages to maintain Sabbath’s classic sound while incorporating prominent synthesizers and what sounds like about a thousand different guitar tracks from Iommi. This might just be the closest these guys ever got to Rush-like prog rock, and they pull it off with ease.
If you’re only familiar with the band’s hits, I highly recommend checking out all of Sabotage. Blak Sabbath was capable of much more than people given them credit for, and this entire record proves that perfectly.
“It’s Alright” – Technical Ecstasy (1976)
Drummer Bill Ward wrote and sang “It’s Alright,” one of the hightlights on 1976’s Technical Ecstasy. The band was a complete mess at this point, with Iommi wanting to update their sound and Ozzy already thinking about embarking on his solo career, and Technical Ecstasy suffered as a result. But it did produce a few above-average tracks, and “It’s Alright” definitely falls in that category.
Give it all and ask no return, Ward sings. And very soon you’ll see and you’ll begin to learn/ That’s it’s alright, yes it’s alright. It’s a little amusing that Ward finally gets his moment to shine and he sings such a straightforward, happy-go-lucky song, but maybe when you play drums in Black Sabbath for several years, you get worn out on diabolical lyrics about the devil, death and everything inbetween.
As far as ballads by the original Sabbath lineup go, I’ll take “It’s Alright” over “Changes” any day of the week.
“Never Say Die” – Never Say Die (1978)
1978’s Never Say Die is the last album the original Black Sabbath lineup released before Ozzy was replaced by Ronny James Dio. It’s also that lineup’s worst effort by significant margin; it’s not offensively bad, but the songs just aren’t all that memorable. One exception, though, is the title track. “Never Say Die” is loud, fast, and brutal, with the band sounding like a punk band playing in a tiny club and not rock and roll royalty on the verge of imploding.
Never Say Die may have been a bit of a misfire, but it’s worth owning just for this one.
… and that’s it! You can listen to the full playlist below, via Spotify:
Did you like what you read? I wrote about 5 Bob Dylan deep cuts last month, and you can read that full article here.