OnlineRock Blog

29 November 2011

R.I.P. Paul Motian, Jazz Drummer, Dead at 80

By Joseph Christ

Legendary jazz drummer, Paul Motian, passed away on Tuesday from complications of myelodysplastic syndrome. He was 80 years old and lived in Manhattan, New York. Throughout his career, Motian (pronounced motion) was a common thread between several jazz groups that helped shape and influence the jazz music of today. He helped free the jazz drummer from the sole task of time keeping and developed a subtle, free-form drumming style.

 Paul Motian, legendary jazz drummer.

Of his entire career, his most notable partnership was with Bill Evans. Their first album, New Jazz Conceptions, was released in 1956. Later, bassist Scott LaFaro joined the duo and the Bill Evans Trio was conceived, eventually becoming one of the most important and influential groups in jazz history. Recorded June 25th, 1961, their live album, Sunday At The Village Vanguard, is considered one of the most important jazz albums of all time. Sadly, the Village Vanguard sessions would mark the last time the trio would perform together. On July 6, 1961, the 25-year-old LaFaro was killed when his car skidded off a road in upstate New York and smashed into a tree. Although the band only recorded two studio albums and two live albums, their impact on the jazz community cannot be overstated.

One of the most influential jazz records of all time, featuring Paul Motian on drums.

Stephen Paul Motian was born March 25, 1931 in Philadelphia, and he grew up in Providence, Rhode Island. His Armenian parents were born in Turkey and came to the United States by way of Cuba. Motian, who also played guitar before turning to the drums at age 12, later said the Turkish and Arabic melodies he heard at home helped shape his musical ideas.

After serving his time in the Navy in the early 1950s, he played with an all-star roster of musicians on the New York jazz scene before teaming with Evans and LaFaro. Other notable collaborations with Motian include: Keith Jarrett, Thelonious Monk and Arlo Guthrie, who can be seen playing with Motian in 1969 at Woodstock.

 Bill Frisell, Paul Motian and Joe Lovano of the Paul Motian Trio.

Notably, in the 1980s, Motian formed his own jazz group, The Paul Motian Trio, with saxophonist Joe Lovano and guitarist Bill Frisell. In 2004, he entered into semi-retirement, refusing to take any jobs outside of New York. “I don’t even go to New Jersey or Brooklyn anymore, man,” he told The New York Times in 2006.

By his peers, Motian was considered a composer, a band leader, and of course an outstanding drummer. When asked to describe his technique and style, he said, “I don't have any idea what I'm doing, what I'm going to do. I don't plan. I'm playing off of the other people I'm playing with. I'm getting my ideas from the other people I'm playing with...I'm getting my ideas from the sound - the sound of the drums. That's really the most important thing.”

 Paul Motian in 2007.

He is survived by his sister, Sarah McGuirel. To get acquainted with the drummer's work, here are some recommend titles: Waltz For Debbie and Sunday At The Village Vanguard, both live albums with the Bill Evans Trio. Also be sure to check out: Treasure Island and Shades with Keith Jarrett.

To get a taste of Motian's drumming style, some sweet jazz to wind you down:


R.I.P. Paul Motian - a drummer who kept jazz moving.

27 November 2011

Original Members of Depeche Mode Reunite to Form VCMG

By Tomi Mendel

Martin Gore and Vince Clarke, two of the original members of Depeche Mode, are making music together for the first time in thirty years, according to Mute Records. Christening themselves VCMG, the pair plan to release a number of EPs followed by a full-length album in a techno-oriented style. Clarke first emailed Gore about the collaboration a year ago, feeling that his former band-mate would be a great partner for a project inspired by “minimal dance music.” 

Martin Gore and Vince Clarke, founding members of Depeche Mode.

All of the songs were created via back-and-forth email exchanges of recorded files. These two men go way back, having recorded Depeche Mode’s synth-pop classic of a debut album, Speak & Spell, together in 1981. Despite the group’s early successes, Clarke, who was the band’s primary songwriter at the time, decided to leave later that year and form a new group, Yazoo. Gore took over the reigns, and his songwriting helped propel Depeche Mode to even greater fame.

The biggest Depeche Mode song from the Vince Clarke-era.

Under Gore’s watch, they grew to be one of the few British synth-pop bands to cross the Atlantic Ocean and capture the attention of American audiences. More impressively, they managed the difficult task of appealing to rock as well as electronica fans, and songs like “Personal Jesus” and “Enjoy The Silence” remain alternative radio staples even to this day. Much of this success is due to their willingness to experiment with different genres, from the grunge-influenced 1993 single “I Feel You” to the dreamy folk-electronica of the Exciter album. Furthermore, the dark, dreary songs of the mid 1980s meshed perfectly with the industrial rock of the era. All these factors contributed to the band’s incredible worldwide success with many different kinds of music lovers.


Depeche Mode - Music - More Music Videos 
They didn’t get the memo about the flannel.

Meanwhile, Clarke’s post-Depeche Mode output has been equally fruitful as the primary songwriter for Yazoo (also known as “Yaz” in the USA) and Erasure. Although they never achieved the fame of Depeche Mode, both groups were successful in their own right, particularly in their native United Kingdom. Unlike his former band, Clarke stayed close to the electronic dance template of Speak & Spell, and he managed to top the U.S. Dance charts multiple times with both of his groups. 



Yazoo in particular, boasting wonderfully bluesy vocals courtesy of singer Alison Moyet, has built a lasting legacy, with their songs earning new fans through exposure in many movies and ads, including Napoleon Dynamite and Can’t Hardly Wait. They were also cool enough to earn a name-drop in LCD Soundsystem’s seminal ode to hipsterism, “Losing My Edge.” “I hear you're buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real,” quips singer James Murphy, “you want to make a Yaz record.”

Reunited once again, Vince Clarke and Martin Gore of Depeche Mode form VCMG.

Both men have received their share of critical acclaim and financial success, but neither has had a hit in several years. Whether they are able to recapture the magic on these new recordings remains to be seen. However, given the nature of VCMG’s music, striking a chord with the general public on the level of their previous collaboration seems unlikely. The first EP, entitled Spock, will be available in December, with the full-length currently scheduled for next spring. 

 
While the pair’s description of their new work as “techno” will probably not immediately pique the interest of most classic Depeche Mode fans, it will be interesting to see what they can come up with after all these years. It is always nice to see old friends getting along again, and hopefully this reunion will bring some good music with it as well.

26 November 2011

Of Montreal Unleashes A New Batch of Weird

By Elaine Mao 

When in need of personality: Georgia-based indie rock outfit, Of Montreal.

Of Montreal just released a really weird, 7-minute track. This may not sound too shocking or newsworthy to you if you’re at all familiar with the work of this band, which has a bit of a reputation for really weird, long tracks. This most recent one, titled “Wintered Debts,” appeared on the band’s website recently with no accompanying explanation (it's free to download), but many Of Montreal fans believe the song is a first glimpse at their upcoming eleventh studio album, Paralytic Stalks, due to be released in early 2012 on Polyvinyl.

If nothing else, “Wintered Debts” showcases the versatility of band frontman Kevin Barnes. Barnes is well-known for his on-stage performances as alter-ego Georgie Fruit--but in addition to channeling a 40-something “black she-male,” he apparently does a pretty good Elliott Smith as well. The song opens with an acoustic-backed Barnes singing about pain and bitterness with Smith’s characteristic whisper-soft delivery, but the tempo quickly picks up as Barnes segues into more traditional Of Montreal fare, recapitulating the quirky atonal pop of 2008’s Skeletal Lamping, which was my personal introduction to the band’s work, and definitely one of the most interesting albums I’ve ever heard. 

 2008's Skeletal Lamping.

And as always, Barnes’s lyrics do not disappoint, as he sings about “slipping on my own vomit while I tried to call you from a bathroom in São Paulo but I was too drunk to formulate any sort of earthly language”--truly lyrics we can all relate to, because really, who hasn’t done that, right? What? You haven’t? Uh...yeah...me neither. Amazingly enough, all this occurs in just the first minute of the song--when you’re Kevin Barnes, time is of the essence, because the goal is apparently to cram as many distinct genres as possible into a song-length period of time. By minute three, we find Barnes channeling his inner...creepy little kid, I guess...as he repeats, “Father, will we starve today? Father, will we starve?” in a soft, sing-song voice, before transitioning into a somewhat dissonant orchestral interlude.

So what is this song about? I have no idea. But once again, if you’re at all familiar with Of Montreal, you would know that this is not usually the right question to ask. Of Montreal has undergone quite a few transformations since Barnes started the band in 1997, but recently, the band seems to have perfected a very distinctive style, if I can use the term “style” loosely for a minute--because the idea of “style,” like the idea of meaning, implies a certain level of cohesiveness and unity of expression which just isn’t there. Of Montreal’s music defies categorization or simplification--sure, they’re commonly referred to as an “indie rock band,” but “indie” has become a bit of a meaningless catch-all that definitely doesn’t do justice to Of Montreal’s sound. 

 Of Montreal and frontman David Barnes have a natural flair for the eccentric.

Of course, I’m not trying to suggest that Of Montreal’s music lacks unity altogether--Barnes has a way of bringing together disparate stylistic and lyrical elements in a way that just works, and the variety constitutes a sort of unity in itself, similar to the unity of a clip show or a collage. Sometimes it seems like the purpose of each song is just to serve as a showcase for Barnes’s mastery over a variety of styles, as well as his ridiculous vocabulary--in another part of “Wintered Debts,” Barnes sings, “can’t seem to get the saddle on the spoils of this morbid fugue”--um, what??? Did he construct that sentence with a complete disregard for the meanings of the words involved? Or is there a deeper meaning that can be uncovered by further analysis? 

I don’t know, but one thing is for sure: if “Wintered Debts” is any indication of the direction Of Montreal will take for their eleventh album, this band will have us asking questions like those for a long time. Barnes even stated in an interview with Pitchfork that Paralytic Stalks would be “a bit more esoteric” than anything he’s done before. So basically...you think you’ve seen weird? You ain’t seen nothing yet.

25 November 2011

Free Music "Black" Friday - November 25, 2011

The post-pie holiday madness has taken hold once again as 150 million people turn to the streets, stampeding toward flashing lights and bargain signs. No, it's not the zombie apocalypse, it's just Black Friday - a consumer holiday in which usually normal, everyday citizens transform into savings-crazed vampires on the trail of fresh deals. Somebody should tell them that they don't need to wait until Black Friday for some hot and fresh free stuff - new, awesome music, that is. Every Friday, Online Rock celebrates the Internet, emerging artists and the word free with a hand-picked selection of the best new music.

This week is no different, and you don't have to wait in line in front of Wal-Mart in the bitter cold for days on end, enduring the possible threat of death, in order to snag some great deals. We've got a handful of free downloads right here.

*Featured*
1. The Miracals - Give Me A Chance
(name your price at Bandcamp)

EP: Give Me A Chance

Bonus OLR points if you watch Modern Family.

This week I've found a bouncy little indie pop EP from a band called The Miracals (yes, [sic]). They were apparently The Smiles previously, but had to change their name for legal reasons. Give Me a Chance is an EP of five sunshiney little gems in the Beatles tradition of catchy pop songs with a hint of twee and the vaguest suggestion of powerpop. These songs are the exact opposite of the weather right now.

-Andrew McNair

2. Emperor X - "Erica Western Teleport"
(click to stream or right click to save as)

LP: Western Teleport


Emperor X's latest album Western Teleport has been garnering plenty of strong reviews since its release in early October, and one listen to "Erica Western Teleport" makes it easy to see why. It's a quirky ode to a past relationship that boasts an infectious groove, and it feels like it was recorded by your favorite neighbor. The instantly catchy melody practically demands a singalong, but it's the free-form arrangement, constantly teetering on the edge of falling apart, which gives the song its exciting power. Hear more from Emperor X via their Tumblr: http://emperorx.tumblr.com. 

-Tomi Mendel

3.  Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real -
"Meet Me In The Morning (Bob Dylan cover)"
(free download with email)

Single: "Meet Me In The Morning"


Lukas Nelson and Promise of the Real are an impressive new rock and roll band based out of Venice, California. They combine blues, country, and even a little jazz music to create a very appealing and exciting sound. This song, “Meet Me In The Morning,” gives you a general idea of what this band is capable of. It is a riff-based blues song, with a hard rock approach. Although, no recording of this band that I have heard thus far does this band the justice they deserve. They are incredible live. But they seem to fall a bit short in the studio. However, this track is a notable step in the right direction.  

-Joseph Christ

4. The Belligerents - "Steal Money"
(free download from Unearthed)

Single: "Steal Money" 


Okay, here we have it: a Black Friday/holiday shopping madness AND Occupy Wall Street-relevant song by the infectious dance pop five-piece, The Belligerents. They bring the Brisbane indie scene straight to us through cyberspace, and in this song, they manage to do the undeniably fun clapping-whistling-"ooh"-ing pop thing, while singing (in a tone of dark irony) about the permanence of money, hammered in by an ominous beat. "They get richer, you get poorer... they sneak in and steal your stuff/well, it's easy because you're dumb," the Belligerents croon, quite soberly, actually. This single was just recorded and released last week, and hopefully we hear much more from them soon. Check out their Facebook.

Bonus: Free download of two other songs from the same link!

-Nancy Woo

5. The Duke Spirit - "Don't Wait"
(click to stream or right click to download)
 
LP: Bruiser


To finish things off strong, we've got a sultry, alluring rock anthem courtesy of U.K-based band The Duke Spirit. Led by smoky female vocals and a fuzzed-out guitar that hits hard and then retreats, there's a satisfying balance of density and spaciousness present here. The vocals sweep along like a spidery web as the drums, keyboard and electrifying guitar weave in and out, reaching deep into the pockets of the song to fill it up just right. After seven years of playing together, the band just released their third full-length album, Bruiser. Find out more at http://thedukespirit.com/
 
Bonus: Stream the entire album at Spin.com.
 
-Nancy Woo  

23 November 2011

Tennis Releases New Single and Details of Sophomore Album


By Ana Diaz

Indie pop band Tennis is slated to release a new single in the coming weeks and a new album in February of next year. Their newest single, “Origins,” will be released on December 6th as a double A-side 7” via Forest Family records. Young and Old, the full length follow up to last January’s Cape Dory, will be released February 14th on Fat Possum records. The band will play a few shows, mainly in the western United States and Canada, in support of the new material.

 Dreamy sound, dreamy look.

Tennis’ dreamy sound is the result of the spousal collaboration between Alaina Moore and Patrick Riley with help from drummer James Barone. Their music evokes a feeling of times gone by, of 60’s pop with a pinch of surf rock guitar. If you can imagine Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino wearing boat shoes and polos, that is the sound I picture in my head. The couple began their creative endeavor shortly after finishing college when they decided to sell their worldly possessions and embark on a seven month long sailing trip. Somewhere between the eastern coastline and the gentle lulls of the Atlantic, they decided to translate their intimate oceanic sojourn into music. Their debut, Cape Dory, was their attempt at synthesizing their love for nostalgia and each other. With tracks like “Marathon” and “Seafarer,” Tennis created a light ambiance that reflects the months of serene intimacy the two spent together.

The Cape Dory cover reminds me of my days as a toddler in the late 80s.

“Origins,” though, has an incredibly fun and catchy sound. Alaina Moore’s bright voice keeps the song upbeat while still maintaining the almost wistful pop feel that characterized the band in their first record. Its constant keyboard line keeps the song moving. The vocal harmonies, especially the “oh oh” in the chorus, persuade you to bob your head to the rhythm at the very least. As a taste of what is to come, Young and Old seems to be the perfect counter part to Cape Dory. Moreover, the band enlisted Black Keys drummer, Patrick Carney, to produce their latest endeavor.

Can you feel the fun?

Prior to news of these releases, the band treated fans with two covers of 60’s favorites. The band covered Brenda Lee’s “Is It True?” and The Zombies’ “Tell Her No.” Each cover is endearing and extremely loyal to their respective originals. Despite the high level of fidelity, Tennis manages to still make the covers uniquely theirs. With the Brenda Lee cover, the song’s seminal guitar riff remained essentially untouched, though the band gave it a much sharper sound. I am especially fond of The Zombies cover. The guitars sound crisp but there is still this layer of age that alludes to the original's era. For instance, the background vocals have a very 60's pop group feel to them, and when Moore’s vocals hit loud or high notes the sound almost crackles as it would on vinyl.

Be sure to check out the band’s official website for free downloads of the two covers as well more info on their upcoming mini tour.

21 November 2011

Pink Floyd: "Wish You Were Here: Experience Edition" Enlightens

By Joseph Christ

After years of anticipation, Pink Floyd has finally opened up their archives to the public. On September 27th, 2011, the band launched their “Why Pink Floyd?” campaign. This entails a planned re-release of all 14 of their original studio albums remastered from the original analog tapes by long time engineer for the band, James Guthrie. The albums Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall are to be made available in various special editions, featuring a plethora of previously unreleased audio and video material. 

 
The 2-disc Wish You Were Here: Experience Edition, released on November 8th, 2011, seems the most exciting of the titles released thus far. The first disc contains the original mix of Pink Floyd's 1975 album that we all know and love, remastered in 2011 by James Guthrie. Critics appear to unanimously agree that this remaster is the best-sounding to date. Yet, I must say I tend to favor the original 1983 CBS issue, which, to me, sounds less compressed and much more dynamic. The 2011 remaster, however, does appear to have a bit more color and detail.

Wish You Were Here originally released September 12th, 1975.

What caught my attention more than anything was the inclusion of three bonus tracks on the second disc that were recorded on November 15th, 1974 at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London. These tracks include early work-in-progress versions of the songs “Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-6),” “Sheep” and “Dogs.” The latter two were originally titled “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy,” and were later released on the Animals album.  

 Animals originally released January 23rd, 1977.

This early version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is very similar to the final track that ended up on the actual Wish You Were Here album. The only real significant differences are that there are no female vocals to accompany David Gilmour and Richard Wright's vocals on the chorus of the song. When listening to the track, they seem to get by without the soulful harmonies of Venetta Fields and Carlena Williams, but it is apparent that something crucial is indeed missing. The other major difference is the notable absence of the saxophone solo, to be made famous later by friend of the band, Dick Perry. In retrospect, I find the find this early version of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to be a fascinating insight into how the band rehearsed and developed new material in a live setting while on tour. 

 Pink Floyd in 1974.

The remainder of the live tracks, “Raving and Drooling” and “You Gotta Be Crazy,” were written and conceived during the tours of 1974 and 1975, but were in fact saved for the Animals album, later released in 1977. The discovery of these tracks in the archives is one of the most profound discoveries to date in the Pink Floyd camp, as these are the only live recordings that exist from this period of the band's career. Upon listening to these two tracks, it is immediately apparent that these are definitely “in-progress” pieces of work. They are vastly different from the songs that appeared on the final album.

“Raving and Drooling” is mostly an instrumental piece with lyrics that, in comparison to “Sheep,” leave a bit to be desired. In my opinion, this track is the one of the weaker unreleased tracks. One thing that is nice about it, though, is the prominence of Richard Wright's keyboard work, something that seems to fall by the wayside oftentimes in Pink Floyd recordings. 

 Richard Wright on keyboard in the 1970s.

“You Gotta Be Crazy” is relatively faithful to the version of “Dogs” that appeared on the final album. The lyrics are very similar, in a sense. The melody and structure of the song are also similar as well. The lyrics come off a bit faster and with a bit more contempt, which David Gilmour seems to deliver with more venom than on the final studio version. My favorite thing about this work-in-progress is the inclusion of the line, “Gotta keep everyone buying this shit,” which, to me, signifies the beginning of lyricist Roger Waters' disenchantment with being in a rock and roll band, and the beginning of his best era of songwriting. 

Roger Waters in the 1970s: the look of pure inspiration.

The other tracks on the disc of bonus material are outtakes from the “Wish You Were Here” recording sessions in 1975. Included is a rough version of “Have a Cigar,” featuring Roger Waters handling lead vocals instead of Roy Harper, and an alternate guitar solo by David Gilmour. After my initial listen, I immediately thought to myself, “Why didn't they keep this for the final album?” I simply love this alternate take. I think it’s safe to say that I strongly prefer this version to Roy Harper's, which appears on the final album. Call it blasphemy if you will, but to me it just sounds much more like Pink Floyd.

Other gems on this disc are the “Wine Glasses” track from the infamous “Household Objects” sessions and an alternate version of the title track “Wish You Were Here,” featuring Stephane Grappelli on violin. The abandoned “Household Objects” track is mostly forgettable to anyone but the most ardent Pink Floyd fan. However, the alternate version of “Wish You Were Here” is a gem. Thought to be lost for over 35 years, the tape was found by Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason. It features a violin coda by Django Reinhardt's violinist, Stephane Grappelli, and it adds a lovely touch to the song, which made me think yet again, “Why didn't they keep this for the final album?” For whatever reason they chose not to include it, the original album is still a masterpiece, and finally having these alternate and live tracks after all these years should be enough of a blessing to satisfy even the most hungry Pink Floyd fan. Even if you already have the original Wish You Were Here album, I recommend purchasing this release just for the bonus tracks. 

18 November 2011

Free Music Friday - November 18, 2011

Ooooh brrr.... the fog's rolling in, the nights are starting earlier and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes have been in Starbucks for a couple of weeks now. All these factors can mean only one thing: fall has fallen upon us, and it's only going to get colder. As we see less of the sun during these winter days, the mood tends to be a little more low-key; perhaps it's time to pull out that dusty box of arts and crafts or stock up on hot chocolate from Costco for quiet evenings at home by the fire. This next set of songs isn't going to pump you up for a crazy evening out, but they may gel nicely with an inward, reflective mood.

*Featured*
1. Lord Huron - Mighty/Into the Sun EPs
(free download with email from NoiseTrade)

EP: Mighty

Bonus OLR points for most impressive album cover, possibly of all time.

EP: Into the Sun
Double OLR bonus points for another beautiful cover.

The first find for this week is a set of EPs from Lord Huron. Both Mighty and Into the Sun have the same sort of sound: a neo-folk (think Fleet Foxes or Bon Iver) songwriting sensibility with Caribbean influences in the instrumentation. Easy music to chill out to.

-Andrew McNair

2. Three Blind Wolves - The Maybe Forest
(name your price at Bandcamp)

Three in a row! Bonus points for cool cover.

Second up is an album written in two days and recorded in one: The Maybe Forest by Three Blind Wolves. I don't know how true the story is that Ross Clark tells of the album's genesis on his Bandcamp page, but even if it took him more than two days to write and one to record, he's a talent to be reckoned with. The album is a mostly acoustic-guitar centric affair, with a lot of inventive vocal harmonies swirling around the melodies. Tends toward the quiet side and reminds me a bit of Jose Gonzalez.

-Andrew McNair

3. mr. Gnome - "House of Circles"
(click to stream or right click to save as)

LP: Madness in Miniature

Alice in Wonderland meets Frank the Bunny? Double triple quadruple cover points.

mr. Gnome is Cleveland duo Nicole Barille and Sam Meister. This experimental band intricately blends ethereal and psychedelic textures. With such a fusion, “House of Circles” can easily be the soundtrack to a dream or a drug trip. Their latest album Madness in Miniature was just recently released October 25, 2011, and can be found - plus more - at http://www.mrgnome.com/

-Ana Diaz

4. Kurt von Stetten - "Codify"
(click to stream or right click to save as)
LP: Cyclops

An ethereal, bell-like chiming envelops this atmospheric garage-pop tune from Kurt von Stetten. Combining a lilting melody with a thunderous drumbeat, it's a short but sweet one that's sure to be great for night driving. Boston-based von Stetten plays all the instruments by himself on the track, which is featured on the upcoming album Cyclops, his sixth in as many years. If you enjoy music that exists somewhere between hypnotic and epic, this is the song for you. Check out more at http://staticmotor.com/bands/kurt_von_stetten

-Tomi Mendel

5. Daisy McCrackin - "I Think I'm A Ghost"
(click to stream or right click to save as)

LP: God Willing


Any artist called "the real deal" by John Perry Barlow, songwriter for the Grateful Dead, may just be worth checking out. Crafted with layers of feeling and nostalgia, executed with haunting vocals and a steady march of folk instruments, "I Think I'm A Ghost" is a perfect song for a chilly winter evening. Almost heartbreaking at times, the simple beauty of Daisy McCrackin's vocals might just awaken some dormant spirits inside. The album God Willing came out in September of 2011; more information is available at her website.

-Nancy Woo

17 November 2011

Black Sabbath Reunites With Original Lineup

By Elaine Mao

For the first time since 1978, Black Sabbath will record a new studio album with all four original band members. This is a pretty big deal because the lineup will include legendary singer and pop culture icon Ozzy Osbourne. Depending on who you are (and what decade you’re stuck in), you either know Ozzy as the “Prince of Darkness,” or as the eccentric father in one of America’s favorite (?) dysfunctional families. Since 1978, Ozzy has built up quite an impressive reputation both through his solo recording career and his MTV antics, but it’s nice to see him return to where it all began.

The Prince of Darkness to reclaim his throne.

The reunited band will include Osbourne, guitarist Tony Iommi, bassist Geezer Butler, and drummer Bill Ward. Since 1997, there have been multiple on-and-off reunions, with the original four members even performing together as recently as 2005 to headline Ozzfest. However, none of these brief reunions has ever yielded any new Sabbath material featuring Ozzy’s vocals (Ronny James Dio-era Sabbath is another story, RIP). The band’s new album is set to be released in fall 2012 via Vertigo/Universal, with plans for a worldwide tour to promote it, including a headlining set at the 2012 Download Festival in June.

Original members Bill Ward, Ozzy Osbourne, Geezer Butler and Tony Iommi.

The album will be produced by Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Johnny Cash), and Iommi has said in interviews that it will be true to “the old Sabbath style and sound.” Spin.com describes Sabbath as “the unfuckwithable bedrock on which all heavy metal was constructed,” which is pretty dead-on accurate. 

Songs like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man” have not only become firmly embedded within the canon of heavy metal, but they have also become must-knows for even non-metalheads. The vast proliferation of Black Sabbath covers by bands that sound nothing like Black Sabbath can attest to this fact—and who doesn’t love weird, unexpected covers? It’s a no-brainer that Metallica, heirs to Black Sabbath’s heavy metal throne, would cover “Iron Man,” but the song has also been covered by several unlikely candidates.

The Cardigans, best known for their 1998 hit, “Lovefool,” did an interesting version of the song, featuring the same sweet, lilting female vocals of “Lovefool.”


The jazz piano trio, The Bad Plus, also recorded an amazing piano version of “Iron Man” on their 2004 album, Give. 

And for you indie kids, electronic experimental artist Four Tet, who has received much love from Pitchfork and the rest of the critical community, contributed an “Iron Man” cover for the Black Sabbath tribute album, Everything Comes & Goes.


And of course, once you’re done listening to those covers, have another listen to the original:

Not because you've forgotten, but just to re-light that fire...

It's a pretty high bar to meet. Even putting aside the band's declining health for a second (attention everyone: drugs are bad), what are the chances that the newly reunited Sabbath can actually live up to this? Very slim, if the entirety (slight exaggeration here) of music history is any indication of what we can expect. Black Sabbath holds the sacred honor of being one of the few great metal bands that hasn’t yet been deemed a “sellout” (try it: a quick Google search of “Black Sabbath sellouts” doesn’t yield much). However, can’t say the same for Metallica—most metalheads refuse to acknowledge any material the band recorded after, and including, The Black Album. So, will Sabbath’s new album be another classic, or will it be their Black Album equivalent? Or will it be some mediocre halfway point, and just fade into relative obscurity? Personally, I will be hoping for the former, but I’d be willing to settle for the last.

Also, no one really liked "The Osbournes," anyway, am I right?