With most of the original line-up of Black Sabbath back on the road and apparently working on a new album, it’s no surprise to see a new compilation album out to try and catch the eye of casual fans. And that’s all Iron Man – The Best Of Black Sabbath seems to be aiming to do.
It’s always quite difficult to review compilations like this, because there’s two sides to them. On the one side, you can just review the quality of the music, while on the other you can judge how necessary the album is for fans. And to review something like this, that means coming up with two completely separate verdicts, because it’s a brilliant collection of heavy metal classics and is also completely pointless.
Well, pointless unless you caught the Sabs live at Download recently or have just heard Paranoid on some rock radio station and want to find out more about their other classic songs. But, in this day and age, youngsters are more likely to turn to Spotify or YouTube to do their research, before heading to a torrent site to download the whole discography in about 20 minutes. So who is this aimed at?
Another issue is that it’s effectively nothing more than a repackaging of a Greatest Hits album that came out just three years ago with exactly the same songs on it, so surely people could just find that fairly easy? And it’s a shame that it’s another compilation that just focuses on one era of Sabbath history, with only Ozzy albums featured. Of course it’s the most famous and influential era, but would it hurt to include some Dio-era songs, especially as he passed away not long ago?
But anyway, assuming that you don’t already own albums like Paranoid, Vol.4, Black Sabbath or the other albums represented here, and don’t already own any of the other similar compilations, should you get this? Yes, of course. There’s a bit of bad feeling around this latest Sabbath reunion because of the exclusion of drummer Bill Ward, but that doesn’t take anything away from the breathtaking majesty of the songs on Iron Man.
Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Ward may or may not have ‘invented’ heavy metal, but they certainly perfected it on those early albums, and songs like Paranoid, War Pigs, Iron Man, Fairies Wear Boots, N.I.B. and Black Sabbath remain as fantastic-sounding as they ever did. There’s no weak tracks here, largely because the patchy later Ozzy-era albums are largely ignored, and you’ll be in for a treat if it’s your first taste of them. But if it’s not, there’s nothing for you here.
Acoustic guitars and grunge have gone together well ever since Nirvana's appearance on MTV Unplugged, so its no surprise that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell has had such a success with his similarly stripped-back Songbook tour, and this was another triumphant, legacy-affirming performance.