Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Revolution In Their Minds: Black Sabbath's Master of Reality at 40

 Black Sabbath - Master of Reality
Black Sabbath
Master of Reality
1971
Rating: ****

In 1971, English heavy metal band Black Sabbath were enjoying success. In 1970, the band had released two albums. Their sophomore effort, Paranoid, was both a critical and commercial success. It also gave the band a hit single with the album’s self-titled track. To follow up an album like Paranoid wouldn’t be easy to do. However, the band did just that on July 21, 1971: the band released their third album Master of Reality. For many, Master of Reality is one of the best albums by the band. Some even think it’s their best yet.
            When the band went into the recording studio to make Master of Reality, the band changed a few things to their sound. Guitarist Tony Iommi, who had lost his fingertips in an accident, decided to detune his guitar to reduce string tension. Iommi had used (to this day, still does) puts small rubber caps over the fingers where he’d loss his fingertips, which gave the band a “sludge” like sound. When Iommi detuned his guitar, Geezer Butler decided to detune his bass. Detuning the instruments gave the band a somewhat darker sound, which was all good. The band entered Island Studios in London on February 5, 1971. The band finished recording on April 5, 1971. Rodger Bain was producing once again but it would be his last time producing a Sabbath album.
            Master of Reality begins with the sound of a looping cough. The cough happens to belong to Tony Iommi. The music kicks in, in which Ozzy Osbourne shouts “Alright now!” “Sweet Leaf” is an instant Sabbath classic. The song is the band’s ode to marijuana. The song title came from the name of cigarettes Geezer Butler bought in Dublin once since the tobacco was known as “the sweet leaf”. The lyrics are somewhat confusing as to how it connects to marijuana but in the end, it becomes obvious (“When I first met you didn’t realize/I can’t forget you or your surprise/You introduced me to my mind/And left me wanting you and your kind”). “After Forever” is a great rocker. The lyrics, however, take a stab at religion (specifically Christianity). How can you not love lyrics like this?: “Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope- Do you think he’s a fool?”. The irony of the this is that the song writer, Geezer Butler, is actually a proclaimed Catholic. “Embryo” is one of two guitar instrumentals by Iommi on the album. This is the shortest of them as it’s only thirty seconds. “Children of the Grave” follows in the vein of “War Pigs” and “Electric Funeral” as it is an anti-war hymn. Iommi’s guitar work on here is really great. It sounds like you’re right there in the middle of a war. It feels like the guitar, bass, and drums are marching and the leader of it all is Ozzy Osbourne. How can you not love that? The lyrics warn of the future: “If you want a better place to live in, spread the words today”. For me, “Children of the Grave” is the best song off the album just for its anti-war themes.
“Orchid” is the second and last of Iommi’s instrumentals. It sounds like Iommi is playing an acoustic guitar as opposed to “Embryo” where he’s playing electric guitar. “Lord of This World” starts off as this sludge rock/stoner rock number. The song transitions into this killer beat/rhythm that can be best described as tight. The lyrics sound angry at the world and the leader of it all. “Lord of this world” sings Osbourne. “Evil Possessor/Lord of this world/He’s your confessor now!” “Solitude” is very different from other Sabbath songs: it’s very soft. No one would ever think to call a Sabbath song soft but for this one, it is (if you want a ballad, then I suggest “Changes” from Black Sabbath Vol. 4). Iommi is even playing flute on this one! Some believe that drummer Bill Ward sings this song but that is a myth: Ozzy is singing on this one. “Into the Void” ends the album with a terrifying vision of the world, possibly the future. It does seem to be a doomsday-like song, but like “Children of the Grave” it is warning listeners. It’s a pretty dark way to end an album.
For me, Master of Reality isn’t as good as their debut or Paranoid but there’s no doubting that Master of Reality is an amazing album. It currently sits at #125 on my list of favorite albums. It may sound not very high but it is. I really do like Master of Reality. I think of it as the third part of a trilogy. First, you have Black Sabbath. Next you have Paranoid. Finally, you have Master of Reality.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Michael "Wurzel" Burston (1949-2011)- R.I.P.

 W├╝rzel - Bess
Michael "Wurzel" Burston
October 23, 1949- July 9, 2011
(this is the best I could do for a picture. Sorry. Blame the photographers who won't share their work)

Former Motorhead guitarist Michael "Wurzel" Burston sadly passed away on Saturday July 9. He was 61 years old. Longtime bass technician for Motorhead's leader Lemmy, Tim Butcher, confirmed the news. Wurzel had died from heart disease. On the day of his death, Wurzel had been drinking Guinness and cracking jokes according a message published on Blabbermouth. Wurzel joined Motorhead back in 1984, along with guitarist Phil Campbell. It was at this time when Lemmy decided to make Motorhead a four piece band. Wurzel earned his nickname from his time in the army, as he was compared to Worzel Gummidge. Lemmy suggested to Wurzel to add umlauts to the "U" for the "heavy metal effect". Wurzel first appeared on the compilation No Remorse in 1984, which included several new Motorhead songs. Wurzel played the following Motorhead albums:

Orgasmatron (1986)
Rock N Roll (1987)
No Sleep At All (live, 1988)
1916 (1991)
March or Die (1992)
Bastards (1993)
Sacrifice (1995)
+ more

Wurzel was in Motorhead from 1984 till 1995 when he decided to leave the band. No one replaced Wurzel since Lemmy decided to make Motorhead a trio again with Campbell and drummer Mikkey Dee. Before his death, Wurzel had been working on material with his new band, Leader of Down. Motorhead fouder and bassist Lemmy has stated the following:

"Wurzel was my friend and my brother and he's never going to laugh with me again or bitch me out or do...anything. And that truly and cosmically sucks. RIP Wurz. Godspeed. Good man."

As a Motorhead fan, it is sad to learn of Wurzel's passing. Although I don't own any of the albums Wurzel was on with Motorhead at this time, it's still sad. I will consider getting one of those albums now in memory of Wurzel. Wurzel is also one of the few people to share the same birthday as me so I though that was kind of cool! He seemed like a great guy and we'll all miss him. 

RIP Wurzel.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Jim Morrison: An American Prayer (1943-1971)- 40 years later

James Douglas Morrison
December 8, 1943- July 3, 1971

July 3, 1971- Doors leader singer Jim Morrison is found dead in the bathtub of this apartment. Morrison's long time girlfriend, Pamela Courson, was the first to find out: she found him. Even 40 years after Morrison's death, it still remains a mystery as to how he actually died. There's much more myth than fact about the events before July 3. What killed the Lizard King? The death certificate said that Morrison had suffered from a heart attack. Some people don't believe this. Some say he was murdered. Some say it was an overdose. Whatever the case might be, no one know exactly how Jim Morrison died.
Jim Morrison had been the lead singer for the Doors since they formed in 1965. In 1971, the band had finished up recording their sixth studio album L.A. Woman. By this time, the Doors had fulfilled their contract with Elektra Records. They could sign with another label or stick with Elektra Records. The band decided to take a break. For Jim Morrison, he decided to live in Paris, France with his girlfriend Pamela Courson. Morrison didn't know if he was coming back to the USA. He was still facing charges from the infamous Miami gig in 1969, where Morrison allegedly exposed himself. 
Some believe that before July 3, Jim had been catching up with a friend from UCLA. He had collapsed once that day but said he was fine. At night, Jim and Pam went to the movies and/or went to a bar called the Rock N Roll Circus. It was in the middle of the night when Jim woke up throwing up blood. It is believed that to ease the pain, Jim decided to take a bath. Jim never got out of the tub. No autopsy was performed. On July 6, Jim Morrison was buried in a sealed coffin. Morrison's family and band mates never got to go to the funeral. 
The surviving members of the Doors (Ray, Robby, and John) decided to try and continue without Jim. After released two albums (Other Voices and Full Circle), the band split. Today, the music of the Doors is more popular than it ever was. Jim was also another victim of the so-called 27 club, in which rock stars die at the age of 27. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix are examples. Another is Brian Jones, who died exactly two years before Morrison on July 3, 1969.
RIP, Jim.