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Its hard to believe that metal started four decades ago, so much has happened in the genre since then. We can thank Black Sabbath for all of our beloved metal music; it can all be traced back to them. They did not only start a genre, they were also masters of playing it. Even their earliest songs, like these ones, are solid gold.
"Evil Woman" is a cover of the band Crow. While not their most metal song, it is one of my favorites. While not technically all that good, Ozzy's trademark ghastly voice shows that perfection can be found in flaw. While he is singing about a deceptive temptress, Tony Iommi's simplistic distorted power chords provides catchy repetition. While many bands push the bass to the background, Black Sabbath don't follow such conventions. In this song, the bass plays an even more important role than the guitar. The main riff is an alternating patter of power chords and bass lines. As usual, Tony shreds away on the guitar but Geezer Butler's bass mini bass solos really steal the show.
"Wicked World" showcases Iommi's uncanny ability to produce amazing solos. Even though he recently lost a fingertip in an industrial accident, Tony plucks away with ability above the vast majority of guitar players. While Ozzy wails on about about gloom and despair, Iommi plays his memorable doom-laced power chords. Bill Ward shows his talent by dishing out drum rolls between steady beats. This song is very good, especially considering that it is Black Sabbath's first original composition.
If you are looking back into metal's roots, this is the place to start; these are some of the first metal songs. While many bands like Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin came close, Black Sabbath took the leap and began a new style of music. These two songs are perfect examples of how Black Sabbath took blues influenced rock'n'roll and made it into something different.
As hard as it may be for most of us metal heads to fathom today, the music that we know and love has its roots in 1960s hippie culture. Though some of the offerings that would later be put on the famous self-titled “Black Sabbath” LP would foreshadow a much darker characterization of rock music in a metal transition, Ozzy and company got their start covering and then composing blues oriented rock with a heavily psychedelic character. If nothing else, the image of the band on this single’s cover art is indicative of the time that this came out.
“Evil Woman” is your quintessential bluesy rock number, consisting of a very basic, formulaic, and repetitive set of pentatonic riffs and a tight yet easy going rhythm section. The vocal work has an attitude to it, yet is restrained in its range and largely blends with the rest of the arrangement. Sabbath’s reinterpretation of this song, though today considered fairly tame and in keeping with classic rock practices, was likely the darkest thing that anyone who attended their gigs had ever heard, owing completely to the down tuned character of Iommi’s guitar and the bass heavy tone all but links it by the hip to the bass line.
The b-side and better known song “Wicked World” sees a much more forward looking style, largely resembling the harder rocking character of Led Zepplin’s late 60s material, but with a bit more of a jam session character. Geezer Butler’s heavily active bass work and Bill Ward’s loose flowing, fill happy beats give it a heavily jazz-oriented character, while Iommi’s bluesy yet heavier rock riffs give the overall listen a very cynical character. Things come to a head when things calm down and a brief broken chord line that sounds semi-classical in nature paves the way for a brilliant guitar alone solo in a similar vain to the one heard on Zepplin’s “Heart Breaker”, but with a more structured and disciplined character.
For the enthusiastic Sabbath completist looking to add this to his collection of historical releases, this and 5 other classic Ozzy era singles have been brought back from the vinyl age in CD form as part of a singles compilation. It is not an essential release and offers nothing that can’t be gotten from the band’s debut LP, but it carries a level of charm for those obsessed with the early history of heavy metal. In short, two very primitive yet auspicious offerings that foreshadowed a new kind of music that is loved by the adventurous, feared by the sanctimonious, and ready to be appreciated by all who hold rock and metal in high regard.