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This review is for the 1-disc remastered version which was released in the late 90s. I think it's been remastered yet again in a 2-disc format, similar to the original release. That being said, this version is edited, allegedly to fit the playing time, and as a result we lose a bass solo and part of the drum solo if memory serves. Some spoken intros to songs are missing too. Long ago I owned the cassette version and the differences between this release and the original were noticable but minimal.
I never had that much of a problem with the sound quality of this album. The remaster sounds much better but it's still not perfect. In my view, my sound expectations for live albums has always been rather low, so if i like the music I can usually forgive less than perfect sound quality. Your mileage may vary.
This is the Black Sabbath Mark 2.25 version with Ronnie James Dio on vocals, two albums in from taking over for Ozzy Osbourne, and also features Vinny Appice on drums who took over for Bill Ward. The set list is a nice mix of classic Sabbath tunes, none newer than their third album, and new songs the previous two albums featuring Dio.
Dio sounds completely focused all the way through (as does the rest of the band). He has such a forceful and powerful voice, whether it be hitting the softer and emotional notes of "Children of the Sea" or belting out a loud, evil, sadistic growl (not death metal growl obviously) on "Black Sabbath". He also lays down some improvised vocals on "Voodoo" and "Heaven and Hell", although it's possible that those sections were part of the original writing and just left off their respective albums. I say that because Dio routinely uses the additional lyrics during performances of both songs.
Dio is a vocal and songwriting force to be reckoned with. Whether or not the band split strictly due to arguments over the production of this record is immaterial now. The important thing is that Dio had a creative explosion both during and immediately after his tenure with Sabbath, producing 4 utterly brilliant albums between 1980 and 1984, and the world is a better place as a result.
For those of you who've enjoyed Black Sabbath's music post-Ozzy, this album is the point where Tony Iommi settled on his now-trademark guitar tone. The dry, clearer rhythm and soloing style with a lot less blues influence started here in my opinion, probably due to this being the first time I had heard the "classic" Sabbath tracks played with this particular guitar tone. During the 70s Iommi seemed to experiment a lot more with blues and such, and from this point forward he is a full-on metal guitarist. Thats fine with me, as he never forgot how to lay down quality riffs and music as long as he had a strong group of songwriters to team up with. The guitar sound is a bit muddy here, in particular the faster break on "Iron Man" could stand to bring the guitar up in the mix, but overall I never had a problem hearing what was being played. This is also the first time I remember hearing that opening solo during "Black Sabbath" that's been used ever since.
Geezer Butler's basslines seem to come in and out on this recording, volume-wise. During some of the ripping sections of "The Mob Rules" you can clearly hear Geezer, then he seems to fade in and out. The same thing happens throughout the whole album. Its difficult to explain because it's not always noticible unless you are keying your ear to the bassline, and it doesn't really take away from the verall sound of the record for some reason. Kinda odd. his playing is excellent of course.
Vinnie Appice had such a massive drum sound during his tenure with Sabbath and the early Dio days. He is absolutely crushing that kit and I'd wager that there was no heavier drum sound to be found back in 1981-82. This remaster gives the drums a bit more oomph, a welcome change. Appice is just plain heavy and mostly precise, although his heavy-handed trademark sound makes any errors stand out much more. I think Appice single-handedly saved "Mob Rules" from being a clone of "Heaven and Hell", but that's a discussion for a "Mob Rules" review.
Overall I enjoy this album, although the sound is not flawless and I'm not always in the mood for Dio's versions of the classic Sabbath songs. The reason this loses points in 2010 is because we now have the wonderful Heaven & Hell "Live at Radio City Music Hall" album, which smokes "Live Evil" in every way. That album has a better overall sound quality and not an Ozzy song in sight. So, officially this album is getting a 74 from me, which would have been an 84 if the H&H live album didn't exist. Oh, that's not fair, you say? Bite me.
This album marks the beginning of my metal journey, what an unusual place to start! I was 12 years old and this album's artwork caught my eye in a record shop and I basically begged my parents to get it for me. I had no idea who Black Sabbath was, I didn’t know their previous history with Ozzy Osbourne. Believe it or not, there was a brief period of time when I was under the impression Dio was their original vocalist. After repeated listens and thoroughly enjoying what I heard, I eventually tracked down the rest of Black Sabbath’s work and my love for metal grew from there.
On my first listen, I was completely blown away by the power and majesty of Ronnie's voice over Iommi's sludgy riffs. The songwriting and performance was so good that I didn't even consider recording quality. Listening with much more experienced ears, I can agree with the complaints of muddy sound. Regardless of whether there was tampering on Dio or Iommi's part, this mix is somewhat lackluster. Usually on live albums the crowd noise is turned up and studio enhanced to give the impression of an extremely enthusiastic, sold-out crowd. On Live Evil the audience is so low in the mix they're inaudible even when Dio prompts them to sing along to Heaven and Hell.
Despite the questionable production; band itself turns in solid performances, Vinny Appice does an adequate job of filling in for the ailing Bill Ward. Many Ozzy die-hards have criticized Dio's vocal phrasing and performance of Ozzy Sabbath songs. I personally don't have any problem with Ronnie's interpretations of the classics as I hadn't heard the Ozzy fronted versions at the time. Even today I still consider this rendition of N.I.B. to be particularly strong.
Overall I still enjoy this album, it was an excellent starting point that turned me onto a style of music that I still follow today. I can see where people are coming from when they criticize the production values and I sympathize with those who can't get past the fact Ozzy isn't behind the mic. At the time of my initial purchase and listen; I wasn‘t as well versed in metal‘s history, I was just incredibly drawn to this powerful form of music. I guess you can only capture the unique magic of being a 12 year old kid who's never heard metal before once.
This had all the necessary ingredients to be the live album to end all live albums. The four musicians that made up this era of Black Sabbath are of the highest order, even and including Vinnie Appice who was quite green at this point in his career. All of the songs on here, both of the Dio and Ozzy era, are the picks of the litter if you want a solid concert experience from the first 12 years of Sabbath’s existence. So what went wrong? What keeps this from being the staple by which all metal live albums ought to be compared to?
Although the legendary status of some albums making or breaking a band is often inflated, in the case of “Live Evil” the tall tale is of equal height to the reality. When considering the stellar sound quality of most live albums that have been put out by Ronnie Dio during his post-Sabbath days, the extremity of his reaction to the horrid mixing job on this album was probably justified, although I doubt this could be blamed on Tony Iommi or Geezer Butler. Whether the mixing guy they hired was a novice or if he mixed this while choking down some fumes from the almighty ganja while chanting praises to it with “Sweet Leaf” blasting in the background, the results speak for themselves.
Every story you’ve heard about this album is true: the drums are hardly audible, the bass is overpowering, the guitar sounds too muddy during the heavy riffs, and Ronnie Dio sounds like he’s singing from backstage on several of these songs. It gets so bad that on “Children of the Grave” it gets difficult to hear the separation of the notes and instead of the classic shuffle riff that first personified heaviness, we get something that sounds like an elongated note so muddy that it doesn’t sound like it’s even being muted. Poor Geoff Nichols, who is the sort of un-credited 5th man in Sabbath, is denied any kind of real impact on the atmosphere and sounds even more distant than the drums; you can hear him a little bit during the guitar solos when the muddy rhythm riffs go away, but otherwise forget it.
The songs themselves are performed flawlessly, despite the large sound level issues. I can picture myself being at this concert and being in a total state of euphoria as I’m sure most that saw this tour probably were, assuming that the sound quality at the concert was not exactly the same as this recording of it is. In some cases like “Black Sabbath”, “Children of the Sea” and “Heaven and Hell” the production issues are not as overwhelming as in others and I can really get into what I’m listening to. Ronnie performs the Ozzy era stuff far better than Ozzy ever has either with this band or solo with Randy Rhoades. I have yet to hear a live rendition of either “N.I.B.” or “Children of the Grave” sung with this much power and passion. The only poor vocal performance on here is “Paranoid”, where Ronnie gets carried away and sounds almost like he’s singing with a muddled Indian accent. Every time he sings this song it sounds bad, and his high vocal range doesn’t cut it as an excuse since Tony Martin has pulled this song off far better than this.
As far as recommendations go, if you can get past the extremely poor sound levels on here, this would be worth getting. It has historical value for Sabbath fan mainstays, both young and old, just don’t expect to be wowed by it. You’d probably get more enjoyment out of hearing the live material from the Heaven and Hell 2007 tour. 25 years after this famous tour Ronnie Dio can still sing with this level of intensity, which is more than I can say for many of his contemporaries who are trying to make comebacks right now. It’s a rather good constellation considering the disappointment I had when I first heard this.
Most casual Black Sabbath listeners seem to think that Black Sabbath is Ozzy Osbourne, and Black Sabbath without Ozzy never existed. They never look into the 80s, when metal legend Ronnie James Dio joined the band. I love the Ozzy era of Black Sabbath, but Dio is up there. I can't decide which one I like best, since they're both very different.
This is the perfect album for "converting" Ozzy fans into Dio fans. It has Dio singing Ozzy's classic songs, like Paranoid, War Pigs, Iron Man, and more, and singing songs from the albums he's featured on (at the time), Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules.
Dio is much different from Ozzy. Dio has a way better voice, and Ozzy is more fit for their "doom" era. Both are amazing for the music that was played when they were vocalists. Dio somehow pulls off Ozzy's vocals flawlessly, despite the extreme difference of the two vocalists. He doesn't try to copy Ozzy, but he tries to make the songs his own... and it works.
The recording quality on this album is good. Typical live album production, with the crowd still audible. Some small chat between each song, and some parts where Dio has the audience sing along (such as Heaven and Hell). There is one medley in here, with Heaven and Hell split with Sign of the Southern Cross in between the two parts of Heaven and Hell. There is a small part with some improvisation by Tony Iommi, and it's great. Definitely sounds like old Sabbath.
The performance is great. The band nailed all their parts (naturally, it is Black Sabbath after all). Dio stole the show, as I described earlier.
The best thing about this CD is the track list. Probably the best setlist Black Sabbath could have come up with at the time of this recording.
Any Black Sabbath fan should check this out. Even if you're only into 70s Sabbath. Hear the songs sung by a different vocalist that isn't the local cover band at the bar. It is worth your money, I assure you.
This little live record managed to capture Black Sabbath at their peak with then-new vocalist Ronnie James Dio. Coming off of two highly successful albums it looked as if Black Sabbath were ready to release the live record of a lifetime. The legends are abound with the drama over mixing this record that caused the band to split with this line-up and at this point nobody really cares. The end result is a slightly sound-challenged (mix could have been a bit better) but well performed document of the highly successful "Mob Rules" tour.
The best songs on the record are the blistering "Neon Nights", the dominating "N.I.B." and a scarring take on "Mob Rules". The rest is all very good as well, with these tracks standing out above the overall mix. The only complaint is a silly spoken section in the middle of the otherwise brilliant "Voodoo" and the exclusion of such strong Dio-era tracks like "Die Young". These can all be seen as middling complaints though. as the band had done more than enough to make this record a classic addition to the already stacked Sabbath catalog.
I suggest that any fans of metal purchase this and NOW. If you want to hear what perfect proto-doom metal with a summoning vocalist sounds like you NEED to own this. This is quite possibly a better record in playing and feel than the Ozzy fronted "Reunion" record. I've owned it for nearly six years...and I've NEVER stopped spinning it.
BUY OR DIE KIDDIES!