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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.