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Follow suit from the precedent the band set for themselves writing the very fast though a bit more epic “Die Young”, Black Sabbath came to the end of their composing process to ponder adding another song to round things out at 8 for the album. “Neon Knights” draws a bit less from the cynical aspects of Ronnie’s lyrical pursuits and a bit more on the escapist, fantasy based sagas of heroes and quests that he became heavily known for in the mid 1980s. It’s markedly happier and more triumphant sounding than most of the songs that ended up on “Heaven And Hell”, save perhaps “Wishing Well”, and drives things along quite nicely for it’s full duration, trading up a series of rock inspired riffs that lay the perfect groundwork for Dio’s lyrical storytelling and an impressive couple of guitar solos out of Iommi, while the rest of the band basically play support.
The live version of “Children Of The Sea” that accompanies this single is the best version that has ever been done, either by Dio on occasions with his own project, or by any other incarnation of Sabbath with either Dio or one of the other singers that ended up performing it. It shows the band sticking a lot closer to the original format of the song, though Ronnie does do a fair share of ad lib parts in between verses. His vocal interpretation is a good bit more gravely than the one he has on the studio version, but he carries the tune flawlessly in spite of it. In fact, no one on here misses a note, as even Iommi’s solo is actually note for note in line with the studio version, something that rarely happens in a live performance with him.
For 1980 this was definitely pushing the envelope in terms of aggression and heaviness. It wasn’t necessarily the fastest thing to come out at that time, particularly when you account from Dio’s own work 2 years prior with Rainbow on “Kill The King” and a few select faster songs that Sabbath did with Ozzy, but it definitely had a spirit to it that was looking forward to things like power metal and later, speed/thrash. This is worth seeking out solely for the b-side and the trippy cover art, but finding it at a reasonable price is all but impossible, but if someone has the dedication, it’s definitely a catch worth fishing for.