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Black Sabbath of the early 70's released some of the heaviest, most drug-influenced and dirtiest albums ever. After their fourth effort, Black Sabbath Vol. 4, the band changed its sound. Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, the band's fifth effort, ended its sludgy phase. The production was much cleaner, and the riffs became much more melodic. In addition, from that album and on Black Sabbath have started adding more and more progressive elements and synthesizers to their music. Despite the sound change, the album was well received among fans and critics, and it is still loved to this day. The following album, Sabotage, would drive further away from the band's original sound. Much more progressive than before, two songs in it pass the 8-minute mark, and in addition there is a heavy synth use, as clearly seen in Am I Going Insane (Radio). Sabotage was also rightfully well-acclaimed, and the problems only began to show up on their seventh studio album, Technical Ecstasy. It is considered by many the first bad Black Sabbath album.
In Technical Ecstasy, the band started experimenting a lot with different sounds and types of music. A lot of the heaviness they were known for is gone, and synth use is very prominent. Some of the tracks, and especially Rock N' Roll Doctor, can barely be considered metal. The aforementioned is a failed attempt at making a pop/rock hit, while All Moving Parts (Stand Still) and Gypsy are both groovy and upbeat with some sort of funk influences. The album also contains two ballads, It's Alright and She's Gone. The former actually being sung by the band's drummer Bill Ward. That leaves us with only three heavy metal songs on a Black Sabbath record, all of which are highlights of the record.
The opener Back Street Kids is fast and heavy with some great riffs and an unusual bridge to keep things interesting. The heavily synth-driven You Won't Change Me is extremely melodic and emotional, turning up to be one of the best moments of the album. The real highlight, though, is the closer Dirty Women. Over 7 minutes in length, this bombastic song shifts between some of the best riffs and solos the band ever preformed. The song could be easily matched against most of the songs on Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath.
Even when leaving the metal tracks aside, the album still does have some fine moments. The two ballads are both very nice, and the vocals by Bill Ward end up being very refreshing and fitting for a ballad, even though the ballad itself comes across as slightly cheesy. In contrast, She's Gone has a beautiful atmosphere, but lacks in the vocal section, seeing as Ozzy Osbourne is not very talented singing clean. Thus, the three track span from Gypsy to Rock N' Roll Doctor is easily the worst part of the album, but all three, and especially the first two, have some nice moments that prevent them from being total ass like the awesome guitar solo in Gypsy.
Lacking in the songwriting section as it may be, some other aspects of Technical Ecstasy pick it up. The production is perfect, very much resembling the great one on Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath, and the vocals on the heavier tracks are surprisingly very well executed and end up being some of Ozzy's finest moments. That being said, his vocals on some of the other tracks are absolutely atrocious. The performance by other band members is also very good, especially the surprising vocal performance by Bill Ward.
Technical Ecstasy is an album most Sabbath fans love to hate. While the band's distinctive sound did change in it, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Despite having some bad/average tracks, the album contains some amazing and overlooked tunes.
Years ago, when I first discovered Black Sabbath while playing Rock N' Roll Racing on Super Nintendo, I started to avidly seek out all their releases, excited like a kid at Christmas with each new purchase. I soon realized only the 70's material featured Ozzy Osbourne on vocals, so I focused mainly on their first eight albums. Was I ever in for an unpleasant shock (#$@%!) when I popped the turnip which is Technical Ecstasy into the tape deck.
The opener "Backstreet Kids" immediately caught me off guard. With its pedantic, out-of-place ghetto references and Ozzy's overly nasal twine, it didn't take long for it to get on my nerves. The line at the end of the verses : " Nobody I know is gonna take my rock 'n roll away from me" is especially horrid. I remember feeling uneasy and cheated while sensing a foreboding apprehension of what was about to transpire.
It turned out my fears were well founded.
Many of the tracks seem like they were composed off the cuff; either the boys from Birmingham had one too many and strayed away from the beaten path or they were recovering from a serious hangover while writing them. As well, they sound hastily put together, as if the band was hemmed in by cloying record executives while trying to meet a deadline. Take "All Moving Parts", for example. The less said, the better. It's basically an uninspiring and boring song as flat as a glass of 7-Up left on the counter overnight. Another would be "Rock N' Roll Doctor", although I admit the cowbell and piano strokes are a nice touch. Other than that, one could say the entire song is a cry for help. ("Gotta See My Rock N' Roll Doctor" repeated a gazillion times!). I find it particularly unfortunate that Ozzy's vocal range bleakly hangs somewhere between the eerie and mesmerizing overtones of their earlier albums and the rock orchestra splendor of his solo days (i.e. Blizzard Of Oz). Somehow, he seems to lack his usual one-of-a-kind charisma and overall magnetism this time around.
A decent song which could have nicely complimented some other powerhouse of an album is "Gypsy", which has a cool David Bowie (RIP) /Rush vibe to it, yet here it is hopelessly lumped in with "It's Alright", and "She's Gone", two absolutely unnecessary pieces of saccharine whimsy. Hence, the problem: half of Technical Ex is comprised of fluff (of course, no disrespect to their instrumental of the same name) while most of it is devoid of any truly satisfying or memorable moments. This is not "metal" at all, nor is it acceptable in my book!
Also, I could have done without the melodramatic synthesizers that pop up intermittently throughout the album. They definitely didn't manage to re-produce the psychedelic and welcome effect found on Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. As far as the rhythm section goes, the band seems to be asleep at the wheel most of the time. Geezer Butler's past synergy and drive from albums such as Paranoid and Master Of Reality are missing; his bass lines come off as cheap and generic. Bill Ward's drumming also lacks his earlier years' relaxed and trailblazing break beat style. Here, they are not impressive at all and thump meekly.
All is not lost however. The final track, "Dirty Women", saves the album from total disgrace (otherwise I would have rated it closer to zero). Although the main guitar riff sounds sort of derived from "Cocaine" by Cream, it still fully rocks, grabbing the listener by surprise with its octane driven power and Tony Iommi's flurry of much needed trademark barn burning guitar solos. Despite his shortcomings, Ozzy Osbourne does manage to redeem himself here. If all the songs had the same punch as this one, Technical Ecstasy could have been referred to in the same breath as Sabotage or maybe even Volume 4. Alas, it's stand-out quality is somewhat diminished by its misogynistic title and crass lyrics (I see a man, he's got take away women for sale, yes for sale./ Guess that's the answer, 'cause take away women don't fail"). I'm not trying to preach here; I can see the appeal in writing a song about a man's relationship with a prostitute. However, this can be achieved in a classier and more tasteful way. (A good example would be "20 Buck Spin" by Pentagram). Needless to say, they sure didn't have their female audience in mind when they wrote this one.
As for the cover, well I guess it's a love it or leave it affair. Hypgnosis had already come up with some pretty rad cover art (such as Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon and Led Zeppelin's Houses Of The Holy) but to me this looks like something inspired by a glue-sniffing session or a nicotine patch induced nightmare. Geezer Butler should have seriously refrained from designing it (let alone submitting it!), and rather focused his undivided attention on the actual music. Granted, he may have been cleverly attempting to portray the looming threat of mall culture consumerism (robotic shoppers riding escalators) or perhaps technology's unavoidable encroachment on the masses. Instead it comes off as a ghastly eye-sore. A blank canvas would have been preferable to this.
In a nutshell, this album was a huge disappointment and is best left forgotten in order to not tarnish the awesome nostalgia derived from their first six albums. Even though he was and still is a huge inspiration for me, Tony Iommi hardly shines at all on this release, with the exception of "Dirty Woman". Thank goodness for that! At least it didn't turn out to be a permanent thing, as his fretwork on Heaven And Hell clearly proves. The end result though is that Technical Ecstasy is substantially less appealing than the band's past achievements. They really should have taken a couple years break after Sabotage in order to sort themselves out from their heavy drug use and come back to the table with a rested and more focused outlook. Heck, even the last Ozzy fronted Never Say Die ('78) surpasses it. In order to review this properly, I had to painfully re-listen to it one final time. I hope my sacrifice was worth it.
The year was 1976 and after a shockingly good streak of excellent album releases, Black Sabbath finally released 'Technical Ecstasy'; an album that isn't as consistently good as the previous ones. I say finally, as if it's a good thing, but I'm sure many people were wondering if the band could do any wrong, and 'Technical Ecstasy' proves us that Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne weren't gods but rather demi-gods. So, not completely flawless, but pretty much divine anyway, so who gives a fuck, eh?!
You really need to listen to this record in the correct mindset, because this is not so similar to the Black Sabbath albums that were released before this one. If you're aware of what direction the band was going (not necessarily down, but experimenting with "softer tunes"), then 'Technical Ecstasy' should at least bring you some pleasure. It took me a while to get used to this album. The first time I listened to it, I wrote it off as an abomination and left it to collect dust for a very long time. That would change, when I had listened to Black Sabbath's so-called classics to death. That would be all the albums released before this one, and then the likes of 'Heaven and Hell', 'Born Again' and 'Dehumanizer'.
So, after all, I gave 'Technical Ecstasy' a second chance, and I'm glad I did, because I found things I almost instantly appreciated after initially abandoning this misunderstood piece of work. The tracks that I instantly fell in love with were "You Won't Change Me" and "Dirty Women"; the former one opening up in a very doomy fashion, but then breaks into a somewhat bittersweet-sounding hard rock ballad that could be comparable to something that Deep Purple has done; mainly because of the good use of keys. "You Won't Change Me" is just a very good song, in my opinion. It is, however, bested by "Dirty Women". "Dirty Women" is a longer track that can be broken into three sections. The first one being the co-operation between the guitar and keys driving the song (with Ozzy's vocals on top, of course), then there's a fairly long section where Iommi plays a solo type with the continued backing of the keyboard before the song breaks into a more heavy and intense bit with Ozzy howling epically, and finally there's an almost sing-along type of outro. It's a great song; a Sabbath classic, in my honest opinion.
Like I said, initially, these two songs were the only two songs I instantly liked after giving 'Technical Ecstasy' a second chance, but fun rocker "Back Street Kids" soon followed, as well as the beautiful and sad "She's Gone"; a song with keys matching the importance and greatness they had on 'Sabotage'.
"It's Alright" is a ballad with drummer Bill Ward on vocals. It's not an amazing song by any stretch of imagination, but it's a pleasant listen; certainly not a typical Sabbath song, but I like it. This was a track that I didn't like at all to start with, but getting to know the band and its direction more greatly helped me appreciate it and eventually like it more.
The same can be said about 'Technical Ecstasy' as a whole. I shunned it to start with, because it was so not like the Black Sabbath I knew, but in the end, that's what Black Sabbath is and has always been all about. Experimenting with music. They never released the same album twice and this is just another one among them all. Another thing is that 'Technical Ecstasy' wasn't really meant to be a heavy/doom metal album in any way or shape. I really doubt that the band got together and planned exactly what their next album should sound like. And if you listen to the albums released before 'Technical Ecstasy' and notice where the band is going with their music, this album makes a lot of sense. It was meant to be a softer Sabbath. It was meant to be different.
That's a risk the band had taken on every record and executed perfectly. 'Technical Ecstasy' wasn't as impressive and successful like experimentation done on albums such as 'Sabbath Bloody Sabbath' and 'Sabotage'. 1976 was a troublesome time for Black Sabbath and whether that had an impact on the quality on some of the tracks on here or not, is debatable. But it seems like Black Sabbath had taken their experimentation on some of the songs here too far, and thus they ended up sounding mediocre in comparison to the band's stronger offerings.
"Gypsy", "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" and "Rock 'n' Roll Doctor" are all average songs. Sure, they have their moments like Iommi's impressive lead-guitar on "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)", but ultimately, these songs are just filler, and if they had been trimmed off the album and 'Technical Ecstasy' was an EP instead, it would be a very good one.
All in all, 'Technical Ecstasy' is as overlooked as it is misunderstood, so if you decide to listen to this album with the wrong mindset (that is, if you expect it to sound much like the albums released between 1970-1975), then you'll be disappointed. It took me a good while to learn to like this album, and once there, I found it to be an overall decent album. Flawed, but it certainly has good tunes, too, with the highlights being "You Won't Change Me" and "Dirty Women".
Culmination arrived with Sabotage for Black Sabbath, their creativity and potential reached peaks and they totally defined their identity and distinctive sound, stripped-down from the tiring blues & jazz influences of the debut and the effective simplicity of Paranoid, becoming an ambitious hard rock icon that introduced a greater level of difficulty in their schemes. Finally they were doing what they really wanted, how they wanted it, making use of all their talent. Unfortunately, next record turned into a big failure, lacking all those elements of brilliance, following the inevitable decline of all early 70’s classic rock bands by that time. Definitely, Technical Ecstasy is a record to forget and not take very seriously.
In these cuts, their sound got much more casual and melodic, distinct from the original dark style that changed the concept of hard rock forever on preceding albums. “Back Street Kids” and “Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor” reflect that big contrast, both compositions based on hard rockin’ riffs, getting mellow and cheerful, not low-tuned this time nor weighty. Vocals on those also meant a new era for the group, polite and believable, determined by Ozzy’s noisy though at times cleaner voice, which repeats some verses and main choruses insistently. The whole thing has become accessible; however Black Sabbath start showing certain resolution for playing it more complicated and varied (in their own way…). Song configurations have versatile sequences, breaks and distinct riff series explicitly intended to keep this material from being easy. Presence of Jezz Woodruffe’s cheesy synthesizers are part of this new sound too, not just a background support, it designs some riffs hand in hand with Tony and provide the tunes of a stratospheric atmosphere. “Gypsy” and “You Won’t Change Me” in particular give keyboards bigger control, so essential to determine the nature and tone of this stuff, at times more noticeable than guitars themselves. Progression on those 2 is more notable (not impossible), elaborated with the group adding a big dose of diversity, instrumental changes and pretentious arrangements. So it’s now a little bit technical and sweet, though still some rough riffing , straight and vibrant can be found on “Dirty Women” for instance, curiously the only number that usually appears on greatest hits/best of compilations from this whole pack. Iommi and co. didn’t resist the temptation of getting a bit sentimental on “It’s Alright” and “She’s Gone”, rather exhausted disposable romantic ballads representing a severe decline.
Tony admitted this release was supposed to be alternative from previous attempts, they could’ve repeated the same effective formulas, being predictable and getting stuck comfortably on the same ways that would‘ve guaranteed success for sure. They preferred to risk and reinvent their style instead of making the same thing again, an admirable choice of determination and inventiveness that sadly didn’t work out at all. First of all, guitar lines have lost strength and grace. Riffs are still competent but rather generic and relegated behind keyboards and melody generally, not the leading force of this stuff as they used to be. The trademark Iommi down-tuned heavy riffing is nearly inexistent with a couple of exceptions, introducing sequences instead of designing them (the intro of “You Won’t Change Me”, specially), their supremacy was a rule that turned into an exception here. Along with guitars, keyboards are the most notable instrument serving humble progression and tenderness, sometimes exhausting and excessive, including comical textures that break the climax and deny roughness. That instrument wasn’t incompatible with hard rock/heavy metal music as most of people consider, people like Maiden, Zeppelin & Purple managed to make it part of their solid energetic wall of sound, Sabbath as well on both Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage, but here they rather contribute to make these titles commercial and sweet. Decadence is also present on lyrics, which got rid of mysticism to become realistic and urban, it wouldn’t have been a wrong choice actually if they still had just a bit of the inspiration of previous songs, although that’s exactly what they’re lacking, getting tremendously repetitive, vain and dumb. It doesn’t get any better when Sabbath decide to get melancholy and emotional either (“The endless hours of heartache, waiting for you-My summer love has turned to rain, all the pain-The silent emptiness of one sided love”).
So this is nothing you can put in the same high level of the magnificent first 6 LPs at all, it’s an album that reflects certainly the fall of one of the greatest most influential British rock groups of the century, and not only they were losing touch, the whole bunch of early decade bands, including progressive in particular, were condemned to decay while new sounds in absolute contrast with them like punk would gain popularity, specially in the UK. At least they tried their best and made something amusing, listenable, though definitely away from the splendor of the past, scandalously unoriginal, uninspired and poor. However, don’t you think that Hipgnosis abstract cover painting is cool?
Wow. In spite of the poor acclaim and ambivalence I have seen aimed towards "Technical Ecstasy" and her equally unappealing sister "Never Say Die!", I was still a little shocked to hear the great Black Sabbath default on such mediocrity. Although I may have preferred "Paranoid" and "Sabotage" over the rest, there was no denying that the first six albums of this band were something to behold; it was if the band could do no wrong. As would be the case with a little band called Metallica almost three decades later with "St. Anger", the arguments and duress would lead to a decidedly sub-effort from the band. Sabbath have not completely festered here, but considering how great they were before this, there's no way to feel satisfied with this.
It's not often that fans are so united in their disappointment for a band and album. It seems like everyone plus their mothers, mailmen, and neighbourhood general practitioners can agree that "Technical Ecstasy" was a slip-up. In short, the band's style is once again robbed of its metal crunch. Unlike "Volume Four" however- which traded heaviness in exchange for sophistication- "Technical Ecstasy" comes up without any benefit, as were it an old lady whose handbag was stolen by a street vagabond. Sabbath's musical tightness pulls the album through, but at the end of the day, hearing the almighty Black Sabbath resort to generally bland rock music is a tough experience.
All disappoints aside, "Technical Ecstasy" is not necessarily a 'bad' album. In fact, it appears to be a victim of circumstance. Perhaps if listeners had not become used to Sabbath churning out record after record of inspired excellence, this album would not be looked down upon. Regardless, through the sea of mediocrity defined by songs like "Backstreet Kids" and "Rock N Roll Doctor", there are a handful of songs that distinguish themselves, for better or worse. "You Won't Change Me" is a great seven minute track with some great blues soloing from Iommi, and a piano progression reminiscent of The Beatles' "Abbey Road". "She's Gone" is nothing compared to some of the band's earlier ballads, but Ozzy Osbourne's passionate vocal performance and a lush string arrangement makes it stand out from the monotony.
On the other side of the spectrum, we have "It's Alright", sung by drummer Bill Ward. Frankly, it really isn't 'alright', in fact, it's arguably the worst track Sabbath had ever done up to this point. Disregarding Ward's tonedeaf voice, the ballad is saccharine enough to put a child off sugar for life. Considering that this is the band that once rocked our balls off with some of the most influential heavy metal ever made, it's a long ways to fall.
For the most part, "Technical Ecstasy" is fairly harmless. Besides "It's Alright", it's even listenable. The songwriting runs flat, but Black Sabbath retain enough of their progressive elements to give the listener a surprise, if only occasionally. Taken out of context, "Technical Ecstasy" is a run-of-the-mill, albeit inconsistent hard rock album. For those- like me- who are infatuated with the band's six album winning streak, it may be a good idea to save hurt feelings and skip right to "Heaven And Hell".
Technical Ecstasy is often considered the first really bad album in Black Sabbath's catalog. With all the legendary things that band did up to that point, it's worthy of reconsideration.
To understand it, you have to see how the band got to this point. They had released four consecutive mind-blowingly amazing albums in a span of three years: 1970's Black Sabbath and Paranoid, 1971's Master of Reality, and 1972's Black Sabbath Vol. 4. Every one of these albums is an amazing classic. To record even one album that good is reserved for the very best musicians around. To record two of them is extremely rare, and usually requires more than a couple months in between. To do four, in three years, is absolutely astounding.
So, it's easy to understand why they chose to go for more experimentation on the following year's Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. And the experimentation paid off. Many would even put that album on par with the previous four. After that, they took more time off, waiting until 1975 to release Sabotage. That album continued the experimentation, and in many ways it was still paying off. But with both of these, they still maintained the core, heavy Sabbath sound.
By 1976, the band must have been exhausted from this insane touring and release schedule. They played around and experimented even further on Technical Ecstasy.
It starts with "Back Street Kids", which is essentially a far less interesting version of "Children of the Grave". The follow-up, "You Won't Change Me", is a criminally forgotten classic by the band. It's sort of psychedelic gothic doom metal replete with organ. In a sense, it's recent Cathedral, only three decades earlier.
Then it would appear the label put some other band's song on the album. "It's Alright" is a boring piano ballad with Bill Ward providing vocals. It is completely out of place on a Sabbath album, but here it is nonetheless.
"Gypsy" starts out as fairly standard Sabbath (in the more upbeat parts of that sound) before going into a story told by Osbourne in spoken word with ridiculous piano in the background. That part derails the song, making it hard to appreciate the rest of the song, which is actually quite good once Iommi takes center stage.
What should have been outtakes follow on the next couple tracks. "All Moving Parts (Stand Still)" is driven by an unimaginative vocal melody from Osbourne, and "Rock 'N' Roll Doctor" sounds more like a Lynyrd Skynyrd reject than anything related to metal.
"She's Gone", featuring an understated acoustic riff and strings, is what "Changes" should have been, and actually isn't that bad. But after that comes "Dirty Women". Why they buried this classic tune at the end of the album I'll never understand. It has a killer heavy riff, great bassline, good use of organ, badass drumming, and a catchy vocal hook--everything you could possibly want.
The Verdict: Technical Ecstasy should never have been a proper studio album. Other than "Back Street Kids", "You Won't Change Me", and "Dirty Women", it comes off as a collection of rarities and B-sides. But it's easy to understand how they got to this point, and it should have been obvious the original lineup wouldn't last long after this point.
Originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
My opinion on this album has shifted many times since I first bought it about 10 years ago. I was dead set revolted by it when I first heard it, mostly because it bore almost no similarity to “Paranoid”, which was obviously my favorite album during my Sabbath newbie days. Since then I’ve become a bit older and wiser and can thus impart some wisdom to the younger Sabbath fans that are just now coming to know the second half of the Ozzy years.
There is a right way and a wrong way to view this album, and the wrong way is the way most people view it, which is as a metal album. Although a good deal more riff happy and up tempo, the closest thing this album could be compared to is with late 70s Pink Floyd with perhaps a dash of Styx. Naturally there are many in the Doom and Traditional metal scenes who utterly despise Arena Oriented Rock so they are advised to ignore this album. But for those of you who really like the forward looking idea (at this particular time) of merging heavy metal with progressive rock, this is where it got started and eventually paved the way to the likes of Dream Theater and Fates Warning doing it, this may be worth your time.
Naturally this is not a perfect example of the potential of this style, and better examples of experimenting with acoustic guitars and keyboards can be heard from early 80s acts like Sacred Blade and Queensryche should be sought out if you’re interested in the evolution of this style. “Rock N’ Roll Doctor” and “She’s Gone” in particular are blatant examples of going too much in a generic 70s rock direction and mimicking Zepplin a bit too much rather than evenly meshing such influences with Sabbath’s unique style. “It’s Alright” is a bit better, but ultimately sounds like a jazzed up Beatles ballad with a more active guitar presence. Bill Ward takes the vocal duties on this one and does an adequate job, which is more than I can say for Ozzy’s performance on “She’s Gone”.
The rest of the material on here is mostly solid save a few odd moments here and there. The two that best showcase Sabbath’s success at blending their already established sound with the latest influences they’ve incorporated are “You Won’t Change Me” and “Dirty Women”. They both have long drawn out sections with plenty of development, mostly in the style heard on “Sabotage”, and bring out some synthesizer work not heard on previous work. The opener “Back Street Kids” is basically “Paranoid” with a Rush style keyboard interlude that immediately invokes memories of 2112 every time I hear it. But the most auspicious moment on this album is the guitar solo section of “All Moving Parts” where we hear a near identical riff to the classic Heaven and Hell track “Wishing Well”.
Ultimately, this album is a pretty sizable step down in quality, but far from a throwaway. It has its place, but I’d argue that about 65% of it is not in any metal genre. As a rock album I could say that this is better than a good deal of the fluff put out in 1976, but in terms of everything else that Sabbath put out before this, I can’t recommend getting this before getting any of the other 6. It’s not a flop like its follow-up “Never Say Die”, but it’s not quite good enough to get at full price, so look for it second hand.
Technical Ecstacy," Black Sabbath's seventh studio album, is a very misunderstood and underappreciated album. Released at the height of the punk movement and just as disco was beginning it's ascent to popularity, the album was very much out-of-style and commercially was less successful than previous albums.
Sad, because there is much heaviness to enjoy here. Side one (of the cassette copy, at least; the CD starts with "Back Street Kids.") begins with "All Moving Parts(Stand Still), a futuristic, Orwellian-themed track and a fine example of the crushing heavy metal sound Sabbath is known for. Featuring some excellent bass playing from Geezer Butler and scorching lead guitar playing from Tony Iommi, the song is a fine example of the "technical" style found herein. "Rock and Roll Doctor" also lives up to it's name, a grooving, almost boogie-style number.
Next is "She's Gone," which, although a ballad, is the most depressing song ever written! And as such it fits perfectly with Sabbath's doom metal style. "Dirty Women" returns to the heavy direction, a tale of Osbourne's late-night search for female companionship. "Dirty Women" is another live favorite, featuring at the end of the song an amazing extended guitar solo from Tony. 'Back Street Kids" is another solid metal song about rebellion and the rock lifestyle. "You Won't Change Me" begins with one of Iommi's doomiest riffes ever before mellowing a bit, another fine number and a great vocal performance from Ozzy.
"It's Alright" is drummer Bill Ward's debut as lead vocalist, another ballad which may be atypical of Sabbath's style but is a fine song nonetheless. The album ends with "Gypsy," featuring Ward's best drum work on the album and Ozzy's account of a mysterious, fortune-teiing female.
Critics of this album need to listen to the music, rather than comparing it to whatever music was popular in the mainstream or focusing on deteriorating relationships within the band. "Technical Ecstacy" does not deserve its somewhat bad reputation, for it is a fine album featuring some great heavy metal songs. The album also displays a growing diversity and need to explore new musical styles while remaining in the context of what Black Sabbath is best appreciated for. Simply put, this album jams and I highly recommend it to any Sabbath/metal fan.
In the beginning, there was nothing.
And then there was Black Sabbath. Four humble Englishmen brought heavy metal out of the shapeless void (aka heavy blues and European folk) and into corporeal existence. Who then proceeded to expand and develop it with each successive album. This is why the first six Black Sabbath albums, despite a few characteristic blemishes, are basically above criticism: they were basically inventing the shit that we listen to today. But by the time their seventh album Technical Ecstasy was released, metal was out of its formative stages and its bands were beginning to release some truly amazing stuff (Judas Priest’s albums of the late 70’s). Compared to the albums that preceded it, Technical Ecstasy was not particularly impressive. With its mind-boggling cover (brought to life from the mind of Geezer Butler by Hipgnosis, the studio that would famously work with various progressive rock bands like Pink Floyd and Yes), its frequent keyboard reliance, and its subdued, predictable sound, the album seemed to be sounding the funeral knell for Sabbath, thus leading to its 30+ years of being consistently underrated. But it’s definitely underrated, because even with its crappier moments and different sound, it still has more than its fair share of Sab classics.
First of these is album opener “Back Street Kids.” With its upbeat riffs and perfect groove, it’s a wonder people don’t like this song. Ozzy’s voice still carries those distinct melodies and the band still operates as an effective heavy metal machine. Though they’ve stepped back from the ambitious epics of Sabotage into more comfortable territory (“All Moving Parts (Stand Still),” “Gypsy”), it’s still Black Sabbath as we’ve always known them. Ward, Butler, and Iommi perform excellently, even on filler like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Doctor,” a saloon-worthy number complete with honky-tonk piano.
But it’s not all straightforward rocking numbers. The mysticism of Sabbath past (“Spiral Architect,” “The Writ”) is not completely abandoned on Technical Ecstasy, as evidenced by “You Won’t Change Me,” and “She’s Gone.” The former utilizes keyboards to a more potent effect than on the album’s other tracks to create a much-needed darker tone, as much of the album tends to lean toward the major keys. The latter is the most pristine ballad the band would ever compose, easily ousting “Changes” and the slew of fluff from their later career. Consisting of only Ozzy’s voice and Tony’s incredibly sad-sounding guitar backed by a string arrangement, it is remarkably moving for a Sabbath piece. “Dirty Women” is the album’s closer and longest track and, despite not being as profound a piece as say “Megalomania,” is the closest that Technical Ecstasy comes to recalling the doom and gloom of their earliest material. The fact that it’s still pretty upbeat (however grimily so) just goes to show how different this album is from the material that precedes it.
Oh, there is also the little matter of “It’s Alright,” the Bill Ward composed ballad that he sung as well. A better title might have been “It’s Filler Alright,” as aside from a little Iommi guitar wizardry it’s worthless. And keep that man away from the microphone, ugh.
But aside from the handful of weak tracks, it’s a pretty good album that I enjoy listening to. It’s just not a particularly good Black Sabbath album and I believe that that is what keeps it low in peoples’ affection.
Meh. This album is just a meh. I can’t wholeheartedly decry it, because it has its moments, but on the whole it is a pretty boring listen. Take, for example, the leadoff track, “Back Street Kids.” The band is obviously going for a more pop-oriented approach, with the synths and the upbeat tempo. I don’t immediately discredit it for this, but the songwriting is pretty bad. The tune is flat and unemotional, and the lyrics are just really stupid. Black Sabbath never had the greatest lyrics, but this is just bad. The guitar solo in the end is all right I guess, but a lot of the time it just seems like he’s trying to play really fast, and the individual notes aren’t very thought out. There’s nothing about this song I really object to, but it’s not really too hot either.
“You Won’t Change Me” – Booooriiiing. Supposed to be one of their trademark bluesy, snail paced riffs, but it just doesn’t work. A horrible synthesizer riff drives much of the song, and the words again are ridiculous. I don’t know what happened between the last album and this, but it wasn’t good.
They let Bill Ward sing a song a few years back with “Solitude,” and it wasn’t that great. So, they gave him another shot. Well, “It’s Alright” is… alright. It definitely has a higher production value than the aforementioned, with the piano and strings. However, the song itself pretty much sucks. It’s a cheesy ballad, and I thought they learned their lesson after “Changes.” Cheesy ballads don’t work for Black Sabbath.
“Gypsy” is a little better. After the initial drum-driven verse, they lock into a nice little groove, something we haven’t heard yet on this record. The song is too drawn out, though, and it seems like they just added in extra sections to make it longer. Poor organization is the major problem here, as they have some decent musical ideas. This is, sadly, one of the album’s best songs.
“All Moving Parts (Stand Still)” – Okay, what the hell is with the disco thing? We already had to deal with “Am I Going Insane” on the previous album, which was borderline. At least that had the strength of its songwriting, and some powerful vocals. This song has neither. “Teacher’s burned the school / He’s had enough of sticking to the rules…” This is just ridiculously bad. Apart from its bad lyrics and bad disco beat, the song is listenable, although nothing special. We’re still waiting for that knockout song that will surprise us and fill us with joy.
“Rock and Roll Doctor” is horrendous. This is the worst attempt at a pop hit I think the band ever came with out. It’s supposed to be some sort of Southern rock bluesy boogie type of thing. And yes, it has cowbell. That’s not why it’s bad. It’s bad because Black Sabbath doesn’t do boogie rock. And never should.
“She’s Gone” is the low point of the album, which is quite a feat. It is so fucking lame. Talk about cheeeeeese. Ozzy, you are such a douche bag. And the rest of the band, how could you let him make this stupid-ass song? “Ooooh, my baby!” Yeah, shut the fuck up.
Okay, FINALLY. A DECENT SONG!! If the whole album were as good as “Dirty Women,” I would have a much different opinion of it. This song rocks, and I’m not afraid to admit it. It tells a story about Ozzy and how horny he is, and how he lusts for a hooker. It actually works better than it sounds! At about 1:54 the song goes from being pretty good, to damn fucking awesome. What a riff! It definitely has a more 80s sound than earlier Black Sabbath, but here they use it to their advantage, instead of being shitty. And when he goes “Oh, dirty women / They don’t mess around!” he actually has conviction in his voice (just like the old days!), and the guitar solo over the ending fadeout is the best on the album by far. I knew you had it in you, guys!
So if you are a hardcore Black Sabbath fan, you probably have this. If you are not, avoid this. If you don’t have this yet, but you lust for more Black Sabbath past the first 6 albums, get Heaven and Hell, but you might want this also. Get it at least for “Dirty Women,” you don’t have to listen to the rest of the album.
Before discussing the music, I would like to take a minute to talk about the album cover... that is some seriously fucked up shit right there. A chance meeting on an escalator between a robotic maidservant out of the Jetsons meeting with a smallish building-shaped entity. At this point, the robot proceeds to both shoot a laser at the poor building, as well as urinate some dark foul gunk out of the top of its head at it. Perhaps the robot is jealous that the building gets to ride the escalator, while it has to take the stairs immediately parallel to it.
The actual album... there is a LOT of 70s rock to be found here. Lots of keyboards, lots of random stuff that sounds not unlike Kansas or at times even Foreigner. There's Backstreet Kids, which is indeed an awkward attempt at speed metal, though it's kind of a fun song. But yes, the keyboard solo in the middle is a bit goofy. Then, You Won't Change Me is heavy as fuck, while also relying on the keyboards to carry the main theme, which should immediately be noted by the reader as being a departure from, say, Master of Reality.
The third song is kinda cute, though downright pathetic. It's not Black Sabbath, it's a piano ballad. But, it eats Changes alive, that I'll tell you right now. It's something I'd expect to hear on the adult contemporary station, and would be pretty nice if not for the "oooh oooh" parts in the middle. Home Sweet Home, this ain't.
Then, we have Gypsy, which I think is actually a decent song. The bridge section ("she took my hand...") is amazing, even if the main guitar riff sounds a whole lot like Blue Morning (Foreigner)! Again, this is 70s rock, and certainly not what we had been expecting on Sabotage, but still it's a nice song.
All Moving Parts... I can't tell you what this sounds like, but again 70s rock is something accurate. I swear, the vocal line is something out of a disco song! I forget which, but usually I'm pretty correct on these things, so just take my word on it. The main problem of the song is that I can't really make out what the guitar is doing underneath the verses - there is a definite bass riff, but otherwise... again, this is NOT Master of Reality.
The next two songs are complete fucking garbage. Rock 'n Roll Doctor starts off sounding like it'll be decent, though still kinda 70s-rock-ish, before going into a cheesy riff that sounds half Grand Funk Railroad, half Aerosmith, and all regression. Wasn't this what Black Sabbath PURPOSELY moved away from in the early 70s? Argh. Also, that dang cowbell, and that repeated chorus.
She's Gone is the second coming of Changes. Cunting death-avoid.
Then there's the last song, which indeed, as everyone has correctly pointed out, is a real fucking masterpiece of SABBATH-ness. I can't remember what that opening riff sounds like, but it's yet another 70s rock song, except distorted and warped into something morbidly heavy. Good job, Tony Iommi. A great song.
So what do we have here, overall? A decent album, really, but not something that you'd expect, given that this is Black Sabbath. You look at that damned album cover, and you could totally slap any 70s-rock band name on there instead of the generic lettered Black Sabbath, and the album content would make just as much, if not more sense.
That's a bad thing, folks. After the masterful Sabotage, this is really disappointing. Apologies to VileRancour for pretty much aping his review, except mine is not nearly as well-written. Sorry, folks. I'm just not inspired.
A mere year after the masterpiece known as 'Sabotage' - arguably their best album, and certainly one of the darkest - Sabbath fall flat on their face, and hard. This is not as bad as some make it out to be; that is, it's not a COMPLETE atrocity, but when that's the best thing that can be said about an album that followed six classics in a row, the feces-slinging it receives seems somewhat justified.
'Back Street Kids' tries to be something vaguely resembling speed metal. The problem is that it doesn't flow at all, and ends up flailing itself around like a Sabbath member in severe smack withdrawal - out-of-place key-changes, bad choruses, an extremely awkward keyboard solo; a track which could, at best, serve as unnoticed filler on any of the previous albums, is the actual opener on this one. Hardly a good omen.
'You Won't Change Me' fares somewhat better, as the crashing power chords and instant doom'n'gloom indicate. Utilizing a more traditional approach, this track bears the signature Sabbath sound. The unprepared listener could construe this as a sign that the album might be getting better, but then it immediately proceeds to sneak up on you from behind with 'It's Alright': an exceedingly embarrassing exercise in sugary-sweet, third-rate '70s pop that would have been rejected by the Beatles and scorned as gay by Oasis. And you thought 'Changes' was bad. The fact that this is sung by Bill Ward doesn't make it any better - or any worse; Halford himself couldn't have saved this song, much like even light cannot escape the event horizon of a black hole. The analogy works on another level too, since the amount of sucking involved in the two cases is fairly similar.
The next two tracks try to make up for this, and partially even succed. 'Gypsy' is an upbeat, driving sort of tune at first, later moving somewhat closer to familiar Sabbath ground - different, but at least well-written; 'All Moving Parts (Stand Still)' is quite laid-back and stoner-like, very average, but enjoyable and not too out of place. However, 'Rock'n'Roll Doctor' is pure filler material again. Deceitfully starting out heavy, with a ritualistic drum beat by Ward, it soon morphs into generic '70s hard rock that's so bland it probably induces the same alpha wave pattern in the brain as staring at a blank wall or watching television. The only change in dynamics comes in the form of the chorus; alas, it's a change for the worse.
Man's trusty savior in such situations, the skip button, proves to be a filthy traitor: Once it is pressed, 'She's Gone' assaults the listener. Apparently, due to pot-related loss of short-term memory, the band by this point wasn't sure whether or not they'd already included a horrendously bad, sappy ballad, and decided to do another one, just in case. Avoid like the plague.
However, the closing track, 'Dirty Woman', is easily the best song on the album, and probably makes for at least half the score here. Long and fairly complex, it goes many places without being disjointed; as if to reassure the listener that Sabbath were and ARE the founders of heavy metal, it makes up for the rest of the album in the riff department: heavy, memorable riffs that hit home like only Sabbath riffs can. One of them (near the 3 minute mark) will undoubtedly sound oddly familiar - it was lifted by Priest four years later and changed around a bit, for none other than 'Breaking the Law'(!). The song draws to an end with some classic soloing by Iommi and a bit of double-kick rampage courtesy of Ward. This song has all the components a good metal song needs - this is what truly saves this album from being an atrocity.
The remastered version features the usual fuck-ups in the lyrics department, and reproduces some rather amusing spoofs on the cover art published in the press at the time.
This is were Sabbath begins to take a step, albeit in the wrong direction. All in all, its not that bad, but its not really a metal album, it sounds more bluesy than anything and even has a few punk elements.
Back Street Kids is a probably the most punk-like song on the album both lyrically and musically. Pretty fast paced, but rather simplistic notes make this interesting to some, but pure garbage to the fans of the earlier doomier Sabbath. IMO it is still one of the better songs on the album.
You Won't Change Me is pretty nice. Sounds like it would fit really well on other albums like Sabotage or Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Once again, it is kind of punkish on the lyrics, but this one is played with more like traditional Sabbath.
It's Alright is my personal favorite song on the album. Although its sung by Bill Ward, its a rather emotional and well sang tune. Doesn't sound much like anything Sabbath has ever done, but then again, trying something new isn't always bad.
Gypsy is probably my least favorite track on Technical Ecstasy. Its rather repetitive and sounds kind of meaningless lyrically. Thank god for cd players, at least I'm able to skip this track. I've tried giving it more chances, but just can't get into it.
All Moving Parts would probably be my favorite heavy track. From the get go it lets you know that you are gone to get straight up balls out Black Sabbath doom and gloom. Fits rather nicely on this album, but would also fit on a wide array of their other albums.
One could probably tell by the name that Rock and Roll Doctor isn't much of anything special. For a synopsis of this, refer to the opinions of Gypsy. They are very much alike.
I have skipped the remaining tracks so many times that I don't even really remember how they go. If my memory serves me correctly they aren't much of anything worth listening to, hints why I tend to skip them. Reading the lyrics didn't refresh my memory, but I can at least concur that She's Gone and Dirty Women are lyrically poorly written, just like many songs on Technical Ecstasy. This album isn't a complete waste. There are a few rather nice songs on here, but you have to sort through a few that are mediocre.