Happy 35th: Black Sabbath, LIVE EVIL
35 years ago this month, Black Sabbath released their first official live album but not their first live album, and to get an explanation about what that thoroughly confusing statement means, you’ll have to keep reading.
Recorded variously in Seattle, Dallas, and San Antonio between April 23 and 24 and May 12 and 13 of 1982, LIVE EVIL holds the distinction of being Black Sabbath’s first official live album because it emerged about a year and a half after LIVE AT LAST, which was an unofficial live album…or at least it was when it was originally released. Hang on, though, because that’s a whole other thing.
First, we need to make note of the fascinating fact that, despite being released without the permission or even the knowledge of Black Sabbath and – believe it or not, but it really is true – credited the band’s lead singer as “Ossie Osbourne,” LIVE AT LAST actually climbed all the way to #5 on the UK Albums chart. The misspelling of Ozzy’s first name is even more embarrassing when you consider that the album was released as a result of the efforts of the band’s former manager, Patrick Meehan. Despite the fury it inspired at the time, the members of Black Sabbath eventually conceded to public demand and approved a reissue of the album in 2010, making it as close to official as it’s ever going to get.
But let’s get back to LIVE EVIL, which was recorded on the MOB RULES tour, a jaunt which – per Toni Iommi – involved “lots of pyro with fire and bombs,” but the late Ronnie James Dio reminisced about the tour in the liner notes of THE RULES OF HELL and described it as “excellent,” suggesting that “we were probably riding quite high on the HEAVEN AND HELL success, and so we ended up playing really, really well. Even towards the end, the shows were still great.”
The reason for LIVE EVIL’s release was obviously in part to deliver an official live album, but the band was also inspired by a former member of the band: Osbourne had released his own live album, SPEAK OF THE DEVIL, and it consisted solely of Sabbath songs. (You can only imagine how that annoyed the guys who were actually still in Black Sabbath.) As such, one might argue that LIVE EVIL was going to be released no matter how well the band sounded on tour, but we can all take comfort in the fact that they kicked serious ass.
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