Friday, January 6, 2012

Reviews: The Go- Unreleased 1996-2007 box set/ Black Sabbath- Born Again Deluxe Expanded Edition

The Go/ Unreleased 1996-2007 (Burger, 2011)

This is a five cassette box set. What's that, you say? Cassettes in 2012? Sure enough. Not my first choice in format, but you take what you can get, right? This is a pretty nice package overall. It's a plastic case that snaps shut, with two booklets and a pin. This goes all the way from the salad days up to what would become Conspiracy of Owls. This is a warts and all collection, with some of the earlier songs showing them taking their first steps and fumbling around. It's interesting to see how things progress. Black Eyed Susan is a good song. Whenever I listen to any band's unreleased stuff, I'll hear a song and think Why on Earth would they leave that off of the album? This is easy to say from my armchair, so to speak.

Tape Two is where the Rock swagger starts to kick in, becoming more pronounced and leaning towards something. Why Ya Gotta Cum is another one that caught my ear. Some Stones and Who influences begin creeping in. Crawl is a wonderful mess. It sounds like you're right in the room. I have no idea the hows or whys things are recorded, I'm just saying that there is a sound that appeals to me and sounds live. The overall sound quality is great, which might puzzle those watching from home. I wasn't sure what to expect, since these were demos and whatnot, but by and large this stuff sounds album quality sound-wise. Somthin' To Do is another great jam that has a raunchy vibe that rules.

Tape Three is where it gets really good. Turn Your Little Light Bulb On, written and sang by Jack White, is very cool. I love the saturated garage Rock recordings, where everything sounds like it was recorded in one room, and everything is bleeding into all of the mics. The songs that ended up making it on Whatcha Doin' sound slower and more polished than the versions that made the final album, oddly enough. I prefer the album versions with the exception of Meet Me At The Movies, which sounds far cooler here. That first album always had a train going off of the tracks live feel to it, and it is why I rank it among the best albums of the 2000s (okay, I know that it came out in the Fall of 1999, but whatever). The 5 songs taken from the live radio performance are pure gold and are worth the price of admission alone. I have always wanted a live album from these guys, and this fits the bill. The live radio stuff on Tape 5 is also great. Down A Spiral was always awesome live and I rank it among my favorite songs of the 2000s. 

Super Cuts is re-released here in mono, and it sounds better than the stereo version LP. I say that we bring back mono, in revolt to surround sound. Who's with me? Anyone? Anyone? Oh. Arterial Angel is another great tune, filled with attitude and a level of noisiness that I love. The demo to Tower of Diamonds demo sounds almost reggae-ish in the verses. Weird. That and Puzzle People made their way into Conspiracy of Owls. Two of the three songs from the Bobby Harlow 'solo' EP are also featured here. This whole box set took me a month or so to properly digest. 

Black Sabbath/ Born Again- Deluxe Expanded Edition (Sanctuary/ Universal, 2011; original album released in 1983)

Always the sucker for an upgrade, I bought this album for the fourth time. I first owned it on cassette, then CD, then the 1996 UK 20-bit remaster, and now this 2-disc version, complete with unreleased gem The Fallen, the full version of Stonehenge, and a live show from 1983.

This album is a love it or hate it affair. Many people cringe at the notion of Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan fronting Black Sabbath, but in my opinion it totally worked. Many people hate the mix of this album, but to me it is a glorious mess of muddy, over amped recording, with everything pushed up to the reds. I rank this as the heaviest Sabbath album, too, with it being musically over the top. Tony Iommi's tweeter shredding solos are loud and obnoxious to the right, Geezer Butler's bass is too loud most of the time, and Bill Ward's drums are buried under a wall of sound. Cymbals? Yeah, they're here somewhere. Bass drum? Yeah, you can hear it if you listen closely enough. This album's mix defied conventions of the time and today sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom...with overdubs. Frickin' amazing sounding album.

This remaster is actually quieter than the brick-walled mid-90s job that Castle UK did, but it sounds clearer and truer to the old US Warner Bros. Records cassette that I owned. I also like how the artwork has been restored to it's proper ugly ass purple instead of the blue-er hue of the 1996 reissue.

The live set is great, with exceptional sound quality except on the song Black Sabbath. Slightly after the 6:00 mark, there is clipping for a split second. I have no idea if this was from the source tape or if this was a mastering flaw. Again, this album is not brick-walled, and it is of minor concern for me, I just thought that I'd list it for those of you on the fence about whether or not this reissue is worth the money. And it is.

The gatefold digipak and booklet feature all of the original sleeve art, including the handwritten lyric sheet from the original LP release. At 5” by 5” it's a tough read, but it's there. The rest of the Sabbath catalog has been given this 2 and 3 disc treatment, and the only other one that I own is Mob Rules. I am desperately trying to resist upgrading the rest of the catlog. Godzilla help me...

Oh, and that white band in the picture is actually a sticker now. It peels off and leaves no residue. Mob Rules had a clear slipcase with the Deluxe Edition logo on it.  

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