Song Of The Day - 12 Oct 2008: A National Acrobat (AotY 1973)


17. Okt. 2008, 20:12

Black Sabbath / A National Acrobat / Sabbath Bloody Sabbath (2) / Dec 1973

sablespecter's Album of the Year for 1973 (RDF: 87.5%)

Sabbath grow into a tight, unified force with this album, which serves up far better production than Vol. 4. They're moving away from slugdy sounds now, evolving from toward , if I can say such a thing. It certainly wasn't thought about in those terms by them, of course.

The most interesting twist to this album is the appearance of Rick Wakeman. When does Rick Wakeman do keyboards in a style different that his usual style that annoys me? When he dials it down and adds complexity to a Sabbath album! Sabbath, especially OzzY and Bill Ward, befriended Wakeman when Sabbath was supporting Yes here in the States in 1972. Though he's only credited with the keys for "Sabbra Cadabra" he apparently contributed to "Who Are You?" as well. And Paul Wilkinson also makes the case that he likely contributed elsewhere.

In terms of my own experience, it could be my favorite Ozzy-era album. It's certainly on of the Top 3 along with the first two, but I've never been able to decisively rank those three.

This one was a mind-stretching experience, that's for sure. When I was a young kid in elementary school, I had my first exposure to Black Sabbath. Our school building expanded one summer, and when they did that, they bricked up a former back entrance off the playground. So that created a kind of "doorstep to nowhere" little alcove that was nearly entirely enclosed. It made a perfect spot for heshers to congreate in the summer evenings. When we got back to school that fall, we were intrigued to find this new little hideout (that always kinda smelled "funny") and the spray-painted graffiti on the walls that said "Pink Floyd" and especially "Black Sabbath 666" The older brother of my next door neighbor was a huge Pink Floyd fan, so I knew what that meant, but what was "Black Sabbath 666"?

A friend of mine that lived near the school told him he hadn't been allowed to play on the playground that summer because his mom said "teenagers hang out there now." That itself didn't really sound particularly scary to us, but then he told me "Black Sabbath" was a band that played "creepy music" about the devil and "666" was the devil's number. (What? Like his phone number? "I don't know! Why don't you call it and see?" I'm not gonna call it! You call it!) Oh, I'd love to go back in time and observe those conversations like a fly on the wall.

So, anyway, having that earliest imprint in my mind that Sabbath apparently phoned the devil and wrote songs about it...I was a bit wiser by the time I began to dig into Sabbath myself, but it was still a revelation with songs like After Forever ("Perhaps you'll think before you say that God is dead and gone / Open your eyes, just realize that he's the one / The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate.") and today's selection ("Don't believe the life you have / Will be the only one...Just remember love is life / And hate is living death") to see that they were really about considering all the various aspects and perspectives of the spirit and mystical. Cool stuff. A read of the lyrics should be enough to counter charges that they were single-minded devil-worshippers, but it's obvious that those that accused them of such never bothered.

It was exactly that perspective that I needed to carefully explain to certain "inquiring minds" in my life when considering the awesome cover art* of Drew Struzan!

Selected other Red Dot tracks...these along with today's selection are all infrared dots:

Sabbath Bloody Sabbath: Here they flip a double-bird to their critics! Climax: "You bastards!" followed immediately by Tony Iommi's solo.

Sabbra Cadabra: Best riff on the album. A bit abnormal of a topic for Sabbath, though. No devil, comeuppance for warmongers, drugs, evil women, or fiery doom here. Just a good woman and a great roll in the sack! Listen to the keys in the middle section of this song: shouldn't there be a credit to Wakeman on this song? Straight piano could be Tony, but listen to that synth...that's gotta be Wakeman!

Killing Yourself to Live: One of the great Sabbath cautionary tales, and one that I take to heart. I play this one a lot when I think I'm getting a little too wrapped up in the stuff that doesn't really matter, which fortunately isn't too often. I do like the "Smoke it!" that Ozzy sneaks in about 2:51. Favorite moment: the triplet-structure of the lyrics:
"You think I'm crazy and baby /
I know that it's true /
Before that you know it I think /
That you'll go crazy too"

Spiral Architect: Great lyrics, and yes, I like the strings, too. They really did grow quite a lot in just a few short years.

Rounding out the Top Five of 1972 (in order of descending RDF):

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side Of The Moon: Objectively speaking, this could possibly be the best album of 1973 - I think it's long-term chart presence may support that line of thinking - but this ain't a totally objective list! Pink Floyd are in contention for the rest of the 70s, but they are edged out by Sabbath this year. It's not just because Sabbath scored a slightly higher percentage; in fact, you might argue that Floyd's 8 red dot tracks in a year should outweigh Sabbath's 7. But four of Sabbath's are infrared dots, to only two of Floyd's. But beyond the score, the more important thing is the personal experience. I actually didn't listen to this album until about the time A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released, when I decided to dig into other 70s Floyd albums other than The Wall, which had been the start & finish of my Floyd interest until that point. By then, I had long since loved SBS. 80% RDF

Blue Öyster Cult: Tyranny and Mutation: No sophomore slump here! The second of BÖC's B&W albums is actually a "black and red" album, and a stronger effort than the debut. The "black" side (A) is stronger than the "red" side (B), yielding all three infrared dots of the six total red dot tracks on the album. 75% RDF

Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy: Likely the album of the year for a fair number of people, but not for me. Even though it contains my all-time favorite Zepplin song ("Houses of the Holy"), and x infrared dots, it's just a middle-of-the-pack Zeppelin album to me with just 5 of the 8 tracks getting red dots. 62.5% RDF

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd: Well, yeah, the debut does close with Free Bird, but the first four songs are also pretty damn good, too. 62.5% RDF

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order by band/artist name):
Budgie: Never Turn Your Back on a Friend
Alice Cooper: Billion Dollar Babies
The Doobie Brothers: The Captain and Me
Fleetwood Mac: Mystery to Me
Marvin Gaye: Let's Get It On
Paul McCartney And Wings: Band On The Run
Steely Dan: Countdown To Ecstasy
Yes: Tales from Topographic Oceans**
ZZ Top: Tres Hombres

Look at the dearth of albums: 1973 was a pretty sparse year, which is why I think to the golden era of dominated 1973-1974 (filling the vacuum), followed by the emergence of the "supergroups" that dominated the second half of the 1970s before the emergence of and the violently reactive rise of .

Is your favorite album from 1973 on this list? Are there any others you would add?

\m/ (ò_ó) \m/

*Where else have you seen Drew Struzan's work? How about a couple from Alice Cooper that came out in the next couple of years: Welcome to My Nightmare or Greatest Hits? Or more recently, perhaps last year's Angels & Airwaves album, I-Empire? Then again he's one of the greatest movie poster artists, and the favorite of both George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Yes, the art for those movies.

**I have mixed feelings about this one. First, I must be in the mood for the epitome of excess. More importantly, it is important for what it did NOT do, which was be accomodating to Rick Wakeman! The exclusionary process of Jon Anderson and Steve Howe in writing this album is *exactly* what left Wakeman so bored and excited at the prospect of working with Black Sabbath as described above.
Akzeptierte Übermittlungen
Black Sabbath


  • Anjoli

    I support that choice as well. Honorable mention to Genesis (they outplays Yes this year).

    17. Okt. 2008, 21:54
  • sablespecter

    1973...sparse year, sparse comments! Genesis outplay Yes, generally, IMHO. Yes tended to be a little too noodly, while Genesis was more theatrical in the Peter Gabriel era!

    6. Nov. 2008, 1:11
  • sablespecter

    "Funeral For A Friend/ Love Lies Bleeding" - yeah! One of those assorted high points that I mentioned. New York Dolls: this was (is?) one of the glam bands that I could sort of dig, given that they were borderline punk. I considered, but ultimately did not include, both [i]Brain Salad Surgery[/i] and [i]Larks' Tongues in Aspic[/i]. While I love Still...You Turn Me On, I have always had a love/hate relationship with the whole of "Karn Evil 9" - there are parts I like but enough that aggravates me that I've never been able to bring myself to put a dot on the track, and so the album falls out of contention. LTiA just scored too low. With Genesis, I think objectively speaking [i]SEbtP[/i] is probably the best of the Gabriel-era. (I can't agree with those that argue for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I think they just over-reached there.) But for me personally, the best I can say is that [i]SEbtP[/i] offers my favorite Gabriel-era song, Firth Of Fifth. As a whole album, it doesn't make the cut. That being said, if Phil and the others are successful in their current attempts at talking Peter into doing a reunion tour, you can bet I'd like to see it (depending on the pricing). Thank you especially for the guidance on Little Stevie. I think my starting point will actually be Songs In The Key Of Life, but let me ask you this: if I tell you that Superstition is my favorite of his tracks, then which of his albums would you say I might be able to find the most other songs in a similar vein?

    7. Nov. 2008, 20:52
  • sablespecter

    The week before this past week in class we finally got to and , and one of our listening examples was darn near ALL of "Karn Evil 9" (skipped some of Impression 2). Just seems to go on forever, and everyone else thought so, too. Most in class had never heard it, so at least I knew what was coming and just spent the time getting caught up on reading the chapter! I think TLLDOB seems to be the favorite album of most people that like Gabriel-era Genesis. It just seems a bit too overdone to me, but I've not ever been a big fan of Genesis with Gabriel (prefer his solo work). Then again, I like any and all of the Gabriel era far better than Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance Ugh! For me, Genesis ended with the 1983 self-titled, which was my favorite. Thanks for the recommendations on Stevie. What I decided to do was request the box set from the local library, which should be in within a few weeks. Looking very forward to the discovery process, and I'll sum up my thoughts with a new, separate SotD entry to cover it!

    7. Dez. 2008, 4:09
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