On August 7, 1983, "Black Sabbath" released its 11th studio album "Born Again".
This album is probably the band's most underrated, and we think that's not quite fair.
Apparently, the expectations from the meteoric collaboration between Ian Gillan from "Deep Purple" and the three members of Black Sabbath's original lineup were so high that they caused disappointment among the band's critics and fansת at the time of the album's release. So true, the production was too extreme and the sound was overly compressed. Ian Gillan's light and sarcastic lyrics did not fit with the doom outfit, the indifference, and the seriousness of Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler. But in our opinion, it is still a good album, even a very good one, which some of the negative reviews it received at the time were a bit exaggerated in relation to its content.
The story of this album begins in 1982. While performing the mixes for Black Sabbath's live album "Live Evil", disagreements arose between the band members that led to the departure of Ronnie James Dio and drummer Vinnie Appice. They both felt confident enough and turned to the formation of their new band "Dio".
After the departure of Dio and Vinnie Sabbath's future was in doubt. However, Iommi and Geezer agreed to try to find a singer so they can continue making music together, no matter what constellation and whether under Sabbath's name or not. Among the names that came up were Robert Plant, David Coverdale, and even Michael Bolton sent a tape and asked to be auditioned. In the end, Don Arden (Sharon Osbourne's father) who just got the role of band manager, suggested Ian Gillan's name for the singer position and Iommi remembers that it was the most appropriate name that was raised and considered. They approached Gillan but at first, he was not enthusiastic about the idea. In the end, Ian Gillan's manager persuaded him to at least meet with Tony Iommi and Geezer Butler, before giving a definitive answer. They met at a pub in Oxford and so, after a long night of drunkenness, between beer and whiskey, Gillan relented and committed to the project, it was in February 1983. Initially, the project was planned to be a sort of supergroup of Iommi, Butler, and Gilan. Geezer said that only after they finished the recordings and transferred them to the record company, Don Arden and the record company insisted that the album be released under the name of "Black Sabbath".
Recordings began in May 1983 at The "Manor Studio" outside Oxford. The producer of the album was Robin Black, who worked with the band as a sound engineer on the album "Sabotage". Drummer Bill Ward, who left the band in 1980 due to drinking problems, returned to the band after a rehab process and filled the void left by Vinnie Appice.
In terms of lyrics, Iommi recalls that the material that Gillan brought with him to the sessions was completely different from what the band was used to with Geezer and Dio. Gillan focused more on personal stories from everyday life, women, sex, cars, etc., topics that "Sabbath" has less dealt with on their previous albums.
On the other hand, there was not much change in the musical aspect. The album continued the band's dark and heavy line and even strengthened it a bit. Listening to the album immediately reveals that it is one of the band's heaviest albums in terms of production. The bass roles have been brought forward in the mix and they sound really bold and dominant, even a little too much. Rumor has it that one of the band members performed, secretly and without the knowledge of the rest of the band members, a late mix of the album just before its release, which is the reason for the coarse, heavy and gloomy sound of the final mix. The band of course denied the rumor and all that was left was to wonder if the production had deliberately gone in a particularly dark direction in order to obscure Gillan's light lyrics. A look at the album cover will actually strengthen the version that the extreme production was intended, since here too it seems that an attempt was made to go far and shock the viewer. This is a cover that cannot be ignored. A monstrous red baby with pointed yellow nails against a deep blue background. It does not seem that anyone who visited the record stores in 1983 could have missed this picture, and this is probably exactly what the record company wanted to achieve.
The album opens with power and force with "Trashed" and already here you can hear the emphasis that the final mix puts on the bass roles. The words written by Gillan tell of an accident he had during the recordings. One night a drunken Gillan returned from the pub next to the recording studio and decided to take Bill Ward's car for a ride on the karting track that was next to the studio. During one of the laps, Gillan collided with a pile of tires that was lying on the sides of the track, which caused them to disperse. In the next round, he got on one of the tires and overturned in the air. The vehicle crashed and caught fire, but Gillan managed to escape unscathed. The next day Gillan had already written the lyrics.
Then comes the first instrumental track out of two on the album - "Stonehenge". These are effects-saturated passages designed to put the listener in a dark and mysterious atmosphere. By the way, "Stonehenge" will also be the set structure that the band will adopt during the tour that supported the album. This is a huge and formidable structure whose construction will burden this entire tour and which due to its size will not be able to fit a large part of the concert halls. This delusional story about the set of "Stonehenge" will inspire Rob Reiner a year later in the film "Spinal Tap".
Immediately with the help of the atmospheric piece "Stonehenge", Original we are met with Gillan's chilling scream that pierces the silence and with his frightening and rolling laughter, which puts us in the song "Disturbing The Priest". The words were written by Gillan about the priests in the church next to the recording studio, who complained about the noise emanating from it. This song takes us on a journey of horror and fear in terms of music and this is perhaps a good example of the lack of chemistry between Gillan's lyrics and music brought by "Black Sabbath" members, a mismatch that probably also affected the end result.
After the second instrumental track "The Dark" we come to one of the controversial songs on this album "Zero The Hero". Many claimed that the lyrics were hollow and the melody in the chorus was a bit childish, but we love it. The screaming-like eels guitars and the rolling and monotonous bass line do it for us. Gillan's special singing during the verses only adds to the heaviness and mystery of the song.
The other side of the vinyl opens with Iommi's all-too-familiar riff and the song "Digital Bitch". This is another one of the strongest songs on the album and the basses during the chorus in this song, just tore our membranes in the speakers from the first listen (this is not just a statement, it really happened).
The second song on the other side of the vinyl is the theme song "Born Again", which is probably the best song on the album. This is a bluesy ballad of the kind that was not exactly typical of "Black Sabbath". In contrast to the dissonance between Gillan and the rest of the friends in the previous songs, Gillan's bluesy and rough voice, this time fits like a glove to the melody and music, and maybe that's what makes this song so good. The combination of guitar and bass during the verses is perfect and the guitar solo is deep, heavy, and chilling.
The last two songs "Hot Line" and "Keep It Warm" are the least good on the album. Gillan's singing during the verses in the song "Hot Line" just doesn't fit Iommi's dark and heavy riffs, his famous screams seem detached and unrelated. "Keep It Warm" works a little better than its predecessor but is still a relatively weak track to the rest of the album's songs.
As noted the album received mixed reviews after its release, most of which were negative. Despite this the album was very successful in terms of sales and became the band's best-selling album since "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", a surprising figure in itself, especially considering that the previous two albums from the Dio era were simply amazing.
After the release of the album, the band went on a particularly long tour. Bill Ward, who apparently feared the long stay away from home, was seized with anxiety and panic. He was ashamed to tell his friends about it, since they were so eager to go out on a tour and it made him shut down and deteriorate into drinking and alcohol. The one who replaced Ward on the tour was "ELO" drummer Bev Bevan.
The song "Smoke on The Water" by "Deep Purple" was also performed during the tour.
Gillan said this tour was very difficult for him. He did not connect to the atmosphere, the show opened with the crying voice of a baby and a devilish dwarf designed to resemble a baby from the album cover walked between the band members' legs. Gillan did not connect at all to Sabbath's classic lyrics and therefore had to read the lyrics from a page during the show. As already mentioned, the huge stage designed like "Stonehenge" was so large that it caused unnecessary delays and postponements.
It was all a bit too much for everyone, Geezer said the tour was a crisis point for him and led him to leave the band. Gillan just did not connect to all the dark and heavy side of Sabbath and even to him, it was very clear that he was ending his contractual commitments and leaving. A year later he would join Deep Purple in their big reunion.
Iommi was left alone to navigate "Black Sabbath's" rickety and tired ship out of the raging seawater that threatens to drown it. Thanks to him and only thanks to him, this band will be saved from doom and will continue in such and/or other lineups and continue the amazing tradition that began on Friday the 13th somewhere in 1970.