Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol (Deluxe Edition) Dec 5, 2010 14:15:44 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Dec 5, 2010 14:15:44 GMT -5
The Eternal Idol may very well be the most underrated album in the entire Black Sabbath catalog.
Fans of Heaven and Hell and Mob Rules might have embraced it if it had gotten more attention, but the instability of the line-up and the presence of only Tony Iommi as an original Black Sabbath member caused the album to be dismissed out of hand by most Sabbath fans of the day.
In fact, the album is very good - maybe even great - and is the only album in their catalog that really follows up those first two Dio-era albums in style (even moreso than Dehumanizer or The Devil You Know which were actually made by the Dio-era line-up later on).
Our original review of the album can be found here:
Black Sabbath - The Eternal Idol Review
For this review we're going to focus on the Deluxe Edition aspects of this release - and they're pretty darned cool.
First off, on Disc 1 in addition to The Eteral Idol album itself there are two, "B-Sides," as bonus tracks.
The first is an early version of, "Black Moon," which ended up on the next Black Sabbath album (Headless Cross). The song is very similar to what would be heard two years later on The Headless Cross, although this version's production actually sounds a little better. It's a solid song with a bouncy beat that isn't all that far removed from, "Lord of this World," off of the Master of Reality album. It's interesting to hear how Cozy Powell pretty much just played Eric Singer's part without making any changes. Bob Daisley's bass playing also sounds just a tad livelier than Laurence Cottle's from The Headless Cross version.
The second bonus track is the really interesting one. "Some Kind of Woman," is the title, and while it is on a Black Sabbath album, and features Tony Iommi, Eric Singer, Tony Martin, and Bob Daisley, it sounds like it could be a lost Van Halen track circa 1984. Tony Iommi is clearly channeling his inner Eddie Van Halen on this track, and Tony Martin's vocals are closer to David Lee Roth than he would ever come again at any point in his career. This is a very good song, but is one of the least, "Black Sabbath," sounding songs of the band's entire career.
From there we move to Disc 2, which is something that had been widely bootlegged for years, but had never seen an official release - until the Deluxe Edition for this album.
This is the Ray Gillen version of The Eternal Idol. Ray Gillen (later of Badlands with Jake E. Lee) had stepped in during the Seventh Star tour to replace singer Glenn Hughes, and was still in the band when they were writing and recording The Eternal Idol. Gillen wrote the lyrics and vocal melodies along with bass player Bob Daisley, and what you get here in terms of those lyrics and melodies is mostly what you get on the official release (with Tony Martin singing).
There are some key differences, however. Martin cleaned up some of the melodies and came up with some slightly different phrasing that, on most tracks, made for significant improvements. Gillen's vocals are very soulful and almost diva-esque in some respects. On some tracks his note selection is interesting, and occasionally puzzling. Rather than going for major notes that fit in smoothly with the riffs Gillen would occasionally go with minor notes that fit in, but in an odder way.
Gillen also had a slight tendency on these tracks to go off key on a note here or there - something that he wasn't known for in Badlands at all. Part of the problem may be that he was oversinging and was a studio novice. It may also have been nerves and a case of him trying too hard to come up with a BIG TIME performance. Still, the number of off key notes that he hit is pretty small, and it doesn't mar his performance all that much. And with most of them he'd slide back into key right away, so it isn't all that noticeable in the first place.
Another interesting change from the rough mix featured here is that Eric Singer played more fills and threw in more cymbal work than was featured on the final mix. On, "Glory Ride," for example, he played an extended drum fill intro that is cut off completely on the final version save for his final burst of triplets. Truth be told, Eric, too, was still something of a studio novice (this being only his second album) and played on The Eternal Idol like a touring drummer rather than a studio player.
A few of Singer's bits on the Ray Gillen version of the album sound really cool and would have been good additions to the final mix to the official release later on, but some of the edits (such as the intro to, "Glory Ride,") made sense as the focus become more on the song than the drums. One change was pretty drastic. On, "Lost Forever," Singer played a mid tempo double-bass drum part that sounds really good in the rough mix with Gillen. On the final version with Martin the double-bass drumming is buried in the mix (the kick drums being much lower in that mix), and it sounds like a few of his kick beats were removed to make it sound like a fast single-kick part. It's hard to hear all of the kick drum beats in the final mix, but it sounds like a couple of them were removed in each bar of the verses.
Another detail worth noting is that on the nearly universally loved, "The Shining," the mix featured is sans solo. For the first couple of seconds I noticed something was missing, but it took me a while before it struck me as to exactly what was missing - "The solo, there's no solo!" Tony's solo on, "The Shining," is somewhat atypical for a Heavy Metal solo in that it comes over a fairly mellow section and is a tasteful, almost laid back solo. It's fine work from Tony - and it's totally missing on this version.
Which brings up another difference between the two versions of this album: most of the solos were re-recorded for the final mix, and the later versions of most of the solos were improvements over the original versions. Tony clearly wasn't happy with what he came up with initially for most of these solos, and I would imagine that final Producer Chris Tsangerides agreed that they should be redone. The changes in the solos is yet another reason why this rough mix version of The Eternal Idol is such a prize for serious Black Sabbath fans.
The raw/rough mixes themselves aren't bad at all, but they aren't as clean or crisp as the final mixes, either. I've actually been able to improve on the sound of the mixes of the Ray Gillen sessions by adding some high mids and just a tad of low end. Some of the songs sound a little better on the rough mixes if you add those high mids than they do on the final mixes. A couple of them, anyway.
The point of Disc 2 (the Ray Gillen version), however, isn't audio clarity, it's to hear the differences in what could have been if Gillen had stayed VS what Black Sabbath actually ended up with in Tony Martin.
I have a feeling that some of Gillens rougher vocal spots would have been re-recorded, and the final product would have sounded more like what Tony Martin did. A little more polishing to the vocal arrangements, melodies, and performances would have given Gillen a great studio debut.
So which version is better? Which singer did the better job?
I've got to give that one to Tony Martin.
Although Martin had the luxury of just fixing the vocal arrangements and melodies rather than having to come up with everything from scratch the bottom line is the bottom line. The vocals on the official album release are better. His voice on most of the songs fits in with BLACK SABBATH better than Gillen's did. On most of them.
Is everyone who listens to both versions going to agree with that? Of course not, but that's the great thing about this release - we get to hear both. Both sets of vocal performances are good, and all the songs are very good (many are truly great), so this release is a win/win for everyone.
For the songs themselves: 4.5/5
For the sheer coolness of this release: 5/5