A Masterpiece

Mere months after the enormous 50th anniversary Paranoid package, Black Sabbath have skipped over 71’s Master of Reality and gone straight to Vol. 4 for their latest super deluxe collection.

Their fourth album in just over two years, Vol. 4 was a further redefinition of Sabbath’s malevolent majesty. Even more experimental than the previous release, they dabble in piano ballads (Changes), studio effects (the interesting but hardly necessary FX) and orchestral arrangements (Laguna Sunrise) without compromising on their established sledgehammer heaviness. Produced by the band under the influence of copious amounts of cocaine, Vol. 4 was also murkier and wilder than before, although this remastered version cleans up the sound considerably. Supernaut breaks out into a bastardised form of swingin’ soul midway through and both the group’s paean to coke, Snowblind – originally the album’s  working title until their label freaked out – and Cornucopia lurch all over the place like addled, drug-fucked minds. Indeed if ever there was an album to represent the effects of hard drugs on a creative unit, Vol. 4 is one of them, and yet Black Sabbath were at such an incredible peak of their powers that they still somehow made it into a masterpiece that still resonates with astonishing power 49 years later.

The Super Deluxe package spreads this mind-altering experience across 4 CDs or 5 vinyls, two of which feature collections of studio out-takes remixed by Steven Wilson that provide interesting insights into the album’s process but don’t really hold much replay value. Also included is a live set from 1973 that displays Black Sabbath at their most developed as a performance act, ripping through an enormous set that includes an epic jam on Wicked World that takes up literally one-third of the playing time. Just as last year’s Paranoid repackage showed, Black Sabbath deserve every scrap of reverence they continue to earn to this very moment.

CD 1:

  1. Wheels of Confusion
  2. Tomorrow’s Dream
  3. Changes
  4. FX
  5. Supernaut
  6. Snowblind
  7. Cornucopia
  8. Laguna Sunrise
  9. St Vitus Dance
  10. Under the Sun

CD 2:

  1. Wheels of Confusion (outtake)
  2. Changes (outtake)
  3. Supernaut (outtake)
  4. Snowblind (outtake)
  5. Laguna Sunrise (outtake)
  6. Under the Sun (instrumental)

CD 3:

  1. Wheels of Confusion (false start with studio dialogue)
  2. Wheels of Confusion (alternative take 1)
  3. Wheels of Confusion (alternative take 2)
  4. Wheels of Confusion (alternative take 3)
  5. Wheels of Confusion (alternative take 4)
  6. The Straightener (outtake)
  7. Supernaut (outtake)
  8. Supernaut (alternative version with false starts)
  9. Snowblind (incomplete alternative version)
  10. Under the Sun (false start)
  11. Under the Sun (alternative version

CD 4: Live in UK 1973

  1. Tomorrow’s Dream
  2. Sweet Leaf
  3. War Pigs
  4. Snowblind
  5. Cornucopia
  6. Killing Yourself to Live
  7. Wicked World
  8. Supernaut
  9. Wicked World (reprise)
  10. Embryo
  11. Children of the Grave
  12. Paranoid