It was big, menacing, controversial…and an absolute masterpiece. On June 29, Eagle Rock Entertainment’s acclaimed and award-winning Classic Albums series will uncover the story of its making. Black Sabbath: Classic Albums – Paranoid is released, just in time for the 40th anniversary of the album. The Classic Albums series unwinds the threads of mystery behind artistic genius, recounting the experiences behind the board and through every chord. Unearthing the creative process of definitive albums from Elvis Presley, The Doors, Frank Zappa, Nirvana, Meat Loaf, Phil Collins, Bob Marley and many others, it will now dive into Black Sabbath’s 1970 tour de force.
Throughout the 97 minutes of this documentary, original members Ozzy Osbourne (vocals), Tony Iommi (guitar), Geezer Butler (bass), and Bill Ward (drummer), along with their original engineer, deliver the story behind Paranoid. The DVD chronicles the creation of the locomotive force and unrelenting energy behind these tracks, which ignited an electrified and unforeseen brand of blues-rock. The comprehensive collection of interviews, demonstrations, archive videos, and feature cuts from timeless epics such as “War Pigs,” “Iron Man,” and the title track, is complemented with 40 minutes of bonus features. For the first time a classic album title is also released on Blu-Ray.
Years ago I picked up the Black Sabbath: Reunion disc. I think I was thirteen at the time and upon bringing home that two-disc set, it was abruptly lifted from my grasp by my parents because of the demonic imagery on the cover. It didn’t matter, however, because I knew better—I ripped the CD to my PC just a few minutes before it was yanked from my grasp. So all the while my parents thought they were “protecting” me from the evils of Sabbath, I had it blasting out of my computer speakers all the while. Of course I did innocently purchase the disc because it had no Parental Advisory, so I mistakenly thought there was no cursing in it…until I listened to the first few seconds of it, in which Ozzy lets loose the first of many F-bombs. Oh well. I’m sure that set didn’t ruin me too much.
In any case Eagle Rock has decided to push out the first of its “Classic Albums” series on Blu-ray with Black Sabbath – Paranoid. I can’t be sure but I’m guessing this was originally a VH1 “Behind the Music” type documentary, because it’s set up the same way. It acts as not only a history of the album itself but also as a summary of Sabbath’s history during the period before and after it. It stops before they discuss the next album they made, which is fine because most of the magic that came from the band stemmed from Paranoid. Not to say later albums didn’t spawn hits of their own rights, but there’s a reason we get a documentary of sorts on this album and not the others.
Unfortunately, for me at least, this wasn’t a very engaging piece. While the interviews/talking heads were full of interesting information for the most part, the documentary was just very…hum drum. There wasn’t much in it that really grabbed my attention, even though the vintage footage was probably the highlight of the whole thing. The documentaries penchant for mixing in footage of the band members playing their individual portions of the songs were rather uninteresting—particularly Iommi’s portions. I get that he is a great pioneer of rock/metal, but what’s the significance of hearing him play familiar rifts, especially when in most cases we’re already hearing the original recordings as intros to a new song. It’s just a rather mediocre element to the documentary that seems to unnecessarily stretch its length.
Also the description is a bit of a lie—the documentary itself is actually only around fifty-five minutes long. The other forty minutes or so are actually extras of the band members and other related commentators talking about other elements of the band and album that didn’t necessarily fit in with the narrative of the documentary. I actually found these pieces more entertaining than the documentary in some cases, since they were humorous one-off stories in some cases, although towards the end it kind of just devolved into the guys playing on their instruments again.
In any case it’s still a Recommended outing for Sabbath fans, but at this point it’s probably all old hat. I’m not sure when it was originally released on Blu-ray, but I imagine this is all kind of old information at this point that Blu-ray isn’t exactly going to make any more entertaining.
Indeed, it’s an odd format to even bother putting something like this out on—the documentary is made up of a lot of archival footage that looks absolutely horrendous in most cases (and is likely presented in a cropped state, since it’s all in 16×9) so why they even bothered with a 1080i bump I don’t know. The AVC encoded piece still looks good for the talking head portions, although Henri Rollins seems to have a flaking skin issue that I’m sure this transfer only helped make more profound. Gotta love HD! The audio is a simple LPCM mix that was actually probably a highlight, because when we get to the sound board area of the documentary we get to hear old recordings that sound remarkably clear—I was genuinely surprised by how good it sounded. But considering this is likely the same mix they used on the DVD (I assume, anyway) I don’t know if the Blu-ray is actually making it sound any better.
Extras are the aforementioned Additional Footage (42:12). Some fun stuff in there, but it’s a bit shady that they worked it into the overall runtime of the disc.
Overall a Rental for fans as this doesn’t bring anything new if you’ve seen the original TV airing already. Although I will say that it got me listening to that Reunion disc again, so that was one perk of watching this one I guess.
Classic Albums: Black Sabbath – Paranoid is now available on Blu-ray.