Rat Salad: Black Sabbath, the Classic Years, 1969–1975

Paul Wilkinson, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (239p) ISBN 978-0-312-36723-7

T he instant popularity and phenomenal sales of Black Sabbath's first two albums in 1970 created a generational divide within the rock music audience, with teenage listeners too young to have experienced the “Summer of Love” responding to Sabbath's dark vision of a violent world in songs like “War Pigs” and “Iron Man.” In this witty and musically sophisticated appreciation, first-time author Wilkinson forcefully argues that Sabbath produced “six truly exceptional albums about which remarkably little of consequence has been written.” Album by album and song by song, he shows how the gloomy tone of Sabbath's music resulted primarily from guitarist Tony Iommi's repetitive use of “the minor key tonic/subtonic shift of E and D” and the “frequent adoption of semitonal intervals.” His short chapters on the historical and biographical context of each album will entertain his stated audience, “the grown-ups who were there at the time and who lived through it.” Best of all, Wilkinson is never dull in his assessments, dismissing one song that “dissolves into a turgid and repetitive 4/4 riff on a B power chord,” praising another that mixes “spectacularly intricate and weighty guitar work with passages of surprising, and enduring, melody” and noting that yet another is “breathtaking in its alternating ugliness and beauty.” (Aug.)

Reviewed on: 05/07/2007
Release date: 07/01/2007
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