A pleasure to listen to and this is a remarkable accomplishment 7.5/10
‘This is the story of how an Irish nuclear construction safety inspector brought 10 ex members of Black Sabbath together to produce a tribute album to one of the greatest bands ever.’
Cue sniggering on my part: that explains the ‘Emerald’ of the title (Springfield in The Simpsons rather than the Emerald Isle.)
But this album is no laughing matter.
The Ninth Star, is the incredibly ambitious brainchild of Emerald Sabbath founder/producer, Michael Suilleabhain and if you have not guessed yet, it is a tribute to Black Sabbath. But nor is it your ‘typical’ tribute: the atypical track selection, the incorporation of classical elements but with the added wow factor of ten former members of Black Sabbath itself!
Adam (son of Rick ‘Yes’) Wakeman, keyboard player with both Black Sabbath (live) and Ozzy Osbourne was the first to contribute to the project on the Vol. 4 ballad Changes and then the project ‘snow-balled’ with Suilleabhain’s dedication to try to re-record as many Sabbath songs and instrumentals with as many ex-members of the band as possible.
Don’t expect the key members, but do be astonished at the roll-call achieved and the quality of the musicianship within. Some of the artists actually played on the originals including Vinny Appice (drummer, Heaven and Hell tour) and The English Chamber Choir (Supertzar).
The Ninth Star opens with Embryo Intro (the introduction to Children of The Grave) the third track off the third album Masters of Reality (1971) and it is great which is most reassuring but I had anticipated something that deviated a little more from the original instrumental piece. Lasting under a minute, it barely gave me a chance to contemplate this further before we enter Die Young. This track which originally appeared on their ninth album Heaven and Hell (1980) features Ron Keel on vocals as opposed to the late, great Ronnie James Dio. This interpretation with its beautifully haunting and spacious introduction is a pleasure to listen to. Next up we have Fluff the instrumental piece from Sabbath Bloody Sabbath transposed to strings, flute and clarinet. Fluff loses its glorious pared back simplicity but instead becomes a gentle symphony, almost a lullabye.
Stonehenge, the epic soundscape set to a heartbeat on Born Again (the Ian Gillan (Deep Purple), 1983 album) becomes a more jazzy and spacey affair with the magic of Wakeman and flautist Sarah Tobias a hint of Gong or even Hawkwind. Trashed as the first track on the same album, is almost the polar opposite of Stonehenge and it rocks! Ron Keel is not attempting an Ozzy impression (which I felt Gillan was) and it makes this song a lot more pleasant to listen to for me! The bass and percussion has phenomenal tone too. She’s Gone from Technical Ecstasy (1976) appeared as one of Black Sabbaths very few ballads, now rather than the pained vocals we anticpate from Ozzy, instead we have the softer, gruffer haunted melancholic tones of Dave Walker and flamenco guitar which would not be out of place on an epic modern Western. Don’t just take my word for it, check out Emerald Sabbath – She’s Gone Featuring Dave Walker & Neil Murray (Official Music Video) here
In For The Kill from the 1986 album Seventh Star is a wonderful track, but with only Iommi on board it didn’t feel like Sabbath, and in the place of Glenn Hughes we have the somewhat sleazier vocals of Tony Martin. It is delivered brilliantly, but there is something a little oversaturated in the production with the relentless blastbeats. Orchid (the second instrumental track of Master of Reality) transposes from a fingerpicked guitar and pared down bass into an emotional orchestral movement. Hole In The Sky (Sabotage -6th album 1975) brings us back into the heavier groove zone before we drop into Changes. It may not be the original, but it is a damned sight better than the father and daughter duet and the clarinet is an inspired touch. As a version it has more in common with the Charles Bradley cover for the Big Mouth show. The album closes with a final instrumental (do choral oohs and aahs count as lyrics?) Supertzar and its surprisingly heavy and well executed.
All in all, this is a pleasure to listen to and this is a remarkable accomplishment Michael Suilleabhain.
This could well become my go to gift for toddlers
Emerald Sabbath features 10 former members of Black Sabbath and much more, including: Adam Wakeman (Black Sabbath/Ozzy Osbourne), Bev Bevan (Black Sabbath/ ELO), Neil Murray (Black Sabbath/ Whitesnake), Terry Chimes (Black Sabbath/ The Clash), Laurence Cottle (Black Sabbath/ The Alan Parsons Project), Ron Keel (Black Sabbath/ Ron Keel Band), Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/ Heaven & Hell), Dave Walker (Black Sabbath/ Fleetwood Mac), Bobby Rondinelli (Black Sabbath/ Rainbow), Tony Martin (Black Sabbath/ Headless Cross), Rudy Sarzo (Ozzy Osbourne/ Whitesnake) and The English Chamber Choir.
Other Emerald Sabbath contributors include Will Malone and Mike Lewis (Sabotage/ Technical Ecstasy) Mike Exeter (Black Sabbath/ Judas Priest), Jeremy J. Lewis (Headless Cross), Mike Lewis (She’s Gone) Skaila Kang (Royal Academy Of Music)
PLUS Black Sabbath album graphic designers Richard Manning and Colin Elgie (Technical Ecstasy) and Hugh Gilmour (Born Again).
In For The Kill
Hole In The Sky
Ninth Star by Emerald Sabbath is released 15th February 2019 and can be ordered via Amazon here
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