Black Sabbath: Technical Ecstasy: 1976 – Video Review

Black Sabbath: Technical Ecstasy: 1976

Does this album deserve the bad press it gets?

A Video Appraisal -: Duration 5.5mins

I’ve recently picked up from the supermarket one of these magazines that specializes in looking at a specific band and it goes through every one of their albums with lots of vintage interviews and stuff. And this is a Black Sabbath one and there’s lots of really good articles in it. It’s worth buying if you’re a fan but there’s something in it that irks me and it always does when it comes to a specific album and it’s ‘Technical Ecstasy’ and for whatever reason, and this magazine does the same, basically saying that ‘Technical Ecstasy’ is a duff album and you know, it’s all downhill, etc and it annoys me and it happens all the time.

I got this book (Rat Salad – Black Sabbath – The Classic Years by Paul Wilkinson) a couple of years ago which goes through every single Sabbath album but it doesn’t because it only goes as far as ‘Sabotage’ and doesn’t actually bother with ‘Technical Ecstasy’ because it doesn’t think it’s actually a real Black Sabbath album. And I think, I can’t remember the guy’s name, the one that says you can only trust the first six Black Sabbath albums, meaning that the seventh one can’t be trusted!

The thing is, this album, ‘Technical Ecstasy’ by Black Sabbath, to me, is one of their finest works. It’s one of their best albums. I was there in November ’76 when this came out. This is before the Internet. It’s before Sky TV, it’s before Rock TV, it’s before videos. Everything was word of mouth. That’s how you heard about stuff. And not everybody, even in 1976, had tape recorders so if someone told you something was good, the only way you could hear it was either to go round to your mate’s house or buy a copy yourself. And most of my friends in ‘1976 were on apprenticeship wages, albums were about £3.25 and that was a chunk of money.

Everyone I knew, in my circle, bought this album because they loved it. You know at the time, people were saying, “Oh, have you got the new Black Sabbath album? It’s really good, it’s a progression from the last one. They’re really trying out new things.” “Maybe someone’s had a word with them,” one friend said, you know, it really is spectacular stuff.

And the thing is that now, if you’re a metal band, you release a metal album and your next album will be a metal album because that’s what you do and if you don’t release a metal album, then people will leave you, thinking you’ve lost the plot. But in the ‘1970s, bands progressed. They did a specific album and then the next one they would think about what can we do this time? What can we grow? What shall we try and do that’s different? And that’s what Black Sabbath were doing.

So for me, ‘Technical Ecstasy’ was a progression. It showed how much the band were advancing in all the different things they were trying to do. ‘Back Street Kids’, in a way, resembled, they were listening to what the fact that punk was happening, was starting to happen, in the UK and it’s a real, fantastic opening track. ‘You Won’t Change Me’ probably features the best Tony Iommi lead guitar solo ever. The passion in the guy’s solo on ‘You Won’t Change Me’ is absolutely stunning. The album does have a real left field track with ‘It’s Alright’, which is sung by Bill Ward and sounds like the Beatles and the following track, ‘Gypsy’, actually has overtones of Queen in the vocals but the magazine I showed you at the start of this video states that the track ‘Gypsy’ is like two stars. The guitar solos on that track are just absolutely fantastic!

Side two. ‘All Moving Parts (Stand Still)’. Great, quirky track. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Doctor’. Brilliant riff. Again, completely rubbished in the magazine but I love it. And ‘She’s Gone’, one of the best ballads, I think, anyone could have done and Ozzy’s voice on that ballad sounds so emotional it’s brilliant. And, of course, the track that’s still in the set list today, ‘Dirty Women’, which is typical Black Sabbath stuff. Lyrically, perhaps not but, yeah, as far as the riffage is concerned and the solos, the band are on fire.

In the video this is my original, which I bought at the time. On the fantastic label Vertigo it also came with a lyric sheet. Absolutely brilliant.

So what version should you buy now? I would recommend the most recent re-master which came in a little digipack, with a nice little booklet. I’ve got an American CD version as well and I’ve got the last re-master. Obviously I can’t stop buying it. I’m a typical fan in that respect. But this CD version is the one to get.

So my question to anyone who’s watched to the end of this is, if you are a fan of hard rock or metal or group through the ‘1970s and you were around when ‘Technical Ecstasy’ by Black Sabbath appeared what do you think of it? Do you think it’s deservingly of its bad press or do you think it actually shows a band expanding and learning new things and showing what they can develop?

Phil Aston

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